You like the sound of ukuleles, right? But have you ever thought about spicing the tone of your instrument? I’ve always pondered over the idea of how tonewood limits the timbre of acoustic ukuleles—it was like a cage, where I was restricted to the tonal quality of my mahogany uke.
Strumming my friend’s electric ukulele has been an eye-opener for me. Just imagine the multitude of EQ effects (I’m a reverb/chorus guy) that you can color your uke’s tone with! The best thing here is that unlike an electric guitar, electric ukuleles can be played both ways: through the soundhole or an amp.
You probably think that you have a professional equip your acoustic ukulele with a preamp instead of buying an electric ukulele. This popped up in my mind, and it isn’t a very good idea since puncturing the tonewood will alter your uke’s sound, and it won’t resonate as a factory-calibrated ukulele with pickup.
So, amid all these obstacles and the poorly-handmade electric ukuleles, I decided to venture into this scene. Now, I take pride in my line-up of electric ukes, and I’m intrigued to share it to help find the best electric ukulele for you!
At a glance:
- Cordoba 20TM-CE – Best Overall
- Luna Tattoo Acoustic-Electric – Runner-Up
- Fender Grace VanderWaal Signature – Premium Choice
- Caramel CS419 – Best Soprano
- Aklot AKES21 – Best Value for Money Package
- Ellen Acoustic-Electric – Best Kit for Beginners
- Caramel CB904 – Best Baritone
- Donner DUT-4E – Best Tenor
- Fender Fullerton – Best Resonance
- Kmise UK-24 – Best Electric-Acoustic Concert Ukulele Under $100
The 10 Best Electric Ukuleles 2021
An electric-acoustic ukulele will give you the chance to mess with a wide array of effects while retaining the high-quality tonewood solid body of the acoustic ukuleles. I was just overwhelmed when I strummed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” after adding reverb and chorus to my tone. Coloring the sound of my ukulele with overdrive also sounded as insane as electric guitars! Let’s take you through my top picks.
1. Cordoba 20TM-CE – Best Overall
When a reputable brand like Cordoba, renowned for manufacturing acoustic string instruments, decides to turn its attention toward the electric-acoustic ukulele scene, you should know that a well-made instrument is the outcome. That’s what I expected when I plucked the strings of the Cordoba 20TM-CE for the first time!
Despite being an electric tenor ukulele, the 20TM-CE manages to stay on the feather-light side. I appreciated that when I knew this electric uke’s top, back, and sides of high-grade mahogany known for its warm sound. Cordoba finalizes this solid body with a natural satin finish with no contour bindings to convey the beauty of this uniform, connected soundboard.
Sliced into the soundboard is a soft cutaway, which helped me reach the territory beyond the 12th fret to access the higher register, something rare in the realm of acoustic ukuleles. While fretting notes, I liked the rosewood’s rigid feel, which aids in boosting the mid-range sound that we all crave while strumming the ukulele unplugged.
Since I used the Cordoba 15CM acoustic ukulele before, I feared that the bridge would be composite. Luckily, it’s made from rosewood! Being such a dense tonewood, rosewood helps retain every string’s pitch alongside the accurate nickel-plated tuning machines—intonation is just on-point.
Having found that both the nut and saddle are composite, I suspected that they’d wear out after extensive use with multiple string sets, but they surprisingly held the strings intact with no intonation problems in the long run. The string action even remained unchanged when I changed the pre-strung set!
What makes this ukulele sound charming while being plugged is the Cordoba 2-band EQ pickup lying underneath the saddle. Unlike cheap electric ukuleles, this one never lets a single string vibration flee without delivering it to the amp. On the side, you have a Cordoba preamp, where you can slide the faders to control treble, bass, and volume to get a wide variety of tones.
I shouldn’t let my inner critic roast something with this well-crafted masterpiece, yet I wish this acoustic-electric ukulele would feature a tuner built into the preamp. I think that Cordoba opts for this 2-band preamp to cut down the price, and I really respect that!
