Which ukuleles are best?

Whether you’re a complete beginner or you’re looking to upgrade your instrument, choosing a ukulele can seem overwhelming. With so many available, it’s tough to know which are worth it and which you should leave on the shelf. 

You’ll need to know a bit about the types of ukulele available and the materials that go into making them before you buy. The Cordoba Concert Ukulele is great for intermediate players and enthusiastic beginners. 

What to know before you buy a ukulele

Types of ukulele

There are four main types of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The soprano is the smallest of the four and comes to mind for many people when thinking of a ukulele. It has a bright classic uke sound but is fairly quiet due to its small body. 

Concert ukuleles are slightly larger than sopranos. They have a similar bright sound but are slightly louder, so you can play to a small room of people without using a mic or a pickup. 

Tenor ukuleles are significantly larger than concert and soprano ones, giving them a fuller, deeper tone that isn’t as instantly recognizable. 

Baritones are the largest of all ukuleles and have a different standard tuning to the other three varieties. Their deep tone and DGBE tuning have a similar sound to a classical guitar, albeit higher in register. 

Materials

The body of a ukulele can be either solid wood or plywood. Ukes made from solid wood cost more than plywood versions but sound better and are more durable. The neck and fretboard are made from wood, even if the body is plywood. Although it doesn’t make a huge difference to the overall sound, some wood has superior tonal qualities to others. Cedar and mahogany are both great choices and koa is a wood traditionally used to make ukuleles in Hawaii, so it’s often used by manufacturers looking for that classic sound. 

What to look for in a quality ukulele

Colors

Many ukuleles have a wood finish. On instruments made from solid wood, the wood will simply be sealed or lacquered, while those made from plywood will have a layer of laminate or solid wood veneer on the body’s exterior for a wood effect. However, you can also find ukes with colored finishes, including basic colors such as black and white, as well as brighter hues, such as teal blue and sunshine yellow. 

Accessories

Ukuleles made for beginners often come in a bundle with various accessories useful for new players. Common accessories include soft cases, tuners, strings, straps and picks. This can save money compared to buying the instrument and accessories separately. 

Hardware

Cheap hardware, such as the tuning pegs and bridge, is likely to break long before you have any issues with the neck or body. Look for tuning pegs made from metal rather than plastic to avoid the ukes on which the hardware appears flimsy. 

How much you can expect to spend on a ukulele

Cheap ukuleles cost $30-$50. These are okay to learn on, but you’ll probably want to upgrade soon, so it’s better to start with a $50-$100 instrument if you’re set on learning. Mid-range and high-end ukes cost roughly $100-$300. 

Ukulele FAQ

Is the ukulele easier than the guitar? 

A. With fewer strings and frets than guitars, ukuleles are easier to learn. With just seven main chords, you can pick up the basics of the ukulele in 5 to 10 minutes. Of course, it takes longer to get good. With regular practice, you can expect to learn a range of songs and feel confident playing your instrument within around 3 to 6 months. 

Many people also find the soft nylon strings easier on their fingers than wire guitar strings, so they can keep practicing for longer before their fingers get sore. 

Can I teach myself the ukulele? 

A. While professional music lessons can help new players progress quickly, they’re not an option for everyone. It’s completely possible to teach yourself ukulele. In fact, it’s never been easier, thanks to the volume of resources at your fingertips. 

You can find a wealth of videos on YouTube to help you learn chords and songs, as well as apps dedicated to learning instruments. If you’d prefer to stay analog, you can also buy books to teach you ukulele. 

What’s the best ukulele to buy?

Top ukulele

Cordoba Concert Ukulele

Cordoba Concert Ukulele

What you need to know: This quality ukulele is great for players looking for an upgrade or keen beginners. 

What you’ll love: It’s a well-built instrument with a mahogany top, back and sides. It has a classic shape and an attractive inlay around the soundhole. You can also buy it in soprano and tenor sizes. 

What you should consider: The action is high, so it may benefit from a professional restring and setup. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top ukulele for the money

Hola! Music Soprano Ukulele Bundle

Hola! Music Soprano Ukulele Bundle

What you need to know: This is an affordable ukulele bundle for beginners not too worried about longevity or overall quality. 

What you’ll love: The low price makes it a great option to learn on if you’re not sure if you’ll stick to the hobby. It comes with handy accessories, including a bag, strap and picks. You can choose from a wide range of colors. 

What you should consider: It isn’t the most durable option and anyone serious about playing ukulele will probably want to upgrade within a few months. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ranch Ukulele

Ranch Ukulele

What you need to know: Offering excellent value for money, it’s an excellent starter ukulele for people who want something better than the cheapest model. 

What you’ll love: This ukulele plays nicely and sounds decent for the price point. You can choose from soprano, concert and tenor sizes. It comes in a bundle with accessories such as a case, strap and tuner. 

What you should consider: The strings don’t hold their tune well, so it needs to be tuned up regularly. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.