Updated: Feb 4
Happy New Year!
I know it’s already after January and we are in February but hey, a huge thing happened in my life last month. I can even pin point it to the day. And I can do better than that and even tell you the minute. On January 11, at 4:04am, I became a father......... again! My wife and I already have three little boys ( I know crazy right!), but this time it was different. This time ‘she’ made her debut in this world.
Yup, I have a daughter.
Her name is Kamea.
So thats where I’ve been this past month. Believe it or not I had this post planned and written out. I thought I could finish it while resting at the hospital. What an idiot! Needless to say this little girl got me wrapped around her little fingers. So 2021 has already started off with a bang for me and my “little“ family, and I believe it will be an incredible year for the ukulele!
Just like at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas every January, they showcase the latest and greatest in tech gadgetry and innovation, I will try and forecast the new ukulele trends for 2021! As I poured over forum threads and studied influencer press releases, I found 5 new trends emerging.
5. Custom Artwork
More than ever people want to express their individuality and style. No one wants to be a sheep and follow the rest of the crowd but stand out. We will see this mentality trickle down to the ukulele. Traditional tribal artwork was the craze a few years ago, with laser
etched patterns covering the ukulele.
Today, modern design elements are beginning to take over. These designs are being ported over from the new wave of tattoo design. From hyper realistic pieces, to geometric fibonacci formations, and everything in between. These designs can be added via laser, inlay, or with print overlay. The latter being new and innovative. You can take any artwork or image and wrap the ukulele with it. All the detail and color retained!
‘Imagine’ playing a ukulele with the famous Abbey Road album cover on the sound board. Now it’s possible! We are not far from people being able to add their own unique design to their ukulele. What sort of design would you put on yours?
4. Pickups, Pickups, and more Pickups!
Pickups have always been popular on expensive instruments since many who play them do for a living. But step to the side professional players! A new trend is rising amongst new and novice players wanting to plug in and play. With music stores around the world offering ukulele pickup installations (now that companies are making ukulele specific pickups), we see more and more players opting for the upgrade. It’s not unusual to see a pickup installed on an ukulele that was cheaper than the cost of the pickup! Nuts right?
Having a pickup installed gives the advantage to record music directly to your PC or tablet is a game changer. So as we continue to weather through this pandemic, ”home studios” is where it’s at. Not to mention adding playing effects is fun too! Who doesn’t want to play heavy metal on their ukulele...haha?!
With wide variety of pickups to choose from, I see this trend rising in 2021. With new and innovative pickups being introduced last year such as Leolani’s X1PRO, the market is primed for explode. If you don’t have one, consider electrifying your ukulele. Check out the sound hole version X1PRO below.
3. Affordably Premium
Import ukulele are starting to blow minds! Gone is shame of purchasing a cheap import ukulele off the side streets of Waikiki for $30! What we jokingly call “toy” ukulele. Import factories are now serious about their ukulele manufacturing. They have begun to master the intricacies of building a quality instrument and its only the beginning. Now you can find an all solid bodied ukulele made with quality tone-woods, sporting custom inlay, and fully glossed for under $400!!! Oh, and did I mention it also has a sound port and slotted headstock? Boutique ukulele with all these features can fetch up to $3k.
In 2021 this trend will continue. With many looking for deals during this pandemic, imports are hitting that sweet spot being affordably premium.
2. Colored Contrast Stains
When we talk about colored finishes on ukulele we typically mean a painted ukulele. Non opaque, full coverage paint. Grain and color of the wood doesn’t matter since it gets painted over completely. This is definitely not trending in 2021! Whats trending is colored stains. Staining adds color to the wood without covering up the grain. And in almost all cases the staining process makes the grain stand out and ‘pop’.
The process is time consuming and tedious as you have to add layers to build it up. They sometimes start the process by pre-coating the wood with ink black base layers to create more contrast. The end result being an almost three dimensional illusion. Colored stains have been used in the guitar industry for ages and have now made its way to the mainstream ukulele market. You will start seeing more of these ukulele in 2021... like maybe in a few weeks on this site (hint, hint).
1. All Solid
In 2021, it has finally happened. Imports for many years have been carrying around a badge labeled ‘veneer’. And for many in the ukulele industry, the “F word”. Today, import brands are moving away from using veneer woods and strictly manufacturing using solid sets. The gap between boutique handmade ukulele and imported factory produced ones has closed tremendously.
Many import brands have completely moved on from using laminated woods with many more to follow in 2021. And they accomplished all of this without jacking up the price for consumers. If you purchase one of these solid bodied ukulele, just make sure you get a humidifier as well!
Alas a positive for laminated ukulele: you don’t need to worry about heat and humidity. Maybe they may still be around for this killer feature.
There it is! 5 ukulele trends to look out for in 2021. I hope you enjoyed this peek into the future. As I write this my daughter is resting peacefully by my desk......
Keep jamming and aloha!