- All-mahogany solid body
- Soft cutaway
- Accurate undersaddle pickup w/ preamp
- Unplugged warm tone
- Stable intonation
- Sturdy rosewood bridge
- No built-in tuner
Well, the 20TM-CE was never about having 3-band EQ controls or an onboard tuner. For me, this instrument is the best electric ukulele for a couple of reasons: solid craftsmanship, reliable electronics, and intonation stability. Even the sliced cutaway is an indicator of how Cordoba is confident in this uke’s sound accuracy!
2. Luna Tattoo Acoustic-Electric – Runner-Up
Since I was mesmerized with the Luna Tattoo acoustic uke’s Hawaiian looks and great sound, I’ve been looking for an acoustic-electric equivalent. Luckily, my endeavor was one search away. I had the honor to lay my hands on the Luna Tattoo Acoustic-Electric ukulele, featuring the same high-quality solid body of the original instrument, but electrified!
Let’s just fill our eyes with this natural satin finish on top of the all-mahogany body—this electric version reserves the same visuals it had on the original acoustic ukulele; the shark’s teeth and the Hawaiian waves are interconnected in harmony! This solid-body instrument offers a tremendous deal of sound warmth if you choose to strum this ukulele unplugged.
It’s worth noting that this instrument has a lower mahogany grade than the Cordoba, which has a more solid feel when I knock on the top. Still, that doesn’t negate that this acoustic-electric concert ukulele boasts a genuine mahogany body with a sliced cutaway for enhanced playability.
While the back and sides are molded out of the same slab of mahogany, the fingerboard is from walnut, which you can tell from its two-tone color. Hold on for a moment as we look at the shark’s teeth again, but on the fingerboard—these Hawaiian references are everywhere on this concert electric ukulele!
This tonewood is so smooth to move your fingers on that you can execute your hammer-ons, slides, and pull-offs with ease. Like the fingerboard, Luna crafts the bridge from walnut, great for stabilizing intonation. The open-gear tuners are sturdy, but I didn’t like the plastic pegs of this instrument, although they didn’t spoil the intonation’s accuracy.
Like the Cordoba, the nut and saddle are composite; however, take a look at his Luna UK-9000 preamp! Despite having a 2-band EQ onboard, I was overhyped to see the presence fader, which controls the upper mid-range frequency to make this concert-sized instrument sound warmer!
Alongside presence, we’ve got bass and volume faders to obtain different tones. It’s very thoughtful of Luna to include a well-padded gig bag with the instrument with two adjustable shoulder straps; portability is at its finest with this electric concert ukulele.
Although I liked the Aquila Nylgut strings’ resonant sound in this one, the action was a tad weird. I think the solid plastic nut needs some sanding.
- Mahogany body
- Hawaiian visuals on the soundboard
- Reliable tuning machines and bridge
- Presence control for the preamp
- Warm sound from the undersaddle pickup
- No built-in tuner
- Plastic tuning pegs
- High action
The Luna Tattoo Acoustic-Electric rejuvenates the legacy of its well-reputed acoustic counterpart. Not only can you achieve a warm tonal quality while unplugging this electric ukulele, but you’ll also have the upper hand in boosting the mid-range frequency, thanks to the competent preamp that Luna perfects!
3. Fender Grace Vanderwaal Signature – Premium Choice
Imagine you didn’t know that electric ukuleles were even a thing and then come across one from Fender! Being a well-established string instrument manufacturer, Fender has ventured into the ukulele realm with Grace VanderWaal, for whom this signature electric ukulele was made. This young artist strums this one with confidence to this day. So, what’s the secret here?
Yes, this all-Sapele body is hiding something exceptional regarding tonal quality—that’s what I’ve always thought about this tonewood. Delivering a wide range of tones, this acoustic-electric ukulele also leans toward brightness instead of pure mid-range warmth. Yet, it doesn’t get too treble-heavy, thanks to Sapele’s pronounced upper-midrange sound.
