Written by SaifZiya
Do day-to-day worldly responsibilities bring you down? If affirmative, you’re not alone. However, there’s something you could do to step out of all of your worries and live a happier life.
Yes, the activity I'm referring to here is spending some time with your musical buddy — the ukulele.
If you’re a music devotee and love to spend time strumming one of your stringed instruments, the ukulele could help you unwind after a busy day. You can enjoy your ukulele when sitting under a tree or while spending time with your beloved mates.
However, the problem persists—choosing the best ukulele is no piece of cake as it requires in-depth knowledge or understanding of buying guide, how it works, among other aspects. Plus, finding the best ukulele means you must be familiar with the parts it’s made of, and most significantly, doing research will eat your invaluable time, for sure.
Since determining the best ukulele requires digging up the must-haves, we’ve already done the job for you. Yes, in this comprehensive article, we’ve gone over things that you must keep in mind while buying a ukulele. These points will definitely help you find a good ukulele.
So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
1. How to Choose a Ukulele Size?
Can you imagine getting your hands on a ukulele that you can’t even hold properly? Well, that’d be an awkward experience, especially if you’re on the lookout for comfort.
Holding a ukulele could be difficult if you haven’t opted for a perfect-sized uke. Also, think about the person who you’re buying the uke for — are you purchase the ukulele for a kid or the person, who you want to gift the uke to, is a grownup.
The truth is that the size of the ukulele depends on its types, and there are basically 4 types of ukulele you will find on the market these days.
The ukulele size can be broken down based on the type:
- Soprano (53cm)
- Concert (58cm)
- Tenor (66cm)
- Baritone (76cm)
It must be crystal clear to you which ukulele is longer and which one is an average-sized one.
If you’re looking forward to purchasing a ukulele that looks just like the guitar you own, you can simply compare the length of your guitar with the uke that is on your wishlist.
The most basic type of ukulele you can think of is Soprano. It comprises the standard tuning of G, C, E, and A chords. This is the smallest uke you will see in the ukulele family and is capable of producing bright and jangly sound. Speaking of the frets, it consists of 12-15 frets that are more than enough for beginners.
The concert ukulele is ideal for those people who are having large fingers, therefore, suitable for adults. When it comes to features, you will find it somewhere in the middle of tenor and soprano. Since the scale is a bit longer, there are more frets in this type of uke. The average size of a concert ukulele is 58cm.
The scale length of the Tenor ukulele is around 17 inches, which makes the overall length 26 inches. If you love to have depth in the sound, Tenor is definitely the right choice for you. If you’re someone with large fingers, this will be a great pick as it is capable of accommodating large hands easily.
The last one on the list is Baritone, although it is not as widely famous as the aforesaid three ukuleles are. Since it is larger, you need to think about its size before making the final decision — holding it will give you a feeling that you’re holding a guitar. If we compare its length with tenor, it’s 10cm longer which is a big difference if you’re concerned about the size. Furthermore, what sets this one apart from the rest of the models is the cords—it is tuned to D/G/B/E. There’s plenty of depth and resonance in the sound.
2. Ukulele Construction Method
Ukuleles don’t appear out of "nowhere", they are constructed using fine, high-quality wood.
While some ukes are also made of plastics, it’s highly recommended that you don’t ever go with the one that is made of plastic because the sound quality will be worst and they won’t last long.
Solid Wood Vs Laminate Wood: Which one is better for you?
Now, there are only two options you can choose when it comes to selecting the ideal wood type for your ukulele: solid wood and laminated wood.
So, which ukulele should you opt for — a solid wood uke or laminated wood uke?
Well, it depends. If you’re just getting started, we suggest you go with the one that is made of laminates, and there’s only one reason why to do that—laminated wood ukuleles are reasonably priced.
However, if you don’t want to compromise on the sound quality, and don’t want your uke to crack or split during cold or dry climates, a solid-wood ukulele is an ideal choice for you. Also, ukuleles made with solid wood will offer great sound as they age, offering richer tones.
So, the rule of thumb says that goes for the laminated-wood ukulele only if you’re trying to save some bucks on your purchase. That means it is okay to spend $75 or even more if you can’t help but taste the vibrancy in sound.
3. Different Types of Ukulele Tonewoods
Let’s shed some light on mostly used ukulele tonewoods:
Is Mahogany good for Ukulele?
