It’s not often that you see an all-bamboo ukulele! Usually, ukes are made of a few standard woods: mahogany, koa, cedar, spruce, etc. Aklot, though, thought outside the box with their new bamboo tenor ukulele, and the results are stunning! Let’s check it out!
Note: I was not compensated for this review, but Aklot did send me the ukulele directly for review.
A Bamboo Ukulele?
Bamboo ukuleles tend to be brighter sounding than wood ones, with noticeably less bass. I’ll get into that a little later on, but I will say now that this probably isn’t the ukulele for low G tuning. It’s best for chirpy strumming in standard tuning.
Good tonewood can be hard to come by, especially now. The most sought-after tonewoods like koa, rosewood, and mahogany can also have some sustainability issues. This is why you see a lot of laminate ukuleles, especially at the lower end of the market. It’s also why many makers have been looking to alternatives to wood, especially if it still sounds good. From high pressure laminate to plastic to carbon fiber, there are plenty of artificial choices.
Bamboo is a more natural alternative. Despite having a woody feeling, it’s actually a grass, and it grows very quickly. In the many decades it takes to grow one good hardwood tree, you could have dozens or even hundreds of bamboo crops. It’s easy to harvest, lightweight, and is already popular as a wood substitute in flooring and other construction. It was only a matter of time before ukulele makers turned their eyes towards it.
Aklot has made this tenor ukulele entirely out of bamboo. Front, back, sides, neck, fretboard, headstock, bridge; it’s all bamboo! The nut and saddle are both plastic, and there’s metal and plastic in the tuners. Other than those little bits, this is a 100% bamboo instrument. Again, if you’re looking for environmental sustainability, this is great news!
Bamboo ukuleles do have a few obvious differences. The first is that a stalk of bamboo isn’t big enough to make ukuleles out of one piece. As you’ll see on the Aklot uke, that means that many pieces have to be glued together. It makes for a unique look, but also potentially a lot of weak spots. Bamboo ukuleles will probably not be as durable as hardwood ukuleles. On the flip side, it’s also noticeably lighter than most wood ukuleles, which may be appealing to some.
Bamboo is much lighter than most of the usual ukulele tonewoods, but the blonde look really suits this uke. This may be a weird comparison, but the grain on the front looks a lot like a gym floor (just less shiny). To me, this is a fun departure from the norm, but everyone has their own taste. I also like the classical guitar-like look of the slotted headstock, which is usually reserved for more expensive instruments.
The one issue that I have is with the “Designed by Aklot” signature on the bottom of the ukulele. It’s not something you see on ukuleles, and it just doesn’t look quite right. After all, the Aklot name is on the top of the ukulele already, so of course they designed it! The only time I think a signature like that is appropriate is if it was designed by a famous ukulele player. I’ve heard that Aklot may be doing away with this going forward, which is a good idea.
Aklot is following a trend I’ve seen from more and more ukulele makers of making strap buttons standard on their ukuleles. A lot of players don’t like using straps, and some even see it as going against ukulele tradition. But everyone’s size and playing style is different. For many people, it’s just awkward to properly support a ukulele and play at the same time. If you don’t like strap buttons, you don’t need to use them! Personally, I’m much more comfortable with a strap, so I’m glad that buttons are included. Plus, it comes with a strap, too! Speaking of which…
The key accessory for any ukulele is the bag/ukulele case. This is especially true of a nice-looking ukulele like the Aklot bamboo tenor. It’d be a shame to scratch and scuff that pretty uke! Thankfully, it comes with one of the nicest gig bags I’ve seen included with an ukulele. It’s well-padded, has some nice backpack-style straps, and features a big pocket on the front for your other accessories. Honestly, I’ve found myself bringing around a couple other ukuleles in this case just because it’s nicer than the thin bags they came with!
Otherwise, the Aklot bamboo tenor ukulele comes with a fairly standard strap and some picks. Both are entirely up to personal preference. I generally use a strap, but rarely use a pick with my ukulele. They’re good for guitar playing, though, and I’ve thrown them into my guitar and mandolin cases as extras. The strap works well with the included strap buttons, and the checked pattern looks nice.
The most important part of any ukulele review! Sometimes, ukuleles that look very different end up sounding pretty much the same as everything else. This can be both good and bad. However, it’s not the case for the Aklot bamboo uke. It has a very unique tone, unlike most wood ukuleles I’ve heard: bright, quite jangly, and sweet, without much sustain. To be honest, it almost sounds more like a soprano than a tenor!
Many folks who buy a tenor ukulele are looking for a richer low end, more sustain, and a more complex sound. This is not the ukulele for them. However, others end up playing tenors because they find sopranos just too small to play. If that’s you, but you’re still yearning for a soprano tone, you’re in luck! You can get that treble-heavy sound in a tenor scale with this Aklot ukulele.
The shorter sustain makes it more suitable for strumming than fingerpicking. It’s also kind of quiet when fingerpicked, and doesn’t project as well as other ukuleles. You can really lean into it when strumming, though, and get a great punchy tone. It won’t blow other ukes out of the water volume-wise, but you’ll definitely hear it in a crowd.
As non-traditional ukuleles go, Aklot’s bamboo ukulele is a lot of fun. It certainly won’t be for everybody, given its unique tone and look. Anyone looking for a loud ukulele with lots of sustain and low end should look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a bright, punchy sound and a design that will stand out, this is the uke for you! It also has the benefit of being more environmentally sustainable than many hardwood ukuleles. Time will tell whether bamboo sticks around as a ukulele material, but Aklot has at least one reason why it should.