23 April 2016

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A new brand for Got A Ukulele, that have been around in the UK for a couple of years now. Thanks to Omega Music in the UK I have been lucky enough to test one one - it's the Mabuhay MC-11 Solid Mango Concert.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele

Mabuhay are a hand made brand from the Phillipines, who specialise only (I believe) in Mango wood ukuleles. And that's what we have here - solid mango wood and then 'more mango'... More mango? Read on.

The brand story is suitably stylistic in it's description, proudly stating that the ukuleles are made from 'Century Old Tonewoods'. It gives it an air of something special, but the reality is that a tree that is over 100 years old is not actually a rare thing.. Marketing eh?

Anyway, Mango it is, a wood that I rather like in ukuleles for it's looks. This one is in the Concert scale, and is in a traditional double bout shape. I think it looks particularly nice in the shape department on account of that curved butt which you dont see all that often and I think makes a ukulele look classy. The body is all solid Mango and is free from any adornments whatsoever, giving this one a plain look.  But you know me.. I like plain.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele body

And that plain look is strengthened by the fact that it's not just the body that is made of mango. On the top we have a slotted style bridge that is made from mango too, making it blend in with the top. I actually prefer a contrasting bridge wood myself, but there you go. It's functional and the slotted style means fuss free string changes. The top and back are made from single pieces of wood and the saddle is plastic and slightly arched (more on why later). It's not the most striking mango wood I have ever seen. The back is particularly plain and whilst there is a bit of stripe on the top it's off centre.

Other than that there is little else to comment on regarding the body, which is unbound, and flat backed. I would however comment on the wood used on this example on the sides. Mango is a wood that can often be subject to spalting which leaves dark stains and stripes in the wood and there is an example of this on the sides of this one. Spalting like this doesn't really change the wood, but I think this example just make it look mucky. Like someone spilled a bottle of ink on the side of it and wiped it off. I know it's a natural feature of woods like this, but personally I would select one without that marking. It might have been more acceptable if the markings were book matched but they are not. The whole body is in a satin hand rubbed oil finish.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele sides

Inside is neat and tidy with delicate looking braces (made from mango) and notched kerfing (mango again).

Up to the neck and this too is made from mango and the fingerboard that tops it is (you guessed it) mango too... The neck is nice though and I do like the paler looking fretboard. Interestingly for the price, the neck is a single piece of wood. It means it's dead straight grain pattern is unbroken down it's length giving it a classy touch. It's fitted with 18 nickel silver frets with 14 to the body. I am seeing more and more ukuleles coming to the market with flat tops to the fret crowns and this one has them too. I hope that is not a fashion thing because I really don't like them. I actually think it's done to avoid intonation issues. Whatever the reason I find them uncomfortable when sliding up and down the neck. A purely personal gripe.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele fingerboard

More positvely on the neck it is built with a slight radius to it which is unusual at this price. It means the face of the fingerboard (and frets) are not dead flat, but have very slight curve. It is said to provide comfort in playing.  I like radiused fretboards a lot myself.

We have black dot fret markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th spaces, and these are thankfully repeated on the side.

Past the plastic nut and to the headstock we have a generic three pointed crown shape with a small white silk screened M for for the name. I like the headstock and the minimal look.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele headstock

Flipping the headstock over and we have another logo on the back in black. The Mabuhay logo with tree design. I like that as it's a bit different.

Tuning is provided by open geared tuners. Mabuhay say they are Gotoh brand, but I am not convinced they are - they look more like generic open gears to me. They work ok, although I do think the cream buttons are a bit on the chunky side.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele tuners

Completing the deal are Aquila strings and a price tag of £199. I must say for an all solid ukulele, particularly one in a less common wood that is extremely good value. How does it play?

