Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ukuleles - Part One

I have enjoyed learning to play the Ukulele over the last several years.  Being both a guitarist and a clawhammer banjo player gave me some advantages with learning chords and strums.  Declining health issues have me enjoying lighter instruments like ukes more these days.

There are lots of  youTube videos to help you learn.  I started with the two Jim Beloff DVDs.

Today good ukuleles are highly affordable.  My favorites affordable brands are Ohana and Kala. These  imports are made in Asia and I understand they use CNC equipment in building them.

I recommend buying a ukulele from either eBay seller MIM or the Uke Republic or Elderly Instruments websites.

Once you get good enough to know more of what you want, you can buy a Martin or a Kamaka or many other different brands where the quality is a couple of steps up and the prices are quite a few steps up.

If you don't have small hands I recommend starting with a Tenor size instrument with at least a solid top. Soprano or Standard size ukes have a short scale and your fingers can struggle to fit inside the fret boundaries. Another disadvantage is many soprano ukes have friction tuners making the instrument a bit harder to tune.  The Tenor size is the most popular in Hawaii today.

There are many different woods used in Ukulele construction, Koa, Cedar, Spruce, Rosewood, Mango, Walnut and Mahogany among others. The are also Banjo Ukes, Resonator Ukes and Bass Ukes on the market today.

The ukes I am discussing in this post are all mahogany instruments in my collection.  Each has a solid top, back and side. Mahogany has a warm, mellow and round tone - the best sounding ukes to my ears.

First we have a Hula UK-145 sopranino.  12 frets with friction tuners.  The scale length is 10 7/8 ".  This a very cool little uke to own after you have no problems with standard size ukuleles.  I bought this uke for a little more than $100 from Mele Ukuleles.  I tune it in the older D6 tuning (a D F# B).

Next is a Koloa KU-500 soprano with 12 frets and deluxe friction tuners. Scale length is 13 5/8 ".   It plays and sounds great.  I paid about $80 for this instrument on ebay Also tuned to D6 (a D F# B).

Now we have a Koloa KU-550 baritone - tuned D G B E (guitar tuning).  B stock $99.  20 1/8 " scale length. 14 frets to the body, 19 total frets.

The Ohana TK-38 tenor is modeled after the Martin 2T.  It is tuned g C E A.(C6 Modern Hawaiian)  17 " scale length. 14 frets to the body, 19 total frets.

Finally we have an Ohana CK-28 Vintage Portugese Style Nunes/Dias reissue Concert Ukulele. Also tuned in C6 tuning (g C E A).  14 Frets total. Friction tuners. Scale length 15 7/8". 

Here are links to
Uke Republic.
Elderly Instruments

More Uke Posts to follow: