Saturday, 18 August 2012

Kauai KUT-55 Tenor Ukulele

Over the past couple of months I've been learning to play the Ukulele.  I'm certainly not an authority on the subject so feel free to take my opinions here with a pinch of salt.

The reason I started to learn the Ukulele is simple.  My young son wants to learn the guitar - but doesn't have the reach, hand strength or co-ordination to manage.  The Ukulele was recommended to me a something that would be easier for a child to learn, so I learned in order to be able to try and teach him.

As with most people I started with an entry-level (i.e. very cheap) Soprano Ukulele, in my case a "Lazy" brand one.  You can pick one up for around £20 in most music stores so it really isn't an expensive option if you just want to give it a shot.

The surprising thing is how much fun the Ukulele is to play.  The chords are relatively easy to master and there are plenty of music resources on the web with some decent songs (and chord diagrams) which make learning much easier (links at the end folks!).

There is one small problem with Soprano Ukuleles, and that is that they are really REALLY small.  Now I know that size isn't everything - but some chords are rather difficult to get right if you've got larger hands, and it turns out that mine are too large to be comfortable doing some chords the "right" way - so I've been developing a number of cheats to enable me to play them (often doing barre chords using my thumb, which I've been informed that this is a bad habit to get into).

No amount of practice is going to get me past the fact that my hands are just that little bit too big to fit three fingers on three consecutive strings on the same fret.

So what to do?

Luckily there are a few different sizes of Ukulele.  In order of size we have the Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone*.  The sound is a bit fuller and richer (in my opinion) on the larger ukes.  They're also a bit louder.

After a visit to my local music store and trying a few for size I settled on a Tenor Ukulele as it felt the most comfortable to play, and to be honest I rather liked the sound.

So now I'm the proud owner of a Kauai KUT-55 Tenor Ukulele.  After a bit of a hunt on the web it appears that no-one has reviewed one of these yet - so here goes.

The uke itself is made from Mahogany plywood, with a Rosewood fretboard and bridge.  As with most modern ukuleles it has geared tuners rather than just pegs, which makes keeping it in tune much easier.  The overall construction feels nice and solid, and it is certainly a more comfortable size.

The biggest difference is with the sound.

I didn't realise just how bad the Lazy uke sounded until I compared it against the tenor.  Whilst the soprano has a very plasticky sound, the tenor has a much richer, almost guitar-like sound.

Playing chords is much easier.  There was a certain amount of buzzing / dull chords on the soprano, which I'd put down to lack of experience on my part as it was possible to make each chord ring true, but not every time.  The number of fluffed chords has dropped dramatically to the point that it is obvious how much of my problems were down to a uke that was just too small (or too cheap).

* Another thing to bear in mind with the Baritone is that they are tuned differently to regular uke - in fact they are tuned the same as the top four strings on a guitar - so if you know guitar chords then this might be a good option.

No comments: