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

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.
I have rigged up something like a HugStrap and particularly with a soprano it puts the ukulele way to far toward my right hand. I can kind of make it work by tensioning the strap with my right arm, but it's not great. I also have used a uke leash with other ukuleles and it is nice for neck support, but that is really not my issue here. I got some pointers from my teacher and I am going to see how that works. My teacher also suggested that have a luthier do it would not be very expensive and that if I change my mind, they could remove the button and fill the hole so that it would be hard rto find. So I am leaning toward having an ebony tail button installed if I am not happy with my new grip.
 
I found that using a hand drill instead of a power drill works better and cuts down on mistakes and errors in alignment.

Drilling the butt (tail) is very easy. Use a ruler and mark the position. At the center of the seam. Measure twice, mark once. Use an Awl to get the hole started. Use a smaller drill bit to make an initial hole and a larger one to the correct diameter for the screw. (About 1/8".) Put some soap on the screw. A felt washer between the button and the uke body. Tighten the screw the desired amount.

Done. Maybe 15-20 minutes.
 
I had a strap button installed by a luthier last week. It took all of ten minutes to do the installation, and the cost was minimal, but I was glad to be relieved of the responsibility. I am very comfortable playing with the strap--it is much easier finger picking with the strap for additional support. I also like having the ability to have both hands free, particularly with a small instrument.

I also bought a Kala Sonoma soprano gig bag, and I am very happy with it. Though it is slightly on the heavy side for a small bag, it offers excellent protection with stiff sides and top and internal support for the neck with a cushion and strap. I also like the pockets and backpack straps

Back to the ukulele itself for a moment, I simply love it. It feels like it was made for me to play, and of course in a very literal sense is was, but that's not what I mean. This was not built built to my custom spec. Though I have played other sopranos, I wouldn't have known what I wanted, let alone how to specify it. Yet, this ukulele really hits the sweet spot for me.
 
Last night I switched my soprano to high G. I immediately noticed an improvement in intonation of the 12th fret harmonic vs the 12th fret compared to what I had with the low G. I'm not terribly surprised. I expect that the stock saddle setup is for a high G soprano, and I know a change of strings, especially to a much thicker gauge can effect intonation.

I have been playing the soprano quite a bit. In fact, last week it was pretty much the only ukulele I played both for practice sessions and noodling around. Last Thursday, I took my lesson with the soprano for the first time. I've become very comfortable with the soprano scale and I feel like I am gaining more insight into advantages and disadvantages between, or at least the differences between playing soprano and tenor..

As time goes on, I think of high G and low G as two different instruments, and I want to explore both of them. Putting low G on the soprano originally was mostly for compatibility with what I had been doing on the tenor. I was happy being able to play the same arrangements on both instruments, but I also became more and more curious about what this soprano would be like with the more traditional reentrant tuning. Reentrant tuning also opens up some potential new techniques to learn/try as has been pointed out early in this thread. So between curiosity about high G technique/repertoire and thinking about the soprano as its own instrument, not just a small version of my tenor, putting the high G on my Pops Okami Wow soprano seemed like the way to go.

I guess I shouldn't have been, but I'm surprised by how much going to high G changes the overall sound of this ukulele. First of all, it sounds much more like a ukulele. And while the low G added a certain richness to the tone, the overall sound really has its own logic with the high G. The instrument is louder and/or cuts through much more in high G. It;s a cliche, but it is certainly true that the instrument just sound more cheerful. I miss the range of notes I lose for melody, but I like the balance of the high G and the way it gives empasis to the up strums. The high G also has more volume and sustain, so all the chords seem to ring longer. One last thing is that on this ukulele the G has its own character more so than on my other sopranos or the concert I have strung in high G. On those other instruments the G sounds just like the A tuned a step down. Maybe it is just the string needing to break in, but the G sounds slightly more trebley than the A, I'll see how it goes.

BTW, playing with the strap has been a big help as it gives me much more freedom over how I place my right hand without any worry about the stability of the body. I tie the strap the the headstock between the G & A tuners and the C & E tuners using a small, soft, flat rawhide cord about the diameter of a shoelace. It works quite well and I have no interference with my hands or the tuners. I am going to put strap buttons on my tenor next.
 
