By Greg Cahill
With a commanding $20 million in annual ukulele sales, the Kala Brand Music Co. has made a couple of inroads during the past two years into the guitar market with thinline, parlor, tenor, and OM models. So it’s only fitting that this Northern California-based firm has joined Yamaha, Cordoba, Luna, and Gretsch, among others, in issuing the Guitarlele.
Available in mahogany ($224.99 MSRP) and koa ($429.99 MSRP; $70 more with built-in electronics), the Kala guitarlele is a ¼-size guitar that serves as a cross between a nylon-string classical and a baritone uke.
It’s mahogany top, back, and sides produce a warm tone and the deep body delivers considerable volume. The hybrid instrument comes with a satin, finish, a slotted headstock, and Grover tuners.
The guitarlele is tuned A D G C E A (like capoing up to the fifth fret of a standard-tuned guitar).
Given the tight spacing between frets, you might find this more suited to strumming than soloing. Indeed, it’s size is closest to a uke and you may be most comfortable holding it like one (it has a bit of a neck dive). Yet, it’s non-radiused fretboard feels much like a classical guitar, so if you’re most comfortable with a radiused neck, it might take some time getting used to the guitarlele.
Overall, it’s a fun instrument to have around—the test model sitting on my desk elicited a fair amount of attention (usually starting with an “Ooooh!” or an “Aaaaah!”). Each visitor parted with an approving nod.
If you’re searching for a hybrid instrument to lend a touch of uke sound (but with those familiar guitar chords), the guitarlele is worth a try. And if you’re looking for a small, versatile instrument to take to the beach or to pass around a late-summer backyard BBQ or for playing on the couch, you may find this a good strumming companion.