About 6 years ago, when Hawaii Music Supply was above Ko’olau Ukulele in Kaneohe, Mike Aratani would come by and give us “blind” sound tests with our ukes. With your eyes covered he would play the same thing on 5 or 6 different ukes. We would have to guess which model was being played. Do this sometime if you get the chance and see how challenging it can be. Perhaps half of what we listen to is our eyes and preconceptions.
I am, however, glad to say – my honest and unbiased opinion is that Hawaiian ukes rule. You just can’t get what we got in China. Don’t get me wrong, I know China can produce great things. The computer I am looking at was made in China, probably by people a lot smarter than me. And in the ukulele market you can get a good value and quality instrument made in China. If that bothers you then just play Hawaiian on it for a few years. It will be like raising a Chinese kid in Hawaii. After so long they are practically Hawaiian. But seriously, the bottom line is that most people need a deal you won’t find in a Hawaiian made uke. And that is no reason to not make music with the ukulele. But people ask me if the $60 Makala was made here. I can’t even fill up my tank for $60. Or get the supplies to make an ukulele. I don’t know how they do it that cheap, but I am glad they do because we can’t afford to give our kids a $700 ukulele to learn on. Or even justify to our wife why we need to spend that much even though we barely have any time to play. But if you can afford to….
I am not a real “we’re the best” kind of thinker, but listen for yourself to the difference in a Hawaiian made ukulele. Of course I know, “tone is subjective”, and I don’t push my opinion because it just works out naturally. If you can’t hear the difference in the more expensive one, then you don’t need to spend that much. Problem solved.
Sound is only one aspect in the quality of a musical instrument, but is arguably the most important. So let’s just focus on that for now. Sound. What makes the sound of an ukulele.. good? To start off with, this video addresses common misconceptions people gather when learning about the ukulele. It seems nowadays, people rarely get or give their information from true research, experience, and thought. I find myself in forums full of regurgitated opinions. “the blind leading the blind”. What makes a good uke is like asking what makes a good person. It is not something you can prove with a resume. The point is -The truth is not always in specs.