Fallbrook, California seems like a lovely little city. They’re famous for their avocados, art centers, and,of course, Kinnard Ukes. John S. Kinnard has been a luthier for over 40 years now and makes some of the finest ukes you will find. We first featured Kinnard here about 3 years back with this review – JOHN S. KINNARD – PREMIER LUTHIER. And then went over his sopranos more in depth with this article – 2 KINNARD SOPRANOS REVIEWED. With this overview page we feature a variety of instruments offered by John including custom spec ukes like the Kimo Hussey model super tenor and unique tunings for the 6 string “kiku”.

John is the sole builder of these fine ukes. He’s able to focus on his craft with the help of Kevin Beddoe who handles the sales and customer service. Kevin is excellent to work with and we look forward to many more years of Kinnard ukes.

Spruce/ Rosewood Soprano

These are “raw” sound samples with no compression of mastering. Use quality headphones or monitors for most accurate sound.
We have a custom order listing for Kinnard sopranos HERE. John makes a unique soprano with a slightly wider lower bout and the tone has wonderful balance and sustain.

This one features classic guitar tone woods, spruce and rosewood. It has the slotted headstock and side sound port upgrade and Kalei samples it with a low G set. The result is a little uke with a wide range and mature voice.

Cedar/ Walnut Soprano 2

The cedar top on this soprano warms up the sound and together with figured walnut you get a super sweet tone and gorgeous look. Upgrades include the side sound port and curly maple binding.

This one has the regular headstock and John uses the lightweight Peghed tuners that, even though they look like the vintage wood friction pegs, actually have a 4:1 gear ratio.

Spruce/ Sycamore Tenor

This is the Series 3 flagship model from California luthier John Kinnard. It’s an absolutely beautiful spruce top tenor with a super sweet tone, excellent playability, and top-notch craftsmanship. This one has some special features including a unique 4 block “necklace” rosette, a thin slotted headstock with Gotoh Stealth tuners, cocobolo radiused fretboard, bridge, and backstrap, padauk bindings, a carbon fiber reinforced mahogany neck, and some amazing looking Sycamore wood that grew right near Kinnard in California. Kalei samples it for us.

Cedar Walnut Super Tenor Style 3

Features on this fantastic uke include a venetian cutaway body with a western red cedar top and figured claro walnut sides and back and a walnut neck as well. The fingerboard is a gorgeous piece of snakewood. It’s constructed immaculately by one of the best ukulele makers and the world and this one has a size and comfort, especially for those with larger hands or that want more room on the fretboard.

Taken from Kinnard Ukes website:”The Kimo Hussey model is a design collaboration between John and Kimo and incorporates a 19″ scale along with a 1-9/16 nut. This provides the player more horizontal and vertical room to make those barre and jazz chords easier to play.”

“Luthier’s Reserve” Tenor

Kinnard ukuleles have been described by some as “understated elegance”. This first in the “Luthier’s Reserve” really shows that aspect of John’s work. Unique features also include an oval soundhole that has four blocks of abalone. On the back, the center strip of maple is actually inlayed into the cocobolo with curving purfling lines, all mitered to perfection. The wooden fret markers double as side dots in a unique and classy way and the bridge has matching inlays in a new pinless bridge design.

But even better than the looks and appointments of this instrument is the sound. “Torrefied” spruce is sitka that goes through a cooking process to emulate the aging process on the cells in the wood. The result is a warmer more “broken in” sound. Along with the cocobolo back and sides and a maple neck this instrument really sings. Luthier reserves are rare but hopefully we’ll have another to show you again someday.

Kimo Hussey Signature Tenor

This is the first Kimo signature model Kinnard and he goes over the specs and ideas behind it.

“The mark of all Kinnard ukuleles is their responsiveness to the lightest touch. This allows you to experience the full rich sound spectrum that the tone woods have to offer, without having to play loud. Kinnard ukes provide more freedom to express yourself because you have greater dynamic range and volume control for your playing style. Whether played soft or loud, this uke provides the full tonal palette the tone woods have to offer- giving you, the player, more creative control to express yourself and your music”


This is a baritone size and scale (20″) 6-string instrument called a kiku (kee-koo). It has been called guilele, guitalele, and other things alluding to the fusion of guitar and ukulele. Zanuck thought it deserved its own unique name and chose kiku as it denotes an independent spirit in Hawaiian.

This instrument has a string set made by Southcoast strings that is a high E and A followed by a DGBE like baritone. The difference in this tuning and regular guitar is that the 2 bottom strings, E and A, are an octave higher. This allows you to play it like a guitar but gives a different voicing for rich, beautiful sounds normally only heard on piano.

Zanuck plays his Kiku as Kimo backs him up.

Z Stock Sunburst Tenor

Corey gives a review and sound sample.

As you can see, this is a stunningly attractive instrument with the gloss tobacco sunburst finish and John’s new Z headstock. It’s very light in weight with a spruce top and Spanish cedar sides and back. This combo gives a very “open” sound, certainly one of the best we’ve heard. The feel is also just right. Nice low action with a full dynamic range. The presence, balance, and projection all the way up the neck is top notch.

Spruce/ Walnut Baritone

Kalei Gamiao samples this first ever Kinnard baritone for us.

For 40 years now John has been building amazing guitars. For the past few years he has focused on the ukulele but the baritone is a natural bridge between the two. With that said, this is one of the finest baritones we’ve had come through the shop. It has a bear claw sitka spruce top and figured claro walnut sides and back shown off with a beautiful gloss finish. It plays like a dream with a big mellow tone and awesome sustain.

Hope you enjoyed looking at these excellent instrument from Kinnards. Of course, there’s nothing like enjoying them first hand so keep a look out for more to arrive at our store here- The Ukulele Site- Kinnard.

Comments 3

  1. I have played over 30 Kinnards and owned four. John’s work is amazingly consistent and wonderful in all respects. Tone and playability are absolutely top-notch. His build execution details set a standard to which many other builders aspire. My Series 3 spruce/sycamore tenor is the one I reach for the most among all my ukes. It has a very special voice, one that is uniquely articulate in the upper registers yet also well balanced across all four strings.

  2. I have owned an all walnut Kinnard concert ukulele for 4 years and absolutely love it. It’s a joy to play and projects like a much larger uke. The craftsmanship is outstanding as is the playability, tone, and balance. This one’s a keeper for me and I am expecting a custom tenor to be completed in December.

  3. I have never picked up a Kinnard ukulele, but I’ve listened to a lot of samples and read a lot of reviews over the past couple of years. I’ve heard great things about the playability, which is important to me, but what strikes me most in the sound samples is the balance between the strings and the clear tone at all volumes. I’ve been blown away by what I’ve heard, and I’ve finally decided to get in line for a custom tenor, to be completed sometime next year. I can’t wait.

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