Makala Ukuleles

Makala ukuleles are the budget range of ukuleles from Kala. They are among the best in the budget price range.

The Makala ukulele comes in the traditional wood look and also in a series of pastel colors (blue, pink etc.) with a dolphin bridge – these are particularly popular with kids.

On Video

Kirk Shimabukuro demonstrates a tenor Makala ukulele.

On eBay US

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On eBay UK

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Makala Ukulele Review

I received a Makala concert ukulele for my birthday this past May.
The ukulele had a born-on date of July 2007, so you have an idea of
what vintage my “hatchet” is. It’s a pretty fun little piece of
equipment, and I thoroughly enjoy my relationship with my wee uke. I
have never played ukulele before I got this one. I have not played
guitar, either, so this is my first foray into fretted fingering.

First impressions:

Nice little instrument. Dark brown, pretty wood, brass frets, geared
tuners, just plain pretty. Problem? Reeks of Elmer’s glue for some
reason. Luckily, I enjoy the smell of glue. I think it’s just from
the factory, as the smell has faded. It’s a solid little piece. It
absolutely glows in the light.

Body:

OK. Smells like glue when it first comes out of the box, but the
smell does fade. Apparently, it is made of agathis wood, “the poor
man’s mahogany.” It’s definitely of plywood construction, but it does
have a decent tone. It’s not a glorious tone like you would find in a
thousand dollar instrument, but the body does make for some great tone
for the price.

Body’s reaction to weather:

I live in New Zealand. I live in a stererotypical NZ house, where,
when all the windows are closed, you still have doors opening and
shutting in the wind and curtains ruffling in the breeze. So, our
house is cold, hot, damp, and pretty much just a means for us to keep
dry in the rain. It’s not climate-controlled at all here. The uke
has been through all temperature changes and humidity changes, and it
still sounds wonderful. I do zip it up in its gig bag when not being
played, and that seems to keep it somewhat protected. I recommend
this ukulele for travel, as it will deal with temperature extremes
better than a more fragile instrument. It is a student instrument,
built with kids in mind.

Bridge:

Wood with a plastic bar. Seems solid. Hasn’t popped off with the
shifting climate in my house. I know that as soon as I send this off,
I jinx myself. But, it looks A-OK to me.

Soundhole:

Outlined with a crappy white decal. It’s not gorgeous, but it does
add visual interest to the sea of wood.

Neck:

Solid agathis? I think?

Frets and fretboard (and a wee bit of the nut):

The frets are brass, the fret board is pretty solid, with pearlised
inlaid fret dots. I’m not sure of what the fretboard wood is. I am
assuming it’s rosewood, but I’m probably completely wrong. The edge
of the fretboard has marker dots, too, which makes things nice when
glancing down. There isn’t too much play with the frets, so fingering
is easy. The nut also doesn’t give major play with the strings. The
nut is plastic.

Strings:

I THINK the strings are GHS nylon strings. I know Kala sells other
ukuleles with said strings, so I’m assuming. Either way, the strings
were grumpy little buggers at first, needing retuning for the first
month or so, with piddly poking-around play. Personally, I think
that’s OK for a beginner, considering you have to learn tuning at some
point. A chromatic tuner is helpful in this period. I am happy with
the strings as they are. I figure all strings need a settling-in
period.

Headstock and pegs:

Solid wood stock, with geared die-cast metal and chromed tuners. They
have a bit of plastic on them, but it’s more of a washer to keep the
strings off the headstock.

Conclusions:

Enjoy a Makala ukulele. It sounds better than other ukes in its price
range. It will hold up well to weather extremes (within reason). Get
the gig bag and a chromatic tuner. I have had my ukulele for two
months now, and I’ve already mastered several songs. It’s that fun to
play. A lot of instruments can be abandoned, because the starter
model is complete crap, is poorly built, and sounds awful. The whole
setup for me was not exorbitant, but also wasn’t pennies. I have not
found any problem with my ukulele, except, perhaps, that it is only
ONE ukulele. :) I cannot wait to play it some days. It’s such a
happy little friend to have. And, it’s a great starter uke. Or, even
a not-so-starter uke that won’t be mourned too deeply if it falls into
harm’s way on a trip or camp out.

Review by Maria

Stef’s Makala Ukulele


makala ukulele review

22 Comments

  1. Grace February 28th, 2010 4:23 pm

    I run a Ukulele Club at the K-8 school where I teach, so I have new ukers between ages 6 and 14. With no model recommendations from me, all but one student showed up with either a Makala MK-S or a Lanikai LU-11.

