Is there room for a high-quality “toy” ukulele on the kid-instrument playground?
One leading music-for-moppets manufacturer seems to think so.
Schoenhut Piano Company, the renowned designer of wooden toy pianos, has produced its first toy ukulele since partnering in 2012 with Magic Fluke, the uke company whose easy-to-play Flea Ukulele line has ridden the ukulele-buying zeitgeist of the past few years.
The Schoenhut 5400 is the company’s attempt at producing a high-quality toy model for pint-size-pluckers. The 5400 is based on the Flea design, but requires a molded-composite body—as opposed to Flea’s standard fiberglass—in order to comply with tighter North American and European toy-safety standards.
But will the 5400 bite into the Flea market? Neither company seems to think so, according to Schoenhut officials, as differing “price points and intended market for the products” should keep the brands from stepping on each other’s ukulele fingers.
In any event, there may be more than enough uke youth to go around. As ukuleles pull closer to the recorder as the elementary school instrument of choice, pre-tweens are a growing market for musical instruments—and, according to sales statistics, it might be a good year for higher-quality kiddie products. Music Trades magazine reported in April that from 2010 to 2013 the retail amount schools spent for music rose by nearly 18 percent, and over that same time period the average amount schools were spending per unit was up a whopping $74.
But it’s been more than merely sixth-grade music teachers who’ve sent ukes trending. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) reported this winter that between 2010 and 2012 ukulele sales nationwide jumped from 581,000 to more than one million.
While uke sales dipped to 966,000 in 2013, the average price-per-unit rose by $1 and the market remains comparatively strong. And instrument manufacturers like Schoenhut are taking notice. Which is why there’s pretty much a uke available for everybody—even, as Nat King Cole once crooned, kids from 1 to 92.