The Makala MK-S, along with it’s colourful cousins, the Makala Dolphin family offer truly outstanding value for money and without doubt are one of the best ukulele in it’s price range. For less than £35 you get a laminate ukulele that sounds like a real instrument, many of the sub £35 don’t, some are unplayable, but more on that later.
I have been a guitarist and bass player for several years and recently bought a ukulele to help my children learn to play alongside their school music lessons. There are a whole lot of cheaper end ukulele’s aimed at the school/beginner market from Mahalo, Stagg, Vintage, Brunswick, Pro-Tone etc.. but none of them compare to the versatility, and playability of the Makala. This is a ukulele that will take you well beyond the beginner stages and you’ll still be playing in years to come.
People assume ukulele’s are cheap, and they can be, but cheap can also be bad. Very, Very bad. Some cheap ukuleles will not stay in tune, can not be intonated and are likely to make a great player sound awful. Starting of with an instrument just because it is cheap, could be enough to put someone off of the instrument for life.
The Makala is cheap BUT it is very well built, nicely finished and has a very low action making it very easy to fret chords, which can be a great help for a beginner. It looks great, simple but classic and stylish with no garish transfers and no thick layer of gloss, just a simple matt wood laminate.
Apart from being easy on the eye and a dream to play, it really does sound great too. I immediately changed to Aquila strings as they have a dramatically better sound than the stock strings found on almost all lower end ukuleles. The sound is rich, glossy and surprisingly loud. Warm and gentle when strummed softly, bright and chirpy when strummed sharply, it gives a great range of tones depending on the style you adopt. The intonation was excellent across the whole fretboard and after the initial week or two settling in period for the strings (*see footnote below), it now holds tune session after session and rarely has to be retuned.
I can’t rate this highly enough. I was expecting a toy for this price (and believe me, many of them are just that) but this really is a great instrument that holds its own against many higher priced ukulele’s. In fact I’d suggest that this is the best you’ll get until you start to look at the £100+ range of solid wood Uke’s like the well respected Bruko No6 or the Ohana SK35.
(* A note for anyone completely new to the ukulele – the nylon strings have a large amount of stretch in them. When you buy a new ukulele or put new strings on, it will take a week or two before the strings fully stretch and settle. Until the strings have settled, expect to retune the ukulele every time you play, this can be as often as every song or two at the beginning. This is not a fault with the ukulele, the strings or the tuners, it is just the natural behaviour of the strings.)