New Uke Day (NUD) NUD: Pops KoAloha Soprano Wow!

Beautiful! Ed was nice enough to talk to me on the phone for like a half hour once. And I wasn’t even buying anything from him. I had bought a Supa Wow off a member here, and I had a few questions about the process of the Supa Wow and the different prototype stages, and Ed was like yo just call me. Very kind! Very informative guy!
Don mentioned my phone call with him pertaining to a Supa Wow that he purchased on the Marketplace from a member here. I was telling Don that I have been the Rep for Pops and UKESAHAWAII.COM, officially and unofficially, for the past 10 years. Ever since the Wow was introduced in 2012. I have seen and played every version and models, and we have had many sales over the past 10 years. The one thing I can tell you is that the sound has been consistent over the 10 years. You can go back on UU and search the Wow or AO and every owner talks about how easy it is to play, the long sustain, resonance, the fullness of the notes, the lovely mid-range tones, how loud it is, and how it has the KoAloha qualities and more. These have all been there since the beginning. What changes is the look, the headstock, the addition of the side sound port, and all of those crazy names that Pops comes up with- but the sound is the same. I would venture to say that these are heirloom ukuleles, especially considering Pops' age, and this is why you don't see them on the secondary market that often. Not only are they wonderful and fun to play, but they are also collector's items. If you see a Wow or AO on the Marketplace and are interested in picking one up at a discount- jump at it. None of the Ukesa models come up on Marketplace that often, be it Wow, AO, Pineapple Sunday, or Sceptre. The sound will be the same. Only the looks and names will be different.
 
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I know this is getting boring, but my attachment to this little beauty is not waning; if anything it is growing. I don't know how much of this is the new toy effect or the cute puppy effect, but it seems to be in my hands constantly. I think it is moving beyond comfortable to comforting. I am a very analytical type, and usually when I have something new I am constantly comparing it to other things trying to pin down the differences. These past few days, I don't want to take time away from playing my new soprano to do more detailed comparisons. I know it's not a concert or a tenor; I know it's not an indestructible Enya soprano; and I know that right now I would rather noodle around on this ukulele than pick up anything else.

The strings are still settling in and I'm still getting used to the low string tension and Gotoh tuners. For whatever reason, my intuition about which way the tuners should move to sharpen or flatten the tuning is wrong on the G and C strings. I noticed this with the Kamaka concert as well. The tuners are extremely sensitive compared to what I am used to, but they are amazingly precise. The string tension is easily the lowest of any string/instrument combination that I have. At first I wondered if I had tuned the whole instrument an octave too low.🤔 I have to be careful not to bend notes/chords out of tune inadvertently with my finger placement. OTH low tension is nice for vibrato. I am prone to surprising collisions between right hand and left hand as I play barres or closed chords up the fretboard. And then there is the issue of left hand finger crowding in the narrow frets up thre fretboard. It seems like there is just less workable fretboard on a soprano and that the range of chord voicings available is more limited. However, I am inexperienced as a ukulele player and even less experienced with soprano. Once I adjust to the fret spacing, scales and arpeggios seem a bit more natural on the soprano--perhaps it is closer to violin scale. After all the violin is the soprano instrument in that family.
 
I like the side sound port. You don't see them very often on sopranos. That's got to help you love the sound.
 
I've had this ukulele in hand for almost a week now. It's time to admit that I am having an affair with a soprano. It's not that the instrument is perfect, it's just that I love it.

Some obsevations after a week:
  • I'm glad I ordered it with low G because I'm familiar with that and most of my chord/melody practice time is spent on arrangements for low G. Yet, I believe the balance of the four strings would be better with a high G. It's funny, on my low G concert, the G over powers the other strings a bit, on this soprano, the low G has trouble keeping up in volume. On both of our tenors, the balance of strings with low G seems just about right.
  • The tone is gorgeous and I would compare it with a beautiful voice. That sound is very consistent from playing very softly, to play as loud as I can. I also cannot seem to over drive it, it has the same round tone no matter how hard I play it.
  • I realize now that having essentially the same nut width, neck shape, and string spacing as my KoAloha tenor is a big deal. Even though the fret spacing is different, it feels very familiar and comfortable, and adjusting to the change in scale (17" to 14") in first position does not take long. The action is simply fantastic, just like our KoAloha tenor. In fact, that action at lower string tension makes it even easier to play.
  • Playing barres and closed shapes above the 7th fret is much more difficult on the soprano compared to a tenor. Also, the soprano gives up a bit of its sustain above the 10th fret. What strikes me as odd, is that this soprano gives up nothing in volume all the way up to the 15th fret on the A string. Also, as I mentioned earlier, scales and arpeggios are easier for me to find on this soprano. This is a fantastic melody insrument; it makes me want to try more classical arrangements. Maybe an argument for high G and campanella style?
  • The strings are still settling especially the G, even though I have been playing it quite a bit. I wonder if it is related to the lower tension.
 
Just a quick amendment to my last post. Paying careful attention this morning, the volume and clarity of the low G is actually very well balanced with the other three strings. It is more a matter of tonal signature of the soprano compared to the tenor. My earlier comment about the G sounding thin compared to the tenor seems like a better description. The low G on the soprano does not produce as broad a range of the lower end that makes the tenor G sound fat in comparison. On the other hand the low G on the soprano picks up a bit more attack and clarity. My sense is that that difference between koa and spruce may actually accentuate the attack and clarity on all the strings.

The main thing is that I don't want to give the impression that the G string on this instrument is a dud or muted. And I want to continue to emphasize that putting a low G on this soprano does not make it sound like my tenor.
 
"Me Too" NUD coming on my "twin" to Alans soprano WOW. These ukes may have hung out together on Pops workbench before we got them. Timing would indicate it. You said so much so well, mine should just read "what Alan said"! Stay tuned... Rick
 
"Me Too" NUD coming on my "twin" to Alans soprano WOW. These ukes may have hung out together on Pops workbench before we got them. Timing would indicate it. You said so much so well, mine should just read "what Alan said"! Stay tuned... Rick
In the video of Pops singing he was probably playing your ukulele. Mine wasn't done yet, and I was wondering how it sounded in low G. I am very interested in what you think about your instrument, especially if you have experience with other sopranos and can compare them.
 
"Me Too" NUD coming on my "twin" to Alans soprano WOW. These ukes may have hung out together on Pops workbench before we got them. Timing would indicate it. You said so much so well, mine should just read "what Alan said"! Stay tuned... Rick
Surely there is a photo out there. rhiggie your task is to find it!
 
Don mentioned my phone call with him pertaining to a Supa Wow that he purchased on the Marketplace from a member here. I was telling Don that I have been the Rep for Pops and UKESAHAWAII.COM, officially and unofficially, for the past 10 years. Ever since the Wow was introduced in 2012. I have seen and played every version and models, and we have had many sales over the past 10 years. The one thing I can tell you is that the sound has been consistent over the 10 years. You can go back on UU and search the Wow or AO and every owner talks about how easy it is to play, the long sustain, resonance, the fullness of the notes, the lovely mid-range tones, how loud it is, and how it has the KoAloha qualities and more. These have all been there since the beginning. What changes is the look, the headstock, the addition of the side sound port, and all of those crazy names that Pops comes up with- but the sound is the same. I would venture to say that these are heirloom ukuleles, especially considering Pops' age, and this is why you don't see them on the secondary market that often. Not only are they wonderful and fun to play, but they are also collector's items. If you see a Wow or AO on the Marketplace and are interested in picking one up at a discount- jump at it. None of the Ukesa models come up on Marketplace that often, be it Wow, AO, Pineapple Sunday, or Sceptre. The sound will be the same. Only the looks and names will be different.
Great input from Ed and though I only have experienced 3 different size/styles of the WOW family, I agree that Pop's has created something new in the ukulele world and with all the builders and all the woods and all the styles, that's really saying something. And I also agree with Ed that they don't come up for sale much (as nobody wants to turn loose of theirs), and that when Pop's finally does retire, they will become highly collectable ukes. That said, I noticed someone fairly well acquainted with Pop's ukes currently has a beautiful WOW prototype up for sale! Somebody needs to jump on that like Ed suggests (I know, I'm shameless)! :eek: ;)
 

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I've had almost two weeks with my Pops Okami soprano, and it is still the ukulele I reach for most often. I am almost always practicing on my KoAloha tenor, and my affection for this new soprano takes nothing away from that instrument. It has a gorgeous, full, well balanced sound, amazing sustain, and is an absolute pleasure to play. In most every sense, the tenor is a more capable instrument, though my capabilities are limited. Yet, I now find myself noodling around mostly with my new soprano, and I playing most everything I have practiced on the tenor. I am also trying new things and arranging new things primarily using the soprano.

