Help - Looking for Good Beginner Ukulele [Archive] - Sax on the Web Forum

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ratracer
07-27-2015, 02:37 AM
Ok, title pretty much says it all! I have a daughter who's musically inclined - plays piano, had voice lessons, and is reasonably good. Doesn't want to play the guitar but wants a soprano ukulele! There is like one thread from back in 2008 with a handful of replies asking the same question so I'm aware of the info in that thread. Just wondering, given that that thread is seven years old, I'm looking for a bit of updated advice.

I know she doesn't want a pineapple shaped uke. She would like to get one made from koa, as a first choice, mahogany is her second choice. I would like to keep the price around $200 but that seems to indicate a koa wood veneer vice solid koa wood uke. Seems like for this price range only the body could be koa while the neck and bridge will normally be something else. But, I'm still doing my research given know almost zilch about ukeleles save what I've been able to read in a couple hours on the internet over the last couple of days.

So, please chime in. Using a friends uke, she has already learned a song in the last week or so, therefore, she seems to be fairly serious as she's been asking for one since last Christmas. Like I said, as a gift, I'm will to shell out about $200. If a good koa-based uke costs more, then she will have to kick in the rest. But, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Thanks in advance for any and all advice! Cheers!

hakukani
07-27-2015, 02:56 AM
Well, here in Hawaii if you're into music, you've got to know a little about ukes.

Koa is a beautiful wood, but it is a slow-growing wood, hence it's high price. Mahogany or ovankol is a good second choice. However, if you can't do a solid Koa top, I'd go with a solid sitka spruce top. Much, much richer sound. I have a Kala tenor uke with a solid spruce top, and it sounds much better than the lower end kamakas, IMO.

Also, I wouldn't get a soprano--they really are very tiny. I recommend a concert sized--much better sound, and not that much bigger than a soprano, but enough bigger that it's easy to hold. Also, make sure that it has guitar-style machinehead tuner. The old school without the gears are difficult for beginners, and are really fiddly. So.....I'd go for the this Kala KA-SCG sitka spruce with mahogany sides.:

https://www.google.com/shopping/product/7335410509004766793?sclient=psy-ab&biw=1581&bih=864&q=kala+concert+ukulele&oq=kala+concert+ukulele&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.&bvm=bv.98717601,d.cGU&tch=1&ech=1&psi=lpq1Vcu_MNDooATi37zwCw.1437964952330.3&ved=0CNABEKYrahUKEwjo4eb_pPrGAhXCM4gKHYcbCEc&ei=tpq1VeiuGMLnoASHt6C4BA

It's well under your $200 budget, and she can practice on a good sounding uke while saving up for a Koa Kamaka, or a uke made by one of our fine local luthiers.

ratracer
07-27-2015, 03:13 AM
Wow! Thanks hak! I was hoping you'd chime in but wasn't expecting such a quick response. Much appreciated!! Excellent food for thought!

hakukani
07-27-2015, 03:18 AM
Just happened to be on today. I'm kinda laid up after a total knee replacement. I've been lurking a lot...

LampLight
07-27-2015, 03:24 AM
Just happened to be on today. I'm kinda laid up after a total knee replacement. I've been lurking a lot...

:( Get well soon.

gary
07-27-2015, 03:24 AM
Well, here in Hawaii if you're into music, you've got to know a little about ukes.

Koa is a beautiful wood, but it is a slow-growing wood, hence it's high price. Mahogany or ovankol is a good second choice. However, if you can't do a solid Koa top, I'd go with a solid sitka spruce top. Much, much richer sound. I have a Kala tenor uke with a solid spruce top, and it sounds much better than the lower end kamakas, IMO.

Also, I wouldn't get a soprano--they really are very tiny. I recommend a concert sized--much better sound, and not that much bigger than a soprano, but enough bigger that it's easy to hold. Also, make sure that it has guitar-style machinehead tuner. The old school without the gears are difficult for beginners, and are really fiddly. So.....I'd go for the this Kala KA-SCG sitka spruce with mahogany sides.:

https://www.google.com/shopping/product/7335410509004766793?sclient=psy-ab&biw=1581&bih=864&q=kala+concert+ukulele&oq=kala+concert+ukulele&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.&bvm=bv.98717601,d.cGU&tch=1&ech=1&psi=lpq1Vcu_MNDooATi37zwCw.1437964952330.3&ved=0CNABEKYrahUKEwjo4eb_pPrGAhXCM4gKHYcbCEc&ei=tpq1VeiuGMLnoASHt6C4BA

It's well under your $200 budget, and she can practice on a good sounding uke while saving up for a Koa Kamaka, or a uke made by one of our fine local luthiers.

I pretty much agree. I was going to recommend a ukulele by an old classmate of mine, Alvin Okami of KoAloha Ukuleles, but noticed that his entry level uke, at around $225.00 - is made in Indonesia. I know him to be very particular and I'm sure that the folks making it for him are producing excellent products, but still, I was hoping to recommend one made in his Honolulu factory. He produces high end ukes which are owned by many name players.

