Ukuleles that Aren’t Ukuleles


With the ever increasing popularity of ukuleles as the “go to” instrument for many recreational musicians around the globe, it only stands to reason that instrument makers would want to capitalize on the public’s growing interest.

So, outside of the immediate ukulele family a variety of offshoot instruments have cropped up thanks to innovative builders. Many of these instruments, though based on ukuleles, are unique unto themselves, and can appeal to just about anyone. Making Music takes a look at a few.


Yamaha GL1 Guitalele

Half guitar, half ukulele, the Yamaha GL1 Guitalele is a unique mini six-string nylon guitar that is sized like a baritone ukulele (17-inch scale) and plays like a guitar. The Guitalele’s tuning is A-D-G-C-E-A. Its features include spruce top; meranti back, side, and ribs; nato neck; and sonokeling fingerboard and bridge. First introduced by Yamaha way back in 1997, it only recently became available in the US.


Gold Tone Banjolele

The banjolele is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. Unlike the U-Bass and Guitalele, which are more recent phenomena, the banjolele can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s when it achieved its greatest popularity. Banjo ukuleles parallel banjo construction, on a smaller scale. The banjolele neck typically has 16 frets. Banjolele can be heard in the theme song to the television show Arrested Development. Features on this Gold Tone banjolele include a maple neck, ebony fingerboard, bone nut, curly maple headstock inlay, no knot tailpiece, and Grover style metal-geared tuners.


Kala U-Bass

The Kala U-Bass is a groundbreaking short scale (21-inch) bass that produces the same pitches as a standard bass and is tuned in traditional bass tuning: EADG. Available in fretless and fretted models, the U-Bass is strung with proprietary polyurethane strings that incorporate a great bass feel with balanced tension. It produces such an incredibly big sound that famous players like Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon) and Hutch Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt) have been gravitating toward it ever since it was unveiled several years ago. Features include mahogany back, sides, and neck; solid spruce top; rosewood fingerboard and bridge; custom die cast tuners; a custom Shadow bass pickup with four individual piezo elements; and separate compensated saddles for each string.


ukulelesEleuke Electric MP3 Ukulele

The Eleuke is a solid-body electric ukulele built to go from subtle, sweet uke-type sounds to in-your-face scorching, electric guitar-like wickedness. It features under-the-saddle piezo pickup and a quarter-inch jack to plug into an amp and mix with effects pedals. You can blast anything from punk rock songs to jazz standards to traditional ukulele ballads. For quiet practice, the Eleuke has a headphone jack for silent practice and an MP3 input to jam along to your favorite songs.

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