Grace Vanderwaal was a kid when Fender released this concert uke as a tribute for her. So, the fingerboard is crafted from walnut for its seamless surface. Chord changes have been a breeze for me on this fingerboard!
The string action was noticeably flawless compared to other electric ukuleles—I felt that I applied little-to-no pressure while fretting every note. Fingerboards aside, I find the bridge a very good reason for this concert ukulele to be our premium pick. Being hard-tail, string changes are almost effortless with it since you won’t have to tie knots or pass the strings through loopholes.
If you’ve been in the music scene for a while, you’ll recognize this ukulele as a one from Fender only by taking a glimpse of the headstock that houses 4 gold-plated tuning machines. This in-line pegs distribution made me feel like a rockstar while kicking this ukulele back in tune. Combine that with the hardwood bridge, and you’re off to a pristine intonation!
This concert-sized ukulele boasts a resonant sound out of the hole, but how well does the sound quality fair out of an amp? Well, it’s even better! You’re looking at a Fishman Kula preamp, which powers up the undersaddle pickup of this instrument.
Remember when I stated that Sapele inclines toward crispness? You can have a say in the frequency parameters with the preamp, using the 3 knobs for bass, mid, and treble. Luckily, we get an onboard tuner on this one.
You’re most likely anticipating my complaint about the price tag. Yes, this piece of perfection is pricey.
- Premium solid body
- Great acoustic upper-midrange sound
- Smooth walnut fingerboard
- Well-measured string action
- In-line tuning machines w/ accurate intonation
- Excellent preamp w/ onboard tuner
Price remains the only drawback that one can utter in front of the sought-after aesthetics, sound quality, and precision-milled craftsmanship of Fender’s Grace Vanderwaal Signature. Signature ukulele models are known for their buttery-smooth playability, and this electric ukulele stands on top of the signature hierarchy!
4. Caramel CS419 – Best Soprano
When I first held this electric ukulele, I appreciated how weighty its solid body was. In the realm of soprano ukuleles, weight is synonymous with high quality, considering how feather-light soprano ukuleles are—most of them are even made of plastic. Surprisingly, the Caramel CS419 has something to offer here. In fact, there’s a myriad of accessories that come with it!
Caramel crafts this solid-body electric ukulele from mahogany, an excellent tonewood choice since soprano ukuleles are known for their sparkly tone that this tonewood usually neutralizes, but not to a great extent. Right where the neck joins the body, I spotted the walnut hardwood on the fingerboard. Thanks to its seamless feel, it’s the best match for a soprano uke.
Caramel knows that soprano ukes unravel the “easy-to-play” mindset, and this mindset adoption is evident in the bridge choice. First off, I’m impressed with how we have a real hardwood bridge at this price point. I also really liked the incorporation of pin bridges: you just pass the strings through the saddle and snap the bridge pins in place—simple as that!
The headstock here takes me back to when I’d play my classical guitar as my first venture into a string instrument. Memories aside, the tuning pegs are exceptionally solid, and so are the open-gear tuners. However, this soprano electric ukulele is prone to slipping out of tune if you don’t tie the strings in complex knots around the pegs.
Intonation has been mediocre with me, so far. The notes sound slightly flat as you approach the 12th fret. Yet, it’s almost unnoticeable unless you’re a critical listener. You may forget about that when you look at the buffalo bone nut and saddle, which are definitely better than plastic in holding the ear-filling Aquila Nylgut strings intact.
Caramel is really aware of how bright soprano ukuleles tend to sound. To remedy that, it reinforces this acoustic-electric one with a 3-band preamp, where you can tweak the bass, treble, and mid knobs to add warmth to the naturally-crisp tonal quality. Moreover, I’m fond of that LCD screen that displays the notes the onboard tuner detects.
