Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Daniel Ho Concert Ukulele Starter Pack Review

    As many of you know,I'm always on the lookout for good quality ukes for my store,so I ordered one of these Daniel Ho starter packs to see what it was like. And I was most pleasantly surprised. This Alfred starter pack is superior to the other Alfred starter pack I reviewed previously. This is the uke I would recommend to anyone who just knows uke is for them,beginner or not. If you're looking for a first concert size ukulele and you're on a budget,this gem is for you. The body is made from Sepele wood,which is a wood from Africa that reminds one of mahogany in appearance. The tone is rich and full and I heartily recommend tuning it in the low g tuning. The body is app. 2 1/2" thick. CHunkiest body I've ever had on a uke and it rocks! I've never had a uke I could do this with before and it's opened up the melodic range of the instrument (I can now play a low G below middle C for the first time!) it also make chords sound super rich. 
      It sports open geared tuners,and no plastic parts- the bridge saddle and nut are bone. Fret markers are not only on the fingerboard,but they're on the side of the neck as well. This uke sports 19 frets,and has a strap pin installed. I do find it necessary to play with a strap on this size,and I also use one of my handcrafted strap adaptors to keep the strap out of the way of my fretting hand. 
      The pack includes the instructional DVD Daniel made,in addition to a CD,a chord chart in a handy take a long size,and the music to "Pineapple Mango" for a duo or ensemble. A gig bag is also included with an accessory pocket and a strap comes with it too,so that's a cool thing. The gig bag can be carried either like a regular case or backpack style. 
       If you're used to soprano uke (which I am) the longer neck may throw you a bit at first. Speaking of the neck,it's thinner than most which makes barre chords a snap. The strings stretch a bit in the beginning,but nothing like some strings I've had to get settled in before. 

  I would give this ukulele starter pack a rating of a 10. Bridge is in the right spot as I measured to be sure,and it's a wonderfully easy to play budget model with a big money sound. You can order one here: Daniel Ho Concert Ukulele Starter Pack I'm the only one offering it on eBay right now. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review of the Alfred Ukulele Starter Pack (Soprano)

      I'm always looking for new inexpensive ukuleles,and so I had to check out the Ukulele Starter Pack before I offered it for sale. It arrived yesterday. Nicely boxed and well packed,I met the Fed Ex guy at the door to ensure it wasn't tossed about. 
Alfred makes a kids' version of this too,which is basically the same pack except the how to play guide is aimed at children. The ukulele is a very sturdy,solid constructed one with open geared tuners which work smoothly. The frets are nicely filed and no rough edges or bumps as you move up and down the neck. Action is very decent,and it's very easy to do barre chords on,even at the 1st fret. The tone is impressive-I've had other brand ukes in this price range and they had a "dead" tone tho they were also well crafted. Alfred's "Firebrand" soprano has a sweet full tone to it that would be much improved by a decent set of strings.  And speaking of strings,there is a spare set included with this starter pack.....but they're not individually packaged. All bundled together in a plastic envelope with no string name tags attached,wasn't the brightest thing they did. The strings stretch forever and a day-so if you're giving this to a friend or family member and you're a player,do them a favor and stretch the strings for them so they won't have a horrible time tuning it.  It doesn't come with a tuner either,so bear that in mind. 
   It sports a satin finish in a basic brown shade,with a gold decal around the soundhole. It comes with a method book,CD,and DVD on how to play,so the recipient of this uke will have plenty of good direction to go on. The gigbag is what I call a "minimal" one,being of non padded nylon with a zipper and a strap for over the shoulder carrying in addition to a regular handle to carry it like a briefcase. All in all I give it a 9 as far as being a good enough quality instrument to either take along with you instead of your vintage one,as well as being a good first uke for one on a budget or a child as you don't know if they'll stick with it or not. 
   Which brings me to a point I want to make to parents-do not buy your child an expensive instrument when it's their "first". I've seen many a parent wanting the best for their son or daughter, spend the farm on whatever instrument they decide they will like,just to find the child either has no interest or wants to play a different instrument. So-this starter kit,in my opinion,is perfect for children 7 and up. Great quality and playability at a minimal price,and if they fall in love with uke playing,you can always get them another higher quality ukulele next birthday or Christmas. Personally,I always like having a "beater" around to take with me without fear or something happening to it. And,as many a ukulele player will tell you, moderately priced instruments get played a lot more than the fancy expensive ones do.  The link at the beginning of this entry is a direct link to my Bonanza Booth where I have these kits in stock....and you'll get an additional 10% off at checkout! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learn To Read Music and Doors Open......

