Buying a ukulele can be a major step forward for your musical career. It can also simply represent an inspired choice in picking up a brand new hobby. But what makes the ukulele such a popular option for beginners? And which ones are best for someone with no prior knowledge of how to play a string instrument?
Different Sizes and Types of Ukuleles
The size of a ukulele has a lot to do with its scale length and its frets. Instruments that have a larger space between frets – the thin metal bars located on the fingerboard – usually offer improved maneuverability and an easier overall experience.
Depending on the size of the scale and the area left free between their frets, there are four types of ukuleles you can consider: Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. We will look at each of these in detail below.
Concert and Tenor ukuleles are among the ones that have the largest scale length. This means their frets are easier to manage as well, and they are not as cramped as Sopranos and Baritones. But let’s take a closer look at what the major pros and cons of each of these instruments truly are.
The soprano has a traditional look and feel that makes it one of the top choices for most ukulele players. If you have smaller hands, you’ll find the tinier size of a soprano to be much more convenient, a quality that also plays an important role when it comes to portability. Sopranos are also less expensive than most conventional ukes, which makes them a desirable choice if you’re on a budget.
Concert ukuleles represent the middle ground between sopranos and tenors. Their total length is 23 inches, while the scale length ranges between 15 and 16 inches. These instruments are ideal if you’re looking for something a little larger than a soprano, but you’re not ready to tackle an instrument as imposing as the tenor.
Less traditional but increasingly popular, the tenor is considered by many to be the ideal choice when it comes to deciding on the best ukuleles for beginners. Its large size (17-18-inch scale length and 26-inch total length) offers excellent maneuverability, and its length makes its tighter strings perfect for finger picking. This is also one of the most commonly found ukuleles on stage, being a preferred instrument for artists like Jake Shimabukuro, Brittni Paiva and James Hill.
Baritones are the largest of all ukuleles, and that would normally mean that they should be the best choice for you – right? In terms of size, the baritone is a notch up from tenor, and it is also one of the more unique ukulele types out there when it comes to tone and melody. Also, if you had some experience with guitars, you may find baritones to be a good choice.
The only real drawback of the baritone is that it’s tuned differently than any of the other ukuleles. Because of this, you might find it harder to locate too many good tutorials on how to start out with it.
What to Look for When Buying a Beginner Ukulele
It’s best to try and find the best ukulele for a reasonable price. When it comes to the pricing range itself, you should normally look in the vicinity of $40 and $150 for best value.
As seen earlier, the size is also an important factor, but beginners also have to realize how sizes affect the tone of the instrument. A larger body means a warmer and more resonant tone, but if you want something that sounds more subdued, a soprano might be best. Another thing to consider is that you can also purchase electric ukuleles which give you the same great sound but amplified.
Finally, make sure you check out some of the best brands of high quality ukuleles. As you will see below, Kala and Diamond Head ukuleles are some of the best, although other brands like Mahalo, Cordoba and Luna ukuleles are also worth considering.
Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
The KA-15S is considered one of the very best low-priced sopranos out there. Made from superior quality mahogany and rosewood, this Kala model features a traditional ukulele body and look, as well as a refined satin finish. The white chrome die-cast geared tuners are also an excellent asset, allowing beginners to easily tune the instrument to sound just right. Easy to learn, the Kala sounds beautiful, and its surprisingly light constructions makes it a true delight to play.
Diamond Head DU-150 Soprano Ukulele
Also a traditional soprano, the Diamond Head DU-150 is one of the most popular choices on review sites. The 3-chord chart makes it surprisingly easy to learn to play using this instrument, and its full body sound allows you to play professional quality music. This is also one of the more durable instruments you can choose, featuring a strong maple neck and body and geared guitar-styled tuners that keep it in tune much longer than most other ukuleles out there.
Kala Learn to Play Ukulele Starter Kit
This complete beginner kit will lead you to one of the most comprehensive and overall easy approaches to learning how to play the ukulele. The Kala-quality craftsmanship leaves nothing to the imagination with premium tuners and strings, a beautiful and resilient mahogany body with a satin finish and a superior construction that keeps the instrument tuned longer. The kit also includes a useful set of online lessons to help you on your first steps to playing beautiful music, and the easy to use Kala tuner app.
Mahalo Rainbow Series Soprano Ukulele Starter Pack
Mahalo is a unique brand that sells surprisingly high quality ukuleles. The Rainbow series is a good example, and also represents one of the most affordable instruments in our list. This ukulele comes with a sturdy carrying bag and the Ukulele Bartt digital lesson set. The quality craftsmanship on the instrument itself will surprise you, especially at such a low cost. It comes with a hand-painted body, and is designed to produce superior, balanced sound with increased projection. The Mahalo Rainbow Series is also a feature-rich product that includes a Canadian NuBone XB bridge saddle, Aquila New Nylgut strings and Mahalo’s well-known, geared tuners, fashioned in the shape of a dolphin.