Caramel includes an abundance of extras with this one: an extra set of Aquila strings, a well-padded gig bag, a cleaning cloth, 3 plectrums, a strap with pins, a wall hanger, and a cable for a direct plug-and-play experience.
- Solid top
- Easy-to-install bridge
- Classical guitar-style headstock
- Upper-midrange tone profile
- Three-band equalizer on the preamp
- Onboard tuner with LCD screen
- Comes with accessories
- Sloppy intonation
- High action
The Caramel CS419 has marked the pinnacle of amplifying an electric soprano ukulele. I guess the increased tonewood and three-band EQ can solely denote how well-built this instrument is without delving into details. It even seems like Caramel establishes confidence in their instrument by providing a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee!
5. Aklot AKES21 – Best Value for Money Package
Aklot manages to slay the budget-friendly price segment with this all-encompassing package. At the core of this kit lies a solid-body electric ukulele. Being soprano-sized, I doubted that it’d sound up to par when I contemplated the price tag. However, the opposite happened—this instrument is a real bargain, and it betters with age!
While entirely crafted from mahogany, the solid top has some laminate in the genuine tonewood blend, something I anticipated at this price point. However, this doesn’t compromise on the full, bright tone of your average soprano ukulele. On the contrary, I liked how Aklot went with craftsmanship to the next level with these precise rounded contours instead of cream bindings.
Aklot doesn’t identify the tonewood of the fingerboard in this electric ukulele. However, I’d go for a walnut laminate because it conveys a super smooth sensation. You’ll get this buttery nylon strings’ feel, especially if you factor in the well-sanded fret wires and the low action. Overall, I’m satisfied with the minimal effort I have to exert for chord changes.
Installed on the headstock are sturdy 18:1 open-gear tuning machines. Each gear has 18 pins to increase string tension so that this acoustic-electric ukulele won’t go out of tune. Despite having no problems with tuning retention, this ukulele doesn’t boast the intonation accuracy I expected. I’d attribute that to the overly low action, making the notes sound flat down the fingerboard.
The potential of a bright tone quality has undoubtedly come across Aklot’s mind. For that, this acoustic-electric ukulele has a three-band preamp carved into its side to control the tonal characteristics (bass, mid, and treble) of the undersaddle piezo pickup. Like the CS419, it features an onboard tuner with an LCD screen, lighting green for well-tuned notes.
Aklot backs its ukulele up with a plethora of accessories: a thick-padded gig bag, a cleaning cloth, a strap (strap pins are pre-installed), an extra string set, two plectrum packs, and an instruction booklet for starters. What I like about that quick start guide is that it complements the 9 online lessons that you gain access to after registering your instrument!
- Overall bright sound (adjustable to warmth)
- Excellent build quality
- Well-made tuning machines
- Easy-to-fret fingerboard
- Versatile preamp w/ tuner
- Comes with accessories and lessons
- Mediocre tonewood-laminate blend
- Intonation problems
Playing ukuleles has never been a luxury, and it will never be so long as the Aklot AKES21 and its likes still exist in the music industry. Despite not featuring a 100% authentic tonewood blend, this ukulele exhibits a full sound on EQ effects when plugged, thanks to the high-quality preamp and undersaddle pickup that Aklot utilizes.
6. Ellen Acoustic-Electric – Best Kit for Beginners
When I started plucking the strings of my first ukulele, I craved an instant plug-and-play experience. After spending a while with my cheap ukulele, I found this gem lying underneath the overrated (and overpriced) uke packages. Fellow musicians, behold the Ellen Acoustic-Electric ukulele, with amp!
At the heart of this kit shines the concert-sized Ellen ukulele, whose matte black finish mesmerized my eyes, especially when it contrasts with the cream bindings along the soundboard contours. Constructed from a mahogany-spruce blend, this solid-body electric ukulele gives off a spatial, mid-range sound that resonates well while unplugged.
