Mainland Concert Banjo Ukulele Full Review9
April 20, 2011 by Tim
I am not sure what stories you may have heard about the journey that Mike took to bring this uke to market, but you should know that Mainland has been trying for a few years to bring one to market that is below $300 and up to Mikes standards. At Ukin’ in the Woods Mike told me a story about one prototype he got where the frets were all crooked and there was clay and debris in the hardware, it was total junk, and that was his 2nd or third try at finding someone who could make them for him. Thanks to Mike and his wife Tootkas hard work and patients we have the Mainland Banjo uke. and this is not the last one either.
They will have the matte finish mahogany and a maple version available soon in both soprano and concert scale, also just like all the mainland ukes, you have the option of what tuners you want on your banjo ukulele (Friction in silver and gold with different color buttons, or sealed with different types of buttons. There are 10 different tuners currently)
Mainland Concert Banjo Ukulele
Concert : 18 Fret
Tuners: Silver Friction w\ Amber Buttons
Maple & Ebony 3-Leg Bridge
Head Material: Coated Plastic
Head Size” 8″
Tone ring: None
Neck: Mahogany, Rosewood Fretboard
String attachment: Knot
# of J-Hooks: 8
Finish: Gloss rim and neck, Chrome hardware
Weight: 2 LB
Case: Optional Hard case
First look: (4) OK, who forgot to put the rope binding on the head? I know that it is not suppose to be there but I wish is had a little decoration. It is kind of sparse and plain looking, and the lack of j-hooks makes it look like it was done to save money, and it may be that way. It is under $300, so something have to give, and since the number of J-hooks is not the most important part, the 8 hold the head down just fine.
Fit and Finish: (4) I am usually hard pressed to find an issue with any Mainland ukulele. The gloss is really nice and feels really nice and solid, but not heavy like other banjo ukes. Roger Vittitoe (my Banjo guru here in BloNo) was amazed on how it was made and very impressed that it did not need a coordinator rod and it still has nice thin sides. Like all Mainland the fret board is dressed perfectly and the action is where it should be. My issue is with the choice of hardware. the j-hooks seem a little cheap and not all flush with the body, and the tail piece is a thin bent piece of metal. Beside that it is really nice, I just wish those were a bit nicer for the price.
Sound Type: Punchy with some twang. I think something in the hardware does vibrate a little with the strings and it gives it an extra “banjo” sound. The closed back seems to also help push the sound out, instead of being lost on my fat belly.
Intonation: (5) If the intonation is off, it is your own fault for the most part. most banjo ukes are shipped with the bridge laying down and you have to set it up, or find someone to do it for you. This one came setup and ready to play
Volume: (5) The closed back helps the volume project out. making it really loud even though it does not have a tone ring or a resonator. It is not as loud as a resonator banjo uke, but it would be heard. On the volume front, that is one small drawback to the design, no way to stuff it without taking the head off.
Sustain: (4) Pretty good, but expected it to go longer. still good.
String Height: (Medium) This one has room to be lowered if you would like it to be, but I felt like it was nice to play and good for my style of playing. You know, Flailing like I am being electrocuted while playing 5 foot 2.
Neck Radius Depth: (3/4″) Still thicker than a normal concert, but not the tree branch that you see on the other banjo ukes. This one actually starts out smaller at the hard and gets thicker as it goes to the heel.
Frets: (5) Perfect. You would think that it had binding on the fretboard it is so smooth.
Tuning: (5) I love the friction tuners that Mainland uses, they are like butter. easy to tune and stays in tune to boot. Also unlike the other banjo ukes I have been playing with, this one seems to not go sharp super quick when I am trying to tune it.
Comfort: (5) The lack of j-hooks actually makes this very comfortable to play. The weight is not that bad and my arm can hold the body with my forearm between j-hooks. Also since it is so light and the j-hook spacing, I don’t need a strap to hold it if I am playing standing up.
Sound Hole Smell: What sound hole?
My first note is more of a challenge; Someone needs to put a light in this uke! that picture looks totally RAD!!! If you are brave enough balls to drill a hole in one then you will be the king of the banjo ukes when you turn it on, OR maybe run the light off of a pickup or something. Any who…
I credit Mainland for the popularity of the banjo uke right now, and I think they did a great job of coming out with a product that is not the cookie cutter banjo uke. I had to have it for banjo uke week, and Mike was happy to send it to me. The sealed closed back and the neck that that is not the same thickness all the way from the head to heel. it is built like a uke, but with a banjo head, and you know Mike will stand behind it and you will get the best service in the world when you buy one, it’s a frick’n Mainland! I know some will not like the sound of it, so change the head to a real skin head or an uncoated plastic head. And if you don’t like banjo ukes, then don’t buy one!
I will have this one at the Mighty MO Ukulele Fest this May if you want to try it out.
Review 3 done, 3 more to go.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Punchy, some twang|
|Neck Radius Depth||3/4″|
|Sound Hole Smell||What sound Hole?|
HD Audio Clips:
Places to buy on the web:
Mainland – $299.50, case is $50 extra
Uke Republic – ON SALE $285, Case is $50
Good accurate review. I am getting a Uke Leash banjo strap this week for mine. Also, you can mute the volume by putting a piece of cloth behind the bridge between the strings and the head. Doogey9 on YT has a nice demo.
this is Todds review
thanks for pointing it out
Nice review, Tim! As you know, I got my Mainland banjo uke about three weeks ago. We chose the maple finish, with amber friction tuners. It is a beauty. And I LOVE it. It is very loud, so there’s no room for flubbing during a performance.
I am thrilled to finally have a uke from Mainland–and I am really glad that we waited for Mike to get the banjo ukes before making our purchase.
It’s a thing of beauty.
I have to say I am not a fan of the sound of banjo ukes when I am playing them. It is a sonic proximity thing I think. I played the prototype at the Milwaukee uke fest and I loved that uke. You mentioned the sound pushed forward and I think that is what I liked about it. I also like no binding on these. Good job Mike and nice review Tim.
I think maybe some people are a little shy of banjo ukes because, in my opinion, the sound is so specific, they lend themselves better to vintage, hot Jazz, and maybe a little old school style blues and country. When I try to play something a little more late-20th century on mine, it somehow doesn’t sound right. I guess that’s why some of us have so many different ukes–different sounds for different purposes!
That said, maybe I just have to play with it some more. It’s a dream. I sort of feel the way Linus must have felt about his security blanket when I look at the thing. I want to take it everywhere.
Nice review, thanks. And the link to Doogey9 on YT… I hadn’t seen his channel before. This Mainland Banjo Uke looks and sounds good.
I just bought one of these and so far I like it. One thing I noticed (that I see on your pic’s as well) is that the instrument is set up with fairly narrow string spacing at the bridge. The neck width at the body (and further up)looks as if would allow for a little more width at the bridge, which would facilitate easier finger-picking. I may experiment with a new bridge at some point, but in the interim think the narrower spacing should be good for getting my strumming in better shape. As I said, I’ve only just had it for a day and it’s my first banjo uke (but probably not my last, very fun).
Where can I buy one and play it?
Well…. You may get lucky and get a used one. Mainland stopped selling them