Is Carbon Fiber the Solution for Class Ukulele and Guitar?

Richard McCready • March 2024TechnologyUpClose • March 30, 2024

Many schools in the US offer music instruction in class ukulele and class guitar. Fretted string instruments allow students to start playing songs quite quickly after learning two or three chords. Children begin a journey of musical discovery together playing simple songs, and many continue to play ukulele and/or guitar their whole lives.

When teachers decide to start a class ukulele or class guitar program, they often have several questions about what instruments to buy. I see a lot of queries pop up on Facebook groups for music teachers and/or string specialists, and teachers are usually looking to purchase instruments that are engaging and comfortable to play, are easy to maintain, and are not prohibitively expensive. These concerns are legitimate and important. Choosing the cheapest instruments possible may result in broken and non-functioning instruments further down the line, while paying more for higher quality instruments may mean less instruments can be bought for the budget available. It’s no wonder teachers look to their peers for advice before making such a big purchase.

Recently I happened across the Peripole Music booth while attending the Wisconsin Music Educators Association Conference, and became immediately enamored by a range of colorful and attractive classroom ukuleles and guitars made by a company called Enya, based in Shenzhen, China, and with a distribution center in Houston, Texas. (Enya translates to “humility and elegance” and the company is in no way related to the Irish singer, Enya, from the group Clannad). 

Enya produces a number of excellent products and their Nova line of guitars and ukuleles would make a superb choice for adoption in class settings. All the Nova instruments are made from a carbon fiber composite and are constructed in one piece, making them virtually unbreakable, even by the most squirrely and clumsy of little musicians. Carbon fiber instruments are usually quite expensive, but Enya produces these instruments at a very reasonable price point, which makes them a no-brainer for durability. In addition, each instrument comes with its own high-quality case (not a flimsy gig bag), strap, spare strings, and other accessories.

Currently Nova ukuleles are available in soprano, concert, and tenor sizes, and come in many colors, including black, white, purple, orange, blue, and red. Each model of ukulele is very comfortable to play and there are no rough fret edges (which is all too common on lower-priced ukuleles). 

Enya also makes a Nova Go acoustic guitar, which like its smaller ukulele cousins comes in many colors and is also an excellent instrument. One thing I particularly like about the Nova Go acoustic guitar is the body is compact and light, making it very suitable for younger players and students with smaller frames (full-sized body guitars can be notoriously uncomfortable, particularly for girls, and often lead to students losing interest in playing and practicing). 

Three of the Nova products – the concert ukulele, tenor ukulele, and acoustic guitar, are also available with an Acoustic Plus system. This is an on-board pre-amp which provides effects such as chorus and reverb to the acoustic sound of the instrument, and this signal can be sent to an external amplifier or sound system. The Acoustic Plus system is powered via a rechargeable internal battery, and a charging cable is included.

At the NAMM Show this year, Enya debuted their upcoming Nova Electric Guitar, with twin coil-splittable pick-ups, on-board effects chain, and its own internal speaker. It will be a very exciting addition to the Enya line of products sometime in the next month or two.

Peripole, based out of Salem, Oregon, is the sole US-based educational distributor for Enya. Currently their prices range from $70 for the ENYA Nova U Mini Soprano Ukulele to $230 for the Enya Nova Go Guitar (classroom sets are available for even less per instrument). The Acoustic Plus system does add something to each price point but is probably unnecessary for student instruments; having the Acoustic Plus system on the teacher instrument does help students to be able to hear the teacher’s instrument in the class setting, so my recommendation would be to buy one Acoustic Plus instrument and buy the rest of your class set without the Acoustic Plus.

The quality of an instrument should not get in the way of children having an enjoyable and rewarding experience in music class. Cheap, poor-quality instruments become more of a hindrance in the long run because children (and teachers) get discouraged.

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