TIPS ABOUT BUYING AN INSTRUMENT
So, you’re looking to buy a Ukulele or Banjo Uke and you want to know which one you should buy. Well, although I can’t answer that for you I can give you some advice based upon my 45+ years of interest in these lovely instruments. Answering such a question is an area fraught with difficulties but I’ll do my best to give you some advice.
What is an instrument really worth? The simple answer is that just like anything else, an instrument is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. Instrument prices will tend to find their own level in the market place, but always remember that different people have different reasons for liking or disliking a particular instrument. Before you buy any instrument always look at it carefully and if possible play it before you make up your mind about it (although this may not be possible), and never buy from anyone who won’t guarantee giving you a full refund of your money if for some reason you’re not satisfied with it -
Are expensive instruments really worth it? The simple rule here is that as with most things in life, generally speaking you get what you pay for. Higher priced instruments usually command such prices because they are usually well designed, nicely constructed out of better materials, better sounding, easier to play, longer lasting, and they often have a known or desirable pedigree. They may also be a good investment because they may increase in value over the years, but this can never be guaranteed because like all things, prices may go down as well as up. The golden rule is that you should never buy an instrument purely as an investment, but always buy one because you really like it and enjoy playing it.
Remember that many of today’s highly sought-
Are there any good cheaper instruments? Definitely -
Next, we have what I would call ‘mid-
Beyond this category is the ‘more expensive’ category from about £1,500 to around £2,500, which would include instruments such as a Gibson UB-
My final category would be the ‘very expensive’ category from £2,500 upwards. This would include the Gibson UB-
Why are some instruments so expensive? At the end of the day it all comes down to a question of supply and demand. Ludwig banjo ukes were beautifully made out of great materials and they were fantastic sounding instruments. Some of their models were also aesthetically stunning, but Ludwig banjo ukes were only made from 1927 until August 1929 when the company was sold and all production stopped, after which they were never made again. Some of their most beautiful and desirable models with the crown shaped cut-
By the way, don’t think that ‘rare’ always means ‘desirable’ because it doesn’t. The manufacture of some instruments only lasted a short time because they turned out to be ‘dogs’. Customers who bought them thought that they were really bad and demand for them became so poor that production rapidly ceased because the company cut their losses and brought out new models in their place. Whilst Ludwig banjo ukes are rare and highly desirable, Gibson’s rare version of their style 3 soprano ukulele (with the fingerboard that did not extend to the soundhole and which had internal ‘X’-
Other than their ‘trap-
*** It is always important to remember that ‘condition and originality are king’ when buying anything. A 90 year-
Should I buy ‘new’ or ‘vintage’? This is a very difficult question to answer! There are good and bad instruments in both categories. I know of some great modern instruments that I wouldn’t hesitate to sell on my web-
When you buy an old instrument you are also buying into a small piece of musical instrument history -
There is also another point to consider here; a good modern instrument may set you back a minimum of around £600 (without a case) but as more and more modern makes flood the market there are some good instruments that are considerably cheaper than that, which is fantastic value when you consider what goes into making them. Some of today's instruments may well turn out to be collectors items of the future, so we just have to make up our minds as to what we like best and what we can afford.
Over the years, a vintage instrument may well be more likely to appreciate in value than a modern one, so it may be a better long term investment, but in my view it is never a good idea to buy an instrument as an investment; you should always buy an instrument because you like it. Some contemporary manufacturers copy the old designs of well respected vintage manufacturers and some do it very well indeed. What I don’t like is when some of them deliberately use the ‘Vintage’ name on the peghead, because in doing this they may mislead a prospective buyer into believing that an instrument is something which it patently isn’t. Many customers order contemporary copies of a particular vintage instrument that are very hard to find or which are far too expensive for most of us to be able to afford, and some of these copies are brilliant. So the question of ‘Vintage’ or ‘Modern’ is one for each of us to decide on an individual basis, and it is a question to which there is no right or wrong answer. Many cheaper instruments are now being imported from the far east and sold under a variety of different names. Whilst some are very good and great value for money, whilst others often look attractive and are marketed at a very attractive price, but some of them are poorly designed, made of soft wood, badly set up, as heavy as lead, difficult to play and they sound awful!!!
How much should I spend? Well, don’t ever spend more than you can afford. Look around and try some out them make up your mind, but make sure that you buy instruments in good condition that are properly set up and make sure that they are in playable condition when you receive them. A good instrument is likely to give you a lifetime of enjoyment. It is sometimes worth saving up for a few months (or even years) to buy the instrument that you would really like. I did, and never regretted it.
Condition. If you want an instrument in perfect, un-
Website founded in 2001
Over 45 years of Experience and Expertise with Ukuleles and Banjo Ukes
John Croft, Glan Tanat, Llanyblodwel, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 8NQ, England.
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