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Lanikai LU-21T

Tenor Ukulele

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The Best Ukulele

Lanikai LU-21T

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: May 25, 2016

The best ukulele to buy for most people is the Lanikai LU-21. It has a consistent reputation for quality, is endorsed and used by working musicians you probably know. It also comes in many sizes and flavors depending on your playing style and skill level - so just move up or down the scale (pun!) to fit your needs.


Table of Contents

What makes a good ukulele

It should sound good, play easily, and stay in tune.

It should be a standard, concert, or tenor size uke. In the picture below, you can see the most common sizes. (There’s more sizes, too.)

The standard size will give you that typical acoustic ukulele sound.

The concert size pretty much sounds the same, although it’s also louder (due to the larger body size) and easier to play if you have grown-up hands. 😉

The tenor size starts to sound less like a ukulele on the lower notes and more like a classical guitar. It’s also a tad larger, so it’s easier to play. You’ll hear this size uke (and the concert) on a lot of albums.

ukulele sizespic via

If you’ve ever picked up one of those brightly colored flea market ukuleles for $10 or so, you know what a good ukulele is not. They rarely stay in tune, the string action is too high (above the fretboard) or inconsistent, and they often end up in the back of a closet or in the bottom of a toy box.

Once you get up over $50, and closer to the $100 range, you’ll see the quality improve dramatically.

There are so many brands of ukuleles that actually play well and are affordable these days. We could not possibly get our hands on every contender in this category. Our family has a few (including a pitiful flea market version), so we know what’s good.

Our pick

A great workhorse starter ukulele is the Lanikai LU-21. Not only does it have glowing recommendations on every single music gear website, including ukulele blogs, but it’s also used by some of today’s contemporary artists – Jason Mraz, Zach Condon (Beirut), Robert Plant, and a few others.

The other cool thing is that even though this is billed as a “starter uke”, it actually sits square in the middle of the pack. It’s not the fanciest, or the prettiest, but it does the one thing it is supposed to do well.

If you look around at other reviews on the web, you’ll find that many people, even after upgrading to more expensive ukes, will keep their Lanikai around as a backup, or hand it off to other aspiring uke players. They’re solid and reliable, and everyone that buys them seems to love them.

This Guitar Center customer noted:

I was apprehensive buying an instrument on-line that I hadn’t actually heard or seen. My fears were unfounded. The finish is excellent. The back of the fretboard is smooth and the frets are nicely finished so that you don’t feel them when you slide your hand up and down the neck. I comes with premium strings so no need to change them unless you want a different tuning. I had to tune a few times a day for the first few days as the strings stretched, but it has held tune for over a week now. The tone is very resonant and rich. I think the setup needs a very minor amount of tweaking. The E string seems to be very slightly more raised than the others and the tone on it isn’t quite as crisp. However, I’m no expert and at my level of playing it is so not an issue. I would recommend this as a first serious ukulele and the price is so reasonable it’s hard to go wrong.

Elizabeth gave her five-star feedback:

Inspired by bands like Beirut and Noah and the Whale I decided I wanted to learn to play ukulele. I bought this one because its the same one Zach Condon of Beirut plays and its a decent price. I am always afraid of being disappointed when I buy things online because pictures sometimes are misleading. Not in this case though; if anything, the picture doesnt do this ukulele justice! Its beautiful, and sounds just as pretty! It even comes with good strings (aquila). 5 stars!

Electric Options

Last year I got my daughter the Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele, and was more than pleasantly surprised. It looks like a little Les Paul, but doesn’t sound like a electric guitar unplugged – it sounds like a great acoustic uke. When it’s plugged in the undersaddle pickup provides a strong signal. I also purchased a Danelectro Honey Tone mini amp, which gives it a thick slightly overdriven sound, while preserving the sweetness of the acoustic uke sound.

Les-Paul-Acoustic-Electric-Ukulele

With a AAA grade flame maple top it looks pretty, the built-in piezo film undersaddle pickup sounds great, a gig bag is also included. It is a “concert” ukulele, with a 15-inch scale length.

It’s also not terribly more expensive than a regular uke, which means you can play along with your loud rock music friends live.

If you haven’t guessed, I strongly recommend the Epiphone Les Paul Concert Ukulele.

Conclusion

ukulele-diagram

As stated at the outset, there are so many different brands of decent quality ukulele, you can’t go wrong if you do some minimal shopping around.

Whatever you choose, the only way to really get your money’s worth is to play the hell out of it.

 

Happy playing!


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The Best Ukulele

Lanikai LU-21T

The Best Ukulele

Important Specs

Size Tenor
Frets 18
Bridge Rosewood
Fingerboard Rosewood
Body Eastern Mahogany (Nato)
Tuners Die Cast
Weight 1.4 lbs
Dimensions 26.2 x 9.4 x 3.2 inches
more specs

Synopsis:

Pros and enthusiasts love the Lanikai LU-21, which make it the smart choice for pretty much anybody. Recognized for quality and playability, it's also affordable, but you'll probably want to keep this one even if you move up to fancier models.

Lanikai LU-11

Budget Option

Lanikai LU-11

This Lanikai LU-11 is a soprano uke, made with cheaper parts, and the tuners aren't as great, but it still gets a lot great reviews. Great pick for around $55. Even with the inferior tuners it stays in tune pretty well, and is still infinitely better than those crappy flea market ones.

Epipone Les Paul Concert Uke

Electric Uke

Epipone Les Paul Concert Uke

We like this one a lot from playing it endlessly for the last year. It sounds suprisingly great unplugged, and the electronics in it maintain the uke sound while also giving it a little crunch when plugged in.

- M
Originally published: January 11th, 2016

Important Specs

Size Tenor
Frets 18
Bridge Rosewood
Fingerboard Rosewood
Body Eastern Mahogany (Nato)
Tuners Die Cast
Weight 1.4 lbs
Dimensions 26.2 x 9.4 x 3.2 inches
more specs



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