The ukulele is a very popular instrument. Thanks to its small dimensions, simplicity, and ease of use, it has become a widespread tool to help people learn music. No wonder it’s used in classrooms and music schools worldwide. If you look at Oscar Schmidt’s website, you’ll probably happen upon dozens and dozens of different models—each with different specifications. If this seems daunting to you, have no fear, for they have an excellent starting point for any type of player: the OU2PAK. This package includes everything a beginner needs and even offers an instructional DVD to make sure you’ll be on your way to becoming a competent ukulelist.
I have recorded a short video documenting my impressions of the package, and that also features a couple of sound samples.
First of all, I would like to address some of the confusion surrounding ukulele types. The Hawaiian instrument traditionally comes in 4 different sizes, called: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Although these are references to voice ranges, the ukes are actually tuned with the same tuning. The conventional tuning is G — C – E — A with the 4th string G being higher than the 3rd string C. Tenor model users sometimes extended their reach by tuning the 4th string to a lower G. The exception to this traditional tuning is the baritone, which has the same intervals between strings but starts on a low D. The rest of the strings are tuned to G — B — E.
Also, the sizes of the ukuleles differ, offering slightly different tonal characteristics, but incidentally an extended range. As you go bigger, you have a higher register, thanks to added frets. With the bigger ukuleles, you also get a lower range on the bass notes, enlarging the extent of notes available further.
The greatest advantage for going with a bigger size than the standard soprano model is the comfort for the fretting hand. If you are a grown adult with possibly larger than average hands, it might be best to go with a concert size, or larger. For kids though, soprano and concert are usually very comfortable and shouldn’t cause any sort of problems.
The Oscar Schmidt OU2PAK
With the OU2PAK, Oscar Schmidt offers a great gateway into the fabulous world of ukuleles. First of all, the instrument itself is a concert model made out of mahogany. It’s a quality made model that will surely last you a very long time. It has a satin natural finish, which makes it very pleasing to look at, and it offers an enjoyable texture when you play it.
With the bundle, you also get a nylon gig bag. This is a rudimentary, but very functional case that will protect the beautiful OU2 from minor bumps. It’s not as effective as a hard case, but for most people and situations, it’s more than enough. A handle will let you easily carry it with you. However, there are no shoulder straps for hands-free transportation.
Completing the package is an instructional DVD that covers a lot of basics. The instructor teaches you how to tune your instrument, but also chords and strumming patterns—the bread and butter of ukulele playing. This is taken further with songs. These are mostly traditional folk songs, so they might not appeal to everyone. Also, the DVD’s quality is dated, but the quality of instruction makes up for it, so I wouldn’t look past it nonetheless. There’s also a ton of material that you can look up to help you get started, so even if you’re setting out on this journey without a private teacher, you won’t be alone for long!
Great value and an excellent starting point
Playing the OU2 was a very fun experience. Being primarily a guitarist, it’s sometimes hard to adapt to the smaller scale of other fretted instruments such as the uke, mandolin, or banjo. The concert size is usually the smallest I’d go for myself, and the Oscar Schmidt model was very comfortable and easy to play. This is good news for newcomers to fretted instruments. Thanks to its design, you’ll most likely adapt to it quickly.
Sound-wise, it is very good. You get a traditional-sounding ukulele without any bells and whistles. The mahogany contributes to a lovely, singing style tone that lends itself very well to chording, but also single note melodies. I’ve tried to illustrate that in the opening performance of my review video.
There are no electronics on the OU2, so if you plan on performing with it, you’ll have to install your own. This is sometimes a good thing, because you’ll be able to carefully pick the right model of pickup system. With more and more experience, you’ll develop preferences and be able to make an informed choice down the road.
Ideal for beginners
Ukuleles are an excellent way of learning music. The combination of a small neck and nylon strings offers a painless experience to children and adults. Since most of the playing consists of chords and rhythms, it’s one of the best ways to develop some of the most important aspects of music: groove and harmony. If ever you move on to another instrument, all this acquired knowledge will spill over to your next choice, making it time well spent.
The OU2PAK is an excellent choice for beginners. Not only is it a great sounding, all mahogany instrument, it comes with useful extras. A tuner would be eventually an excellent addition, but there is actually a tuning segment on the DVD. This will develop your ear far better than relying on the convenience of an electronic tuner.
For intermediates or people that already own a ukulele, this could be an interesting alternative to their current ukulele. Let’s say you have a soprano. This would be an affordable, quality choice to explore the extended range and slightly different tone of the concert model. It’s also great to have two ukuleles to jam with friends and family. You might surprise yourself teaching music to curious loved ones!
Make sure you check out the Oscar Schmidt OU2PAK on Best Buy’s website.