Thankfully it's good news in this department. First of all let's get the other details out of the way. Setup and intonation are spot on for me. I wouldn't adjust this action myself, either at the nut or the saddle, and it plays pretty accurately all the way up the neck. It's also comfortable to hold on account of most of it being finished in a satin hand rubbed oil finish (nice and tactile) and it not being heavy. It's nicely balanced in weight around the 12th fret. No complaints.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele back

Sound wise. It sounds like a ukulele. Come on Baz, you can do better than that. But I mean it, and I mean it in a very good way. Many ukuleles I come across are starting to sound less and less like ukuleles. They can lack the traditional ukulele bite. This one though has a punch and brightness that to me screams ukulele. It's got excellent volume, projection and sustain but combines those with a bright punch that is unmistakenly ukulele.

The clarity of individual strings in the mix is absolutely superb, with every one in it's place and that gives it a kind of shimmer in fast strumming, almost like it had more than four strings. It's not muddy,  and even strumming it hard produces a typical ukulele bark that is a good thing I think. Another observation - regular readers will know I am not normally a fan of Aquila strings - but I have no complaints with them on this instrument.

Mabuhay MC-11 Concert Ukulele bridge

So all in all, I think it's a mixed bag on the looks front, (you will love it or hate it), but is well made, keenly priced and great sounding. If you rank your ukuleles based on the sound they make rather than what the woods look like, then I think you should probably give this one your consideration.

Mango mango mango!



Great value
Clear bright tone and great projection
Radius neck
Nice finish and tactile to hold
Good overall build quality


Flat topped frets
Some mismatched woods
Would prefer nicer tuners
Looks will be love or hate


Looks - 8 out of 10
Fit and Finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10



19 April 2016

The Ukulele and the Hawaiian Assumption

Going out on a limb on this rant, but then I have never shied away from the more difficult ukulele discussions (and nor do I think it is healthy for other people to do that). But I realised that I hadn't actually talked about this issue before. What is it with the assumption that we all need to prostrate ourselves to Hawaii if we play the ukulele? (Bear with me here - do read on before immediately jumping for the email button..)

Hawaii Lei

I've been prompted to write this based on a couple of recent heated debates (and comments left on this very blog) that, to be honest, left me a little irritated. They were comments that essentially tried to guilt me (and others) by suggesting that I was NOT showing any reverence or respect to Hawaii, because I didn't feel the need to dress like one or speak like one. It's quite absurd. A suggestion of an automatic contract that you have to sign up to when you start playing uke. Surely that can't be right can it? I'm not from Hawaii - I was born in the rainy north west of the UK... Surely you can acknowledge the origins without being full on Maui about it?

Let's deal with some basics first. Of course, the ukulele is most commonly associated with Hawaii. That much is obvious because it was Hawaii that appropriated the instrument from the Europeans (possibly Portuguese, possibly Madeiran, possibly the Azores depending on which of many varying stories you believe) and gave it that name - a Hawaiian word. But note - 'appropriated'. The instrument already existed as a box with strings. So it was really only the taking up of the instrument and naming it 'Ukulele' which is the Hawaiian bit. And that was back in 1880's - there has been an awful lot of ukulele playing around the globe since then.

But fair enough - the ukulele IS most commonly tied to an origin in Hawaii. The instrument is revered over there and is intrinsically linked to establishing Hawaiian culture. It was promoted by the King and used in ceremonial royal events. The instrument is incredibly important to that society.

And I acknowledge that. Totally. But it really isn't being disrespectful if I choose to play one without taking up Hawaiian acoutrements to go with it. You see, I don't think that's how respect works.

Personally, I have more time for quiet and serious respect for any 'thing' rather than going the full on gaudy about it.

Take a cheap Chinese ukulele brand churning out terrible instruments that most Hawaiians would cringe at, made by cheap labour and in poor working conditions, but labelling their website and their boxes with Hawaiian flowers and pictures of surf boards. Is that respect? It isn't. It's just lowest common denominator marketing spin.

Is being a bloke or a lady from ukulele club being respectful by wearing an ill fitting Hawaiian shirt that was made in China together with some plastic flowers around his neck respectful? Perhaps, to some degree, but I suspect it's more about having a bit of fun with friends.

How about a brand of toilet paper / cars / anything using some ukulele music in their adverts to sell more product and choosing a Hawaiian style sound. Is that respect? No, just capitalist marketing again.

