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The 51 Best Ukulele Players of All Time

by Terry
ukulele players

Looking for inspiration to become a better ukulele player?

Your search is over! We’ve rounded up a list of 51 of the world’s best ukulele players, spanning different musical genres and time periods.

If you’re already a ukulele player, then you know that this versatile instrument isn’t just for plucking out beachy Hawaiian tunes: It’s also incredible in pop, country, and folk arrangements – and everything in between!

Since there’s so much variety out there and everyone has a favorite or two, we’ve arranged our list of world-class ukulele players in alphabetical order.

Priscilla Ahn

American singer and songwriter Priscilla Ahn plays multiple instruments beautifully, and the ukulele just happens to be one of them! We love her soft, melodic playing style.

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Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles is famous for her 2007 single “Love Song” and quite a few other tunes! She often chooses to play tenor ukulele – it’s a gorgeous match for her vocal range.

Joe Brown

English entertainer Joe Brown has six decades experience in the music industry, and we’re pretty sure you’ll be blown away by his talent. Besides ukulele, Joe plays mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo, and a few other instruments!

Sam Brown

English singer / songwriter Samantha Brown stands out for her incredible jazz, pop, and blue-eyed soul stylings. Like most others who found a place on our list of the world’s best ukulele players, she’s an incredibly talented vocalist!

Colbie Caillat

You’re probably familiar with Colbie Caillat, who’s made quite a name for herself in both pop and folk music. To date, she’s sold more than six million albums and more than ten million singles, and performed alongside other legendary acts including Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift.

Terry Carter

We just had to include Terry Carter on our list of incredible ukulele players! Not only is he one of the best, he’s also an amazing instructor. Enjoy!

Zach Condon

Zach Condon of the band Beirut has made quite a name for himself on the Indie scene, combining world music with indie rock. Zach started playing as a teen in his bedroom – proof that anyone can become an awesome instrumentalist!

Zooey Deschanel

Besides having a successful acting career, Zooey Deschanel is an incredible instrumentalist and an outstanding vocalist. She’s famous for covering lots of classic pop, jazz, and folk songs.

Carmaig de Forest

Underground artist Carmaig de Forest has been a singer-songwriter since the 1980s, playing with the Violent Femmes and They Might Be Giants along the way.

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Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike)

Cliff Edwards was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinocchio. During the 1920s and 1930s, he was influential in making the ukulele mainstream – so much so that he earned the nickname “Ukulele Ike!”

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Billie Eilish

Unmistakable vocals and a gorgeous playing style make Billie Eilish one of the best ukulele artists in the world at the moment. She’s another artist who paved her own path; her career took off after she uploaded “Ocean Eyes” to SoundCloud.

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Christine Fellows

Canadian singer-songwriter Christine Fellows was in her 20s by the time se started performing with her first group, proof that no matter how “old” you think you are, it’s never to late to master your uke and play!

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Thomas Fersen

Thomas Fersen got his start as part of a punk group. His music has a whimsical, poetic edge that transcends the everyday, and spans different musical styles as well as different languages!

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Tom Fletcher

Lead singer of the British pop band McFly, Tom Fletcher got his musical start when he took on a starring role in a stage production of Oliver! at age 10.

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Kris Fushigami

When Kris Fushigami was just 13 years old, he picked up a battered old ukulele and started to play. Just two years later, he won the grand prize at Hamakua’s music scholarship competition. As one of the world’s best contemporary ukulele players, he performs worldwide. Take a listen!

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Kalei Gamiao

If you’ve never heard of Kalei Gamiao, you’ll definitely want to check him out! His original instrumentals are legendary, and his dedication to his craft is beyond inspiring.

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Roger Greenawalt

Think it’s weird to wish you could play ukulele everywhere? Don’t worry – you’re in good company! Singer and music producer Roger Greenwalt is famous for carrying his ukulele everywhere he goes.

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Arthur Godfrey

We have Arthur Godfrey to thank for the ukulele’s popularity! A 1950s TV star who played his ukulele on the radio and TV, Godfrey learned to play ukulele from a Hawaiian shipmate while he was serving in the U.S. Navy. As one of the world’s best ukulele players of all time, Arthur Godfrey was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2001.

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George Harrison

If you’re familiar with The Beatles, then you know that George Harrison was an incredibly talented vocalist and guitarist. He also happened to be one of the world’s best ukulele players!

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Mandy Harvey

Mandy Harvey lost her hearing at age 18 but when she appeared on America’s Got Talent, Simon Cowell said her voice was “Breathtaking… reminds me of the first time I heard Adele Sing!” If you’ve heard her play, then you won’t be at all surprised to discover that she’s widely regarded as one of the world’s best ukulele players. Her inspiring song “Try” is a reminder that you should never, ever give up your dreams.

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Greg Hawkes

Besides his famous role as keyboardist for The Cars, Greg Hawkes plays many other instruments including (you guessed it!) ukulele.

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James Hill

You’ve got to hear James Hill play the ukulele! Once you do, you’ll understand why he’s one of the best players around. For something totally different, check out his cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Voodoo Child!

Daniel Ho

Six-time Grammy award winning ukulele artist Daniel Ho is also a master of the slack key guitar. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve reviewed some of the ukuleles he designed for Romero Creations, including the Tiny Tenor!

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Don Ho

Don Ho was born in Honolulu. During his career as an entertainer, Don appeared on many TV shows including Batman, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Brady Bunch.

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Cosmo Jarvis

Energetic, talented, and often hilarious, Cosmo Jarvis has inspired many to pick up the ukulele and give it a try!

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Jack Johnson

If you ever get the opportunity to see Jack Johnson in concert, jump on it – he’s among the best performers out there! Jack plays many instruments but as a former pro surfer, the ukulele is one of his favorites.

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Tyler Joseph

Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph covers a wide range of genres from alternative hip hop to reggae. Little-known fact: Besides being one of the best ukulele players anywhere around, Tyler was a varsity basketball player who used to perform the National Anthem at games alongside teammate and Twenty One Pilots bassist Nick Thomas before they were ever famous!

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Vance Joy

Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy was an Australian Rules football player before opting for a career in music. Like many of us, he got his start playing cover songs!

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Ledward Kaapana

Ledward Kaapana was born in 1948 in rural Kalapana Hawaii, where people played music for fun rather than watching TV. He started to perform professionally at age 14 and ever since then, has received many prestigious awards playing a variety of instruments including the steel guitar and ukulele.

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Jesse Kaleihia (Jesse Kalima)

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jesse Kaleihia learned how to play the ukulele at just six years old. Along with some friends, he formed the group Kalima Brothers at the age of 15. Jesse was a leader in bringing the ukulele into the mainstream. We’re forever grateful.

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Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole was a native Hawaiian singer-songwriter from the island of Ni’ihau. His musical journey began shortly after he was born and by age ten, he was on stage singing and playing ukulele. One of the best players ever to strum, his albums won many awards and remain popular today.

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Eddie Kamae

One of the founding members of the Sons of Hawaii, Eddie Kamae was widely regarded as the world’s best ukulele player. He was a Honolulu native, film producer, performer, teacher, and Hawaiian culture historian who lives on through his music.

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John King

San Diego native John King was a ukulele player who famously revived baroque-era classical music on a ukulele. If you’ve never heard campanella style ukulele, you’ll be amazed. King’s books and recordings are wonderful resources for anyone who wants to learn a new way to play ukulele.

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Jens Lekman

Jens Lekman is a Swedish singer-songwriter who isn’t just famous for his talent on the ukulele, but also for his unique guitar style and his quirky lyrics.

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Cynthia Lin

San Francisco based musician Cynthia Lin has released three independent albums including Doppelganger, which was named among the top 5 Asian American albums of 2007. Cynthia has a strong online presence, and she offers ukulele workshops aimed at empowering young people. If you’re looking for ukulele covers, you’ll find that Cynthia Lin offers some of the best!

