I'm going to be writing more on this topic in the future, so stay tuned! What makes a good ukulele? What should you look for when buying a ukulele? I've asked myself these questions many times, and it felt like no matter how much I read online, I ended up learning the hard way... by buying ukuleles that ended up having a lot of issues! In this blog post I’m going to share 3 things you can do to avoid the heartbreak of falling in love with a uke, only to need to part way with it.
Firstly, do your research! If you're reading this article that is a great start. My best tips on how to perform the best ukulele research are as follows. Consult as many types of information sources as possible. I would break down the best information sources as follows: (1) in-person advice from experienced ukulele specialists and enthusiasts, (2) youtube channels with honest reviews such as The Ukulele Site (based in Hawaii) and the Southern Ukulele Store (based in the UK), (3) ukulele community forums such as Reddit, ukulele underground and ukulele groups on Facebook and (4) blog posts from reputable sites. Each of these information sources has different benefits. For example, Reddit and ukulele underground are great for hearing unbiased personal customer stories. I find them most helpful when vetting a ukulele for common issues. This can help to steer away from specific ukulele brands or models with recurring issues. On the other hand, the Ukulele Site is best when it comes to ukulele comparison videos. Remember when doing research that everyone has different taste.
Secondly, work out what YOU want in a ukulele! Here is an example of how someone might go about researching what sort of ukulele they should buy. Someone who was recently inspired by Jake Shimabukuro might google, "what is the best ukulele for fingerpicking?" They then might read a few posts, watch a few videos and work out that they like the size of a tenor ukulele best due to its longer scale length. After watching a few ukulele videos they noticed that some ukuleles sounded brighter and some more mellow. So they might google "what woods are the most mellow?". They then might find themselves watching a comparison video demonstrating the difference between Mahogany, Cedar and Koa, where they learn that Mahogany is usually the most mellow tonewood. They then might start searching "what is the best mahogany tenor ukulele?" and find a great comparison video demonstrating the difference between two Mahogany tenors; a Pono MT (solid wood) and a Kala KA-T (laminate wood). One customer might conclude that they would like to buy the Pono MT due to it being made of all solid wood, whereas another customer might choose to go for a Kala due to its popularity and more affordable price tag - $179 versus $749). In summary, the key things to consider are ukulele size (soprano, concert, tenor or baritone), tonal preference (bright or warm), projection (soft or loud), woods (mahogany, koa, spruce etc; solid or laminate), price (set a budget but be a little flexible) and check for issues!