It's everywhere. The branding, the outfits, the song choices. And let's be clear - if you want to dress like that or you want to play a ukulele decorated in flowers then that is absolutely YOUR choice. But that is not the point. Doing so does not make you any more reverential to the origins of the ukulele than someone who doesn't.

Being disrespectful to Hawaii about the ukulele would be trying to re-write history to remove the connection of the instrument from the Islands, or have it re-named. That isn't actually as absurd as it sounds as when the islands were originally annexed by the US, what followed was a period where traditional Hawaiian culture and language WERE sidelined / not taught, and rather forcefully at that. But it's 2016. That really isn't the case in the modern world any longer and I think the chances of the ukulele losing it's connection to Hawaii would be slim to nil. In fact, the very fact that so many of us are playing the damn thing and the fact that I truly have never met anyone who didn't know it originated in Hawaii... well, I'd say that the respect to Hawaii is alive and well myself. Should we forget that history? Of course not, but I just don't think approaching the whole respect thing as some sort of weird cosplay event isn't my kind of respect.

Of course, celebrating culture and keeping traditions alive is important. I regularly attend UK folk festivals for (partly) the same reason. Those events thrive and in part are keeping alive very earliest British folk music traditions. It's the same thing and the events keep it alive.  But I dont dress like a Morris Dancer on any day of the week. It doesn't mean that I don't respect the history though.  Hey, I really respect the guitar too, but I don't speak with a Spanish accent or dress like Paco de Lucia.

And as the instrument continues to grow in popularity that in turn has allowed many Hawaiian names to go on to great success on the music circuits GLOBALLY. I've featured a few on this site. When arguably the most famous player of the instrument today is Jake Shimabukuro, a Hawaiian, it seems clear to me that the roots of the instrument are hardly being forgotten, regardless of how I pronounce it or what shirt I wear. The popularity of the instrument itself IS growing the pool of respect for the culture. How can it not?

Hawaii is clearly a very beautiful place (I have never been). It's also a place that automatically conjures images to me of happy people and a rich cultural heritage. This bloke from the rainy UK automatically thinks that and I believe most other people do to. I think I always have. In my mind Hawaiian culture is a wonderful thing and I would sorely like to visit. That automatic link with the ukulele and Hawaii is ingrained in all of us I think.

So, please don't tell me I am not showing enough respect because I don't choose to go with the faux adoration. Don't tell me that having spent years writing a ukulele site that specifically aims to encourage people to play the thing that I am not doing enough for the support of this instrument. And don't assume you know what I do and don't respect based on how I dress and speak.

You can read my many other rants on various topics surrounding the odd world of the ukulele on this link.

12 April 2016

Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers - Seaweed Under The Sofa

OK, this is an interesting one to keep an eye on at this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers!

The GNUF event always promises variety - and nothing seems to fit that bill this year as much as this outfit. Not a ukulele band (but they feature one) - but I much prefer that than acts that are just 'uke uke uke'... Seriously - if the instrument is ever going to be taken more seriously we need more that rooms full of people all playing the same thing. Anyway, I rather love this.

The act bill themselves as a mix of Vic Reeves, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and The Divine Comedy and I can see exactly what they mean. Catch them at GNUF this year from 27-29 May in Huddersfield.



Grand Northern Ukulele Festival

10 April 2016

Danielle Ate The Sandwich with The Quiet American - My Girl

One of those ukulele videos that really takes my breath away at the effortless beauty of it. We've got three for the price of two here - Danielle Ate The Sandwich performing with Nicole and Aaron Keim of The Quiet American.

That's musical understanding right there. The voices, the laid back style. This is right up my street!

And for UK people who like the sound of this - bear in mind that both of these acts are headlining at this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. Would be amazing to hear them do this!

Get your tickets for the fest soon as they are going fast! I will also be sharing some more videos of some of the featured artists at this years festival over the next few weeks.


GNUF 2016

5 April 2016

Please Stop Arguing Over How Ukulele Is Pronounced.