While I've mentioned this for bari uke,recently I've come to appreciate it for soprano as well. When I took a hiatus from uke about a year ago,I was frustrated with just "not getting it" when it came to memorizing chords and being able to read music for it. When I recently returned to it -somehow a light went on in my head,or as Louise Hay calls it, a "Ding! moment" ocurred. Last week I was memorizing chords with no problem at all by just working with songbooks. Then I started on my music reading skills with the help of a book I have. What helped me most was playing the strings and calling out mentally the name of the notes in my head of the diatonic scale. Soon,I found myself working out of a Gypsy Swing songbook written for mandolin (which I also play) and am learning "Avalon". Not that I'm a music reading whiz for soprano ukulele yet-it's still sinking in and sometimes takes me a sec or two to say...."oh I know where that is!" and hit it. But-my main point here is if you can read music for your uke playing,you're no longer confined to "ukulele music" books. You can pick up nearly any songbook for any instrument and providing it's within the sopranos range,start playing the melody line. As my vintage ukes have intonation problems,my main uke has become my trusty rusty Zither Heaven model. Be patient while teaching yourself to read the notes and don't rush it. The rewards are great-including that of being able to play tunes from vintage sheet music should you have any. Carols are great for music reading practice as you'll know if you're reading the music incorrectly because you'll hit the wrong note...so if you're working on Christmas tunes,take the golden opportunity to learn music reading if you've never studied it before.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ukulele Workshops At New Mexico Dulcimer Festival 2013

Just got word that the NM Dulcimer Festival will be having three different workshops.Teachers will be Ehukai Teves and Michael VeSeart. Festival is October 18th and 19th 2013. For more info hit this link To register,send an email of inquiry to nmdulcfest@gmail.com or call (505)292-6030. Tell them the Flea Plucker ukulele blog sent you! More news to follow as I get it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Halloween is Coming.....And So Is The Blues!

I took a longer break than anticipated,and the domain name for this site is up for renewal as of tomorrow....which got me to thinking about this blog,and whether I wanted to continue with it. I was astonished at all the hits it's had,and I decided to get busy writing here once again. I've been busy in the mandolin,banjo and banjitar worlds of late,writing a monthly column for 6 string banjo for The Banjo Hangouts e-zine.

Yet,lately I've been getting a yearning to pick up my ukuleles again,both soprano and baritone. I also found a possible new supplier for soprano ukes,I'll see when I get to test out one that I ordered to see if it's as good as the reviews say it is. If I see it's worthy,I'll be selling them in the store,and yes they have regular tuning pegs,as opposed to the Zither Heaven model that I carry. I know that's been a sort of bone of contention for some potential customers out there.

I do have a rather cool blues ukulele book in the bonanza store on Blues ukulele This book shows you how to do your own blues as opposed to learning blues songs on your flea. So I've dug out my ukes,dusted them off and tuned them,and am surprised at how much I do remember,esp with memorizing mandolin and banjo chord forms and all.

The past year was a little rough-I won't go into all the details,but with the arrival of Fall I feel like I'm going on an upward trend.

There's a new to me online ukulele magazine out there on Facebook called Ukulele Magazine and you can read it online for free! So do check them out,I think it's wonderful what they're doing with it. So until next time,keep your spirits up,and play hauntingly good music. Anyone using their uke as part of their costume this year?