Thinking about buying a ukulele? Learn the ins and outs of finding the best ukulele for you in this guest post by Casselberry, FL teacher Laurie K...
So you are ready to buy your first ukulele! Awesome, step one is complete… “Decide to play the uke!”
I am going to go over three basics when considering this new and fun instrument, in order to find the best ukulele for you:
There are four sizes for ukuleles: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Most likely you are reading this article with an image of the soprano in your mind. Soprano ukuleles are the more popular size and come in more variety. The concert and tenor sizes are also tuned like a soprano ukulele, but are slightly bigger in their bodies, with longer necks and more frets. This makes them popular among professional players. The baritone ukulele is actually tuned to the the lower strings of a guitar (D, G, B, E). So, you’ll have a one-up if you are already a guitar player! The baritone ukulele is fun but is much bigger in size and has a lower tone overall… which goes against the two main reasons people are attracted to ukuleles: size and sound. So — my guess? You’re looking for a soprano.
Ok, yes, you can buy a ukulele for $12. But I caution you to only buy these for your toddler children… they do not stay in tune! The cheapest ukuleles are going to be around $20-30 and they will be a much different sound and material than ukuleles priced at $50 and up. My recommendation is to go for the $50-up price range. You’re going to get a nicer material and most come with Nylgut strings. If you buy cheaper, you’ll most likely end up spending on new strings, which can definitely upgrade a plastic uke. So to save you that trouble, go a little higher. If you’re on the fence about being able to play, it’s fine to go with a cheaper uke too; you can always upgrade later!
The cheaper styles are Mahalo and Makala ukuleles. These brands are mostly made of colorful plastics and can sound alright if re-strung with “Aquila” strings. I personally bought a Makala Dolphin bridged uke that was a light blue color. It was super fun to play but was a challenge to keep in tune. You can watch my YouTube review of it below:
My first ukulele was actually a gift. It is an Ovation-style uke — the “Applause by Ovation UAE20 Soprano Ukulele” — and it’s an acoustic/electric, meaning I can play it unplugged and also plugged into any amplifier. I own a small Vox amp and it sounds amazing both ways. I was a lucky girl to start with this uke and I have to say it’s probably in the range of $120-160, but very worth it! I have performed many shows and it barely ever needs to be tuned, the material keeps it from being affected by humidity, and it’s beautiful! (To watch my Ovation Applause ukulele in action, check out my video here!)
For the best beginner ukuleles, I suggest the following brands: Lanikai LU-21C, Kala KA-C, Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. I have not tried them all, so I do suggest going to a local music store like Guitar Center to try some different brands. You can also search for online and YouTube reviews.
Have an awesome time finding the perfect ukulele for you! Mine has been with me from the beginning and I’ve continued to add on to my collection. Let me know if you find something new and exciting! I’d love to hear from you.
Laurie K. teaches ukulele, songwriting, painting, and more in Casselberry, FL. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts along with a minor in Music, and her experience includes leading Music Together classes with families and children aged from 1-5. Learn more about Laurie here!
Photo by William Bigelis