Rosewood is a wise choice for fingerboards, especially for beginners. In my opinion, a rosewood fingerboard is better than a walnut one when it comes to toughening your fingertips and getting used to the technique of a string instrument. Besides, I really liked the cross-shaped fret inlays for the 3rd, 5th, 9th, and the 12th fret!
The string action is just “OK” for a beginner—I experienced zero fret buzzes, but it’s a bit high. On the headstock, the fully-closed gears gave me an implication that this ukulele can preserve the tuning. Unfortunately, the G string goes out of tune, but not frequently—it only happens when you change the strings, which is still unusual.
Are you excited to make this instrument sound warm? Ellen thought that the warmth-inducing tonewood wasn’t enough and decided to slam a three-band UK-500T preamp with a mid-range knob to cancel out any treble-heavy sound when combining high notes with bass lines. Next to the volume fader lies an LCD screen that displays the onboard tuner’s settings.
Included with this concert instrument is a wide range of accessories, most prominently a small Ellen-branded amplifier with a 2-band equalizer and an audio cable for an instant plug-and-play experience! Additionally, you get a sufficiently-padded gig bag, three plectrums, a string set, a strap, and a power supply for the amplifier.
- Genuine solid body
- Decent unplugged sound
- Premium rosewood fretboard
- Warm tone while plugged
- Preamp with tuner
- Comes with gig bag and amp
- Slightly high action
- Slips out of tune after restringing
If you’re looking for beginner electric ukuleles, this package from Ellen offers what makes your practice sessions an intuitive process with the included amplifier and accessories. Even if a string gets cut, you have a whole set at your disposal. No excuses—practice makes perfect!
7. Caramel CB904 – Best Baritone
The B in the CB904 stands for baritone. If you’re seeking a punchy, bass-heavy electric ukulele without missing the crisp sound of the treble tone, then a baritone uke like the Caramel CB904 is your instrument of choice. There are many perks that I’m overhyped to unveil, having spent a whole month fretting the fingerboard of this “deep” instrument.
At first glance, I felt dizzy while searching for the soundhole of this one. This classical guitar-style electric ukulele has it positioned near the side facing you and divided into 5 holes. Luthiers experienced with a string instrument like ukulele relocate the soundhole to enhance the upper-midrange acoustic sound, which is the main reason for having a baritone ukulele.
Caramel constructed the body out of solid ebony. If you have a smattering of tonewoods, you know that ebony leans toward generating a high-end tone with a bit of shimmer. The manufacturer does that to neutralize any overly punchy bass sound, giving this instrument a very neutral tonal quality—Caramel nailed it with this one!
However, Caramel didn’t state the wood slab used for the bridge and the fingerboard. The transitions weren’t as smooth as expected when I fretted a random melody, so chances are they’re both composite. My guesswork turned into fact when I noticed the relatively high string action; this ukulele is better reserved for intermediate players.
The 18:1 copper geared tuners excel at keeping this ukulele in tune, despite the composite bridge. I couldn’t tune this ukulele without resorting to the Caramel preamp embedded into the ebony body. With knobs for bass, mid-range, and high-end, you even can make this baritone sound like a treble-heavy soprano uke!
For this ukulele-sized gem, Caramel provides a well-cushioned gig bag, an audio cable, a cleaning cloth, a wall hanger, a leather strap, three plectrums, and a set of Aquila strings. Unfortunately, the strap pins aren’t pre-installed. So, rendering this ukulele strap-ready will cost you a visit to a music store.
- Solid ebony body
- Relocated soundhole for added bass punch
- Premium striped finish
- State-of-the-art preamp
- Stays in tune
- Comes with accessories
- Uncomfortable fingerboard for starters
- No strap pins
The CB904 unleashes the full-fledged baritone experience for all ukulele players. Unlike most manufacturers, Caramel never misses a checkpoint in this instrument. From aesthetics and build quality to the informed choice of tonewood, this ukulele will particularly have a place in any basshead’s heart!
8. Donner DUT-4E – Best Electric Tenor
Ever wondered why electric tenor ukuleles are on the rise? Advanced or intermediate players predominantly rock this type of ukulele for live performance. To put that into perspective, an electric tenor ukulele is almost as widespread as a Les Paul electric guitar on stage. So, the Donner DUT-4E has been an integral part of my music pursuit, and that’s for a good reason!
In this instrument, you’re looking at the standard solid mahogany body, praised for striking a balance between tone depth and brightness. Since we’re talking about a tenor ukulele, the soundboard’s body is noticeably wider than a concert one, further refining the tonewood’s mid-range register.
One unique thing about the soundboard is the beveled arm wrist, marked in black to act as a reference to where you should place your arm while practicing to yield better results. Having a rosewood fingerboard is expected from a tenor ukulele; if not for the targeted intermediate audience, it’d definitely aim at enhancing the muscle memory of beginners—all are welcome!
I like that Donner manufactures the nut and saddle from real cattle bone. Unlike plastic, this material offers better sound reverberation and, of course, better durability alongside handling string tension. The great-sounding Aquila strings form knots around two pairs of 18:1 tuning gears, robust enough to keep your instrument in tune.
Let’s visualize how this tenor-style electric ukulele sounds like when you plug it into an amp. The preamp located on the side is very straightforward with 4 knobs: 3 for EQ controls and one for volume control. The LCD screen lights up when you press the Tuner button to activate the onboard tuner. Overall, I had the luxury of experimenting with tons of timbres with this preamp.
In addition to the subtly altered intonation, there’s a minimal drawback to the undersaddle pickup. It seems like it’s not positioned well since it didn’t detect my muted strums to send it to the amp. Other than that, it gives the resonant sound you’d expect from a uke. Alongside the purchase, you get a Donner-branded gig bag, a strap (with pins), and an extra string set.
- Genuine solid tonewood
- Beveled armrest
- Neutral sound while unplugged
- Stable tuning machines
- Preamp with tuner
- Comes with accessories
- Undersaddle pickup misses muted notes
- Subtle intonation shift
The Donner DUT-4E is the electric tenor ukulele that’ll stand as a loyal companion on stage, around bonfires, and in gatherings! Thanks to its solid tuning machines, you’ll be ready to kick it back in tune in case things go south. Despite the downside regarding muted strums, this technique is as rare as hen’s teeth in uke songs!
9. Fender Fullerton – Best Resonance
Apparently, Fender has broadened its musical forays into the world of ukuleles with its Fullerton series, intended to reignite the spirit of rock with a multitude of concert ukes, well-made with the refined craftsmanship guidelines of the manufacturer. This Fender Fullerton combines the vibes of a Stratocaster electric guitar and a Hawaiian concert uke!
Fullerton is a great name choice since it’s an indicator of how this Stratocaster-style electric ukulele sounds like: full. Unlike traditional ukes, this concert ukulele has a considerably wide soundboard for improved sound reverberation—it almost boasts the same width as a standard acoustic guitar! Underneath the sunburst finish lies a solid slab of mahogany for a warm tone.
Like the Vanderwaal Signature, this one also exhibits a hard-tail bridge that enables you to effortlessly change the string set—no more intricate knots from now on! Fretting the notes on this walnut fingerboard has also been a breeze, especially when you count in the precisely-sanded fret wires.
Actually, the first thing my eyes landed on was the beautiful Stratocaster headstock with its in-line tuning machines. These nickel tuning pegs are extremely durable and will keep the instrument in tune even if you’re an aggressive strummer. When you strike an II-V-I chord progression, you’ll notice how infallible the Aquila strings’ action was.
I deem the proprietary Fender preamp to be the most discernible showpiece of this instrument—the onboard tuner is incredibly accurate, and the bass and the treble knobs allowed me to make great use of the variable tones that the undersaddle pickup can execute; a huge benefit for improving my playing dynamics!
In the music industry, Fender is almost an adjective for expensive. If I had anything else to complain about, it’d be the lack of a third EQ knob for controlling the mid-range.
- Expansive soundboard
- Stratocaster shape
- Overall warm tone
- Hard-tail bridge
- Rugged tuning machines
- Excellent preamp with tuner
- Hefty price tag
- No mid-range band
I’d consider the Fender Fullerton the peak of sound reverberation in the realm of ukes. Thanks to the Stratocaster form factor, Fender succeeds in transposing its age-old and musician-approved craftsmanship to the realm of ukes with high-quality tonewoods, tuning machines, and electronics!
10. Kmise UK-24 – Best Concert Under $100
C is for concert, or cadence—we reach the end of our electrified Hawaiian endeavors with the Kmise UK-24. Kmise incorporates an uncanny tonewood blend in their affordable electro-acoustic uke. Unlike many ukuleles that utilize a uniform body of solid hardwood, the UK-24 boasts a merger of two contrasting tonewoods. Let’s pluck these strings!
We’re standing in front of a Spruce body paired with Sapele back and sides. While Spruce adds depth to the tone profile, the Sapele neutralizes the warmth with an upper-midrange boost that emphasizes the treble notes. Luckily, the tonal quality leans toward sheer neutrality as far as the bare acoustic sound is concerned; hats off to Kmise!
I’m happy that we’ve got the praised rosewood fingerboard here since fretting the notes should be a breeze with these low-action Aquila strings. These strings are bound to stay in tune, thanks to the saddle and nut being made out of authentic bone, not plastic. Let that sink in while you know that the tuners are fully closed. Zero intonation problems, so far!
Kmise rigs this uke out with a three-band equalizer with a master volume knob and three knobs for bass, mid, and treble. The onboard tuner features an LCD screen displaying the open string names when you pluck them.
Although the undersaddle pickup never misses a beat, the bass tends to cast a shadow over the treble, leaving the high-end notes unnoticed in the background. Actually, this is funny since ukes’ tonal problems always lie in treble being the dominant frequency!
- Excellent tonewood choice
- Overall neutral tone (unplugged)
- Precise intonation
- 3-band preamp
- Punchy bass when plugged
- Average build quality
For the price tag, the UK-24 is considered second-to-none in the concert realm, given the clear-sighted tonewood choice Kmise opts for. Although craftsmanship isn’t in its prime here, you’ll enjoy strumming this uke with an abundance of tones to experiment with!
Electric Ukulele Buying Guide & FAQ
You’re likely to have some malfunctions remaining unnoticed in your future electric uke. I’ve found that most manufacturers compromise on the build in favor of electronics as if musicians will leave this problem unchecked. For that, I want to share 4 rules of thumb you should follow to ensure you get the best electric ukulele.
Materials: Get These Tonewoods Right!
If you’ve been following until this point, you must’ve noticed that this type of uke gives you the best of both worlds: you can play it either plugged or unplugged. So, guaranteeing a genuine tonewood build shouldn’t be an afterthought. Let me walk you through the tonal characteristics of some hardwood species to know what to opt for.
Mahogany is the most common choice for solid-body electro-acoustic ukes. Its output is generally midrange-oriented, the best match for typically bright-sounding instruments like ukuleles. The all-mahogany ukes or the ones that have their back and sides made of mahogany incline toward generating a sustained, warm tone.
Unlike mahogany, if your instrument is spruced up, you’ll get a tone palette that favors the upper-midrange spectrum. Consequently, it tends to sound brighter and fuller by providing more sustain than the former. If you’re a master of dynamics, you’ll be able to harness the subtle timbres that Spruce can generate.
A novice luthier may not distinguish Sapele and mahogany—they look exactly the same. Being denser, Sapele is known for its treble-heavy, sparkly sound. So, manufacturers tend to balance Sapele’s bright effect by implementing mahogany for sides and back.