Mahogany is mostly founded in the Americas and is reddish-brown in color. As time goes by, its color darkens. Also, a little bit of sheen comes out when it is polished. Since it is highly durable and workable, it is widely used in crafting furniture and cabinets. Big brands make use of Mahogany in their different products, such as Martin Guitars uses this type of wood in “D-18”, it’s also been used by Taylor Guitars and Hagström guitars. Furthermore, we have seen its use in ‘Les Paul’, ‘SG’ and ‘J45’ collection of Gibson guitars.
Is Koa good for Ukulele?
Koa is one of the best woods that exist. Since it possesses those tonal properties, it’s widely used in the making of stringed instruments, such as Ukuleles and Guitars. It’s taken from a tree called Koa whose binomial name is “Acacia koa”. You may not know but it is true that it is endemic (native) to the Hawaiian Islands, therefore, being the second most common tree out there. Even pop and country music singer Taylor Swift has been seen using many guitars made of Koa wood.
Is Spruce good for Ukulele?
Well, let’s find out.
Spruce has recently gained popularity and is being used in most Ukes. It is used on the top side of the ukulele and it also offers a dynamic mid-range when used. This type of wood looks very soft but it is strong and offers vibrancy in sound. Spruce provides warm tones and, therefore, could be a great choice for those who are looking for
Is Redwood good for Ukulele?
Redwood is a very unique type of wood used in Guitars and Ukuleles. As far as having tonal properties is concerned, Redwood has found its place somewhere in the middle of cedar and spruce. Put differently, you will get the clarity of spruce and warmth of cedar. However, due to overharvesting, redwood is considered an expensive option. This type of wood is widely used in musical instruments, such as Guitars and Ukuleles.
Is Cedar good for Ukulele?
Is it as same as Spruce? Well, let’s see what it is and how it differs.
If you’re a huge fan of mellow and round tones, you’ll definitely adore this wood as this one is softer than Spruce and therefore offers exactly what you’re on the lookout for. This wood can help produce the lows (lower notes) and that’s why it is mostly used in baritone and tenor ukes.
Is Maple good for Ukulele?
Maple wood is having dense grain and is often found in the fretboards and bridges of the ukuleles. The clarity in sound is what it is widely famous for—the sound produced is less cluttered but offers the dynamic ability. Maple is considered a great choice when you’re going for a recording session and you don’t want to miss out on any detail in the sound produced.
Is Rosewood good for Ukulele?
Rosewood is what you will find in the flagship models brought to life by top music brands, especially, you will see it in acoustic guitars. Although it’s not typically used in ukes, if you see it featured in one, you should grab the deal before it is too late because what it brings to the table will definitely have you mesmerized.
It’s frequently paired with a softwood top. It also helps thicken up the higher range.
4. How Much Should A Ukulele Cost?
So, what is a good price for a ukulele?
Can you get it under $100 or you will have to spend more bucks on it?
Well, it actually depends on how long you have been using it. If you’re just getting started with ‘learning Uke’, then a beginner can expect to spend between $50 and $100. We recommend newcomers not spend more than $200 if they’re new to using it.
We strongly suggest you avoid the cheap ukulele because first, you won’t be getting that sound you’re dying to hear, second, it won’t last long. If you already own a uke and you’re planning to bring a new model home, you could use the old one for camping or while going places.
The price of the ukulele could vary depending on the brand that is selling it—for beginners, it could be priced at $60, $70, $80, $90, or even $100. As we’re already discussed about the tonewoods, that may also increase the costs of ukes, undoubtedly.
5. Ukulele Tones & Tunings
How are Ukulele Tones affected by Size?
Does the size of the uke affect tone? If affirmative, how?
The note produced by a ukulele varies depending on the size or scale length of the uke. That’s because a bigger body means bigger tones. That is the reason why soprano ukes don’t produce as warm and rich sound as tenor and concern ukes do.
The overall bass and volume of the ukulele also get affected by the size it.
In addition to the size, strings of the ukulele also affect the final sound produced. In other words:
- if the string is tighter, the notes will be higher
- if the string is thinner, the notes shall be higher
- if the string is shorter, the notes will be higher
Based on the type of Ukulele, there are tunings. A uke has its own tuning and alternate tuning.
The most common type of tuning is gCEA. Being a most popular tuning, you can also easily find chords of songs based on this tuning. Also, establishing communication with your fellow uke players will also be easier for you if you let them know that you’re using gCEA tuning for your ukulele.
If we go by the types, Tenor, Concert, and Soprano are tuned to G-C-E-A, whereas, Baritone is tuned to D-G-B-E—just the same way as highest strings of a guitar are tuned.
6. Ukulele Accessories
What Ukulele Accessories Do I Need?
Is there anything that I will need to buy with the ukulele?
We get it—ukuleles that have been designed using premium-quality wood will last longer, provided that you take good care of them.
Before you even start playing your ukulele, you will need to make sure that is perfectly tuned, and for that, you are going to be in need of a ukulele tuner.
You can easily find ukulele tuners online, however, if you don’t feel like spending your bucks on a tuner, it is okay—just download an application on your smartphone and you’re good to go.
Since you need to take space care of your ukulele, and that’s why you can’t just put it anywhere. To make sure that your uke doesn’t get any scratches or that it doesn’t break, you may consider investing in a ukulele gig bag (case). This will also be helpful if you’re planning to take your uke along while going on a trip with your friends.
You may have come to know that playability and sound of your uke matters a lot, therefore, the strings of your ukulele also play a huge part because if your uke doesn’t feature high-quality strings, odds are it is going to produce a low-quality sound which is something you don’t ever want, do you?
So, whether you’re a fan of nylon, fluorocarbon, aluminum, or titanium strings, we can help you make a well-versed decision. However, this is something you won’t need in the beginning, as the uke that you will be purchasing will already be having the strings.
7. Mistakes to Avoid While Buying Ukulele
While there are things that one must keep in mind while shopping for the best ukulele, there are things that, under any circumstance, must be avoided as laid out underneath:
Spending too little:
Budgeting is something that everyone does before buying a ukulele, however, you don’t have to go crazy about it. Put differently, if you are getting a premium uke by spending a little more, it’s totally worth it because you don’t purchase a uke every day.
If you’re a beginner, it’s okay to grab a ukulele that is available for under $100. If money is really not a problem, you can add some bucks to the pricing to get the perfect-sized, great-sounding uke. However, we don’t suggest you get a uke that is priced under $50 since that’s a cheap one, and we’re sure about that.
Not knowing about sizes:
Do you remember why you are opting for a ukulele instead of a guitar?
It’s primarily about the size, isn’t it?
Well, size is there first and then other factors. That’s why to think about what type of ukulele you actually need. Is it Soprano, Concert, Tenor, or Baritone? If you need the smallest ukulele, go for a Soprano Uke.
But before you finalize the decision, think about your hand. Yes, literally—you will need to understand the size of your fingers since those who have larger hands will find bigger ukulele reasonable.
Also, large ukes will offer fuller and warmer tones.
Looks are not everything:
Are you the one who buys things just based on the looks?
If affirmative, it’s about time you stop doing it because that will kill productivity.
We know that, in addition to getting your hands on a great-sound ukulele, you also want a cool-looking uke. However, that doesn’t mean that you should purchase a piece of junk.
So, the rule of thumb is that apart from considering the looks and style of the best ukulele wish to bargain, also think about the playability, tone, and tuning of the uke so as not to hurt yourself financially and emotionally—as they say, that you get emotionally attached to a guitar or ukulele once you get the hang of it.
Therefore, before making up your mind for the best ukulele, we strongly suggest you do the homework take the quality aspect seriously, not just the appearances.
How to Choose a Ukulele? — Final Thoughts!
Before you get started with the strumming patterns holding your beautiful ukulele in your hands, deciding which ukulele to go for is unconditionally important. Finding a good ukulele means, you must be having the knowledge of finding the right ukulele size, you must know about the tones that uke will bring to the table, reasonability (pricing), what type of wood it is made of, and most significantly, its types—whether you need a Soprano, Concert, Tenor, or you would like to go for a Baritone uke. In the end, there are some mistakes that all the Uke buyers need to avoid in the first place as stated above.
So, there you have it — a comprehensive guide on “How to choose a Ukulele?”. If you feel that you this article helped you even a little, sharing it with another music aficionado will mean a lot. Also, if you feel like you’re having some questions or doubts about this “Ukulele Buying Guide”, feel free to put those queries in the comment segment below, and our team will be happy to have you assisted.
Get One and Strum Like a Pro!
Don't miss out on the best Ukulele; rather, stay one step ahead and steal the deal. Also, keep in mind all the things we've mentioned above so you don't end up buying a piece of junk.