    I’ve never been much of an equipment hound for whatever instrument I’ve played, but I have trouble finding any significant differences between these models – they both have a decent warmth of sound and hold in tune fairly well. They even have a remarkably similar appearance. These similarities are unsurprising as the man behind Kala, Mike Upton, started the company after leaving Hohner, Lanikai’s parent company. Throw in the fact that you can regularly find these for $45-50, and they really establish a standard for base-level ukes.

    As always, the best starting uke for you is best found by going to a music shop and trying different instruments out. However, if you’re shopping in the under-$100 range, don’t be surprised if you’re left holding one of these two.

  2. Ryan March 17th, 2010 12:15 am

    I recently got a Makala MK-P model Uke and have to say i honestly love the little Pinnaple shapped bugger. its got a great tone and is tons of fun to play i would deffinatly recomend for anyone intrested.

  3. Geoff May 14th, 2010 4:45 pm

    In January 2010, my wife and I bought two Makala Dolphin ukes – hers in pearlescent white, his in pearlescent black. The character and sound of each uke is so different, but we have fitted Aquila strings and they do great duets (amongst other tunes, we have already got ‘Psycho Killer’ down, and are working on ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Absolutely super as first ukes. Only down side is that I have worn the paint through to the wood on some corners (must wear a wool pullover when playing). Better not do that when I graduate to a more expensive uke!

  4. David July 20th, 2010 12:03 am

    I bought myself a Makala dolphin Uke from my local cash concepts brand new it cost me a whopping £19.95. I tried a few out as they had both all wood and the slightly bowl backed plastic backed variety. I settled on a plastic uke as I found the tone to be a good deal warmer. Got home changed the strings for a set of aquilas and boy waht a difference. The dodgy C string on the original set was gone and I now have a uke that I am really really pleased with. The intonation is spot on ( checked this in the shop with the aid of a tuner and it is an absolute joy to play. I have played guitar for many years but this little instrument is SOOOOO much fun I heartily recommend it for beginners or as a carry about spare. Great little Uke.

  5. Aroma November 9th, 2010 3:53 am

    Hi Stef

    I live in NZ too and am thinking of buying a Makala Tenor Ukelele. I was wondering where you bought yours from? I went to MusicWorks and they sell the Makalas for about NZ$50 and the MK-Ps for $75, do you think they are a reasonable price? I’m thinking of buying Akila strings that everyone seems to be talking about, where can you buy those from?

  6. Deborah Van Kleef November 10th, 2010 5:17 pm

    I have 3 young students with fiberglass MK-S ukes. They’re fine for beginners & charming in appearance when new. Unfortunately the paint chips easily, showing the putty-colored surface underneath. Uke guy at a local store tells me he displays them out of reach because they show every little ding. Also the gig bag they come with is really cheesy. I’ll recommend the agathis laminate in the future. (For a cheap uke in an array of bright colors Mahalo U-30 sounds almost as good, holds up much better & comes with a nice matching gig bag.)

  7. jake December 23rd, 2010 9:11 pm

    i got my mk-c yesterday i love the little guy hes so easy to play the action is great especially for us beginners its a little trick tuning at first its a bit thin its not very loud

  8. Paul December 25th, 2010 3:12 am

    I bought two Makala Dolphins and just got them today. I got my son a white one and I got myself a black one. I put Martin Fluorocarbon strings on both ukes and I found the white one sounds absolutely wonderful. I can see no real discernable difference between it and the black one but the black one is not as loud nor does it have the same beautiful resonance as the white one. I have no clue why this is. I bought both ukes from musiciselementary off amazon so I am emailing them to see if they might be willing to replace the black one. The white one is awesome.

  9. Scooterchick January 2nd, 2011 9:32 pm

    I have the Dolphin model in red. Those black strings that came on it have to go, I can’t see them against the fingerboard. No matter what I do, the C string always sounds out of tune. Also, the body is too slippery for me to hold onto while playing.
    It’s great little uke for taking out to the beach, or a campsite, places where I won’t take my other uke.

  10. Mona January 16th, 2011 4:58 pm

    I have the Makala MK-S Soprano and I would recommend it to any beginner. I decided I wanted to learn to play the ukulele (but never touched one in my life) and chose this one. It’s perfect for me – inexpensive, decent quality, good sound. It’s great for people who want to learn the ukulele and try it out before dropping big bucks on an instrument they might not like or commit to. Nothing like spending $400 on an instrument that just collects dust in the corner, right? Turns out, I love it, and this was the smartest move I’ve made to ensure I didn’t spend a ton of money on a hobby that isn’t for me. I’m going to upgrade soon, but this uke has been wonderful.