Found in high-end ukes, the palette that a Koa body produces takes you to the Paradise of the Pacific, being the epitome of the midrange boost, sustain, and volume magnitude. Koa is considered the only tonewood where bass doesn’t throw treble or mid-range notes in the background, or vice versa.
Rosewood and Walnut
Both tonewoods are generally used to mold fingerboards. I’ve always thought of rosewood fingerboards as the standard: they’re dense, tough, and enhance the resonance of the desired warm tone palette. On the contrary, walnut fingerboards are well-suited for beginners, thanks to their buttery, smooth sensation.
Intonation: Consistency Equals Freedom
Knowing that you can fret any high note without worrying about it sounding flat/sharp has been my definition OF freedom in the world of string instruments. You’d want to check the intonation accuracy via using a tuner. Strike the open strings and compare their accuracy to their equivalents up an octave, at the 12th fret.
Many factors determine your electric ukulele’s intonation fate, the neck being the most prominent. Twisted necks alter the string action (height), and, in turn, change the scale length of different strings, resulting in a different pitch for the fretted notes as you go down the fingerboard.
Here are tips to ensure maximum intonation precision for your electric ukulele:
- Take the bridge as a vantage point to observe whether the neck is twisted.
- Finger similar frets on all strings to identify whether the string height is ubiquitous.
- Measure the scale length for each string and see if it matches your uke’s standard size.
If your electric uke ticks all these boxes, grab a tuner and fret every note to see how it deviates from the perfect intonation, denoted through the note blinking green on the tuner’s screen. Note that no intonation is perfect in string instruments. So, if it deviates slightly, you’re off to a great start.
Electronics: Dissecting Pickups
Electric ukuleles work through pickups based on the piezo system. In ukes, piezo pickups adopt a stationary undersaddle position to receive the string vibrations’ frequency to send it to the amplifier.
Undersaddle piezo pickups are more efficient than ones affixed to the soundboard since they’re located closer to the body to catch the raw vibration that the tonewood naturally generates. When you plug your first electric uke, make sure to try out muted strums and natural harmonics—these techniques act as an indicator of how accurate the pickup is.
Controlling the undersaddle pickup is the embedded preamp on the side. Note that not all the best electric ukuleles have a mid-range knob or fader on the preamp. On the contrary, manufacturers may be so confident in the tonewood that they don’t bother adding an EQ setting for a mid-range boost.
On the flip side, it’s thoughtful to have an onboard tuner for your best electric-acoustic ukulele.
Can You Play an Electric Ukulele Without an Amp?
Undoubtedly! That’s why manufacturers pay due care to the tonewood choice in their amplifier-ready ukes. Due to the presence of a soundhole, you can play an electric uke in its unplugged mode. There’s another type of electric uke that doesn’t have a soundhole, which you can’t play without an amp since the sound has no room to reverberate.
Is an Electric Ukulele Worth It?
Yes! It’s a blessing to know that you can plug your ukulele into an amplifier when needed while retaining the ability to play acoustically like normal ukes. Also, the idea of adding effects like wah-wah, chorus, reverb, and flanger is hugely enticing. You know what’s not worth it? Having your acoustic uke equipped with a preamp at a store—it’ll damage the tonewood.
How Can I Add Effects to the Output of My Electric Ukulele?
You can use pedals from renowned manufacturers like Boss, DigiTech, Dunlop, or Electro-Harmonix. These manufacturers also make multi-effects processors that you can connect to the amp.
Crank up That Amp!
Delving into the realm of the best electric ukuleles wasn’t easy for me, but I’m glad I converted this deep dive into an article, where you have all you need to know to turn that volume knob all the way up! If I were to choose, I’d go for Cordoba’s 20TM-CE for its full-fledged electronics, authentic hardwood, and that sliced cutaway for improved playability!