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Shopping for a ukelele--we got one, thank you!


kbutton
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My 13 year old really, really wants a ukelele. We're not doing much shopping in person (trying to totally avoid it). Does anyone have reputable brands/sites to recommend? 

He has long arms and very long fingers, so he's looking at a concert or tenor for size.

When we looked online at beginner instruments, it looks like some have fret problems, and quite a few have tuning problems. We would likely help him with the cost to help him purchase something a little more mid-range for price.

Thanks!

Update: My son loves his ukelele. This thread helped a great deal. We ended up ordering through Sweetwater.

Edited by kbutton
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Check out gotaukelele.com.   There are tons of reviews, filtered by price and scored.   

My daughter picked hers out herself.  She picked a Kumu Tenor and has been happy with it, but there were a lot of options that I think would have been equally good choices. 

 

 

**Edited to add: we got our ukulele from The Ukulele Site (shipped from Hawaii).  Other sites I saw recommended include alohacityukes.com, ukerepublic.com, bonanzaukuleles.com, Mimsukes.com, dukeofuke.com, ukelikethepros.com.  

Edited by Kebo
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Dd bought hers from Guitar Center.  They have a large selection with a variety of prices as well as a robust online store.  She did purchase hers pre-lockdown so she was able to go into the store and try a few.  We have made several purchases over the years from Guitar Center for various products and have always been pleased.

Sweetwater Music is also an online store I've used.  Their customer service has been excellent.

 

 

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1 hour ago, ealp2009 said:

Edited:.  I apologize! I see you want to shop online.

Feel free to put your comment back. I didn't get to see it.

We might do face-to-face if that's our best option. We're just being pretty careful in self-defense. We live in crazy town. 

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So we bought ours at a violin store where we rent my kids violins.   They were really knowledgeable about instructments.   And we spent about $100.  I would call some instrument stores.  I thought talking to someone was helpful and they might give you an idea about how many people they usually have the store.   I was the only person in the store I went to, so I felt very comfortable being in there and the employee was masked.  As was I.  I know people who have bought from Amazon and spent about $60 and they were happy.   I was glad to buy from a local store and I liked knowing it wasn't made in China.  We got a concert uke too.  

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27 minutes ago, klmama said:

We have Luna ukuleles in two sizes, both from the Tattoo line. The sound quality is very nice. We bought the first one in person from Guitar Center, and the second we purchased from Amazon.  

That is one brand that keeps coming up for affordable but good.

1 minute ago, ealp2009 said:

So we bought ours at a violin store where we rent my kids violins.   They were really knowledgeable about instructments.   And we spent about $100.  I would call some instrument stores.  I thought talking to someone was helpful and they might give you an idea about how many people they usually have the store.   I was the only person in the store I went to, so I felt very comfortable being in there and the employee was masked.  As was I.  I know people who have bought from Amazon and spent about $60 and they were happy.   I was glad to buy from a local store and I liked knowing it wasn't made in China.  We got a concert uke too.  

Yeah, if we could find a time no one was there, and we'd already narrowed it down on the phone, we might be willing to go in person.

My son had an inexpensive one all picked out, but I keep reading that sometimes the frets are off, and that the tuning doesn't hold. Those reviews are pretty consistent with each other, so it gives me pause. If quality is inconsistent, the store might be willing to help if they order something that has flaws, and we want to send it back. I really wouldn't want that hassle on Amazon to save $40. 

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Sweetwater.com has absolutely the best customer service. They reply to any question asked and have very fast shipping. I bought a lovely Cordoba concert Ukelele from them. Really, check them out. 

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https://alohacityukes.com/  This is where I bought mine.

6 hours ago, kbutton said:

When we looked online at beginner instruments, it looks like some have fret problems, and quite a few have tuning problems. We would likely help him with the cost to help him purchase something a little more mid-range for price.

So I started off during covid with just the $60 kit our library had in stock the day before the world shut down. Although it didn't *come* tuned well and seemed pretty dreadful at first, with consistent tuning even this inexpensive ukelele got to where it was reasonably reliable. You can tune it with a free app you download to your phone/device, and really it's not hard.

Personally, what I would do is borrow an inexpensive one and then move up. Or you know if he wants to jump right in because you really feel you need the size, fine. But what might happen is you spend $300 only to realize what he wants is $1k. Just saying. So you'd rather borrow from the library or a friend for two weeks, then make a choice. 

6 hours ago, kbutton said:

He has long arms and very long fingers, so he's looking at a concert or tenor for size.

Hazard of going tenor is the music will be different. You're talking a low G instrument, while most of the music will be written to high G. Now I LOVE the sound of my tenor ukelele, but I'm just saying it's an issue. The sound is different also. 

