Nov 22

Buy a Ukulele: What’s Best for a Beginner?

Tag: Buying a UkuleleUkuOnline @ 3:42 pm

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.

18 Responses to “Buy a Ukulele: What’s Best for a Beginner?”

  1. Calem Bendell says:

    Thanks a lot for this guide, I’m thinking of buying my first ukulele and this really helped. Could you explain more about the difference between the tenor and soprano ukuleles?

  2. Joseph says:

    Hello, with all the versions….offsprings…….of the musical instrument originally from HAWAII known as the UKELELE what is THE tuning to a ukelele…?….is it g c e a …?…is that it….?….is that THE tuning to a standard ukelele…?….thank you all….Joseph

  3. Graham says:

    @Calem Bendell

    A soprano is obviously smaller, and gives that distinctive ukulele sound when strummed.
    However, a tenor uke is much better for fingerpicking, and doesn’t sound as good when strummed.
    A concert uke is a good comprimise between the two.

  4. Bob says:

    I’m wanting to buy my first Uke- Decided on a tenor but now am between a Oscar Schmidt OU240SWK or a Lanakai LSM-T- Any thoughts on which would be the best investment?

  5. Maria says:

    Hello. Does it worth it to buy a 8 stringed ukulele for a hardworking beginner? And is there a great difference between 4 stringed and 8 stringed ukuleles?
    Thank you,

  6. sam says:

    hia im looking to buy my first ukulele.I would like a tenor ukulele and have £100 to spend i want to get the best quality ukulele i can afford, what would you recomend?

  7. Susan Gee Rumsey says:

    I’m also in the market for my first ukulele, so thanks for your advice. Can you tell me if a tenor ukulele is the same thing as a “concert ukulele”?

  8. Jeff-o says:

    Wow, very useful! I’ve decided to buy a Lanikai LU-21 as my first uke. Thanks!

  9. Aaron says:

    Hi Joseph, I’m currently on the big island and was just told by my Ukulele instructor that the Ukulele is not originally from Hawaii, but from Portugal. It was introduced to the Hawaiians by migrant workers as they celebrated upon their arrival on the islands. Because the Portuguese played the instrument so quickly in more of a picking fashion, one of the Hawaiians said that the player’s fingers looked like jumping fleas, which is how the Ukulele got its name in Hawaiian, as the literal translation of the word Ukulele means jumping flea.

    BTW, Its not UkElele, but UkUlele. =) Enjoy learning!

  10. Roshan says:

    Dude, thanks a lot. Couldn’t find any good guides online until I stumbled across this, really appreciate it!

  11. Corey says:

    @ Calem: The major difference between a tenor ukulele and a soprano ukulele is size and sometimes the strings they are strung with. While both styles are strung with G-C-E-A strings (in that order, to get that traditional Hawaiian uke sound Joseph), the tenor uke, (two sizes bigger than the traditional Soprano) is sometimes strung with a low G string instead of the traditional high G, giving the tenor more of a low sound and adding volume to it when played. The soprano uke is a great starter instrument and has a great bright sound to it. the tenor has a more in depth and soulful sound. Look them both up on youtube, a lot of people compare all four and how they sound.

  12. JoshRas says:

    @Calem – The difference between a tenor and soprano ukulele is size. The tenor is bigger, and also has a richer tone to it. The soprano is smaller and has a little lighter tone and is easier to haul around with you. The concert uke is in between the two sizes.

  13. Ari says:

    Thanks for the guide, but I agree with Calem. I’d love more info about differences between soprano and tenor.

  14. Scarlett says:

    Thanks so much! asking for a ukulele 4 christmas and these are helpful tips for my mom :)

  15. anniesprinkles says:

    Which one do you recommend? I use to play the clarinet in high school (many years ago, I’m 43 now) and I was never very good. You have so many choices I can’t figure out which one to choose. I just want to try and find my artistic skill (do I even have an artistic skill?) and I don’t need to waste my money, since I’m not working right now. Could you please narrow down your choices. thanks

  16. connnie says:

    Awesome info!! I’m excited about getting a uke. I have a wonderful like new Ibanez guitar. It’s a lil too big for me (im a small frame lady) ha…so I’ve decided to buy a uke and sale the guitar. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Sammi says:

    I’m so excited to get my first Ukulele! This helped me so much with what I’m looking for. I like to do my research, but I’d like to jump right into it. Thanks for being dedicated to what you love! I hope I love it as much as you do, wish me luck!

  18. Calvin kim says:

    I play the piano and I want to play the ukulele which ukulele should I get
    Tenor or soprano

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