Cheap Ukes: Ukulele Window Shopping

After last week’s Window Shopping post I got a few complaints about the insane prices of the ukuleles featured. Looking solely at ukuleles I’m too poor to afford is the only way to ensure I don’t end up buying one. But this week I put my wallet in peril for you and look at what I’d buy at the lower end of the market.

Under $25: I’d have to go with a Pink Mahalo U-30 and hope I got a good one. Yes, pink. I need a uke that’s going to match this shirt.
But I’d be tempted by: A Practical Method for Self Instruction on The Ukulele by N.B. Bailey. I love old ukulele instruction books.

Under $50: I don’t own a pineapple ukulele so I’d go with a Makala Pineapple.
But I’d be tempted by: The Wolfelele.

Under $75: If I didn’t already have a Mahalo Les Paul, I’d definitely be getting one of those. Otherwise, perhaps an old Harmony.
But I’d be tempted by: A ukulele teapot with intestine handle.

Under $100: The sensible choice would be Kala Mahogany Concert. But the Plaid Kala Ukadelic to garish-up my collection nicely.
But I’d be tempted by: This adorable pair of beaten up banjoleles that I’d never get round to having fixed up.

Under $150: It would have to be an Ohana Vita uke in tribute to Roy Smeck.
But I’d be tempted by: This Soul Cat cigar box ukulele.

Leave your suggestions/shopping list in the comments.

View Comments

26 Comments

  1. Tom June 3rd, 2011 6:11 pm

    Cool! I have a Mahalo Les Paul over here, it’s not a sunburst however, it’s a triburst (way better :P). It’s my toy for these days. Just layin’ laid back in the sunny garden, strumming my mini Les Paul. Gotta love those moments!

  2. Craig Robertson June 3rd, 2011 6:27 pm

    Why is it that people who make cigar box instruments always use the word ‘mojo’ to describe them?

  3. Fraser June 3rd, 2011 6:49 pm

    I recently got one of these, apart from requiring the attention of a drop of glue and a soldering iron in the electrics hole. It’s quality is great and neither is it silent. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Novelty-Rocktile-FRAME-Silent-Ukulele/dp/B002ZMOS9U/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1307123212&sr=8-8

  4. John Bianchi June 3rd, 2011 7:13 pm

    I’m not sure about “Mojo”, but by heck, you’re right about that, Craig.

    I completely endorse the Ohana Vita Uke for best uke at $150. It’s got a great tone, can be quite powerful, thanks to that thin spruce top and that big lower bout. It’s a great uke for the money, like most Ohanas, and even if you’re not thinking about the money, its just a good sounding instrument.

    Also – three of my vintage banjo ukes were priced between $80 and $150 – all three – two Slingerlands and Stromberg Voisinet -were great value for the money and are wonderful players.

  5. Stuie June 3rd, 2011 8:26 pm

    The Makala student concert ukulele that I have was about 50 quid and I’m seriously happy with it, although some of these other cheapo’s have really caught my eye.

    Mind you I’ve been considering bodging a ukulele together out of lumps of old wood and see what happens

  6. zymeck June 4th, 2011 12:59 am

    i always recommend the soprano makala in the cheapo range. Although i did had a play on a TU1 wooden Tanglewood soprano with a set of aquillas on it the other day, and it sound very good. You can pick one up for £20 round here

  7. zymeck June 4th, 2011 1:02 am

    My mistake, it was a Tanglewood TU6

  8. Ron Hale June 4th, 2011 7:47 am

    Well, I like the looks of the Mahalo U-40SM,
    that’s Smiley Face with two eyes for soundholes with a yellow body, and the U-40SK. That’s SK for skulls, just covered with skulls. Nice touch…$26.99US, Amazon. All prices mentioned US, Amazon.

    Pink is a great uke color, Al. Very few ukes as cool as a Mahalo pink V, $40.77. Tricity Vogue has a pink Dolphin, suits her. Now, I had a light blue Dolphin, $35. for a fews days. Instant dislike, given to charity.

    I’m big on the Kala Ukadelic Plaid, as well as the Tiki and Texas flag ukes, $81. Interestingly (or not), the Tie-dye Ukadelic is the only one priced higher at $86.25.
    They’re being sold now with gig bags for $99.99.

    I do my bashing about these days on a Kala Kiwi,
    $84-88. Also like the Watermelon, not so much the Pineapple.

  9. Woodshed June 4th, 2011 10:12 am

    Tom: Sounds like an excellent way to spend the day.

    Craig: Something to do with the smell I would expect.

    Fraser: I’ve noticed those knocking around and wondered about them. Thanks for the info.

    Stuie: Good luck with the ukulele bodging.

