It seems like more and more people are buying ukuleles these days -the New York Times certainly seems to think so – and there are sure to be plenty of ukuleles on Christmas lists this year. But buying your first ukulele can be a tricky task. Unlike buying a guitar, your local music shop isn’t likely to have a big range of ukuleles for you to try. You will get a much better selection online – particularly on eBay. But that does mean you won’t be able to try before you buy. So here are a few pointers to help you decide which ukulele to buy.
Visit Buy a Ukulele
On my other site, I have buy a ukulele section on my other site with reviews, descriptions and videos of all the most common ukuleles around (both new and vintage). There’s are also plenty of ukuleles for sale listed here.
Set Your Price Range
You can pick up a ukulele very cheap – less than $20 – and many people start with one of those ukuleles. I certainly started with a very low quality, cheap ukulele, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It wasn’t until I got a better quality ukulele that I started to really play seriously. Buying a slightly better quality uke will encourage you to play more – since you’ll sound better. A price range of $50 – $75 will get you a good starter ukulele, but even $30 – $50 will be an improvement over the cheapeset.
Where Can I Buy a Ukulele?
If you want to buy a ukulele in the flesh, there are a few dedicated ukulele shops around the globe. Most of them, of course, are in Hawaii but there are a few others around such as Duke of Uke in London, UK.
Also, you should be able to find a small selection of ukuleles at your local Guitar Center or Musician’s Friend. Their websites have a reasonable selection of ukuleles, but I can’t say how many they’ll have for sale in the store.
The other option – and the one I’ve taken by far the most often – is to buy a ukulele online. The biggest choice of ukuleles to buy is on eBay. Some people are reticent about buying on eBay, but really most of the sellers are as reputable as any online seller. If you look for a power seller with a very high rating like musicguymic or Ukulele4U, you should be absolutely fine.
Which is the Best Ukulele to Buy?
Obviously, this depends on your price range. You can buy Makala ukuleles cheap. They also come in pastel shades with dolphins on – which makes them great for kids.
A little more expensive are the Lanikai LU-21 range. These seem to be fast becoming the ukulele of choice for beginners – perhaps because of support from Beirut’s Zach Condon and Jason Mraz. You can read a bunch of Lanikai ukulele reviews here.
Slightly further up the price scale is the Oscar Schmidt OU5 koa ukulele. I have the English version of this (an Ashbury Concert Koa ukulele) and it’s long been my day-to-day ukulele. You can watch me play the Ashbury ukulele here. I can highly recommend it.
What Size Ukulele should I Buy?
Traditionally, the standard, most common ukulele size is the soprano. But more and more people are choosing to buy a tenor ukulele as their first uke (probably under the influence of professional tenor players like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Jake Shimabukuro). A tenor ukulele will give you a bigger, more guitar-like tone and also makes it easier to play fancy stuff. But for a beginner, the fundamentals are the same whichever size ukulele you choose to buy.