Therefore, I go with Hakukani's recommendation. BTW, my qualifications? Played/owned my first Uke back in (ready for this? 1957), grew up in Hawaii (if you didn't know it by now).

ratracer
07-27-2015, 03:28 AM
Total knee replacement. That will definitely slow you down. But I hear the procedure is not the bad part, it's the following PT that's the killer! But that's necessary to get you back on your feet. Hang in there & thanks again.

ratracer
07-27-2015, 11:16 AM
I pretty much agree. I was going to recommend a ukulele by an old classmate of mine, Alvin Okami of KoAloha Ukuleles, but noticed that his entry level uke, at around $225.00 - is made in Indonesia. I know him to be very particular and I'm sure that the folks making it for him are producing excellent products, but still, I was hoping to recommend one made in his Honolulu factory. He produces high end ukes which are owned by many name players.

Therefore, I go with Hakukani's recommendation. BTW, my qualifications? Played/owned my first Uke back in (ready for this? 1957), grew up in Hawaii (if you didn't know it by now).

Heh, heh! I seem to remember reading something about your Hawaiin street cred sometime back! Thanks for the info Gary.

gary
07-27-2015, 01:23 PM
Heh, heh! I seem to remember reading something about your Hawaiin street cred sometime back! Thanks for the info Gary.
I noticed you're in DC. FWIW, I used to live in Takoma Park.

ratracer
07-27-2015, 03:02 PM
I noticed you're in DC. FWIW, I used to live in Takoma Park.

Yeah, I'm north of DC, live in Maryland outside the Beltway. Actually, time wise, I live half-way between Bal'mer and DC! I've been in Takhoma Park several times.

Small world!

SaxDadPaul
08-05-2015, 11:50 PM
Hi,
I'm a bit late to the thread, but my daughter is similarly musically inclined...plays mostly sax (hence the reason I'm on this site) and piano, but recently also expressed a desire to play the uke. We ended up making an impulse purchase at Guitar Center of a $100 Cordova, which actually sounds quite nice, and she has picked it up very fast. The uke seeems to be an instrument that rewards effort pretty quickly. Anyway, my main point is that we chose the concert size, and she loves it. We also felt the soprano was just too small.

gary
08-06-2015, 01:04 AM
Yeah, I'm north of DC, live in Maryland outside the Beltway. Actually, time wise, I live half-way between Bal'mer and DC! I've been in Takhoma Park several times.

Small world!

Ft. Meade?

hakukani
08-06-2015, 01:42 AM
Total knee replacement. That will definitely slow you down. But I hear the procedure is not the bad part, it's the following PT that's the killer! But that's necessary to get you back on your feet. Hang in there & thanks again.

Yep. PT is not like stretching for yoga. where they always say 'if it hurts, stop'. With this it's 'it hurts? A little longer, keep going, more more'...

clarnut
08-06-2015, 01:59 AM
Take a look at

http://elderly.com/new_instruments/items/SK38.htm

These were made to copy a vintage Martin and are great sounding and playing instruments at a really good price

ratracer
08-06-2015, 02:22 AM
Ft. Meade?

No, Ft. Meade is more geographically half-way. I'm in between the 'burbs of White Oak and Colesville? 16 miles from downtown DC and about 40 miles from Baltimore. Still, it's just as quick to drive to Baltimore as it is to DC!

ratracer
08-06-2015, 02:28 AM
Yep. PT is not like stretching for yoga. where they always say 'if it hurts, stop'. With this it's 'it hurts? A little longer, keep going, more more'...

Heh, heh, but really it's not that funny cause my Mom and several friends have gone through the PT and you've got it exactly right! If it don't hurt, they're not doing it right. My Mom was as mentally tough (and almost physically!) as most men but that PT brought her to tears several times! But! She was back on her feet quicker than I ever imagined possible. Then they sent her home with some leg curl contraption and she did it to herself!

That was several years ago though and I understand the procedure has gotten better, while the PT is still the PT. Perhaps it's not required for as long due to the improved procedure, but still, it's gonna hurt and hurt and hurt. And you can take that to the bank!

ratracer
08-06-2015, 02:45 AM
Hi,
I'm a bit late to the thread, but my daughter is similarly musically inclined...plays mostly sax (hence the reason I'm on this site) and piano, but recently also expressed a desire to play the uke. We ended up making an impulse purchase at Guitar Center of a $100 Cordova, which actually sounds quite nice, and she has picked it up very fast. The uke seeems to be an instrument that rewards effort pretty quickly. Anyway, my main point is that we chose the concert size, and she loves it. We also felt the soprano was just too small.

Well, I've told her she would be great with a cute little curved soprano sax but for some reason she insists that I remain the lone sax player in the family.
I sent her to this site: http://www.theukulelesite.com that has a bunch of demos and especially the Kala KA-SCG recommended by Hakukani and Gary above. And I think she is tending to the concert uke as well!
I think the soprano is too small even though she's only 5'1" and about 100lbs. She's only really had her hands on a soprano for any period of time and found it easy to pick up. Just recently she's ran into someone she's heard play a concert and I believe she actually likes the sound better than the soprano as well! We'll see. We're not in a big hurry so we're taking our time so you're not late and I appreciate your comments!