Given that this could become a long term investment, has he thought baritone? Even a tenor uke is not as big as you think. You can see the measurements. My fingers were *impossibly scrunched* on a soprano, as in pain, agony, couldn't bring them in that tight for that long. You can find the measurements for each instrument online and compare the spacings. For me a tenor is very comfortable, but I have large-ish hands for a woman. 

I'm just thinking out loud here, but you could get a *inexpensive* concert ukelele in high G, something $150 or less say, let him play that, see how he enjoys it. Then in 6 months if he's still into it consider moving over to a baritone or maybe a tenor if he thinks he can fit it. They're very different sounds, but it's an inexpensive way to see how his fingers feel when they're scrunched up for the chords and how much room he's really going to need. That way, when you buy the 2nd instrument, it's a different sound (low G) and enough in that you're ready to make that commitment and spend him $600-1000 to get him into a long term instrument. He'll still enjoy going back to the high G instrument on occasion (I had to return the soprano but I do miss the fun sound!) and he won't have invested in an instrument that is conceivably too tight for comfort. I think it's very possible that even a tenor could be tight on him.

I might be able to find some video of a man playing a baritone ukelele so you can see what I mean. I'm pretty sure the video that came with the library instructional book showed the man playing baritone. It's bigger and gives a man with large hands more room.

Edited by PeterPan
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That 2nd video is showing a tenor vs. baritone ukelele. Like I said, mine is a tenor and it's definitely not BIG by any means. Notice how it actually looks *small* against the body of the man. That's because it is! It would be a real bummer to plunk out say $350 for a tenor and realize he'd like it a bit bigger. You'd rather go bigger (baritone) and be done with it. The sound is amazing (I think). 

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https://mimsukes.com
Mim’s Ukes gives every ukulele a professional set up by hand before shipping out.  This will solve any issues wit frets, how high the strings are, etc.  She’s got high end as well as beginner options like Ohana.  
 

My personal favorite ukuleles are Mainland Ukulele (also set up by hand before shipping) These are solid wood, medium price range options https://mainlandukes.com

If he’d be happy with a cheaper travel ukulele option I’ve been happy with my Enya concert. https://www.amazon.com/Concert-Ukulele-Nova-Beginner-Waterproof/dp/B07WK18YMW/ref=sr_1_24?dchild=1&keywords=Ukulele&qid=1629673236&sr=8-24

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Kala is what our library system carries. I'm not saying they're hot brilliant or anything, but they're affordable and probably about what you're looking for if you want to try a high G concert size. 

https://alohacityukes.com/collections/baritone/products/kala-ka-be-kala-mahogany-baritone-ukulele-w-eq  Kala makes an entry level baritone for $200.

https://alohacityukes.com/collections/baritone/products/pono-baritone-ukulele-solid-mahogany-mbd-baritone?variant=29408398180438  Absolutely gorgeous for $550. Foo, not in stock.

I'm kind of picky on woods. Listen to the videos for each one and see what sounds like what *he* likes. I like a warm sound, just me.

https://alohacityukes.com/collections/baritone/products/ohana-bk-50g-baritone-ukulele-all-solid-wood-cedar-rosewood-1  $420, in stock, Ohana, very nice.

https://alohacityukes.com/collections/baritone/products/snail-bhc-5b-baritone-ukulele-w-case-solid-spruce-ebony  Snail, $400, nice sound.

https://alohacityukes.com/collections/baritone/products/kala-ka-sa-b-acacia-baritone-ukulele-solid-acacia  Ooo, I like this better than the Snail, just me.

So you've got a couple pricepoints there. Main thing is watch the videos so he's getting something that has the sound he likes. Happily, ukelele is something that sounds "right" when you play it. So if he likes the way the wood and design of a particular instrument plays, it's actually going to sound like that. There's a lot of variety with how the woods make each model sound, so it's a place to take some time.

 

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1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

I'm kind of picky on woods. Listen to the videos for each one and see what sounds like what *he* likes. I like a warm sound, just me.

He has liked the mahogany sound so far, but I think he's not super worried about it.

He doesn't want to go over a tenor. He thinks the others are getting into guitar territory.

Our price point won't be huge; it will be nicer beginner level. We have way too many instruments in the house already, and he's mostly picking this up because he's bored and his piano teacher is out indefinitely, and the homeschool band doesn't believe in precautions, and we haven't found a new musical outlet. 

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DS bought this uke at the beginning of summer:

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender/Limited-Edition-Zuma-Concert-Ukulele.gc

He has big hands, long fingers, and is finding playing the uke to be easier for his fingers than his guitar.  

The sound is perfection.  He tunes it before playing by using an app and I absolutely love lying in bed at night listening to him play in his bedroom.  He's gotten quite good in a short amount of time. 

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  • kbutton changed the title to Shopping for a ukelele--we got one, thank you!

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