  11. Sandi June 15th, 2011 5:55 pm

    I’m interested in getting myself a beginner’s ukulele. Having done some research, I’ve closed down my choices on the Makala MK-S Soprano and Makala Dolphin. Would anyone mind telling me which would be a better choice and why? If you have better suggestions for a beginner like me, do tell. Thank you in advance for the help.

  12. ryan June 16th, 2011 12:33 pm

    Sandi, I have played the makala MK-S before. It is an ok beginner ukulele but I recommend spending the extra 25-35 bucks and getting the Kala Ka-s. For just a few more bucks it is a much better ukulele.

  13. Heather July 10th, 2011 2:33 pm

    Honestly, I think I would cry if my makala ukulele ever got broken or stolen. It’s looks so pretty and sounds great considering the price. I’ve had mine a year and only now that I think I’m a pretty advanced ukulele player am I thinking about an upgrade. It’s perfect for a first ukulele or just any ukulele really.

  14. Evan January 8th, 2012 6:04 pm

    I don’t really see any problem with my plain wood one :) maybe the strings need an upgrade though.

  15. Nikki Williams July 3rd, 2012 11:38 am

    Excellent comments Maria at top…we have to sympathize as we live in Wellington. We own 2 Makalas 3 ukes in the $350 price range & one at slighter more currently on order from the states. NZ just doesnt quite have the range to satisfy our ukulele habit.
    We definately pick up the Makala’s to muck around on, I find them very good to pick on (mainly I have to use them as my other is a Kala 8 string tenor & my son wont let me use his flash one he bought from Alistairs in Cuba St that often). Its easier to get a swing beat out of than my Tenor. Sometimes a G chord sounds slightly out even if tuned w a tuner (dont know why) & they definately need tuning more often – but then we have never upgraded the strings. Also not as much volume as our other ukes. But hey $55 NZD who can complain!! My Dad swears by his, thinks the tone is fantastic, he’s been playing since he was 12 (hes now 76) but we think he’s a bit deaf. The paint does chip too unless its really looked after – but great to take if u think u can con someone into playing with you.
    Rating below in reflection of its cost def value for money.

  16. MyLittleEye July 19th, 2012 10:01 pm

    I have the Makala MK-S Soprano but I’ve cheated and tuned it GDAE using a dedicated string set that Aquila produce for the purpose. It means I can play it using mandolin chords and fingerings without having to learn another instrument! [Is that howls I hear from the traditionalists?!] Yeah, it might seem a little weird and perhaps the D’s a bit resonant but hey; now I have a great little knock about “Mandolele” that I just can’t put down. Great fun to practice on; I keep it in my car for a quiet lunchtime strum. Some suggest here that these Makalas’s are a little quieter than usual? To my mind that’s no bad thing, particularly when one’s a beginner and still building confidence, or else want something to mess about on without having to worry about neighbours etc. …or a parent!

    [Update] – Now I’ve had it a few months the strings seem to have settled in now; they’re brighter, have better balanced volume between each string (a mild issue before with my GDAE arrangement); they hold their tuning more consistently too. :-)

  17. derrick August 13th, 2012 1:01 am

    what is the tuning on an MK-C Concert. I just got mine and I want to tune and don’t really know about them. please help

  18. cdawg February 10th, 2013 5:24 am

    Its a pretty solid uke. I like it because it has good sound and was inexpensive. Its great for a “throw it in your backpack” ukulele. You dont have to sacrifice good sound for a good price!

  19. Pauline August 27th, 2013 1:41 am

    Makala MK-S is not only my first ukulele, it’s my first instrument at all. You can’t imagine how lucky I was when I got it. Strings sound awful, so I tried Aquilas – now my lovely Makala sounds great. Good-looking, quite solid. And that’s not a toy like some cheap “ukes”.

  20. Jack Gashler January 1st, 2014 7:49 pm

    I taught myself how to play an MK-T in about two days. I am in love with the uke now. I want to graduate myself to a more expensive Kala, but until I can afford that, I am perfectly happy with my Makala. Great sound, beautiful body, I couldn’t ask for anything else as a beginner.

  21. Christina Kiang Zhi Lin February 3rd, 2014 11:23 am

    I’m from Malaysia and its hard for me to get an ukulele Kala Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele – Light Blue Burst. There’s no store that selling light blue burst. Can help ? :(

  22. Plinker February 21st, 2014 8:20 am

    It would be great if Makala produced a Tenor version of its excellent little Dolphin Soprano.

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