It struck me that new readers of this blog won't have seen the very earliest reviews and news about ukes in my household... And who the heck searches back over years of blog posting?
I did a tally and figured that there have been about 15 or 16 ukes in my possession over the last couple of years. Not all stayed with me and some have been sold or traded, but I thought I'd share with you the current crop from cheap to pricey.
First up in the cheap category is my uke of choice when recommending an instrument to a beginner with a limited budget - the Makala Dolphin Soprano. I actually gifted the red one in the review to my Nephew, but this purple one is technically my daughters, though I love playing it!
(above - Makala Dolphin Soprano)
With a proper setup and Aquila strings, I really don't think that these can be beaten (for the price). I've owned plenty of other ukes in the bargain price range, like a Mahalo and a Vintage though the least said about those the better! I did however own a Lanikai LU21 which I would also highly recommend to beginners.
Moving on, I got hold of a Flea Soprano from the Magic Fluke Company. These are unusual ukes in many ways, their shape, the plastic bowl back, the plastic fingerboard. What they do deliver though is great sound and zero issues with setup due to the nature of their construction. If you are fed up with instruments that buzz or have dodgy action I would highly recommend these.
(above, Flea Soprano in Purple)
I soon decided that I both wanted to move up a ukulele size and try a concert, but also wanted a solid wood uke. I had dabbled with my first solid wood uke which was a soprano by Brüko (highly recommended) but wanted a bigger size. This led me to the fabulous Mainlandbrand of ukes and I purchased an all solid mahogany concert model with a divine slotted headstock. Mainlands start their lives being put together in the far east to keep costs down, but are hand finished and setup by Mike in the USA. The sound is super sweet with a bell like chime and it has looks to die for. A google search or forum search for mainland ukes will show you that Mainland owners are a real community, and rightly so, they are marvellous instruments and in my opinion about as good as you can get for the price.
(above - Mainland Mahogany Concert)
I then took a diversion into a type of uke that I think every player should try at least once, a Banjo Uke, or 'Banjolele'. You can pay some serious money for a banjo uke but I wanted something cheap with a good reputation and went with the Ozark 2035. It's a no frills banjo uke but is very well made and has a great tone. I do, however find it uncomfortable to play due to it missing the more traditional wider resonator on the back and a tone ring, but it does sound good. I don't get to play it as much as I would like though as my friends play traditional ukes, and strumming this is overkill on the volume front!
(above - Ozark 2035 Banjolele)
My love for the Flea ukulele I mentioned above soon had me hankering after a big brother in the shape of the Fluke Tenor ukulele. I say tenor, and thats what it is billed as, but to me the size feels more like a halfway house between a concert and a tenor. The increase in size of this uke over the Flea really shows in the sound which is richer and warmer. It is on equal terms with the Flea in setup and playability, and that larger flat base makes this the perfect uke to always have on hand, standing up beside by sofa!
(above - Fluke Tenor)
I write so much about ukes that it wasn't long before I came to the scary realisation that I really needed to own a hand made Hawaiian ukulele, known as the K Brand Ukes. I also figured I didn't own a traditional tenor scale instrument so settled on a Kanile'a K1 tenor uke. Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy. It's buying a uke of this quality that really shows where that extra money goes. The sound and looks are out of this world, it really is so beautiful. This has become my go to ukulele for fingerpicking.
(above - Kanile'a K1 Tenor, satin finish uke)
The Hawaiian bug bit and this was soon followed by a purchase of a K brand soprano in the shape of a Koaloha Pikake soprano. I wanted a bright, loud, traditional sounding soprano and this uke has it in spades. I remain to be amazed at the volume from this tiny thing (easily the loudest of all my ukes) and it's my choice of uke now for gigging with friends as it provides a sharp clear sound that cuts through our mix of instruments perfectly.
(above - Koaloha Pikake Soprano)
The latest uke in the house is not actually mine, but it's worthy of a mention. Fairly recently my wife decided to start playing uke and her progress was astounding. She is now playing with us live and as an anniversary present / a 'well done', I bought her her own ukulele as she had been playing my Mainland. I think I made a good choice in the Pono MHC Pro Classic mahogany concert. This is one pretty instrument, impeccably made and with a fantastic sound.
(above- Pono MHC Pro Classic Concert)
So there you have it, a snapshot. There will be more I am sure, and perhaps some of those above will be sold or traded (though I doubt I'll ever be saying goodbye to the Hawaiian ukes), but that is part of the fun in playing uke - the addiction to buying them!
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