How do YOU pronounce ukulele? It's an argument that has been running for years and years. I kind of hoped it must have run its course by now, but no. The 'what is the correct way to pronounce ukulele debate' is alive and kicking. I lose the will to live with it. Anyway, I thought it was probably time to nail my colours to the mast. (Or at the very least give me an easy to find statement that I can just share on the next discussion that I see going on and on).. 

how to pronounce ukulele
Please note - this is 'irony'...

Only very recently on a very well known social media group this debate raged YET AGAIN and ran into around a hundred comments... In the red corner: Those who claim that it must be pronounced 'OOK-KUH-LAY-LAY' and in the blue corner, those who claim that it muct be pronounced 'YOO-KUH-LAY-LEE'. Both sides fight their corners with venom, some making quite outlandish claims and always with a sprinkling of 'i'm offended'.. And it's not the first time - many people witnessing the debate were shaking their heads thinking ' please...not this again..'

So who is right? Well, they BOTH are. And that is what makes the argument quite so ridiculous.

The Ook brigade are, in the main, traditionalists who choose to pronounce the name of the instrument in the native Hawaiian style. In fact, in Hawiian the instrument is spelled with an apostrophe type symbol before the U, so it reads 'Ukulele. That's called an 'Okina' and denotes that the pronunciaton should be a soft U, giving you the 'Ook' sound. Compelling huh?

Well, I cannot argue with the Hawaiian tongue as being correct, but only IF YOU ARE HAWAIIAN. If you are Hawaiian that is exactly how you will pronounce it because you are, errr.. Hawaiian. I am not. I am from the rainy North West of the UK.

You see, language is a quite wonderful living thing and it changes as you move around the globe. In fact it can change within regions of the same country. In the UK words like 'bath' and 'castle' will differ in pronunciation depending on which County you are in. It's essentially vernacular - and it relates to the common parlance of the district, region or country that changes the way words are pronounced. Put simply, a particular region of population will pronounce a word in the way that is most common for the area they are in. It's the same reason some people in the US pronounce words like Oregano, Aluminium, Duke, Zebra, Yoghurt, Semi, Vase, Buoy, Futile, Anti, Schedule, Herb and Garage differently to the way people in the UK pronounce them. Neither side is 'wrong' - they are just pronouncing words in the way that is most common in where they live. English speakers pronounce the name of the capital of France as 'Pah-Riss' whereas the French (and they should know) pronounce it 'Pah-Ree'. But both sides know exactly what they mean, and to the best of my knowledge they don't slug it out on social media groups arguing which is right. And they don't do that because they know how language works. They are just phonological differences, but the words still make total sense. And in fact, such phonological differences not only within different regions but also over time too.

Some people have surnames that are difficult to pronounce and get irritated when people get it wrong. I totally get that because it is your actual name. But it's completely different with an inanimate object and I have yet to meet the person who named the ukulele in person..

So with the ukulele, whether YOOK or OOK, the debate just rolls on and on and on and on (and on). I've seen people get quite upset by it and I've seen people suggesting it is in some way disrespectful or rude to Hawaiians to pronounce it any way other than the native way. What absolute and total nonsense. It's just a word and in the same way the French don't get offended by people pronouncing the name of their capital differently, neither should the Hawaiins be offended. (In fact, I would be surprised if true Hawaiians were actually offended, and they would probably just be pleased you played a uke - rather I suspect those who 'claim' offence are the sort of people who just like being offended... we all know someone like that).

Heck, Hawaii is part of the USA, but even some parts of the US itself pronounce it 'YOOK' so it's not even an 'America vs the rest of the world' phenomenon..

I saw one defence of the 'Ook' pronunciation as 'the Hawaiian dictionary gives the phonetic word soundings as it being 'OOK'. I am sure it does - why would it not? It's a Hawaiian dictionary! But in the Oxford Dictionary (the bastion of the English language in the UK) the pronunciation guide suggests it is 'YOOK'...  and so we go on.. (Incidentally, Websters and Collins dictionaries also both favour the 'YOOK' variety...)

But arguing the point based on reasonings such as those above is rather pointless.  These arguments on both sides  miss the understanding of language differences and vernacular.

