How much is too much for a Uke

Just to answer the question. I would say that anything over $1000 is too much for a uke.
 
Cool discussion. For me it comes down to a few factors:
• Who I want to support: If you're getting your uke built at the Kamaka factory, you have a sense for who's making it (more so if you're getting a truly custom one) and the ethos behind their family business. You might not know Casey and Chris personally, but maybe you have an association with them - real or imagined it can affect your perspective. If you're cool with an hourly employee at the Martin factory in Mexico putting together your ukulele (which I 100% am), then that also informs your choice.
• What I want in terms of materials: Some people just like really unique and beautiful materials, expertly crafted as in the Mo Betta designs. It's not wrong to want a truly unique and splendid thing, even if you know it won't sound any better in your hands.

As far as ukes, I've owned a few $1k+, but have found them new homes, as I couldn't justify keeping them. All of my ukes cost between $300-600, and I don't mind playing them hard and taking them places.
At the same time, I've got a couple of $5k+ basses which I really appreciate for both of these reasons. I know the people/family who run the shop where they're made (and how that shop is run). And I recognize that if I want a really well made thing which ALSO looks distinct and phenomenal, I gotta be cool shelling out for it.
 
I understand this! I spend very little time target shooting now. It’s way easier to pick up a Uke and play without going anywhere. I even work where I can shoot on my lunch break, but the ammo still costs a lot.

I used to get military surplus bolt action rifles for $100-$300 or even less. And ammo was cheap. Those days are gone.

Imagine if entry level ukes did not exist, and a string set was $150?

I’m glad all kinds of ukes are available!
Oh man I remember those days when I was a teen and European military rifles were dirt cheap and a M1 Garand was $300. I still have a Swedish M38 Mauser around here some place that hasnt been fired in 20 years.

I also play bagpipes and the entry into those is around $1000 for a used set now. While there may be very cheap sets made in Pakistan, they arent serviceable and will be more of a hinderance to one's ability to play. Once you have a set of pipes you still need reeds for the chanter and drones which is another $100+. When its time to replace the bag that will be $300-$400. Lets not even discuss how expensive kilts and other accessories are if you're going to get those too.

@Patty said it well in a previous post that the higher end of the ukulele market is the low end for many others...
 
Always interesting to read these threads! Not that I have much to contribute because I've never spent more than a couple of hundred pounds on a uke (and even then I'm twitchy about it) but after I'd been playing a few months on a Kmise baritone I got from Amazon, I decided to order a nicer one with a solid top from a ukulele specialist. I was worried it'd be a waste of money, but when it turned up, as soon as I tried it, it was a world of difference and I loved it. So I kind of wonder, having read the comments here, whether I'd have a similar experience if I were ever able to play something worth five times the price. Unlikely I'll find out anytime soon, alas!

The one time I've visited a specialist ukulele shop (World Of Ukes) Matt let me try a used steel string Pono baritone (worth about £1000 I think). I loved it, but he wouldn't let me buy at, at least partly because I told him he wasn't allowed to let me buy it. Something like that is still on my wishlist though...

I think the universal answer applies: you do you :).

(Aside: a couple of months ago I bought a really cheap baritone because sometimes, that's just the sound you want. I might be odd. Well, I am odd. I know that. But my favourite thing to do is multitrack recordings of a variety of ukes and having a huge range of sounds, good and bad, helps with that to my ears. I'm only interested in a new uke now if it brings something properly different to the mix. Unfortunately for my wallet, lots of ukes do that... I might need a banjolele next...)
 
Oh man I remember those days when I was a teen and European military rifles were dirt cheap and a M1 Garand was $300. I still have a Swedish M38 Mauser around here some place that hasnt been fired in 20 years.

I also play bagpipes and the entry into those is around $1000 for a used set now. While there may be very cheap sets made in Pakistan, they arent serviceable and will be more of a hinderance to one's ability to play. Once you have a set of pipes you still need reeds for the chanter and drones which is another $100+. When its time to replace the bag that will be $300-$400. Lets not even discuss how expensive kilts and other accessories are if you're going to get those too.

@Patty said it well in a previous post that the higher end of the ukulele market is the low end for many others...
Bagpipes though!
 
There's a lot of replies here, 59 so far that span 5 pages. And, I've read every single one... in the first 3 pages (subtle joke). You're a fine musician, @Tactical Uke . The laminates you're playing now haven't held you back. And, I don't use "laminates" in any derogatory sense. I'm just using it as you used it in the replies I've read from you. Otherwise, I wouldn't have used it at all. You already seem to know what's prudent.
 
