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 Post subject: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:21 am 
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Does anyone here play ukelele and is there a good beginner uke for around $100?

I've seen some amazing Luna brand ukeleles but, while they make great instruments, they are expensive.

I need a string instrument in case my lungs go out and I can't play my whistles! :P

It's practical, you see.

I have a beautiful Luna guitar that I bought when I was younger but she's an electric and I'm afraid my tastes have simply drifted away. I'll always listen to rock and metal but when I play music I like to play a different style.

So, while looking at other string instruments, the ukelele's sound caught my attention. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:38 am 
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Good and cheap are usually mutually exclusive, but you knew that.
If your not too picky there are the Rogues on Amazon.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:50 am 
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The_walrus0 wrote:
Does anyone here play ukelele and is there a good beginner uke for around $100?

For around $100 you could look at Lanikai ukuleles. They're probably the best deal around that price, or one of the few at least. I have a tenor and it's not bad at all, quite good in fact, the biggest problem will be that it will probably have some intonation problems until you get someone to set it up for you (someone with the tools and knowledge to adjust, first of all, the depth of the nut slots). As all factory-produced ukuleles the Lanikais won't have perfect setup. But that's not specific for Lanikai, it's for all low-cost ukuleles (even more expensive ones like the Luna), unless you buy from some shop where they'll actually include a setup in the sale.
Lanikai ukuleles come with Aquila nylgut strings, which is a great option for laminated ukuleles like this - they'll sound better.

If you want to get even lower in price then the only sensible option is probably Makala ukuleles.

-Tor


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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:55 am 
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I've found Lanikai to generally have good quality control. You should be able something servicable in that price range if you stick to nato instead of solid woods and get a soprano or concert size rather than tenor or baritone.


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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:11 pm 
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Thanks everyone! I was hunting around the internet and checked out the Lanikai ukes and they look really great to start with.

I know the woes of buying a cheaper instrument that turns out to be horrible to learn on so I wanted to be smart about buying.

I was looking at the sopranos and I think I'd like to try that, but I read that concert is better to begin on because handling the smaller soprano can be difficult for beginners.

What do you guys recommend?

I will probably be able to find a store in town that can help me set it up for a small fee, if they don't already carry the Lanikai ukes.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:17 pm 
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ukes are kind of like whistles, you don't need to spend a mint to get one that will make good music. $100 will buy you all the ukulele you'll need - as others said the lanakai's are decent - after you reach a certain price point with ukes your paying for tonewood (usually worth it) brand name or vintage (less important, except for vanity), not necessarily a better or more playable instrument.
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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:22 pm 
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Quote:
I was looking at the sopranos and I think I'd like to try that, but I read that concert is better to begin on because handling the smaller soprano can be difficult for beginners.

What size is right for you depends on the size of you :)..
Well, not entirely true, but if you have big hands then a soprano may be more difficult. I myself prefer concert and tenor, and I'm most comfortable with the latter. But that's as much because I come from guitar which is a much bigger instrument. I actually started on a soprano (a cheap one, just to figure out if I would like it).
On the other hand I also play a Kala pocket ukulele, which is tiny compared to just about anything..

But ukuleles come in many sizes, it's not just the length of the neck, there are differences in width as well. So for some with bigger hand, or just fatter fingers, a short scale ukulele can be easier to play when that ukulele also has a wide neck. However I don't think there's that wide neck option for any Lanikai model.

To cut it short - unless you have fat fingers or large hands (mine are average male hands, and I _can_ play the soprano) you'll be OK with soprano. If you're not certain, go for concert - they're just slightly bigger.

In any case, all the models except bariton and pocket are tuned the same way: GCEA, or gCEA as it's sometimes written - re-entrant tuning where the 'g' is one octave up (just below that 'A' string). (You'll find that some are tuned in non-reentrant tuning, 'low' G, but even those were usually sold with gCEA strings originally).

-Tor


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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:30 pm 
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Thanks again everyone! I think I found a good one if I'm going to order on the internet. I'm going to call the music store here and see if they sell ukes.

They may not, it's a small city.

Amazon carries Luna ukeleles at a slight reduced price. I generally trust the reviews and a lot of them have recieved great reviews and are marked down from $115 to $90.

So I may take my shot at ordering one. I'll be sure to buy a warranty to send it back and try again if it doesn't work out. Besides, as long as it's playable I don't mind going cheaper. Eventually I can upgrade. ^.^

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:22 pm 
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maki wrote:
Good and cheap are usually mutually exclusive

Sometimes. But ukes are a bit like whistles in that regard. After a certain price point - around $100-200 in the case of ukes - you're paying a premium for something incrementally better than a nice-sounding basic ukulele.

Walrus, if I were you ... I'd sign on to the Ukulele Underground and hang out there for a while before making a decision.

A lot of people really like the Flea/Fluke ukes as either a beginner instrument or a knock-around. I've played them, and prefer something more traditional. But they're well-made, reasonably priced, indestructable and climate-resistant. They're also pre-set up nicely at the factory - a plus if you live somewhere without easy access to a good luthier or ukulele technician.

