I get asked this question rather a lot from readers. What is my most played ukulele? I always give them the same answer, so I thought it was probably about time that I recorded that fact in it's own Got A Ukulele post.My most played ukulele (a Flea Soprano uke from Magic Fluke since you asked), actually featured in one of the earliest posts on this site. In actual fact, it pre-dates the site itself by a year or two though and is now approaching 10 years old. I went back early on and revisited it in something of an early pre-cursor to my ukulele reviews. I cringe when I read it, but you can find that here.. It's actually one of the first more serious ukuleles I ever bought, after starting my ukulele life like so many people do - with an ultra cheap, ultra useless Chinese brightly coloured laminate... I remember clearly this arriving and being blown away at the step up in sound and playability.
Anyway, enough about the past. Why is it still my most played ukulele? Well, despite owning stupid numbers of ukuleles, and still having far too many, they do tend to live in cases in the music room of the house. The Flea though.... - well, the handy thing about that flat base is that it usually lives in my living room beside my sofa. That way it's in easy reach if I want a quick play, want to figure out a chord or melody I have in my head, want to just check something. It's the ultimate grab and go ukulele. You can see the dust at the top of the bridge born from years of standing in my living room and only getting dusted off on the playing area from my arm in actually playing it!
Now the Flea is an interesting one, and it's always had it's detractors. Some people think it's expensive for what it is at about £199 in the UK these days (plastic back, laminate top, plastic fingerboard), but I have always thought they have missed the point. On the other side of the coin they are ultra reliable instruments, can stand up to the same knocks that seem to be fuelling the (inexplicable) rise in plastic ukulele sales, and yet still sound extremely decent (unlike most of those inexplicable plastic ukuleles). They don't SOUND plastic. They sound loud, warm, and have great sustain and low action. Yes, as you can tell, I am a fan! And part of that is because nearly 10 years on, mine is still an ultra reliable workhorse.
As you can see from the photos below, it's now a bit battered, but you know what? I say these things are bombproof and it is! It still holds up! This has been bashed, taken camping, taken in the wild, taken on holiday to hot temperatures, dropped down a flight of concrete stairs (i'm not joking..), yet it still does what I want it to when I want it. Heck it's usually in tune even if it doesn't get touched for a while. It's remarkable.
As you can see the fretboard has taken a bit of a pounding over the years. I have a Fluke too which is REALLY worn on the top, but that one was used more in jams in my local pub in my early ukulele years. Beer and drunken pubs tend to make for hard strumming. That said, whilst the Flea is less worn, it's had far more hours than the Fluke due to it's age. It's just not been mistreated so much!
One thing people often ask about these is whether the fretboard has worn. Well, yes it has in places on the lower frets. I should probably replace it, but to be honest, after nearly 10 years I am amazed at how it lasted. Yes, I know there is some wear there, but to be honest, I don't find it is hampering my playing at all, so I'm still happy with it. The Fluke also saw the silver fret markers wear down and disappear completely - strangely on this one they seem to have survived!
One thing I did change were the original friction pegs for better quality ones. Yes I know, these are bigger and they stick out more, but I wasn't a fan of the originals. These are Grover 4B's and they move like butter. As battered as the instrument is, it's not going to win any prizes in beauty parades, so to be honest I don't really care what the tuners look like.
And as you can see from the back, it's a great place to put case stickers. There have been plenty of stickers before these too! The beauty of that polycarbonate back is that it's easy to remove the 'goo' from old stickers if you want to.
So I love this old thing, and obviously would now never sell it. It probably wouldn't be of any interest to anyone in this state even if I did, but I don't care. This one is mine and this one will go on being my grab and go instrument. Sitting there, close to hand, always in tune.
One thing I never did for it was a video review. I think it's a bit long in the tooth for that now, but you never know. Oh and if you were wondering - the strings are Worth Browns. I never really liked Aquilas on Fleas and these suit it to my ears.
Maybe if the blog is still running in another 10 years it will be interesting to go back and see if this one is still in one piece. I think it will. And yes, this is a big thumbs up and recommendation for you to get hold of a Flea Ukulele. I think all ukulele players should own one. They may be unconventional but for indestructibility, they are hard to beat! And blimey.... it's older than my daughter...
I'd buy one again in a flash, but there's the thing. This one is still going strong and I have no need to.
© Barry Maz