Ukulele beginners tips - All about wood - not all ukuleles are equal

14 Sept 2010

Ukulele beginners tips - All about wood - not all ukuleles are equal

Beyond brand names and sizes probably the most talked about topic when it comes to ukulele is the wood they are made of. In fact, when you are on the path to buying your first uke, you will probably find your mind boggled at the choices.

The differences in wood discussions (and tonally, we are referring to the wood the body is made of) will tend to be either whether it's solid or laminate or what type of wood it is.


this refers to the thin pieces of wood that make up the top, back and sides of the body of the ukulele. In simple terms, solid wood is just that, a thin slice of wood taken in one piece, and laminate refers to thin veneers of wood glued together in a sandwich like plywood.

Solid wood will unarguably give you the better sweeter sound, and in many cases better volume. Without getting too techy its simply that the solid piece resonates and sings better than laminated wood.

Solid wood instruments are also much more expensive, so you will find the vast majority of cheap (under £100) instruments will be either all or part laminate (you can get instruments with solid tops but laminate back and sides which is a kind of halfway house)

The cheapest all solid wood instrument that I would recommend are those made by Brüko.

So is solid better? Well I'd have to say yes, and the expensive top end instruments are all solid. That said, if you are a beginner there are some great laminate instruments like the Lanikai range and the Makalas. Additionally (to confuse further) the superb instruments made by Fluke are actually laminate wood tops, but they get their signature sound from the design and plastic backs (more on that later)


beyond the solid vs laminate discussion, you will also want to consider the type of wood. To be perfectly honest I think this is very subjective, wood type does change sound, but for better or worse depends totally on your ears - you need to try them out!

Also, at the very cheap end, with all laminates I'd argue that you don't need to worry at all.

If you are going solid though i suppose the most common wood is mahogany. As well as looking great, it gives a lovely warm tone. Other include spruce (bright tone) cedar and the traditional wood for ukuleles, koa. (be aware, solid koa instruments are hugely expensive!). You may also find woods like mango and acacia.

This player can't tell you what sounds good, or what looks nice to you ( these different woods all look totally different!) so have a play yourself.

If you are beginning and finding it difficult i think you really can't go wrong with mahogany though. Sounds good , looks good and is not too expensive.


other than the above which is mainly concerned with tone, you will find other woods for necks and fingerboards but these are just cosmetic factors.

Further confusion comes in plastic backed bodies like flea, fluke, applause and dolphins ( works very well in projecting sound) carbon fibre bodies, cigar box bodies but I suppose they are for another thread!


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