Some folks might have noticed that last week, I quietly moved a few posts about playing ukulele to this blog. These were originally posted on my fiddle blog – Netfiddler. I bought my first uke last December but didn’t actually get going with practice until after my birthday.
In the meantime, I’d written about three posts on the topic, which you can see here. The lack of posts wasn’t at all because I didn’t enjoy the instrument. Quite the opposite, in fact!
But unlike fiddle, which is a tough and rigorous instrument to learn, uke is far more casual and laid back. In fact, it’s a walk in the park to make a decent sound on a good uke than it is to make even a passable sound on a fiddle that costs nine times the price.
I’d started to keep note of my uke practice sessions just like I do my fiddle. But as time went on, I realized this wasn’t really necessary. Again, it’s a casual instrument in comparison. Where I feel the need to keep detailed practice notes on fiddle, the same isn’t true about uke.
So, after a few months of that, I felt the uke content really didn’t fit in, nor was it needed on my fiddle blog. But I still wanted to keep it around somewhere! So I decided to move what I had written to this blog — I mean ukulele is geeky enough, right?
Introducing my Ukes
I wanted to take a moment to introduce my ukes. There’s a joke with uke folks that Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (UAS) is a thing. Right now, I’ve curbed it, but I agree. Ukes are so very different between the sizes, tones, makes and creative looks, that once you start getting into it, you want to experiment and experience different instruments.
Compared to other instruments, they’re also not quite as expensive to invest in. Sure, there are really awesome ukes out there that you can drop hundreds on. But compared to something like a fiddle, where bare minimum is $300 for a playable low-end student instrument… yeah. Ukes are far cheaper.
I started with an Amazon purchase as a Christmas gift to myself, not knowing anything about ukes. This was a concert sized teal/blue Hola! brand uke starter bundle. I haven’t seen the blue in stock in months, however, and it doesn’t even show on the page as an option anymore. Granted, the color was one of my main influences when I made this choice, but the reviews were also good and at $69, so was the price.
While I haven’t played this as much as I have some of my others – though putting some Worth clear strings on it has improved the tone – it did cement the idea that the size of the concert uke was good for me.
Having small hands, I struggle to play even a scaled-down guitar. So part of the reason I wanted to try a uke was to see if the size was a good fit. It was!
This reminds me that I really need to pick this one up and play it more. It certainly wasn’t a bad choice for a first, cheap uke set.
Kala Spalted Maple Cutaway Travel Tenor Ukulele
My second uke was an impulse buy, I admit. But I was curious to try a tenor size (which is a little larger than a concert). I’d joined a few Facebook groups for ukes by this time, and folks were calling out major sales happening on Musician’s Friend (which apparently has great uke sales often).
One that popped up was this Kala travel tenor. While it seems expensive at first glance, I got about $200 off of the price during the sale.
There were several reasons for this purchase. Kalas are known for really good quality instruments with great reviews. This one, again, is tenor sized, which I wanted to explore. This one also is a travel uke, which means it’s got a neat, thin body.
The only issue I had was that it didn’t have bolts for a strap, and I learned really quickly that I’m more comfortable with a strap.
So one of my birthday wishlist items was a strap that hooks into the soundhole (seen pictured) along with that stand that I’m using to display it.
I still feel like the concert is a better size fit for me, though I love the sound and the thin body on this one. I need to explore the tenor once I feel more comfortable playing uke. I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the tenor in time.
Enya Nova U
This little concert travel uke had started to make waves shortly before I began playing. People were going nuts for the Nova U, and I was hearing about it everywhere.
I loved the soft blue color and the idea of a concert size travel uke (thin body) was very appealing. As was the idea that this was made of carbon fiber composite, which meant it didn’t suffer from changes in weather, humidity, or getting wet like wood does.
For a while, it was sold out on Amazon. But I was keeping watch for it to return. When it finally did in May, I decided to pick it up as a late birthday present to myself.
I’m very pleased with this uke and its playability. Everyone stressed how easy it is to play and how low the action is. All of this is accurate. Totally happy with my Nova U, and put a lot of strumming practice on it!
Amahi Snail EBUK Ebony Concert Ukulele
My final acquisition is my Snail uke. This… was one of those things that came from an inside joke.
On my RP Tumblr, my bard character really really likes snails. To eat. While I don’t share the sentiment, I still found it funny when I learned there was a Snail brand uke (thinking of my bard playing a uke). Even more, there’s a uke by this brand that uses the snail-shaped logo as the sound hole design.
That’s one thing I love about ukes – you can be so creative with design and color, and that makes them all unique! The more I thought about this Snail uke, the more I really fell in love with the soundhole design.
I did some research on it and found that it was generally a pretty nice uke with good ratings. The acoustic version usually cost close to $200, while the electric version was much more.
Some online stores still carry this model, but it’s somewhat hard to get your hands on. So while I kept this little uke in the back of my mind, I didn’t purchase one.
Along came an Ebay auction. Brand new Amahi Snail EBUK Ebony Concert Ukulele… with one tiny flaw in the finish on the bottom of the fretboard. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably never see it, and it hasn’t bothered me one bit.
Starting price was around $50 — which was a total steal for this instrument. I jumped on the auction and didn’t see many bids until close to the end. I was watching it like a hawk as someone was frantically slamming bids higher and higher near the very end. My highest bid outbid them by 50 cents – no joke – and I won the auction for about $80. A true steal considering it’s worth over double based on going price.
My uke arrived, and the only catch with this one was it also had no strap and no round sound hole to hook a normal strap to — I learned how to make one for it out of yarn!
I really fell in love with the Snail uke once I got it. It’s somewhat more mellow and doesn’t have the brightness and volume my Nova has. I chose to change the strings to Worth clear (I heard a lot of good things about Worth strings), which was an experience to learn to change strings for the first time!
Once I got it re-strung, though, I think the volume has improved and I really love the tone! It’s been my go-to recently so much that I think I should break the habit and play with some of my other ukes before they get jealous. 🙂
At this point, I’m pretty content with my uke family. While I still see some ukes there that have really neat designs, I haven’t felt the itch to hunt one down and buy another. So hopefully, I’m done with UAS for now.