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  #1  
Old 02-17-2019, 10:37 PM
wguitar wguitar is offline
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Default What to Look for When Buying a Ukulele

Hi,

Long time amateur guitar playing starting to dabble in ukulele. Would like to buy one (new or used) but know little about brands, what materials or features to look for (or avoid), etc. Any guidance would be appreciated. Will be playing for personal enjoyment mostly (although as I learn more may want to bring it to open mic, coffeehouse, etc.). Regarding size, I'm liking the Tenor so far (but remain open to a Concert). THANKS!
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  #2  
Old 02-18-2019, 07:20 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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PM fellow AGF'er Earl49 - he co-operates the Boise Ukulele Group, and their website has a page dedicated specifically to your questions...
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:11 AM
muscmp muscmp is offline
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i just recently got into ukes and have found the tenor is easiest for me as a guitar player to use. i do also have a concert and soprano. all are quite a bit of fun to play. brands i have are cordoba and kala. chords are quite easy with only different muscle memory aspects.

earl is the uke man!

you may want to check in with the ukulele underground.

https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/

play music!
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:30 AM
Paraclete Paraclete is offline
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Tenor is probably the most comfortable to play, unless you have small hands. Kala is a great place to start. They have a wide range of builds, and even their entry level ukes sound and play very well.

Are there any music shops nearby that sell ukes? The best way is to just sit down and play a bunch. I’d check for intonation up and down the neck, action (although that can be adjusted), and overall sound. Ukes are more percussive, and the more expensive ones are sweet and woody sounding. Some of the cheap ones can be kind of nasally sounding. I suppose the biggest pitfall is stuff made overseas and marketed as “koa” or “solid koa” or sometimes “koa acacia”. Don’t spend money on cheap import Asian stuff pretending to be as good as a real solid Koa Hawaiian made uke.
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Old 02-18-2019, 02:18 PM
merlin666 merlin666 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paraclete View Post
Tenor is probably the most comfortable to play, unless you have small hands. Kala is a great place to start. They have a wide range of builds, and even their entry level ukes sound and play very well.

Are there any music shops nearby that sell ukes? The best way is to just sit down and play a bunch. I’d check for intonation up and down the neck, action (although that can be adjusted), and overall sound. Ukes are more percussive, and the more expensive ones are sweet and woody sounding. Some of the cheap ones can be kind of nasally sounding. I suppose the biggest pitfall is stuff made overseas and marketed as “koa” or “solid koa” or sometimes “koa acacia”. Don’t spend money on cheap import Asian stuff pretending to be as good as a real solid Koa Hawaiian made uke.
What he said. Another warning sign is ornamentation and bling on sub 2k ukuleles. Even high end ukes don't have purfling, rosettes and inlays. If you see that on a uke that costs a few hundred $ it's probably meant to be an ornament and not an instrument. Good overview of various brands is here:

http://ukulelehunt.com/buy-ukulele/c...kulele-brands/

Last edited by merlin666; 02-19-2019 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 02-20-2019, 04:53 PM
Swamp Yankee Swamp Yankee is offline
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How much are you looking to spend?

On the low end of decent tenors, I can say a lot of good things about Cordoba's 24T which retails at a few dollars less than $200. It has a great warm tone, with plenty of volume, from a comfortable and very light build. It also has a nice 1.5" wide nut and a slim and fast playing neck profile that I really like. It's an attractive uke as well, with a solid red cedar top, laminated spalted maple B&S and red paduak binding. It has a very thin satin finish which is great, tonally, but the tops can get marred in shipping. This means that a lot of them get returned as B stocks, and you can often pick them up on Reverb for as little as $115.

Moving up in price, another good choice is the Kanilea Islander MST-4 tenor... at around $350. Solid mahogany throughout. Built in Indonesia by contract for the Hawaiian maker, Kanilea. It too has a very comfortable neck, nice wide nut and it sounds really nice and warm.. though a tad quiet.

Another tenor in that $300-$400 range that I like a lot is the Cordoba 30T. Spanish heel construction, all solid mahogany, nice slim but wide neck, beautiful gloss finish. This one sounds really nice. Warm, but a more compressed tone than the Islander.

Higher than that, Martin's Mexican made T1-K koa tenor gets a lot of love.. though I don't have much hands on time with any.

Pono is very highly regarded as well, with tenors ranging from $500 and up. I owned a Pono Acacia Tenor Deluxe for a while. Great uke with wonderful tone but very heavy and quiet. It did not take too long before I realized I did not like the neck at all. I thought having a truss rod would be a nice feature... not when it makes the uke so neck heavy I couldn't play it without a strap.

These are only a few, but I own or have owned (I sold the Pono) all of them but the Martin...which I have played.

