Back of the Lanikai O8-E Kala cedar top tenor Ohana zebrawood soprano, with Ollie Sophie and a ukeVintage banjolele

About these reviews,
and some notes

Herein are my notes and conclusions (ongoing as I get more ukuleles and have more time to play and practice). I hope they may help you make your own decisions about some ukuleles. They're just my opinion, and personal ones at that. And my opinions change a bit over time, too - what I liked or disliked on first approach ma be different several months later. hence the updates in the reviews.

Caveat emptor: pros may likely have other ideas and reach different conclusions. After all, I'm just a passionate amateur. But I don't sell anything, and I don't have any sponsorship or links with any of these companies to protect, and I bought all the ukes and accessories here, so I can afford to be honest.  

This is an ongoing project, and will grow as I learn more, practice more, and get more ukuleles to test. There are new makes and models coming out all the time to tempt me.

I will also post some sound and video clips shortly, once I perfect the technology to record them at home. YouTube? Perhaps in the near future... (I recently got a Web camera and some software, but I need time to learn how to use both together).

I've learned I had to change some of my song patterns that had bass runs or particular finger picking patterns, but it's easy to get accustomed to playing a uke coming from a guitar. You may even find that, with only four strings to contend with, you're a better uke player than a guitar player!

You can also string a uke in low-G tuning, so it has a bass note in the fourth string, not a high note. This makes it even more guitar-like for chords and picking patterns. Some songs definitely work better in low-G, but others are best in high-G. Personally, I like both, but I tend to play my high-G ukes more because I prefer the sound and it makes the uke different from a guitar. But you should have both on hand.

In the 1920s and 30s, there were other popular tunings for ukuleles (A-D-F#-B most often) and you'll see them noted in song sheets from that era, but you seldom see them today.

Some string packages make note of these tunings because the strings can be used in standard or alternate tunings. But the most common is G-C-E-A. In G tuning (except, apparently, in Nova Scotia where the A tuning reigns).

More on that on my ukulele tuning page.

Ukes are fairly versatile. You can put a capo on the second fret and be able to play with ukes in A tuning. I have experimented a bit with tuning to an open chord and playing songs. Think Joni Mitchell on a ukulele.

I've also tried using a slide on a ukulele, but it's not a popular technique. Nylon strings don't lend themselves well to certain styles. My experiments with slide suggest it's possible, but sounds better with a glass slide rather than a brass one.

Tenors and concerts seem to be the most popular these days, but there are  people passionate about all sizes. The small size of the soprano gives it a certain novelty cachet that attracts people. It looks like fun - and it is. The even smaller sopranino is still a fairly uncommon instrument.

Baritone ukuleles are much more like a mini guitar because they're the largest in size. But this size is not as popular as the smaller sizes. Some uke owners get sniffy about baritones as being too big and too much like a guitar. Me, I love them all, but have a special affection for tenors. I got a baritone in spring 2010 and am warming up to it, too.

I am a Canadian writer and editor, with a passion for history, sociology, politics, the environment, music, culture, the sciences, and tequila. I am an amateur but passionate ukulele player. Click this link to read my biography. Click here to read my blog (some ukulele content). Any support or help you can give me to maintain this site will be apperciated.

Comments? Want me to include something I missed? Know of ukuleles or uke accessories I should consider? Or links I should include? Email me:

Back to top

Vintage ukulele music