Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Recommendation for Buying a 2nd Ukulele

It seems that our first ukulele is normally not going to be the last ukulele. Barbara B. has inspired me to write this entry about relatively inexpensive ukuleles. I ocassionally get a question about what ukuleles are good and what size should I get next. I currently have the following:
  1. Mike DaSilva concert koa ukulele (DaSilva strings, high G)

  2. Ohana concert, model CK-35G (Aguila strings, low G)

  3. Maxwell baritone ukulele (Aguila strings, low D)

I have played sopranino 18", soprano 21", concert 23", tenor 25", baritone 29-30". I really like playing a sopranino once in a while. I like each one in different ways. I have heard that concert and tenors are the most popular in the clubs. The baritone has a limited supply of music that can be found. I would advise you to go to the music stores and try strumming some and getting a feel for the size and how it fits your body.

My preference has led me to the concert ukulele because I want to incorporate some single note melodies and found that the finger stretch on the tenor is longer and my hand couldn't manuever the John King and Steven Strauss arrangements as well as I wanted. Steven gets the most amazing sounds out of his moderately price Bushman concert ukulele. If one is going to be solely strumming then I think the tenor is a good choice. It has good volume and a comfortable size.

Brands in the $180 to $240 range that I like (no particular order):

There's another thing to consider, my friend Judy P., has a wonderful Kala tenor electric ukulele that sounds good acoustically and can be plugged in to an amplifier. Judy has many ukuleles and this is one that she plays quite frequently. It may the all purpose ukulele at $239. See the photo (comes in wood and also black lacquer):

There's an advantage to buying a ukulele from a local shop. If they have a luthier on staff then they will usually adjust the set-up at no extra cost. I bought my Ohana at The 5th string in Berkeley and they set my Ohana up perfectly within minutes.

I think this company has decent prices if you can't find ukuleles locally Another thing I like to use on my ukuleles is Aquila Nylagut strings, I like the volume and feel of these strings.


  1. I think it is worth keeping in mind that low cost imported ukuleles are low cost for a reason. Often that reason is due to the very low cost of labor in the third world. I would consider investigating where these ukes are made and under what circumstances before I bought.

    There are domestically made low cost quality ukuleles. The Fluke and the Flea are decent instruments that get their low costs from innovative use of materials instead of low cost labor. Just a thought. Uke 'til you puke!

  2. This comment is walking the line on my "no politics" decree. Just a note, I love my Ohana Uke and I bought it in Berkeley from the 5th String.

  3. I believe this model Kala tenor (albeit a different color) is played by Karla Kane
    of the Bay Area band, the Corner Laughers, in their Youtube video, The Corner Laughers As Tears Go By [Rolling Stones Cover]. Could be wrong, but
    they look very much alike. And Ken Middleton reviews this model Kala on Youtube.