I suppose it could be worse - the debate about the spelling seems to have died down (note - BOTH of these are technically correct for the same reason).

ukulele spelling
credit - Tim Harries

So please, come on.. - recognise that language changes around the world and over time. It's how it works. Nobody 'owns' it and so long as you are understood between other humans who speak the same or similar languages, that really is all that matters. We can all be right in our own way. Nobody is trashing your heritage or trying to be offensive. If you have your way of pronouncing it that differs to others, then that is absolutely fine if you are understood (whichever way you pronounce it). And if you think differently I will ask you whether you keep a buoy in your garage and whether your aluminium vase has herbs in it... in the British way... (and then get really offended if you don't sound like you are from Downton Abbey). Honestly, I really don't care how you pronounce it and neither should you...

(And if you are one of those people who think that you can only pronounce things the way the native speaker does - have you thought for a moment that you might be like this guy?)

EDIT - it's been said on Social Media (and in the comments below) that I am missing an important point here - I really dont think so actually. I DO recognise the arguments on both sides. I see them fully. I am not trying to belittle or wipe out either argument - the whole point of the post is that both sides of the argument are so strong that the debate is pointless. Neither side will win. Neither side will prevail and ensure that the other way of saying the word will stop. Yes some of those arguments can be powerful and can surround heritage and some horrible history. But ultimately, language is resilient to such things (and rightly so in my opinion). As such, the basic premise of the post stands as far as I am concerned. Before you choose to get offended - my view is - 'you are both right' but so what. Just play the damn thing!

And if you enjoyed this rant, you may enjoy my other ukulele rants here.  Some posts to read over coffee while you scratch the varnish from your desk with your fingernails in despair..

4 April 2016

UKE Magazine - 12 Months Flies By

A little over 12 months ago, I wrote a short review of the first printed ukulele magazine available in the UK. UKE magazine was born, and now with a year gone it seems to be going from strength to strength.

UKE Magazine

You see, that was quite a big thing back then. Sure, there are lots of ukulele resources on the internet (you are reading one!), but there is something I think most people think is nice in having something in your hand to read. The US has had a printed ukulele magazine for some time, but there had been nothing in the UK. The brainchild of Matt Warnes of Omega Music / Feckless and Fuddle, Matt decided to even the balance. I think at the time he wasn't sure how it would be received. I'm personally glad to see that it is still working, so he must have got something right.

Actually, I know he got something right for the simple reason that I genuinely look forward to my copy arriving. As someone who reads a ridiculous amount of stuff about the ukulele online, impressing me is no mean feat!

It's nicely printed, and it always contains interesting articles. Don't think this is UK centric - we've had articles and interviews with the likes of Danielle Ate The Sandwich, Mike Hind and Jake Shimabukuro, but it's the variety I like. Really something for everyone. Throw in some expert contributions, like tabs from Phil Doleman and you are laughing. I've also loved watching the travels of the famous Bruko ukulele around the UK (watch this space on that one!!)

UKE Magazine tabs

Now on issue 5, you can get still get back issues, or you can subscribe. I would recommend it! Here's to the next 12 months Matt!

You can get it direct from World Of Ukes HERE, or if you like the convenience of Amazon purchases - it's available there too (Amazon Uke Magazine )

11 March 2016

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Ukulele review time, and a brand name that I haven't yet featured on the site despite me having played a few for several years. It's a Concert model from far eastern brand aNueNue - their Africa Mahogany II Concert model.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele

When this one arrived it was one of those 'intake of breath' moments as I opened the case. It's not often a ukulele does that to me, and I do see a LOT of ukuleles. On occasion though one just looks really rather beautiful on the first lift of the case lid. This one did that to me, because I think it is, frankly, rather lovely. But let's get down to the specifications before I gush too much.

It's a Concert scale model, and a fairly standard one at that. I make that point as aNueNue also offer this in a jumbo bodied concert size as well as a concert. The instrument is made from all solid tone woods, with this one having a body made from African Mahogany. I say it's fairly standard, but the shape for me has enough uniqueness about it to make it stand out. That lower bout is wider than most common concert shapes and the butt of the instrument is not flat but curved. Little things like that can give an instrument that certain something.

