View Full Version : What makes a great uke?

04-17-2013, 04:02 PM
So, I have a good uke. It sounds very nice to me and I think it's easy to play. (I have a sucky one too but let's ignore that.)

What I'm curious about is what makes a *great* uke? I can see some of them look really, really nice, with inlays and pretty wood and finishes. But let's focus on sound. I understand different woods will sound different, but does that make a great sound vs. a good one? What other factors contribute to greatness?

I'm sure others have asked this but humor me!

04-17-2013, 04:35 PM
I don't have expensive ukuleles but what is great for me is well balanced, good set up of course, and a sound that I like. Not too bright, not muted. Of the ukes I have tried there have been some perfectly good ukes, some that were luthier made, some that were more expensive then the ones I kept and I didn't like the feel of them as much. I could never figure out why but my guess is maybe just a little less distance between the A string and the edge that I didn't like. I never measured it. One I kept hitting the body when I strummed and I did try to measure and couldn't figure out what the difference was. That said, the way a uke feels when I hold, strum and chord it is important to me but for the life of me I can't quiet figure out what that little something difference is. I have ended up with Mainlands because they meet my criteria at an affordable price. My Kamaka is by far the best uke I have ever had but I find I prefer a little bit more the sound of Mahagony, it is a tad brighter and sweeter to my ear. I also like a uke that I don't have to worry about so my little Mahagony Mainland soprano that I bought as a second is my go to uke without worries of banging up a $2,000 uke that I will never play well enough to justify the expense. I think that makes my ukes all pretty great.

04-17-2013, 07:27 PM
I think small details like thickneess of the top or how the luthier does the bracings will influence on how the uke will sound like....


Patrick Madsen
04-17-2013, 07:32 PM
For me, It's all about the feel of the neck and low action. I like a thin fast neck with a radiused fretboard, action set low. Wound strings and the rest is gravy.

Dan Uke
04-17-2013, 07:42 PM
It rings like a bell frets 13 - 15

04-17-2013, 08:56 PM
Price is definitely NOT everything!
My expensive uke's rarely get taken out their cases, while my Mainland is always out, tuned up, and played daily.

04-18-2013, 02:55 AM
What I'm really curious about is what about the construction of a uke creates the qualities each of us likes.

04-18-2013, 03:25 AM
What make's a great ukulele?

Sheer accuracy of construction.
Mature woods which allow for stability,
and last but not least an experience builder who is brave enough to make an instrument lighter than you would imagine is safe to build.


04-18-2013, 07:37 AM
For me, It's all about the feel of the neck and low action. I like a thin fast neck with a radiused fretboard, action set low. Wound strings and the rest is gravy.

This is what does it for me too.

04-18-2013, 07:58 AM
Tone and intonation are the most important to me. If the intonation is off, I might as well sell it because I will not be able to stand playing it. I have to say that one bad spot on one of my favorite ukes has absolutely ruined it for me. The thing looks wonderful, but that one lousy note keeps the thing locked in the case. I need to either take it to a luthier to see if it can be fixed or just sell it. Another problem is buzz. My favorite uke for acoustic performance has one spot high on the fretboard with just a little buzz. Drives me nuts. It is going in the shop. I think it can be fixed by filing.

The tone on the uke has got to be good. I like it to be resonant and warm, not too bright, not too "plonky". My favorite acoustic performance uke is my Favilla Teardrop. The sound is just wonderful, like a great violin. (This is the one that is going to the luthier's for that teeny weeny buzz - 11th fret).

My son has a Koa Pili Koko that sounds really great. Perfect intonation. Bell-like sound. His uke sounds like most of the good koa ukes to me. It is a wonderful instrument, but the sound is a little too bright for my taste. I like the warmer smoother sound of my Favilla best. I think my Teardrop might be pear wood, but I associate the sound I like with mahogany instruments.

04-18-2013, 08:15 AM
The player.

04-18-2013, 08:16 AM
A felt pick.

04-18-2013, 10:29 AM
- spot-on intonation
- clear tones on all strings
- good balance on frequency range
- good resonance
- some good volume
- easy fretting all the way down
- great feel holding the neck
- no obvious beauty flaws
- makes me look 10 lbs thinner and 10 years younger when I'm playing it. :)

Hippie Dribble
04-18-2013, 10:32 AM
The player.
hard to argue with that

04-18-2013, 12:54 PM
A felt pick.

There's something wrong with you, Steve.


Steve, please post a pic of you playing your (ridiculously sweet) Pohaku baritone with a felt pick.

04-18-2013, 11:59 PM
The player.

at last... some sensible answer!

thanks ;)

Ahnko Honu
04-19-2013, 01:05 AM
I great luthier

mm stan
04-19-2013, 02:07 AM
I agree a great player and luthier....
I remember when I first started I always blamed the uke.....it was me... :)

04-19-2013, 02:14 AM
hard to argue with that

ha, I can argue any point, just ask my wife.
I don't see any of the great players playing a low end ukulele, at least not too often. they are always K's , customs, Martins, etc.