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Thread: ukulele fever

  1. #1
    Registered User mandosonthemarsh's Avatar
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    Unhappy ukulele fever

    Just decided that I want to buy a ukulele. I. Have been playing acoustic guitar and mandolin for years and am spoiled by higher end acoustics. Don't want to spend over $100 bit don't want junk either. Any suggestion?.

  2. #2
    John Faulkinbury Nighttrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    I bought a Makai ukulele with gig bag last year for under $100.00. I love it.

  3. #3
    Registered User wellvis@well.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    What size ukulele are you looking for? My daughter has the Lanikai LU-21C concert size ukulele and it's decent enough for that price.
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Coincidentally, I was just given a 1950s Harmony concert-size uke by my aunt. Don't know if I'll ever get uke fever like I got mando fever, but it was a nice gesture and and a cool little uke.
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Head over to ululeleunderground.com and ask the nice people there for advice. It's the mandolincafe of the Uke world.
    If you want a soprano, check out this one:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/KALA-KA-SEM-EXOT...item564418d5c8

    I have one, and love it. It looks terrific and sounds great. The build quality is excellent.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Just go all the way and buy a Collings, but seriously, I think that the Kalas are very good for the money. I prefer a concert or a tenor over a soprano because there is more room on the fretboard but the sopranos ARE cute.

  7. #7
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    I second the Kala suggestion if you're firmly under $100. If there's some wiggle room, the higher-end Makais are pretty nice, and the Ponos are fantastic-sounding. I like the Ponos better than the Collings, which is weird since I'm generally a drooling fanboy for every Collings I hear.

  8. #8
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Going back 48 years,my first instrument was a Uke. I'm glad that you guys have found enjoyment in what many folk think of almost as a 'toy' instrument. A Uke played well is anything but,& it's great instrument to have if you want (need) to take a break from Mandolin playing - enjoy ,
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  9. #9
    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    I agree completely with Ivan. The ukulele is not a toy. It's a legitimate musical instrument with its own history, technique, and literature. Heck, it was the iPod of the early twentieth century. They were everywhere and made in the millions. But realize that most sub-$100, mass-market ukuleles will be laminate instruments. If you're into high-end acoustics, that could be important to know. You might want to stretch that budget by a little and make sure to get at least a solid-top.

    I've been very happy with an Oscar Schmidt OU5. A really nice ukulele for the money. Not a high-end instrument by any reckoning, but very satisfying. While about twice your budget, I think it will be all the ukulele I need for a long time.
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  10. #10
    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Seems like one of this season's hottest items. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one from a litter in progress.
    The tuning I'm sure will confuse the heck out of me, but that's gotta be part of the fun, right?
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

  11. #11
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Someone brought up laminates, but don't let that word scare you away from the <$100 ukes. We're not talking about a thick laminate molded into an arch top like on a cheap mandolin. The word laminate conjures up images of Home Depot plywood, but these are advanced, high tech materials. The laminates on the better inexpensive ukes are VERY thin and quite resonant. What small amount you may lose in tone is made up for with increased durability, resistance to humidity changes etc.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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  12. #12
    Registered User RichM's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Having gone through a LOT of ukes, I'll attest to the fact that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good-sounding uke. Some very inexpensive ukes sound pretty good. What I have found you often give up in a cheap uke is intonation. The short scale length and the fixed bridge make proper intonation critical, and a lot of the cheap (and even some of the pricier) builders play kind of fast and loose with that.

    Kala is a reliable low-price builder, and they have ukes at just about every price point, from really cheap to slightly pricey. Two others I would recommend strongly are Ohana and Mainland, although both will take you a bit over $100 for a good uke, but not a lot over. All three brands are made in China, although Mainland are all setup and shipped in the US (by one guy, so you get good attention to detail).

    The best news I've found about ukes is that after living in the mandolin world for a while, even the finest hand-made ukes cost a fraction of what a top-end mandolin costs. Ukes are awesome!

  13. #13

    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Ya, ukes--like every stringed instrument--have their own character and are quite useful (and fun). They're pretty versatile--since they're often played fingerstyle. They can be frailed, plucked, pinched, strummed...even clawhammered. They sound good playing jazz voicings--chord melodies, and of course excellent for song/vocal accompaniment. A good, resonant wooden uke sounds sweet. I also have reso ukes and banjo ukes.

  14. #14
    Registered User Chris "Bucket" Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    What is the best Uke instructional book out there for basic strumming patterns, chords etc?
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    There are tons out there. The Mel Bay library has started generations of uke players on the path.
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    Registered User Nick Royal's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    My first uke: I started out playing music when I was young with a plastic uke, which I played until it broke. I had a song book and learned lots of those songs, and as I recall, that's what got me being able to play by hear. Then moved on to a guitar, but the uke was key to getting me going on music making. I plan to buy a soprano uke for my grandson when he is 6 years old.

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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Funnily, I bought one to take away in the RV a couple of months ago. Its an Ohana, all koa, concert model. Just wish I could keep the darned thing in tune! I thought it would settle down as the strings bedded in but the tuning still seems to last less than a song. I gave up trying to play jazz guitar years ago so I'm now intending to try jazz uke.

    I spotted a Collings at a guitar show a year or so but the price made me think twice (glad I didn't it was a soprano) but when I got home and told my wife how much money I'd saved all she said was that I should have bought it!

  18. #18
    John Faulkinbury Nighttrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    There are a lot of instruction books, CD's, DVD's available. I purchased ukakaliens songbook by Kate Power & Steve Einhorn. very informative and a lot of fun.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Paul said:

    "Someone brought up laminates, but don't let that word scare you away from the <$100 ukes. We're not talking about a thick laminate molded into an arch top like on a cheap mandolin. The word laminate conjures up images of Home Depot plywood, but these are advanced, high tech materials. The laminates on the better inexpensive ukes are VERY thin and quite resonant. What small amount you may lose in tone is made up for with increased durability, resistance to humidity changes etc."

    That's all very true. But it's important to realize that on a great many mass-produced, inexpensive ukuleles, the laminate can be little better than Home Depot plywood. There are also the intonation issues mentioned earlier. Then too, issues of fit and finish can come into play. Many very cheap ukuleles have exceedingly poor tuning machines or simple friction pegs that get frustrating. There's a lot to consider when looking at 'bargain' level instruments. Despite the fact that ukuleles are relatively inexpensive, the deficits we wouldn't accept in a mandolin or guitar shouldn't be embraced in a ukulele either.
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  20. #20
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Funnily, I bought one to take away in the RV a couple of months ago. Its an Ohana, all koa, concert model. Just wish I could keep the darned thing in tune! I thought it would settle down as the strings bedded in but the tuning still seems to last less than a song. I gave up trying to play jazz guitar years ago so I'm now intending to try jazz uke.
    Are those geared tuners? If not, make sure they're tight enough so they're not slipping. There should be a small screw on the tuning peg. This does more than just hold on the peg: tightening it up tightens up the tuner too. Make tiny adjustments and see if that doesn't do the trick.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  21. #21
    Unruly Crumudgeon Loretta Callahan's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    I came from the ukulele to the mandolin. You ask a very good question, mandosonofthemarsh. Yes, you definitely want to spend more than $100, especially since you know what a good acoustic stringed instrument sounds and plays like.

    Get a solid wood, not laminate instrument ~ I've owned two Lanakais .. and they're ok, but I'm not a big laminate fan ... it will cost you more than $200 for solid wood, but there's a lot of choices out there. I'd hang out here for a while ... and ask folks. They also have a classified section.

    http://www.fleamarketmusic.com/bulletin/default.asp

    Ivan nailed it: a uke to play isn't a toy. Ukes come in 4 sizes: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone (smallest to largest). The baritone is tuned differently, usually like a guitar DGBE, whereas the others are usually tuned GCEA~this can vary.

    I agree with Tim on making sure friction tuning pegs work properly ... with the little screw in the "turner".

    I bought a mahogany Gibson soprano from the 1930's 9 years ago that has friction tuning pegs that stay in tune forever. Doubt I could get it for anywhere near the $500 bucks I paid for it then, but I'll bet there some great used ukes out there.
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  22. #22
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Quote Originally Posted by Loretta Callahan View Post
    ...I'll bet there some great used ukes out there.
    There are indeed, and if you're looking for solid wood for around $100 that's where you probably have to go. Ukuleles were produced in the hundreds of thousands 75-90 years ago, especially by the Chicago firms like Harmony and Regal, and you can find them at many used/vintage dealers. I've found bargains on the "Roy Smeck" Harmony ukuleles, some of which have plastic fingerboards with molded frets, so you need to be a bit cautious, but you can do well buying used, especially if you have a dealer in whom you have confidence.
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    Registered User Wayne Bagley's Avatar
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    http://www.lanikaiukes.com/ are excellent and quite reasonable.
    One of the best resources on the internet for the uke http://www.ukulelemikelynch.com/ uses nothing but http://www.oscarschmidt.com/products/ukes/

    http://www.halleonard.com/ is always my resourse of choice for any instrument.

    Good luck.
    I want a uke too but right now my plate is full!
    (I have read in gthe last few days that ukes have outsold guitars this year in the UK)
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    On the subject of tuners, there are a lot of contemporary instruments being built with good quality guitar-type tuners. While not traditional, I've found them superior in getting the instrument in tune easily. Those short strings really benefit from the control you get from a geared tuner, IMO.
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  25. #25
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    Default Re: ukulele fever

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    Are those geared tuners? If not, make sure they're tight enough so they're not slipping. There should be a small screw on the tuning peg. This does more than just hold on the peg: tightening it up tightens up the tuner too. Make tiny adjustments and see if that doesn't do the trick.
    Thanks Paul, I'll try that. I assumed they just held the buttons on (as mandolin tuners) and not adjusted the tension (like grover Rotomatics)

    Edit - yes - its worked. Should have noticed the washers between the buttons and the body of the tuners!
    Last edited by Ray(T); Jun-06-2011 at 11:12am. Reason: Update

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