The top is made of two pieces as is the unarched back and the sides. The wood is really rather splendid. Mahogany is not always recognised for its beauty but the choice of wood coupled with the gloss finish on this really creates an instrument that glows in the light. It's a warm brown orange with some stripe and flame that I think is absolutely delightful. That gloss is another star of the show here as it really is mirror flat and flawless. There is no finish pooling or bubbles on the instrument anywhere.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele top

Setting off the rest of the body is dark (possibly ebony) edge binding to the top and back an and inlaid abalone sound hole rosette. It all goes together I think to create an instrument that looks fancy but classy at the same time. Regular readers will know that I don't go in for bling and often even class gloss as bling. I could happily live with this one though - as I say - it's a combination.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele sides

We have a bridge plate that is an unusual shape that I think works well complete with a bone compensated and arched saddle piece. It's a tie bar style and is finished very well.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele bridge

Looking inside I note a very tidy build, with notched kerfing and delicate braces. The top is clearly not overly thick so I expect good things from the sound.

The neck is fairly standard in profile and width and appears to be made from three pieces of mahogany. It too is finished in gloss. Topping the neck is a rosewood fingerboard that is even in colour and nicely finished. The edges of the fretboard are unbound, but you don't see the fret edges as they are stained dark under the gloss.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele neck

Frets are nickel silver and we have 20 in total with 14 to the body join. These present my first (and only) gripe about the instrument - I would prefer them to have a softer crown to their tops. This is something I am seeing more of in ukuleles these days and it may just be personal opinion. It's a more traditional style of fret work but for me I find these jar the fingers a little when you slide up the neck. I prefer frets to be smooth. That isn't to say they are rough (they are not) or unfinished (no sharp edges here). Just that I find the crowning a little angular. Minor point.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele fingerboard

We have position markers in pearloid inlays at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th spaces and thankfully these are repeated on the side.

Past the bone nut we have a headstock that thankfully isn't a common crown shape, faced in what looks like rosewood or possibly ebony (or darker mahogany!) with the aNueNue logo inlaid in pearl.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele headstock

Tuning is provided by open gears that look very like open geared grovers, but are actually stamped 'aNueNue'. Either way, they are high quality and work great - trust me, I can tell. They are finished with black plastic buttons which are not overly large.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele tuners

Completing the deal are strings that appear to be clear fluorocarbon. I think they are aNueNue own brand choice, so could be anything really. They work well though.

And all of that can be yours for about $500... if you can find one (more on that later).

To hold, the instrument is not overly heavy and it's nicely balanced in the hands without a strap. That gloss finish is never sticky and it feels 'nice' in the hands. The setup on this example is spot on with an action that needs not adjusting at either the bridge or nut, and intonation very accurate right up the neck. No complaints so far.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele back

I have to admit that I am not actually a huge fan of concert ukuleles. For me they are neither one thing or the other and I tend to go for either tenors or sopranos. This one though feels like there is more to it. Strummed this is immediately noticeable by the great projection and even greater sustain. I do love a ukulele where you can feel the vibrations in the body projecting into your chest where you cradle it and this one delivers that.

Clarity across the strings range is impressive and it has a nice balance of warmth coupled with brightness and chime that I really like. I find many mahogany concerts can be a bit 'plinky' but this has a more complex sound.

Fingerpicked it is divine on account of that sustain with notes ringing out far longer than many ukuleles would deliver at this price. As I say, the fret crowning is the only let down for me here, but it really is something I could get used to I guess.

aNueNue Africa Mahogany II Concert Ukulele sound hole

So all in all I am rather taken by this one. It's about the sum of it's parts. No one thing is stellar and outstanding, but the various things (wood /  finish / shape) seem to come together into a very pleasing whole.

If you are in Australia or the far east you will be lucky enough to find one of these in your area. Less so if you are in the UK or the US as I don't believe aNueNue currently have a distributor in these regions. I think that is a huge shame as based on the quality of this review model I'd love to see them more widely available.

Recommended if you can find one.

Many thanks to aNueNue and Alan Townsend for the loan of the instrument.