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Mike Love

Mike Love is an original singer-songwriter with an amazing voice and a heart for music. Hawaiians are familiar with him as he’s part of the local music scene and slowly, he’s gaining traction with the rest of the world! Besides playing ukulele beautifully, Mike is an exceptional guitarist and all-around musician.

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Zahra Lowsley

Have you ever heard a ukulele cover of duelling banjos? If not, you’ll want to listen to Zahra Lowsley’s version: It’s just one of many astonishing pieces she has performed over the years. Whether it’s Flamenco, world music, Gypsy Jazz, classical, or something else entirely, Zahra can play it!

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Nellie McKay

British singer-songwriter Nellie McKay debuted in a Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera, but she’s more often found at smaller venues around NYC. McKay has released many wonderful albums over the years, with songs including original tracks and some truly outstanding covers.

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Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson started her musical journey with piano lessons at age four and since then, she’s recorded songs while accompanying herself on piano, guitar, and of course, ukulele!

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Herb Ohta & Herb Ohta, Jr.

Ok, here’s a twofer, officially bringing our list of the world’s best ukulele players up to 52. Herb Ohta, also known as Ohta-San and his son, Herb Ohta Jr., are ukulele masters worth studying, particularly if you love the classic island sound. An interesting bit of trivia: Herb Ohta was inspired to learn the ukulele after hearing Eddie Kamae play!

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Brittni Paiva

A native of Hilo, Hawaii, Brittni Paiva has a unique, award-winning style that placed her on the map as one of the planet’s best ukulele players. You’ll be blown away by her technique!

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Performing artist Amanda Palmer was the lead vocalist of The Dresden Dolls and if you’re at all familiar with the group, you know that there’s nothing quite like their music anywhere else. We love her fearless, original style, which is perfectly embodied in “Ukulele Anthem.”

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Stefan Raab

German comedian Stefan Raab is also quite a ukulele player. Once nicknamed the most powerful man in German entertainment television, Stefan has produced many hilarious covers and plenty of not-so-funny bits that put his immense musical talent on display. His duet with Will Smith is easily one of the most entertaining ukulele covers of all time.

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Jake Shimabukuro

He’s been called the “Jimi Hendrix of the Ukulele” and he’s easily one of the best players anywhere in the world. Jake Shimabukuro combines funk, jazz, blues, classical, folk, and even flamenco into his compositions, showing the rest of us what the ukulele can be capable of!

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Taylor Swift

Is there anything Taylor Swift can’t do? Taylor’s career started at age 14 and since then, she’s won multiple Grammy Awards. Besides playing ukulele, Taylor Swift is an exceptional vocalist, guitarist, and pianist. She also plays the banjo!

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João Tostes

If you’ve never heard of João Tostes, you’re in for a treat. This Brazilian composer, musical educator and ukulele player is easily one of the most inspiring we’ve heard in a while. His Bohemian Rhapsody cover will blow your mind. Enjoy!

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Pete Townshend

With a musical career spanning more than half a century, Pete Townshend co-founded The Who. He’s a self-taught musician, with expertise in multiple instruments and genres.

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Grace VanderWaal

Grace VanderWaal skyrocketed to fame during the eleventh season of America’s Gog Talent and ever since, she’s been performing at various venues worldwide. Easily one of the world’s best ukulele players, Grace is also renowned for her uniquely stunning vocal style.

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Eddie Vedder

Best known for his performances with Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder is first and foremost a guitarist and vocalist, with an original, unmistakable sound. What many fans might not know is that Eddie is amazing with a ukulele, too!

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Sara Watkins

Haunting vocals and stunning instrumentals make Sara Watkins one of the best ukulele players ever to grace the stage. She’s a founding member of the group Nickel Creek and has played with many other groups.

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Cagee December 26, 2020 - 9:40 pm

Interesting list, how about George Formby & Taimane Gardner?

Cagee December 26, 2020 - 9:40 pm

Interesting list, how about George Formby & Taimane Gardner?


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