Last edited:
Always interesting to read these threads! Not that I have much to contribute because I've never spent more than a couple of hundred pounds on a uke (and even then I'm twitchy about it) but after I'd been playing a few months on a Kmise baritone I got from Amazon, I decided to order a nicer one with a solid top from a ukulele specialist. I was worried it'd be a waste of money, but when it turned up, as soon as I tried it, it was a world of difference and I loved it. So I kind of wonder, having read the comments here, whether I'd have a similar experience if I were ever able to play something worth five times the price. Unlikely I'll find out anytime soon, alas!

The one time I've visited a specialist ukulele shop (World Of Ukes) Matt let me try a used steel string Pono baritone (worth about £1000 I think). I loved it, but he wouldn't let me buy at, at least partly because I told him he wasn't allowed to let me buy it. Something like that is still on my wishlist though...

I think the universal answer applies: you do you :).

(Aside: a couple of months ago I bought a really cheap baritone because sometimes, that's just the sound you want. I might be odd. Well, I am odd. I know that. But my favourite thing to do is multitrack recordings of a variety of ukes and having a huge range of sounds, good and bad, helps with that to my ears. I'm only interested in a new uke now if it brings something properly different to the mix. Unfortunately for my wallet, lots of ukes do that... I might need a banjolele next...)
Ditto that. I like to multi track as well , and the tonal difference between cheap instruments or more expensive can be interesting indeed. Like say beating on my desk or even proper made ethnic percussions for rhythm duties can give me interesting results. Here I play a lizard skin Indian Kanjira for percussions and an aluminium Hungarian water can for bass. Weird combo, but it works somehow. lol Oh, and a somewhat cheap laminate uke of course. hehe. https://on.soundcloud.com/7Xiaq Use it if you got it! If you don't ....improvise.
 
Oh man I remember those days when I was a teen and European military rifles were dirt cheap and a M1 Garand was $300. I still have a Swedish M38 Mauser around here some place that hasnt been fired in 20 years.

I also play bagpipes and the entry into those is around $1000 for a used set now. While there may be very cheap sets made in Pakistan, they arent serviceable and will be more of a hinderance to one's ability to play. Once you have a set of pipes you still need reeds for the chanter and drones which is another $100+. When its time to replace the bag that will be $300-$400. Lets not even discuss how expensive kilts and other accessories are if you're going to get those too…
I just recently joined a pipe band again. I’m glad they provide the drums! A snare drum fit for a pipe band starts around $750 or more. I’m not sure how much of the outfit I will need to get. We will see.

The ukulele is a relatively accessible hobby in many ways.

If that M38 is in military trim still it is probably worth a good bit now.

I have turned a few swords into plowshares! (or rifles into Ukes, in my case.) 🙂
 
There's a lot of replies here, 59 so far that span 5 pages. And, I've read every single one... in the first 3 pages (subtle joke). You're a fine musician, @Tactical Uke . The laminates you're playing now haven't held you back. And, I don't use "laminates" in any derogatory sense. I'm just using it as you used it in the replies I've read from you. Otherwise, I wouldn't have used it at all. You already seem to know what's prudent, and I agree with you. I don't fully understand why you're asking. You have my respect.
Maybe i was just trying to convince myself of a somewhat selfish pre birthday purchase that might comprise my 26 year marriage to the most amazing woman I ever met on this planet. LOL She is VERY tolerant of my musical indulgences and passions, but if all of a sudden a 1000 plus dollar/pound uke shows up , who knows. Also as an electronic music artist, I went through the same dilemma with synths. Not my first rodeo. hehe Gonna stick around the 500 bean price point for now methinks. Competition in that price bracket these days can offer a lot of bang for the buck. I think. God give me the strength to choose wisely. Probably going to have to do a vacation back to the UK to play some in person. Ordering online may prove to be a let down, no matter how much one is willing to pay from the sound of it.
 
I just recently joined a pipe band again. I’m glad they provide the drums! A snare drum fit for a pipe band starts around $750 or more. I’m not sure how much of the outfit I will need to get. We will see.
Is this a competition band or street band? Hopefully you'll just have to provide the ghillies and shirt.
 
Ditto that. I like to multi track as well , and the tonal difference between cheap instruments or more expensive can be interesting indeed. Like say beating on my desk or even proper made ethnic percussions for rhythm duties can give me interesting results. Here I play a lizard skin Indian Kanjira for percussions and an aluminium Hungarian water can for bass. Weird combo, but it works somehow. lol Oh, and a somewhat cheap laminate uke of course. hehe. https://on.soundcloud.com/7Xiaq Use it if you got it! If you don't ....improvise.
You sound fabulous. I love your creative use of percussion effects (here and in your other recordings), and you ROCK that ukulele! What’s more, you have an outstanding voice. Altogether, a classy combination. Sure, you’d do justice to a top-notch uke, and you deserve one. But in the meantime, you do damn well with what you’ve got.
 
