Everybody who has played a string instrument knows the Fender brand. Their stratocaster and telecaster model have been used by legendary icons all around the world from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton.
But when Fender decided to start selling Ukuleles in 2009 it was a bit surprising. Do these ukes live up to the brand legend? Read more to find out if they are any good…
Fender ukes started out with only the tenor size available but the brand soon made available to the public a soprano and concert version. They may vary in sound and design but all of them are comfortable and easy to play.
The company is known for making durable, quality instruments, and their ukes are no exception. They come in a variety of prices ranging from the 80$ (entry level) to a more experienced price of 300$. Depending on what you need and your experience, you can be assured this brand will deliver. But the issue is the price. Is it worth paying more for the name?
With the instrument getting popular due to artists like Train, in summer 2009, Fender decided to emerge in the ukulele business by releasing three tenor models. They stood apart from the rest due to their popular telecaster headstock and overall Fender look but also due to their comfort, playability and beautiful sound.
Furthermore, they weren’t as expensive as expected (although still not cheap). Since then these models have been supported by various artists and have sold many copies all around the world. Recently, they released a new range of soprano and concert ukuleles.
Features of the series
What can you expect from one of these instruments? We’ll go into specifics further ahead but first take a look at some general specifications of the series:
- Designed with every player in mind, from entry level ukulele players to most experienced ones.
- You can choose from acoustic and acoustic-electric version, if you just want to play unplugged or crank your electric ukulele up to 11.
- Good playability and comfort, with action and neck similar to the Stratocaster famous feel.
- Amazing design, with telecaster like headstock in the tenor ukulele or just a standard one in other models.
- The strings that come along with the instruments are Aquila. Simply one of the best and have great sound and durability.
- They provide a quality branded gig bag, ready for your instrument so you can carry it anywhere you go in a safely manner and adding value to the pack.
So with the features in mind…
What are the advantages?
- Versatility!!! Available in a range of sizes and at a variety of prices. Whether you are a new player starting out or a more professional one you should be able to find one to suit. But none are in the ‘budget’ category.
- Different woods,different sounds. Each one of these models is made from different types of wood and that equals different sounds. These are all well-made instruments using quality woods such as laminated Mahogany, Koa and solid Mahogany.
- Comfort. Playing many of these will resemble playing an electric guitar and have comfortable fender neck. If you’re a guitarist or bass player you probably have played one already and if you’re a new player you’ll get used to it very quickly, as a guide. Very easy to adapt to and this important detail makes useful for guitarists transitioning to the ukulele. Very user friendly!
- The major downside is the sale price. You pay a premium for the brand name.
- They are a new brand when it comes to uke and some reviewers argue they haven’t met their quality standards. They are all made in Indonesia and may lack in quality control.
- The cheaper ones aren’t amplified. No case as standard.
- Soprano and concert models don’t have the popular Telecaster headstock.
- Don’t have many options when it comes to soprano and concert sizes.
A Few Examples Of Models
As said above, the series is quite versatile. Here is a look at some of their popular models. Click on links for more info about each model.
- Nohea tenor: Made out of laminated Koa, the name means lovely and you will easily fall in love with its sound. Very good looking instrument as well.
- Pa’ina tenor: The most expensive of the series. This solid mahogany uke is very sturdy and has passive electronic pickups installed to it so you can plug it in your amplifier. Rock away your islands luau like a professional with this great instrument.
- U’Uku soprano. As you know, a soprano is the smallest and that’s why Fender decided to name U’uku (meaning tiny in Hawaiian) and maybe that’s why it doesn’t have the telecaster headstock. Either way, it looks good and sounds good.
- Mino’Aka concert: An all mahogany model that will make you play with a smile on your face.
- Hau’oli – From laminated mahogany.
Buyer’s Reviews of the Fender Ukulele
The brand has mixed reviews with a variety of products ranging from 3 to 5 star ratings on Amazon.com. Since relatively new vs more established makers by comparison, there aren’t very many reviews. Most buyers seem happy with their purchase. Others complain of the lack on quality on some of the cheaper versions and report the lack of other options on the concert’s and soprano’s. Otherwise buyers are often those already familiar with the brand and are familiar with the comfort and feel of the instrument.
Some comments include:
“First of all, this uke is gorgeous. Who doesn’t like “shiny” things. It’s a Koa laminate but plays great…This uke deserves to be played”
“…The action was just right straight from the factory. Also the frets are great. I’ve seen some really bad fret jobs on some of the ukes I was looking at before deciding on the Fender. These are well set and finished. The neck is straight and intonation is quite accurate across the fretboard from nut to body”
“Great sounding instrument! I’m just learning after playing guitar for years, but so far it’s easy, sounds good and keeps in tune pretty well.”
The Fender ukulele series gives ukes an innovative twist. The telecaster headstock is definitely a keeper that makes it stand out from the rest and these look amazing! The overall action is great as it sounds good and is easy and fun to play. Plus, comes in a variety of prices according to your needs and experience.
If you are used to playing Fender guitars and want to transition to a uke, this is a good option. If you want a premium name, go ahead. We tend to think, however, that you may be able to get similar instrument for a lot less. There are alternative ukes (Oscar Schmidt or Cordoba, Gibson Epiphone Les Paul, Martin or the higher range models from Kala And Lanikai) out there for a lot less. Yes, it is a Fender, but you are paying a lot for the name in this instance.