The question people most frequently ask me is: What brand of ukulele do you play?
My personal preference is to work with individual luthiers. There is something unique and appealing about owning a handmade instrument, especially one you have ordered. You can choose the type of woods, the type of tuners and various other details such as the action. You can even choose your decoration. I personally prefer no bling! For me it’s all about the sound and the playability. Luthiers usually have a waiting list and it is always hard to have to wait several months for your new ‘baby’. But it is also a time of great excitement and anticipation. There is nothing quite like that moment when you first touch the strings and the instrument becomes yours!
So how do go about ordering a ukulele from a luthier?
Individual luthiers have workshops rather than shops and while you can make appointments to visit their workshop orders are usually negotiated by email, and/or by phone. It’s a bit different from visiting a shop where you can try out and then buy an instrument off the shelf. Having said that, some shops such as the Southern Ukulele Store, do offer luthier made instruments from time to time. The up side of this is that you can play the instrument before buying. Purchasing directly from a luthier is certainly a leap of faith so you need to do your homework to make sure they are reputable and will make the instrument you want. The internet makes this possible. I’d also add that the luthiers I recommend (see below) are, from personal experience, very helpful and approachable.
Here are some ways you can research luthiers:
- Check their websites. You will be able to see photos of instruments they have made and sold. Sometimes they will have an ‘off the peg’ instrument for sale. You will be able to see the price and specifications. See if a high profile player has bought an instrument – often they will give a review.
- Check Youtube to see who is playing their instruments.
- Ask on ukulele forums and social media to get feedback from other players.
- There are also some excellent ukulele reviewers like Barry Maz of Got-a-Ukulele who will give an honest, down to earth opinion of ukuleles of all makes, sizes and price ranges.
- Find out about their return policy in the case that you are not completely satisfied with the instrument.
As I am based in the UK I have, so far, only worked with UK based luthiers. This is a more cost effective option for me than ordering from overseas and then having to pay VAT and import duties. That said, I do not rule out the possibility of ordering from non-UK based luthiers in the future.
I have worked with the following UK based luthiers. Click on the blue links below for more information about the instruments they have made for me. Before ordering I strongly recommend you talk directly to the luthier by phone. The phone is easier than email. In the case that you are not completely satisfied with your new ukulele make sure you are clear about their return policy. You should also make sure the ukulele has a guarantee and what the guarantee covers. Ask them to put this in writing. It actually works both ways in protecting both you and the luthier. Also make sure you are clear about who is going to pay for the transport costs.
Dave Morgan: my 5 string tenor
Liam Kirby: my mahogany soprano
Rob Collins: my mahogany soprano