These discussions come up now and again on the forums. And there’s something about them that bothers me. It has something to do with how musicians tend to undervalue and even belittle the ukulele.

When I played the violin, I played a $10,000 instrument and it was only a middling violin. In the early 1980s I had a chance to privately buy a truly outstanding one for $30,000 (a Vuillaume that would now cost half a million) but didn’t have that kind of money. I also didn’t have the talent to justify it.

The point is that a well-crafted hand-made instrument of the “serious” variety, whether violin or cello or classical guitar or flute or clarinet, could cost many thousands of dollars and nobody would blink. And even carefully made production instruments from good manufacturers are expected to be pricey.

But most people don’t regard a ukulele as a serious instrument. So they are shocked that a fine K-brand uke, or an exquisitely constructed luthier-made uke, costs more than $1,000. Kind of annoys me.
I don’t believe it requires talent to justify buying an expensive instrument. Simply a desire for an elevated musical experience - and a well-padded bank account - will do. :)
 
These discussions come up now and again on the forums. And there’s something about them that bothers me. It has something to do with how musicians tend to undervalue and even belittle the ukulele.

When I played the violin, I played a $10,000 instrument and it was only a middling violin. In the early 1980s I had a chance to privately buy a truly outstanding one for $30,000 (a Vuillaume that would now cost half a million) but didn’t have that kind of money. I also didn’t have the talent to justify it.

The point is that a well-crafted hand-made instrument of the “serious” variety, whether violin or cello or classical guitar or flute or clarinet, could cost many thousands of dollars and nobody would blink. And even carefully made production instruments from good manufacturers are expected to be pricey.

But most people don’t regard a ukulele as a serious instrument. So they are shocked that a fine K-brand uke, or an exquisitely constructed luthier-made uke, costs more than $1,000. Kind of annoys me.

I‘m not sure that I understand what you’re saying but might be partly there.

Let’s start with folk paying big bucks for ‘classical’ instruments. Some folk do do that and to my mind part of it is vanity and part of it is professional necessity. Does the average amateur musician need to pay large amounts for an instrument that matches their skills? Probably not but if their disposable income is high then they can have one anyway. Does a professional musician need an expensive instrument? Well being a professional musician is a competitive (competing) form of employment, status and any edge that you can get on the others who would take your place and fee is important. Personally I’m of the strong belief that true blindfold tests show that given reasonable instruments what matters is the player and the rest is all smoke and mirrors.

Do some classical musicians look down their noises at others? As far as I can see they definitely do and competition between them is fierce. It’s no holds barred and get out of the way. At one time they looked down of guitar players, well guess who are now the wealthiest musicians …

Do Uke players undervalue their instruments? Can’t say that I think that they do, but I do think that some other musicians over value theirs.
Are Ukuleles easier and cheaper to build than some other instruments? I’d say likely so and that might be reflected on new build prices.
We’ve drifted from the original post.
...Asking for my wife...lol
I mean really. Unless it's for status purposes like an expensive car, yet it gets you from point A to B, why would someone spend 1000's on a uke. Asking for me. I'm not talking the about 20 to 300 hundred bean range. I get that. More like 300 up. Does a insanely expensive uke just because it is made in Hawaii or by a renown luthier sound that much better than something more affordable made elsewhere?
 
Last edited:
I think I’ve got two sorts of ukulele purchases.

(1) Something I spot and think, “ooh, I want it”. It’s probably a second-hand bargain, and something I’ve heard good things about or that fits a niche. For example, my 1950s Kamaka (£250) fit here. Really, what’s too much depends on my ukulele savings (I have a ukulele savings pot for funding UAS). The amount I spend in this category is
limited - I try not to do it, but sometimes spot something hard to resist.

(2) I feel a craving for a particular sound, feel, or type of instrument, and then it costs what it costs. Maybe I can afford it, maybe I can’t and have to give up on the idea, maybe there are choices or they are limited. Things in this category can be more expensive but oftem aren’t. Example: my Beltona resonator was new and £800; research determined a cheaper resonator wouldn’t satisfy me so I saved for about a year.

in the second category, I can see the value for me in something up to just over the £1000 mark in tone and general quality, while being absolutely satisfied with some ukuleles which cost around half that or a bit less (my two Millars are superb, for instance, and I have no urge to “upgrade”). I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) spend nearly that much in the first category, and first category spendings interfere with the second category.

All this is just me. Others will form their own boundaries for a variety of reasons, depending on both philosophy and funds. I don’t want to get those two things confused.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom