Beginner’s Guide to Electric Ukuleles (How to Tutorial : Easy)

07/02/2020
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While it’s unlikely to ever gain mainstream popularity…

There’s just something awesome about the electric ukulele.

And if you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you agree.

But whether you’re buying one to record your next masterpiece…

Or to simply jam on your headphones…

You still need to thoroughly educate yourself on the instrument first, right?

So for today’s post, that’s exactly what I intend to help you do.

Now let’s begin by clearing up a common confusion about this instrument…

 

The 3 Varieties of “Electric” Ukuleles

electric ukulele body typesThe term “electric ukulele” can really mean any one of 3 things:

  1. Solid Body Electric – which is basically an electric guitar shrunk down to the size of a ukulele.
  2. Electro-Acoustic – which is a hollow-body ukulele designed with a piezo pickup, that is primarily intended to sound best when amplified.
  3. Acoustic w/ Pickup – which is a hollow-body ukulele with an addedpiezo pickup, that is primarily designed to sound best acoustically.

Now…since this post is about electric ukuleles, we will cover the first two types, but NOT the 3rd.

Let’s begin…

The Top 8 Budget Electric Ukuleles

Since the vast majority of musicians think of electric ukuleles as a “novelty” rather than “serious” instrument…

Very rarely will you find someone looking to spend more than a few hundred dollars.

So for this first list, all picks are within that price range.

First up…

1. Vorson FSUK

vorson fsukIf all you want is a mini version of your favorite guitar…that’s cheap, fun to play with, and cool-looking…

There’s no better choice than the Vorson line of tenor-sized electric ukuleles.

Their 3 top sellers are replicas of the following classics:

  • the Stratocaster
  • the Telecaster
  • the Les Paul

And each model comes in a choice of black, flame maple, or quilt maple.

But besides the body shape, there seems to be little difference in the sound and features of each model…so choose whichever one looks coolest to you.

 

Up next…

2. Fender Ukulele ’52

fender ukulele 52Now that we’ve seen some cool Fender knock-offs…

Let’s see how they compare to a ukulele made by Fender themselves:

The Fender Ukulele ’52.

Modeled after the classic ’52 Telecaster, this ukulele is the perfect example of an “electro-acoustic” that sounds much better when amped.

And while it costs almost 2x the Vorsons…

It’s still pretty cheap compared to some of the boutique models I’ll show you later in this post.

A few notable specs include:

  • concert size
  • spruce top, mahogany back/sides/neck
  • rosewood fingerboard
  • high-G tuning

Up next…

3. Epiphone Les Paul

epiphone electric ukulele

Known by the world as the “other” legendary name in electric guitar manufacturing…

It’s no surprise that Epiphone has their own unique take on this instrument was well.

Also in the category of “electro-acoustic” ukuleles, the Epiphone Les Paul shows many similarities to the Fender ’52.

It’s a hollow-body w/ piezo pickup that sounds mediocre when unplugged, but much better when amped.

One nice thing this Les Paul has that the Fender does NOT is…strap buttons!

For all you “non-ukulele” players who need a strap, this feature is definitely worth noting.

 

Up next…

4. Mahalo EUK-200

Mahalo EUK200As the first and only traditional ukulele manufacturer on this list…

The Mahalo Ukulele Company has a certain amount of authority in the world of acoustic ukuleles compared to the other brands we’ve seen thus far.

And according to most reviews, they make a pretty awesome electric ukulele as well.

Among their most popular current models is the concert-sized Mahalo EUK-200.

Notable features include:

  1. active preamp w/ 9V battery
  2. headphone jack
  3. mp3/smartphone aux input

These 3 features combined allow you to practice along with your favorite songs while listening quietly on headphones.

And the knobs on the body allow you to blend the live sound with the backing track for a perfect mix.

Up next…

5. Eleuke Peanut

eleuke peanut

Short for “electric-ukulele” (at least I assume)…

Eleuke is one of the few established companies that specialize in this one particular instrument.

Their most popular model by far is the Eleuke Peanut.

My guess is: its popularity has a lot to do with the design…pretty cute, huh?

Although some people say the unusual body shape can feel awkward to hold at first.

Just like the Mahalo EUK-200, the Eleuke Peanut has:

  • an internal preamp
  • a headphone jack
  • and an mp3/smartphone jack
  • volume mixers

…making it perfect for silent practicing.

One unique feature that I absolutely love is the rechargeable preamp battery that lasts up to 4 years before needing replacement.

Up next…

6. Traveler Guitar Ukulele

Traveler Guitar UkuleleWhile it doesn’t look much like a ukulele…

Or a guitar for that matter…

Almost all the reviews on the Traveler Guitar Ukulele are top notch.

For practicing during travel, there’s simply no better option.   And here’s why:

  1. Small Size – its weight is just 1 lb 7 oz, and its length is just 18″.
  2. Durability – it’s made of solid wood and is tough to damage.  Also the location of the tuning keys keeps them well-protected.
  3. Low Volume – when played acoustically, it’s extremely quiet.  Some people even claim to practice it on the airplane without disturbing their neighbors.

However, one notable flaw with its design is that it CAN’T connect to headphones directly…

So if you like this model, I suggest pairing it with a guitar headphone amp such as the Vox amPlug AC30 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Up next…

The Best High-End Options

boutique electric ukulelesThese days 99% of music gear is bought on:

  • Amazon,
  • Guitar Center,
  • Musician’s Friend, or
  • Sweetwater

And that’s because…they sell virtually EVERYTHING.

However, with electric ukuleles…this simply isn’t true.

Because for some reason, the majority of high-end boutique models are only available through manufacturer’s websites.

They’re not easy to find, but luckily I’ve already done the research for you.

As you’ll see, most of these sites are crappy, and difficult to order from.  And the prices they charge are several times what the previous ukuleles cost.

But if you want the best of the best, these are the top 4 brands I suggest:

  • Blue Star Guitar Company – specializing in pineapple-shaped, and custom-designed ukuleles, check them out if you want an affordable, one-of-a-kind instrument.
  • Risa – Of all the stock ukuleles on the list, many people say that the Risa Les Paul is simply the best.  The problem is, it’s only available on Amazon UK, so there’s no easy way to buy one if you don’t live there. Another popular model to check out is the Risa Stick – (Amazon/Thomann).
  • Mann – one of the priciest brands on this list, check these guys out if want to see what a $1000-$2000 electric ukulele looks like.
  • Ukelation – so unique, it’s in a category all it’s own, the Ukelation is actually an all-in-one electric setup, with an amplifier and effects-chain built right into the body!!!  Of course, prices for this instrument start at $2500 and go all the way up to $4000 for a custom-built design.

Because the Ukelation is so incredibly unique, I want to show you this quick video explaining how it works.

And Finally…Some Amps

HoneytoneIdeally, to get the best possible sound from an electric ukulele…

Your best bet is to use a full-sized amp (or PA) that you already own.

Since a ukulele’s pitch range falls entirely within that of a guitar’s, virtually any standard guitar amp will work.

However, if for YOU…the main of appeal of the electric ukulele is portability…

It only makes sense to buy an amp that’s just as portable as the instrument itself.

So in that case, here are some popular options to check out: