Pineapple Ukulele

News, Reviews and Information on the World of Pineapple Ukuleles.

Pineapple Ukulele: A Brief History

The ukulele developed in Hawaii in the first decade of the 20th Century. They grew out of instruments brought over from Portugal (the machete and the braguinha). Both of these instruments were guitar-like in shape (but smaller) so the ukulele began its life in that shape.

The pineapple shape of ukulele was invented by Samuel Kamaka and it was patented in 1927. Kamaka was at the forefront of the second generation of Hawaiian ukulele makers – he had apprenticed under Leonardo Nunes (one of the original ukulele makers) before leaving to set up his own company – which is still running today – in 1916.

You can even view the original patent on Google. The original didn’t just go with the oval pineapple shape. It also have a pineapple design painted on the back and front.

With the patent expiring in 1942, many other companies have since picked up the pineapple shape and today it is very popular with it being produced by companies such as Kala, Lanikai and Pono.

Pineapple Ukulele: Advantages

As you can hear from that rather wonderful performance, the pineapple shape of ukulele doesn’t make a sound noticeably different from that of a standard ukulele. In fact, there’s no real reason for the ukulele to be the guitar-like shape. The shape is required for the guitar since you need to rest it on your leg and reach your arm over the top. The ukulele is so small neither of these are a problem. Yet the ukulele developed in this shape anyway.

So what are the advantages of a pineapple ukulele?

Price

The pineapple shape of ukulele is quicker and easier to produce and also uses less wood for the same volume inside the ukulele. This means the ukulele can be produced more cheaply. So, for example, Amazon have Lanikai LU-21P Pineapple Ukulele for $49.99 and a Lanikai LU-21 Standard Ukulele for $59.99. However, this is not always the case. It varies from maker to maker.

The Look

This is probably the biggest factor in terms of popularity of the pineapple shape. It is very distinctive and different and that certainly adds to its appeal. As well as that, the pineapple lends itself very well to decoration. Right from Samuel Kamaka’s first pineapple ukulele up to Amy Crehore’s Tickler #2, the pineapple has had one design or another put onto it. Another big appeal for people who want something a little different.

Soprano Pineapple Ukulele

The soprano pineapple, like the traditional ukulele, is the standard size. Even more so than the standard ukulele. It is very rare to find a pineapple ukulele in any other size.

Best Beginner’s Soprano Pineapple

For a beginner, there are two great choice of pineapple ukulele: the Lanikai LU-21P and the Makala Pineapple. Both of them are decent, playable ukuleles at a really good price. In particular, I would recommend getting a Makala beginner’s pack from musicguymic. It includes all the stuff you need to get started and it will be set up correctly (ukuleles that aren’t set up correctly can cause a great many headaches for beginners).

Best Upper-Range Pineapples

The two best pineapples around are produced by the much-respected Hawaiian makers Pono and KoAloha. The ukulele in the video above is a KoAloha, so you can hear how good it sounds. But neither of these ukuleles come cheap. They are both in the $500 ball-park.

Vintage Pineapple Sopranos

Obviously the most prized pineapple sopranos are the original Kamaka pineapples. They do crop up with some regularity on eBay and you can pick them up for a reasonable price (certainly reasonable compared to vintage Martin ukuleles and the like).

Concert Pineapple Ukulele

Concert pineapple ukuleles are very few and far between. As far as I know, there are none in the entry-level price range. In fact the only two I know of are those demonstrated in this video: the Pono Spalted Mango Pineapple and the Mele Mahogany Pineapple. Neither of the are particularly cheap, but the certainly sound and look good.

The only other option I know of is the Pineapple Flea ukulele. The flea does come in concert size and it does have the pineapple decoration. The shape, while similar, isn’t the traditional pineapple shape though.

Tenor Pineapple Ukulele

As far as I’m aware, there’s only one tenor size pineapple ukulele available. But it’s certainly a great one.

KoAloha’s Pineapple Sunday ukulele was the first in their ‘Special Series’ of ukuleles to be released. It does look incredible. Rather than just the pineapple shape with some decoration, this ukulele is actually shaped like a pineapple complete with leaves and a sectioned top.

In the video gx9901doublex plays his version of Jake Shimabukuro’s Let’s Dance on his KoAloha Pineapple Sunday.

Kamaka Pineapple Ukulele

Kamaka are the original pineapple ukuleles. Pineapple ukes were invented by Samuel Kamaka and patented by him in 1928. As a result, the only true vintage pineapple ukuleles are Kamakas.

The very oldest Kamaka ukuleles have feature a hand-painted pineapple design that covers the front and back. These were made in the 1920s and are very valuable today.

Slightly later, they have just a pinapple decal in front of the bridge (under the strings). These were made in much greater numbers in the 1930s

Later on, they produced the ‘white label’ and ‘gold label’ Kamakas. The ‘Gold Label’ era was around the 1960s. These ukes are not as expensive to buy as the earlier models but do produce a great sound.

But they are not all vintage ukuleles. Kamaka do still produce a pineapple uke: the Kamaka HP-1. A soprano size ukulele. Obviously coming from Kamaka it is high quality with an equally high price with an RRP of $650.

Pono Pineapple Ukuleles

If you are looking for a more up-scale pineapple uke, the Pono is an excellent brand to go for. They are made by Ko’olau and have a great reputation.

Pono pineapples are made from spalted mango wood. Mango has a very distinctive flame-look grain making these ukuleles look great. The ukuleles come in two sizes:

- soprano: officially called the Pono PSMP Soprano Pineapple. The recommended retail price is $629.95. Although you can usually pick them up cheap than that if you shop around.

- concert: the Pono PCMP Concert Pineapple. With an RRP of $659.95. This is the ukulele that is featured in the video above.

Here are the specs for both these ukuleles:

Fingerboard: Ebony
Bridge: Ebony
Tuners: Grover geared tuners
Finish: Gloss
Frets: Soprano – 14 Neck joins at 12th fret.
Concert – 19. Neck joins at 14th fret.

Lanikai LU-21P Pineapple Ukulele (Soprano)

If you are looking to get a pineapple ukulele as your first uke, the Hohner Lanikai LU-21P is a great place to start. Lanikai’s entry level ukuleles are great value for money and the first ukulele of choice for the well informed.

The price is perfectly pitched for a beginner. They are cheap but not so cheap that they will inevitably be a disappointment. They are well made and set up so that you can play them straight out of the box. It’s always a nightmare for a beginner if their first uke has construction problems as they can’t tell what is down to their technique and what is down to problems with the ukulele. So it’s worth investing that little bit more in a good quality uke.

LU-21P Specifications

Construction: Nato (laminated mahogany)
Fretboard: Rosewood
Bridge:
Neck: 12 Frets
Binding: White
Tuners: Geared.

Kala Pineapple KA-PSS Ukulele

The Kala pineapple ukulele is the right option for someone who wants to get a good quality, quirky and eye-catching pineapple uke at a reasonable price.

The uke takes after the originator of the pineapple (the Kamaka pineapple) with it’s all-over pineapple design (although it is silk screened rather than hand painted as the originals were). That makes it the center of attention when you pull it out. But if dazzle is a priority, you should take a look at Kala’s kiwi and watermelon ukuleles.

It is slightly pricier than some of the pineaplle ukes out there (such as the Lanikai LU-21P) but it is still within the price range of a beginner. And it does represent very good value for money.

Specifications

Construction: Laminated Mahogany
Fretboard: Rosewood
Neck: 12 frets
Tuners: Geared

Makala Pineapple MK-P Ukulele (Soprano)

Makala is the budget line of ukuleles from Kala. So this uke is a great option for those buying their first ukulele and want to make sure they get something of reasonable quality that they can learn on. And, as you can tell from Earlyguard’s video, they make a great sound.

Like the Kala pineapple it is well make. But, with the lower price, it is slightly lower spec. One of the big advantages is that musicguymic (on eBay) does a great beginner package which inclues the Makala pineapple along with a case (which can sometimes be difficult to find for pineapples), books and tuning pipes (everything you need to get started).

Specifications

Construction: Laminated mahogany
Fretboard: Rosewood
Neck: 12 Frets
Tuners: Geared