Baoli Concert Ukulele
A couple of months ago, Alan Brandt, a fellow ukulele enthusiast I follow on Social Media, posted about a cheap plastic ukulele he ordered from eBay, basically just to see what he would get. When it arrived, he was surprised that it actually served as an instrument, and he brought it with him to Ukulele World Congress last month. I had the chance to meet Alan in person for the first time, and also saw his Oopsulele and the Baoli ukulele, so I decided to order one.
When you purchase from eBay, you’re going to play a waiting game–sometimes a month or more. So you can get a really good price on things, but you’ll pay for it in that you’ll wait for it. The vendor I ordered from is NOT Baoli, but a distributor in China, and I watched as my package tracked its way across the globe. To my delight, the ukulele was supposed to arrive the day before we left on a vacation (a perfect time to test out a ukulele in the “wild.”). Ultimately, USPS tracking said that package was delivered, but I didn’t see any ukulele-sized boxes. That’s because there wasn’t a box…there was a small package in my mailbox. I hadn’t ordered an inflatable ukulele.
Inside the package, carrying the tracking number for my ukulele, was a pill pen…a pen inside a pill capsule that extends to make a writing instrument, with a note:
Really sorry, due to some inventory issue of the supplier, we need to ship your order out a few days later. This item is just a small gift for you as compensation. Thank you hav have a nice day!
Well, that’s a pleasant note…but WHERE IS THE UKULELE? I sort of lost my mind a little bit. It’s only $20, and I have certainly wasted more than that in the past–but I had high hopes for the ukulele because of Alan’s experience. I immediately went to eBay and asked for a refund, leading to a frustrating exchange with the seller. They insisted they had shipped the ukulele and that it had arrived–I insisted (with photo evidence) that the ukulele had not arrived and all I had was a $0.20 pill pen. Eventually, they sent me a different tracking number…the same day the ukulele showed up. So everything was okay–but had they simply listed the correct tracking number in the first place, there would have never been any issue. And again, this isn’t Baoli’s fault, but it is one of the challenges of dealing with eBay.
So, the ukulele arrived, and I made an unboxing video and review (two-in-one), as well as a new “UkeGuide,” something I will be making for all new ukulele reviews (and maybe old ones, too). I don’t need to re-discuss the items that are in the video and the UkeGuide (both are linked at the end of the review).
In terms of the ukulele, all I want to say is that it is an inexpensive plastic ukulele in the concert scale, and that it works. It is more than a toy, and it might be a very good option for times that you want to bring a ukulele but wouldn’t be upset if something happened to your ukulele while you were there. My biggest concerns are the action, which is a little high, a purposely slanted bridge, and the junction of the fretboard and the sound board. So far, the instrument is worth the risk.
What I want to talk about in this review is a little bit of what I have seen in the ukulele world regarding cheap plastic instruments. A person in the United Kingdom recently wrote about finding a very inexpensive ukulele at Flying Tiger which worked (it is different, as the Flying Tiger is a soprano ukulele). People really had strong opinions:
People can buy what they like of course, but I suppose my issue with this…is more what it represents. I’m not particularly convinced dumbing the instrument down to something that costs less than a single lesson or a pack of Worth Strings is a good thing for an instrument that still struggles to be taken seriously in wider circles. Many people still consider the ukulele to be a toy, and this only re-enforces that. Plus, the more ukes like this appear, the harder it is for people (like teachers!) trying to ensure their pupils choose something half decent to get their message across…
Are these justified concerns? Maybe. But we treat the Maccaferri Ukuleles of the 1950s as collector’s items and as musical instruments, so why can’t an inexpensive ukulele today be treated in a similar way? I love Outdoor Ukuleles, but they are not made of cheap plastic, and they are not designed cheaply–and while they are inexpensive compared to many wood ukuleles, they are still many times more expensive than the Baoli. I don’t mind owning both, I guess.
So, at the risk of dumbing down the instrument, I think it’s an interesting instrument that is playable. We’ll see how it lasts over time.
- Posted in: Ukulele Review