On your hunt for a new ukulele, you will come across some of the more traditional styles, such as concert, soprano, tenor, or baritone ukes. However, today we are focusing solely on a niche ukulele category -– it’s electric ukuleles!
As with some of the other unique ukes on the market -– such as bass ukuleles or banjoleles –- electric ukes are only likely to appeal to certain players. However, there are several choices worth highlighting, which is what we plan to do in this article.
Whether you are looking for something to gig with, something to travel with, or simply something with killer looks to impress your pals with, take a dive into the chart below. Stick around after this for a quick guide to these intriguing instruments.
What Is an Electric Ukulele?
While the obvious answer would be a ukulele that has the means to plug into an amp, we classify electric ukuleles as slightly different from electro-acoustic ukes. For example, a traditional concert uke or soprano uke, as found on our chart of the best ukuleles, will function primarily as an acoustic instrument, although may feature its own electronics.
However, electric ukuleles will always have a pickup and a solid body. That means playing them acoustically won’t result in much of a sound. Sure, you can dry practice on them, but buying one is a bit of a waste of money unless you plan on plugging in.
Ultimately, the differences between electric ukes and normal ukes are not that far away from the differences between an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar.
Tonally, electric ukes are quite unique. They sound closer to an electric guitar than a traditional acoustic ukulele, with the steel strings and single-coil pickups playing a big part. However, with the G-C-E-A tuning and smaller scale lengths, they retain a little uke charm.
For more adventurous ukulele players, an electric uke is a great way to amplify your sound for larger audiences while having a distinctive look and feel. They are also a worthy addition to the collection of an experienced ukulelist or guitarist who just wants something a little different.
We don’t usually recommend electric ukuleles to beginners, though. The reason is simple: It’s easier to learn on a traditional acoustic ukulele with nylon strings than trying to get to grips with both steel strings and electronics. You can then make the leap to electric when you are more experienced. For more, check out our guide to beginner ukuleles.
What to Look for When Shopping for an Electric Ukulele?
Electric ukuleles actually come in all kinds of styles. Whereas traditional acoustic ukuleles tend to have a mini classical guitar shape, electric ukes can have any shape. That is because they don’t need to project their sound acoustically, so they can afford to look like a Stratocaster, a Les Paul, or something more exotic.
The style you go for will be down to personal preference and your budget, although most electric ukes are pretty affordable. The market isn’t flooded with these instruments, and the majority of them come in at $200 or less.
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As for pickups, you will usually find either traditional single coils, as you’d see on an electric guitar, or under-saddle piezo pickups. This will largely depend on the strings the uke is fitted with. Most electric ukuleles will feature steel strings (and, therefore, a set of traditional pickups) as you’d find on an electric guitar. However, some will feature nylon strings, which accompany a piezo pickup.
Nylon strings are easier on the fingers, so even though we don’t usually recommend electric ukes for beginners if you are a newbie, nylon is the material to go with. It also produces a mellower, more traditional ukulele tone. Electric strings are harder on the fingers and produce a crisper, brighter sound -– very unique. The video below offers a good sample of the steel-string uke sound.
As for extras, you may find onboard controls like volume or EQ sliders to help shape your sound directly from the instrument. You may also come across different connectivity options, such as Bluetooth to allow you to play along with music on a smartphone and other nifty but non-essential functions.
The Final Word
As we’ve mentioned, electric ukuleles aren’t for everybody, but if you fancy adding a little pizzazz to your ukulele collection, they can be a great purchase. The electric uke market isn’t swimming with models at the moment, but we have highlighted what we feel are the best and most worthy of your hard-earned money.
Check back soon because we will add more to this list as more brands jump on board the electric ukulele bandwagon!