Take a look at

http://elderly.com/new_instruments/items/SK38.htm

These were made to copy a vintage Martin and are great sounding and playing instruments at a really good price

Thanks & we'll check into it!

CaneMutiny
09-16-2015, 02:07 AM
Make sure whatever you buy will hold tune for more than sixty seconds.
Decent pegs/tuning machines are a must.
Add quality strings once she's shown progress.
It's important that the string height at the nut/first fret be low enough to fret easily as most of her playing will be in that part of the neck. Worth paying to have the action set up right as it can discourage a beginners tender fingertips.
Tip toe
Thru the tulips :D

ratracer
09-16-2015, 03:11 PM
Weeeeeeeell, the saga continues & thanks for all the info. She's had the chance to play a couple of concerts and soprano ukes. I thought I had her talked into the concert but now, she's not so sure. She's leaning back toward the soprano. When she thinks of a uke, she has the soprano sound stuck in her head! So, with that in mind, she's done some internet search on her own and is now asking about these brands and models:

Fender U'uku soprano
Gretsch G9100
Oscar Schmidt OU12
Lanike'a Islander AS-4

From what I can ascertain, all these under $150, are made overseas, are laminates, but have a good (internet feedback) rep for a beginner who seems to want a soprano uke! Any experience or insights to share with these particular brands and models? I know there are others out there, but so far, these are the ones she's personally mentioned.

barinicetomeetyou
09-30-2015, 04:06 PM
I had a Nice Cordoba 25CK for a few years. I really loved it. For some reason I sold it, I think to finance a repair on my guitar, I wish I hadn't.

My daughter had an interest in Uke so my wife and I bought her a starter pack from Guitar Center, about $40. Once you change the strings and let them settle it plays pretty well for the price.

Also I would vote for the Lanike'a, they are a uke company and I most that I have found play pretty well.

GApeach
10-03-2015, 11:00 AM
My son has a very cheap Mahalo and it sounds great. It cost about $30 on Amazon.

bluto
10-03-2015, 04:13 PM
Also, I wouldn't get a soprano--they really are very tiny. I recommend a concert sized--much better sound, and not that much bigger than a soprano, but enough bigger that it's easy to hold. Also, make sure that it has guitar-style machinehead tuner. The old school without the gears are difficult for beginners, and are really fiddly.

Good advice. Concert size ukes sound better and are handier. I have a nice concert Lanikai Koa uke, but like reeds in saxophones, strings can make a big difference in sound quality. I have mine strung with Aquila genuine gut. Pricey, but IMHO well worth it.

ratracer
10-04-2015, 03:35 AM
Weeeeeeeeell, the saga has come to a conclusion and I would really like to thank everyone for the info. I failed to try and convert her to the soprano sax but for some reason, all four women in my household seem to agree that one sax player in the house was more than enough.

Then, despite intense logical, and psychological information and intimidation, I could not talk her into the concert module uke. She got the original uke sound, the soprano, stuck in her head and wouldn't budge. I thought I had her at one point but nope, she rope-a-doped me on that one.

So, in conclusion, after having played a few, and listened to a lot of models on the net, ie Youtube, she went and got herself the Fender U'uku. Aaaaaaaand, she's in an altered state of mind over that whinie, tinnie sounding little thing! :faceinpalm: I think it's the brightest sounding uke she could find but that's the sound concept she has and wouldn't consider anything with a more mellow sound.

That said, she brought it home and hasn't put it down much. Gotta admit, it's a cute little thing and sounds like a soprano uke. Has the geared tuners and Aquila Nylagut strings. Can't complain about the finish and it feels as solid and as well made as a $100 uke probably should. Holds tuning through a lot of playing the last couple of days. She already knows a couple of tunes that I can play along with her on the tenor sax - "You Are My Sunshine" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"! Now that was kinda fun and pretty much worth all the aggravation she put me through helping her research something I had absolutely no clue about!

So, thanks again for all the help and advice and I hope this closes the loop and gives anyone else in the same predicament a bit of food for thought! Cheers everyone! Tenor sax does sound pretty good with strings and she found out that I won't necessarily drown her out!

bluto
10-04-2015, 04:00 AM
Congrats! The right choice is the one your daughter is happy with. Kinda' like that with all females ain't it? Hahaha .

ratracer
10-04-2015, 04:16 AM
Ha! Definitely females, and, kinda the way a whole lot of sax players are isn't it? I mean, that's why we go through multiple horns, mouthpieces and reed, through various years of vintage, to chase the elusive sound we hear in our head! So it is with musicians and the population in general. I mean, if not, otherwise, we'd all be driving Models Ts in any color we wanted as long as it was black, eh?

Ain't the power of choice just a wonderful thing?! Cheers!!! As long as my women are happy, I can get away with nearly anything around here!