Kala Pocket Uke vs Sopranino: Ukulele Window Shopping

The Kala Pocket Ukulele is up for sale and we’ve finally got some measurements. The scale length is 11 inches which makes it an inch shorter than the KoAloha Sopranino and the Ohana sopranino. Of course, such measurements are abstract so MGM has done the old trick of putting it next to a familiar object (a coin, a pencil) to provide perspective. MGM went for an alligator head.

More guitar makers are jumping on the ukulele bandwagon: Texas Guitars uke, Eastwood Guitars Airline Ukulele (a solid-body electric).

Compass Rose on eBay UK.

Ukulele tat: salt and pepper shakers.

Pictures: banjo and ukulele, mandolin and ukulele.

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18 Comments

  1. Howlin' Hobbit April 2nd, 2010 7:43 pm

    The Ohana ‘nino scale length is about 11-7/8″. If you add 3 inches to an 11″ scale length you’re nearly past a soprano’s scale length.

  2. Nick B-C April 3rd, 2010 2:41 pm

    …not sue about the micro ukes…Do like the look of the Airline electro though!!!…

  3. Woodshed April 3rd, 2010 3:32 pm

    Hobbit: Thanks. Fixed it.

    Nick: I’d like to give one a go too. It usually takes guitar companies a while to get their ukes right, though.

  4. Jon April 3rd, 2010 5:15 pm

    I’ve been lusting irrationally for a Kala pocket uke. I decided to settle on an Ohana Sopranino but the seller suddenly decided to change his mind. Thanks to your heads up I was able to jump on one of MGM’s mahogany pocket ukes. I can’t wait. to see and try it. As God is my witness! I will never be without a ukulele again! The postal service tells me that the pocket uke should be arriving by the middle of next week. I’ll post my initial observations here.

  5. Woodshed April 5th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Jon: Nice move. Be sure to let us know what you think of it.

  6. Jon April 6th, 2010 9:01 pm

    The Kala Pocket uke arrived yesterday. Here’s some initial impressions.
    First, props to Musicguymic. It arrived virtually overnight. I ordered it on Friday afternoon and it arrived on Monday. This thing is tiny! The box fit completely inside my USPS regulation rural mailbox. It came with what appear to be Aquila strings, which I believe were added by MGM. Not only was it all set up, it was more or less in tune. I started playing it right out of the box.
    Second, it needs to be in D tuning or higher. Mike tuned it in D. I hooked up an electronic tuner and tweaked the tuning but left it in D. I’m sure it would be unplayable in C tuning. More on that in a little bit.
    Third, about the sound. First off, no surprise, it’s not very loud. It has a very sweet ringing treble tone that almost sounds far away, like the sound of a ukulele being played on a small portable radio. It’s a little louder if I strum right over the soundhole. It doesn’t help to bash away at it. The scale on this thing is short, short, short. That means that if you squeeze with your left hand and bash away with your right you’ll bend the strings out of tune. It likes a gentle touch and that seems to be that. That’s why it seems like it would be unplayable in C tuning.
    Third, appearance, fit and finish. The body is somewhat oddly shaped, almost angular. Nothing fancy about it either. The only slop I noticed was a little bit of excess glue inside the body. Frets are dressed. Finish is satin and somewhat dark. Friction tuners look right and work well. The tuners are probably as heavy as the rest of the ukulele. That makes things a bit top heavy, but short of using wooden pegs, I don’t see how it could have been avoided. It came packed in a very nice Kala gig bag. The padding is thicker and stiffer than most gig bags and the Kala embroidery looks classy.
    Finally, playability and FUN. It’s a little tricky to play. Hard to press it against your body and strum. If you shift too much weight onto your left hand you’ll bend the strings and sound out of tune. I’m going to try it with one of those neck straps that hook in the soundhole. Having said that, this thing is FUN, FUN, FUN. People can’t help but smile when they see you play it. I had to take it for a ride in my car. I was looking forward to red lights and traffic delays. Every time I stopped, it was easy to grab it and strum for a bit. I got a lot of pleasantly surprised looks from other drivers. I’m looking forward to bringing the pocket uke everywhere. I’ll admit that I think ukuleles should be small. If you’re playing a 12 string jumbo dreadnought flattop ukulele complete with pickguards you should admit that you’ve gone over to the dark side. All of my ukuleles are soprano or concert sized. This teensy sopranino fits right in.

  7. Howlin' Hobbit April 7th, 2010 1:32 am

    Heya Jon,

    I twisted my Ohana sopranino up to F tuning (CFAD, a fourth higher than “standard” C tuning). It really barks like a big dog now (even if it is just a puppy) :-)

    I use it busking outdoors quite frequently and it has not trouble being heard.

  8. Jon April 7th, 2010 1:41 am

    Hobbit, thanks, I’ll give it a try.

  9. Woodshed April 7th, 2010 2:41 pm

    Jon: Thanks very much for the review. I’ll include when I add a page for the pocket uke.

  10. Jon April 8th, 2010 1:50 am

    You know, I misspoke myself. Mike shipped the ukulele tuned to F. I tuned it down to D and was not happy with the results. Just to see, I tuned it down to C. It was quite a bit louder in C, but otherwise sounded bad. Tuned back up to F and I’ve been playing it all day.

  11. Z May 6th, 2010 7:55 am

    How do the chords work when tuned to CFAD? If I’m used to C tuning, is everything out the window?

  12. Howlin' Hobbit May 6th, 2010 2:10 pm

    @Z — All the chord shapes are exactly the same, you’re simply up a fourth. CFAD is F tuning, so if you play 0003 you’re playing an F chord rather than the C you would be in C tuning. Your G shape is now playing a C, etc…

    If you’re familiar with the circle of fifths, all of the shapes you’re used to playing are now playing the chord one step anti-clockwise on it. (If you’re not familiar, google up a picture of the circle and take a look.)

  13. Jon May 6th, 2010 4:22 pm

    @Z, What Hobbit said. I enjoy the mental exercise of transposing but sometimes I’m feeling lazy so I’ll just play a song using the finger positions that I know. If you’re playing alone you never even need to transpose.

  14. Howlin' Hobbit May 6th, 2010 4:43 pm

    @Jon — just playing using the finger positions I was used to is how I discovered that I really sang Paper Moon much better in F than in C. That *is* transposing, BTW (changing from one key to another) but it’s easier. :-)

    I use the circle of 5ths trick when I’m trying to do a song on the ‘nino in the same key as I do on my C tuned ukes.

  15. Z May 6th, 2010 8:39 pm

    Thanks so much, Howlin’ Hobbit and Jon! That really helps, I’m pretty new to all of this.

  16. nicole January 9th, 2011 2:21 am

    @jon, where did you buy your sopranino?? im so curious, so many places sell them differently – with picks, with gig bag, just the uke…its confusing. also, can you post a link to a picture of your uke?

  17. Jon January 9th, 2011 8:52 am

    @nicole, I bought it from musicguymic on ebay. http://stores.ebay.com/Musicguymics-Room?_rdc=1
    I’ve bought three ukuleles from him, along with various accessories. All were first class, fairly priced and delivered quickly. My sopranino is a Kala mahogany model. It looks exactly the same as the ones on Kala’s website and in Musicguymic’s listings.

  18. Terry September 6th, 2013 11:09 am

    Very interesting discussion. Does anybody know if there are sopraninos that can tune in C or do they have to be higher?

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