Let me share a few more specifics:
  • The G string has finally settled in. I don't know exactly what settling means, but it is more than just holding pictch. I never noticed this on the violin, there it was primarily about holding pitch, and secondarily about getting a full tonal and dynamic range from the string. With flourocarbon ukulele strings, and particularly with the C and low G on a soprano (string tension?), I feel like I don't get a true pitch from the string until it breaks in a bit. Early on the tuner says one thing and my ear says another. And in fact I can see the tuner changing its mind in chromatic mode.
  • While this soprano has a very full voice when you ask for it, I love the way it sings when I play it softly. To my ear, it has almost exactly the same sweet tone whether I play it as loud as I can or I strum it so lightly that the strings barely sound. I often pick it up late at night or very early in the morning and play through pieces as quietly as I can, shocked by how good it sounds. I think that playing that way also releases a good deal of the tension in my left hand which improves my playing.
  • It is very comfortable to hold for strumming and chord/melody (essentially all thumb), but I have trouble with holding it for finger picking. It seems like I can't get my right hand where I want it over the sound hole and maintain enough friction between my right forearm and the soundboard to keep the body secure. I am going to consult my teacher about it, but I am thinking about getting a single strap button. I have been experimenting with tieing something under the strings etween the soundhole and the bridge, but it shifts the ukulele way too far toward my right hand. I can hold it for finger picking sitting down with the bottom of the ukulele perched just inside the top of my right thigh (a la Matt Stead).
  • The low tension of the low G seems to make finger picking more difficult, and in general my picking seems less even on the soprano. It could be that I practice more on the tenor, but right now I am blaming the lower string tension as well.
  • I can play up the fretboard on the A and E strings, but I really can't barre much above the 8th fret. I've been able to form the chords I need up there for chord/melody so it doesn't seem like a serious limitation yet.
  • I am still trying to figure out the right case for it. I bought a Gearlux hard foam case which is nice and light, but the ukulele was swiming around in it a bit, so I have modified with soft cloth below the body and over the fretboard so it is held in place better. I like that the Gearlux is so light and easy to carry, but I am thinking about an Oahu archtop wooden case like the one I have for my tenor. I also want a well padded gig bag, probably the Oahu Pro with the neck support cushion and strap. It looks like the Kala Transit Gig Bag has the same sort of neck brace arrangement. Any case or bag recommendations would be appreciated.
That's all for right now. My infatuation with my Pops Okami soprano continues. Am I a closet soprano person trapped in a tenor players body? I still love my tenor. Maybe I'm just ukulele fluid.
 
I’m thinking of throwing Martin high G clear set on my supa wow. Low G has been fun, but I know more high G, and I have less time than I anticipated to play and learn more low g lately. I would go uke logics, my usual faves, but I am thinking of going plain Jane with the martins just to see what it does to the wow. I haven’t used martins in like 5 years I feel like.
 
As @ailevin mentioned, the Wow plays wonderfully when played hard and loud, or softly. I love that about the instrument. It is so sweet when played softly, yet when the playing is aggressive, there is no distortion. I think of it as a great speaker for my sound system. A great speaker has full dynamic range when played low, but does not distort when cranked up. You often have to spend some considerable money for a speaker like that. These Wow ukuleles are just a joy to play. Like Alan, I usually play low g tenor, but when I grab a soprano, it is the Wow that I always pick up, and why wouldn't I? It is a joy to play. So easy to play, and sounds just lovely. I am happy to hear that you are enjoying it so much, Alan.
 
I am thinking about getting a single strap button
You might want to try something like the HUGStrap first (there are a number of optional no-drill type straps, you can find more if you search here on UU, too, I'm sure there's at least one strap thread that discusses them). I forget who uses it on here (I think richntacoma), and I asked him about it, then bought it for my Famous. I don't love it as much as a strap with a lower strap button type, but I do like that I don't need a strap button and it works well.
 
You might want to try something like the HUGStrap first (there are a number of optional no-drill type straps, you can find more if you search here on UU, too, I'm sure there's at least one strap thread that discusses them). I forget who uses it on here (I think richntacoma), and I asked him about it, then bought it for my Famous. I don't love it as much as a strap with a lower strap button type, but I do like that I don't need a strap button and it works well.
Drill Baby Drill!
 
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