I also own sopranos, concerts and a baritone ukulele. My favorite size is the concert. For me it just hits the sweet spot in tone, body size and string tension when tuned to standard (high G) GCEA.
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Cordoba 24T tenor ukulele
Kanile'a Islander MST-4 tenor ukulele
Kiwaya KTC-1 concert ukulele
Kolohe concert ukulele
Mainland Mahogany soprano ukulele
Ohana SK-28 soprano ukulele
Brüko No. 6 soprano ukulele

Last edited by Swamp Yankee; 02-20-2019 at 05:03 PM.
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  #7  
Old 02-20-2019, 08:17 PM
wguitar wguitar is offline
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THANKS to ALL ! Looking for something under $200.
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:40 AM
Swamp Yankee Swamp Yankee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wguitar View Post
THANKS to ALL ! Looking for something under $200.
Going used will bring a lot more choices into your target range. Lots of second hand ukes for sale on Ukulele Underground forum, Flea Market Music and on Reverb. Guitar Center has a decent selection of used ukuleles too.
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Martin 000-17SM
Supro 2030 Hampton
Taylor 562ce 12 X 12
Taylor GS Mini-e Spruce/Rosewood
Waterloo WL-S
Wechter TO-8418

Cordoba 24T tenor ukulele
Kanile'a Islander MST-4 tenor ukulele
Kiwaya KTC-1 concert ukulele
Kolohe concert ukulele
Mainland Mahogany soprano ukulele
Ohana SK-28 soprano ukulele
Brüko No. 6 soprano ukulele
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Old 02-21-2019, 09:53 AM
merlin666 merlin666 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wguitar View Post
THANKS to ALL ! Looking for something under $200.
My first "good" ukulele was a Gretsch solid mahogany tenor which also has served me well as my only uke for several years. It's put together very nicely and has a very pleasant neck profile, and the body is a bit deeper than most ukes so that gives it a bit of extra volume too. This solid wood uke has been discontinued, but the laminate version can still be found for around $130 (including a gig bag) new. A friend has this laminate one and she likes it better than her soprano which was more than double in price.

https://reverb.com/ca/p/gretsch-g912...e#new_listings
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Old 02-21-2019, 06:37 PM
jsanfilippo5 jsanfilippo5 is offline
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I just started getting into the uke. I picked up an Islander mt4 all laminate hog tenor. Fantastic instrument. I picked up for $118 with a discount at MF. Great deal IMO.

I liked this uke because it had 1.5" nut Making chords a little easier to finger. I also wanted to know laminate so I could take it out to the beach and camping and not have to worry too much about it.

When I started shopping was pretty overwhelming with how many ukes there are in the under $200 price range.. but if you go on YouTube is a video pull the top nine tenor ukuleles under two hundred bucks. They all sound pretty good but The islander and the gretsch sounded best to my. In fact I would have bought the gretsch if I couldn't get the islander in stock.
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Old 02-22-2019, 11:04 AM
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Kupuna50 Kupuna50 is offline
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Default ukes

At the <$200 range you are limited to laminated ukes. You may get lucky and find one with decent tone, but probably not.
At least try to find one with a solid top (laminated back and sides)
Best shot at some decent tone.
Suggest concert or tenor as opposed to soprano.
IMHO
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Old 02-24-2019, 12:53 AM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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Lots of playable and even attractive ukes at that bottom end of the market. Just go grab one that catches your fancy and start playing. If you can avoid a laminated top that is highly recommended. So too is a thin or non-glossy finish, and Cordoba comes to mind as a brand to consider for that feature. Strings make a huge difference as well. Some can be very shrill sounding or, conversely, rather rubbery. I’m a fan of clear, higher tension strings and generally buy Worth (I presume you will tune to high-G, which gives you that distinctive uke sound).

It may be that you soon will want a better but uke you’ll figure that out soon enough.
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....and about 5 really nice tenor ukuleles at any given moment

Last edited by ukejon; 02-24-2019 at 01:03 AM.
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Old 02-24-2019, 12:07 PM
muscmp muscmp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukejon View Post
It may be that you soon will want a better but uke you’ll figure that out soon enough.
i couldn't help but chuckle!

play music!
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Old 02-24-2019, 06:33 PM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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That is a most impressive typo...I shall leave it as is!
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2009 Pono koa parlor (NAMM prototype)
2014 Pono N30 DC EIR/Spruce crossover
2014 Hatcher Greta 13 fret cutaway in EIR/cedar
2017 Hatcher Josie fan fret mahogany
1973 Sigma GCR7 (OM model) rosewood and spruce
2014 Rainsong OM1000N2

....and about 5 really nice tenor ukuleles at any given moment
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