    John: There’s a good chance I’m going to pick up a Vita at some point.

    zym: I like the Makala as well. At least the one I briefly twiddled on.

    Ron: That is interesting about the Tie-dye. All the old hippies must be coining it in from ice cream making.

  10. Julia June 4th, 2011 11:11 am

    when I started, I started on a Stagg turtle ukulele (http://www.amazon.com/Stagg-Traditional-Soprano-Ukulele-Turtle/dp/B0039576LE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=musical-instruments&qid=1307181891&sr=8-1) but then it only costed 20€…. And i thought it to be really good for the rather cheap price. Still use her for playing outside or if i want play with different tuning although i have a mango kala and a risa now.

  11. Ian Emmerson June 4th, 2011 4:47 pm

    What the hell is that teapot handle all about?

  12. Woodshed June 5th, 2011 10:42 am

    Julia: Glad you’re still getting use out of it.

    Ian: My best guess is that it’s supposed to be some sort of coral.

  13. L.bo Marie June 5th, 2011 9:46 pm

    mahalo lime green with sparkles is my most garish pick… and it’s usually the one I lend out first.

    I’ve given the wolfeleles a try or two or three… the kits are very fun to do- a number of friends spent a day making them together- not too easy to make you feel like you’re not really building it, and not too difficult to make you give up after the first hour.

    However… I really hope they start to refine them a little. The neck and fretboard together are much too thick, making it top heavy and cumbersome… I felt like the tenor was just too big and my little fingers have a hard time reaching around. The sound from them isn’t bad for the price.

  14. Carrie Griffin June 6th, 2011 5:24 am

    The teapot handle is a pink lei.

  15. Jake Wildwood June 6th, 2011 6:30 am

    The “mojo” bit comes in, because it’s a keyword for supposed-blues players to home in on… believe me… they find it if it has “mojo.” I mean, if it doesn’t have mojo… what does it have?!

    RE the affordable Chinese uke choices… eek. I’m so glad I work on old American instruments. I’m always underwhelmed by most modern ukes under $400. That Vita uke is “sort of” like a Vita uke… but it’s like comparing Natty Ice to McEwan’s Scotch Ale.

    How can you??

  16. Woodshed June 6th, 2011 8:20 am

    L.bo: Any sort of practical activity scares me.

    Carrie: Hmmm, maybe. I mean, it doesn’t look anything like lei. But if you had the terrible idea to make a lei teapot handle you’d have to make it like that.

    Jake: I have fantastically bad taste in pretty much everything.

  17. Jake Wildwood June 6th, 2011 4:32 pm

    No you don’t!

    I like cheese just as much as you do alongside my wine. :)

  18. Jake Wildwood June 6th, 2011 4:32 pm

    …but I also happen to be spoiled with old stuff to the point of absurdity. :D

  19. Mauricio June 6th, 2011 5:51 pm

    Hello! I’m new to ukulele, but a guitar player for some years now. I bought a Blue Moon ukulele, there were a few options in the store I found. What do you think about this brand? It’s a soprano.

    Could Soprano and Concert use the same strings?
    thanks!

  20. Hello Jodi June 6th, 2011 7:00 pm

    Dolphin Makala or Kala Kiwi for sure. Though if you want a cheap ukulele, just make friends with me. I go through spurts of giving them away.

  21. Sam Lowry June 6th, 2011 11:36 pm

    What’s with the incorrect spelling of ukulele on that ebay link and on the package for wolfelele? I was thinking of buying a kit, but now I’m scared.

  22. Woodshed June 7th, 2011 12:30 am

    Jake: I like cheese more than wine.

    Jodi: I could do with giving some of mine away. Can’t bring myself to do it, though.

    Sam: ‘Ukelele’ is a perfectly correct alternative spelling.

  23. Kayleyukulele June 9th, 2011 5:13 pm

    Love my mahalo! I’m sure the quality is the same, though the color is yellow. It tunes well, and projects sound in performance nicely without a microphone. I’d definitely recommend one to anyone picking up the uke.

  24. Woodshed June 9th, 2011 5:24 pm

    Kayleyukulele: Glad you’re pleased with it.

  25. Curious June 16th, 2011 10:38 am

    I bought a synchronium uk55 which, i believe is quite unfamous. After that I saw some shop selling this Makala Colours http://www.ukulelemovement.com/makala/294-makala-colours
    I realise that it was a lot better than my synchronium and just a little more expensive. Then my heart broke haha.
    However i suppose i wont need my ukulele to be too good since i’m just a beginner i might break it haha.

  26. Woodshed June 17th, 2011 10:28 am

    Curious: Sorry to hear you’re not happy with it. I know how it is – my first ukulele was terrible.

Got something to say?