Looks and shape
Wood choice
Wonderful gloss
Great sustain and projection


Would prefer softer crown on frets
Not widely available


Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and Finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10



10 March 2016

Hey, What's The Best Ukulele?

Probably the question I see from beginners on forums and social media the very most - the extremely open question of 'What's The Best Ukulele'? Which Ukulele To Buy?

You see that question really can't be answered without more information.... if at all. Too many things come in to play to choose a 'best' of anything. What is your budget? What scale do you want? What are your tastes in looks (plain, traditional, fancy, modern, crazy?). Without knowing these things it's impossible to advise on what I think are good purchases. Asking 'What is the best ukulele?' is like asking 'what is the best car' or 'what is the best food?' It's totally subjective.

I usually tend to provide a link to my ukulele reviews page with a suggestion that they have a browse, but to be honest, I suspect that some people don't really want to read through all of that to come to a view. A shame, but true.

So in an attempt to summarise in an easy to share single post, I looked back over my review scores and thought I would give my 'best of' for different price categories. Even if you don't want to go through all my ukulele reviews, these are the ones that I (currently) think you should have a read of. And before you complain that something is missing - these are taken from the many instruments I have tested and reviewed, but only those - hard to make a recommendation for something I haven't played!

Think of this as the Got A Ukulele Awards.. Ultimately though - this is just a list of the top scores on Got A Ukulele for easy reference. Your best ukulele is likely to be different from mine and that is ABSOLUTELY OK!

Got A Ukulele Best Instrument £0-£50

A difficult price point because there are genuinely so many bad ones around with poor quality control.

For me the first prize goes to the Octopus Soprano Ukulele - just remarkable for very very little money. Great sound and the neck is an absolute joy!

Octopus Soprano Ukulele
Octopus Soprano Ukulele

Runner Up: The Makala Dolphin - what else?

Got A Ukulele Best Instrument £50-£100

At this price point we are starting to get into the realms of instruments that are usually playable from the get go, with some truly nice surprises for what is, again, very little money. It's a close call at this price point for me, but I will give the first prize to the Baton Rouge Sun Series Concert Uke. A fairly plain looking affair and built from laminate woods, but seriously - great tone, great build quality, just really really great actually!

Baton Rouge Sun Concert Ukulele
Baton Rouge Sun Concert Ukulele

Runner Up: Snail UKS-220 Rosewood Soprano

Got A Ukulele Best Instrument £100 - £200

This is the price point where the majority of my reviews sit. There is a clear winner, but the problem here is that they don't make this one any more. It's the Omega Zedro II ukulele which I found quite remarkable for the money. But fear not - Omega have replaced it with the Klasiko model which I hear is just as good.

Omega Music Zedro Ukulele
Omega Music Zedro Ukulele

Runner Up: Several could have taken this spot, but I will give it to the Riptide Electro Concert (with an honourable mention to the John Daniel Pixie)

Got A Ukulele Best Instrument £200 - £500

Quite a price range this one, but this is where we start to get into serious territory. The clear winner for me was the Big Island Koa Concert - so nice looking it featured on the cover of one of my books. Looks to die for and a beautiful delicate tone that I really really liked.

Big Island Koa Concert Ukulele
Big Island Koa Concert Ukulele

Runner Up: Again - several to choose from here, but I give it to the Pono MTD Tenor - just really really nice in every way.

Got A Ukulele Best Instrument £500 plus

An odd one here and one where I am clearly opening myself up to criticism - 'Hey what about Kamaka? What about Martin?' Well, as I say - these are just based on ukuleles I have tested. For me the winner is clear and I think it's a stunningly good instrument. First place goes to the Kanile'a K1 Tenor - no frills, but wonderful clear woody tones that still make me smile to this day.

Kanile'a K1 Tenor Ukulele
Kanile'a K1 Tenor Ukulele

Runner Up: Beltona Tenor Resonator - one instrument that has made me smile more than many others recently.

So there you have it - I will, in time, adjust this listing as new instruments get reviewed if they change the top spots. But for now, the next time I get asked 'What is the best ukulele', this is the post I will give them the link to!

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