My newest ukulele arrived this morning a day earlier than expected. It is the culmination of a series of surprises that began on Chistmas morning, when my wife properly shocked me with a KoAlohe KTM-00 tenor. I've discussed that instrument at length elsewhere, but it sparked my interest in the history of the KoAloha company, and I learned about the company founder, Alivn 'Pops' Okami aka Pops KoAloha aka Pops. In that week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, I learned that Pops had more or less turned over KoAloha to his sons and now had his own company, UKESA, that seemed to be a combination of custom ukulele shop and ukulele research and development laboratory. I liked the story of Pops' discovering how to build a non-koa (pine back and sides, spruce top) ukulele that sounded great. When he called it his Stradivarius I was hooked. After messaging with a few people here, I realized that Ed Fiscella, @efiscella, was a principal in UKESA and I started the process of ordering my ukulele. I wanted a quality soprano, and I also wanted something built by Pops personally. I really didn't know what I praticularly wanted customized, so I worked with Ed and Pops to get to what you see below. Ed warned me when we started that Pops modifies and experiments along the way, so it might come out slightly different from where we started. On the other hand, if I wasn't pleased with the changes that Pops made, they would be happy to buy it back at full price. From my point of view, anything that Pops wants to do to make a better ukulele is more than OK with me. It is his creativity and craftsmanship that motivated me to get this ukulele in the first place. Let me show you some pictures and I will return to the story.
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As I said, it has pine sides and back, Engleman spruce top, sapele neck and headstock. The headstock is three layer sapele, ebony, maple laminate with Pops Aloha logo inlaid in abalone and Gotoh tuners. Fretboard and bridge are ebony and both are inlaid with abalone. It is 14" scale with 12 frets to the body and markers at 5, 7, 10, and 12. The front markers are full width double-depth abolone inlay. It also has fretboard side markers and a side sound port. The (laser etched?) label reads: CUSTOM MADE BY Pops KoAloha PAPALOHA HAWAII.

Considering that I ordered this January 1, I'm pleased it got here so quickly, yet Ed and Pops were apologetic about delays. Pops decided he wanted to add a mild curvature to the back and the existing jigs were not precise enough to do what he wanted to do, so there was a delay while Pops developed brand new templates and jigs. I notice a more bell shaped, Ohta-san style body compared to previous models. The curvature is very mild, almost unnoticable across the lower bout. Looking into the sound hole toward the end block, you cand see the curve on the bottom brace. Based on sound samples and Pops auditioning a similar model for me, I decided to have it initially strung with low G. I wondered it if was sacrilege to put a low G on a soprano, but I wanted the instrument to be consistent with what I am practicing on my tenor, and both Ed and Pops encouraged me to try low G. I also have a set of replacement strings in high G.

The best part of the process was the continual interaction with Ed and Pops during the build including .jpgs and now and then a .MOV as the build progressed. Not only did I feel involved, but I got to know Ed and Pops. Further, I was enjoying my ukulele before it even arrived. To give just one example, the curved back came about because of a custom ukulele that Pops was commssioned to build as a gift for Roy Sakuma (student of Ohta-san and teacher of Shimabukuro). He liked the tone with the curve, but doing it "free hand" was too much work, and this led to the newer high precision jigs. Just hearing that story and thinking about my ukulele being related to those folks, and I was floating on air.

Anyway back to NUD, my ukulele arrived. As I unboxed it, I wondered if they forgot the ukulele. It is light. I mean float away on a gentle breeze light. It weighs 354g. The Gotoh tuners are terrific. Presume the usual preamble and excuses: the strings have to settle, I have to get used to it, I don't normally play soprano, the solid wood has to open up, yada yada. I have not been able to put it down since it arrived. I keep picking it up to strum a few chords as I type this. First impression is that it doesn't feel like anything I've held beore. After a bit, I realize it has that amazing KoAloha action and it is very easy to play. That makes it feel like an extraordinarily petite version of my KoAloha tenor. But, in time I am back to the fact that it is unlike anything I have played before.

The sound is not what I expected. I expected it to be loud and I was concerned if it would be over trebley or harsh. The volume is good, the sustain is great, and the tone is mellow and gorgeous. With the smaller scale and smaller body it does bring out more of the treble, but the midrange is full bodied and the strings are well balanced, though the low G does sound thinner in tone than a low G on my concert or tenor ukuleles. Sound-wise it really is a petite version of my tenor--it has the signature KoAloha sound with a different equalizer setting. I don't have experience with spruce top ukuleles, but I am definitely a fan of this one. The articulation is very nice and I like the supplied flourocarbon strings. I notice the lower string tension at this scale. It plays very in-tune up the fretboard and the notes ring out nicely all the way to the top. The harmonics ring out too, even the pesky 5th fret harmonics.

So first impression is Wow!. Now I need a little time to try it out and compare it more carefully with my other instruments.
Aw yeeah! Sa-weet!
Congrats and what a beauty! Enjoy!
 
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