Personally, I'm extremely happy with my Big Island soprano. Pricier, but a big, rich sound, beautifully crafted, and at around half the cost of something comparable.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:40 pm 
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As for acoustic guitars, you really want to try the instrument before you buy it, if at all possible. The cheap soprano I started with I bought on the Internet. I paid something like $40 for it (that translates to $32 in countries without VAT). The next one was a Lanikai from a local small shop (due to the impact of "The Mighty Uke" film which has been shown world-wide for some years now you can find ukuleles in surprisingly many places). In that shop the owner had (relatively) cheap Lanikais as well as expensive Lanikai ukes in better woods. After having played them all (that's where it helps to start on the cheap one - I knew how to play one..) I found that the cheap Nato-wood Lanikai sounded better to me than the expensive ones from some more sophisticated wood. It's probably because that Nato laminate can be made real thin, and thus it vibrates well despite being laminate.

Since then I've bought lots of ukuleles (beware of UAS, Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome), some over the net, some in shops. The single net-shopped one I'm entirely happy with is a Flea (well, almost true - the pocket uke I also bought over the net, but that's a special kind of instrument and I'm happy with it). The Flea's and Fluke's perfect intonation (mostly due to their zero-fret) is by itself enough to make it sound good - it's kind of crystal-clear. These are not the cheapest though, because they're actually made in the USA (almost everything else is made in Asia). You can't go wrong with a Flea or a Fluke from Magicfluke. The soprano models started at $179 the last time I checked (but I added geared tuners, rosewood fretboard (as opposed to the original plastic), longer (concerto) neck, and that adds up quickly).

My best ukulele I found in a shop when I was travelling (I always keep an eye out for shops when I travel because the local selection in my town is limited). The good thing about ukuleles is that it's not a problem bringing one as carry-on baggage on flights, so it's OK to buy one while on travel. I also own solid wood ukes bought over the net, but even if OK it's not the same as one you can test in a shop. Also because what's good for one person can be mediocre for someone else. It also depends on what style you'll prefer to play (fingerstyle, strumming).

So, in short, I wouldn't spend too much money on a ukulele bought over the net.. you would have to be very lucky to get one that you really really like. So it's generally better not to go too high in price (and still avoid the hopeless ones - as I said earlier, if you go really cheap then go for Makala and stay away from everything else). After owning one instrument you'll soon be in a better position to select your next one, although it still holds that you should really try it in a shop. And there will be variations, just as for guitars, so even if you find a good one in a shop it's unlikely that one of the same type bought over the net will sound the same.

And, as MTGuru said - as the price increases you'll get diminishing returns as far as sound is concerned. I would say even more so than for acoustic guitars. Oh, and I support the suggestion of hanging out at ukulele underground for a while. Just beware that nothing can feed a growing UAS as hanging around there, you'll soon get the impression that this and that particular expensive instrument will give forever joy if you can just get your hands on one.. now, where else have I seen something similar? :)

-Tor


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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:38 pm 
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Haha! Thanks for all the advice Tor.

:)

Well my music store says they do have ukes, Luna and other, so I am going down there tonight to fiddle with them.

I figure my price range is, at best, $120 and my hope is to find a Luna, Lanikai or Kala there in my price range. I plan on trying out concert and soprano to see what feels right and I'll also pick up a pack of Aquila strings if the uke doesn't have them already.

From what I can tell I should be able to find a pretty good uke for that price to start with. They may have the Makalas too, which are about $50 I think.

I am so ready!

I really can't get another aquisition disorder because I have no money!! Hopefully I can keep myself busy until I get some extra cash to look at a fancier instrument, uke or not.

I was also checking out the banjos...

Woe is me.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:02 am 
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The ukes mentioned are all very nice, but I have to chime in and say that the Oscar Schmidt OU-5 concert is one of the best deals in the music world. Amazing quality for the price. Probably the best bargain I've ever made in a musical instrument.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:27 am 
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I've heard lots of nice things about the OU5, and I've heard it on some of Ukulele Mike's youtube videos and it sounds nice. But it's a > $300 ukulele.. IMO too expensive an instrument to start with, but a good alternative for someone who has been through a cheaper instrument and decided that this is something they want to continue with.

I still wouldn't buy one over the net though. I've come to the conclusion that no ukulele in that price range is worth buying without trying.

-Tor


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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:33 am 
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I was about to say you must be mistaken, but I just checked and you are correct. Only a couple of months ago it was $150 and I bought mine on sale at $99! I wonder what happened to cause such an increase? Perhaps the availability of koa?

Still though, a truly impressive instrument if not not an astounding bargain any more. $300 is a fair price to be sure, but $150 was a steal! It will still make a very fine upgrade instrument. Indeed, for all but the most avid enthusiast or professional player it is often considered all the ukulele you'd ever want; a lifetime instrument. During the ukulele craze of the early 20th century Oscar Schmidt was among the renowned builders and was often mentioned in the same breath as Gibson and Martin.

I think $300 better reflects its actual value, but it does change its status as a most remarkable beginner's ukulele. I assure everyone that I was unaware of the doubling in price. I would not have recommended it for the purpose had I known that.

Having cleared that up I'll now second the recommendation for Lanikai as a very good starter uke. I recently picked up a baritone from them and it is quite impressive for the price.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginner Ukelele?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:16 am 
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I have a Makala tenor and I can highly recommend it as a starter ukulele. It came with stock strings but switching to Aquilas made a huge difference.

The Makala is the same uke as the base model Kala (KA-S, KA-C, etc.) except for the trim, so unless those cosmetic details are important to you, you can save a few bucks with the Makala. I later got a used solid acacia Kala that was gorgeous but, as others have been saying, didn't sound appreciably better, so I resold it and kept the Makala.

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