Chances are that you’ve landed on this page as you’re thinking about buying a ukulele and you don’t know that much about them. Hopefully the advice on this page will help guide you and help you make an informed decision. Read on for some tips and some of the buys that I think represent the best ukuleles for beginners.
Firstly, you should aim to spend as much as you can afford, most cheap ukes are pretty terrible and will having you tearing your hair out (and then you’ll look like me). One of the main problems with a cheap ukulele that doesn’t play well is that it can actually be pretty damaging to your path to mastering the instrument.
Think about it, if your first experience of getting to grips with an instrument is attempting to play something that would be hard for a good player to actually use, it’s gonna be exponentially more difficult for a newcomer.
Do not under any circumstances just be tempted to buy the cheapest ukulele you can find. There’s a high chance it will completely unplayable and it could easily end up putting you off ever playing ukulele again.
That said, there are some bargains to be had at the cheaper end of the market and these ukes will do the job for you without making you bankrupt.
As a rule of thumb I’d recommend trying to spend at least $50/£35 on a beginner ukulele. Obviously the more you spend the better the chance of getting a better ukulele but you’ll still need to do your homework.
Best Beginner Ukulele Brands
There are a huge amount of ukulele manufacturers out there to choose from (including some rather unscrupulous ones that keep their names very close to other manufacturers in the hope of accidentally stealing some of their custom).
Kala, Ohana and Lanikai are all safe bets when it comes to ukulele brands
When it comes to beginner brands that I’m happy to recommend I keep returning to the same list. Kala/Makala, Lanikai, Ohana, Cordoba, Luna and Octopus are all very solid brands at the beginner end of the market. There’s a lot to be said from buying from the bigger, more established brands when you’re making your first purchase but there are bargains to be had from the smaller manufacturers too.
Personally I’m a big fan of Kala ukuleles. Sure, they’re mass produced but Kala have established a solid reputation in the industry.
It’s worth knowing a little bit about the different sizes of ukulele before you jump in and make your first purchase. There are 4 main sizes (although there are others) and they are soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.
Soprano is generally the smallest size and usually have between 12 and 15 frets. It’s generally the size most associated with ukuleles and is great for portability (and also a great size for kids).
The concert is a little bigger than the soprano and typically has between 15 and 20 frets. It gives a fuller sound than the soprano and everything is generally a little bigger.
Tenor ukuleles are the next up. They give a deeper tone and will also provide more volume (due to the larger body).
Finally on to the baritone. The baritone ukulele is the largest size and is tuned differently to the other sizes. It’s more in line with a guitar when it comes to it’s tuning.
When it comes to ukulele sizes, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean that a ukulele is easier to play. There is a bit of a myth that sopranos are more difficult to play than the other sizes, this is simply not true.
Don’t just go and buy the first ukulele you come across, it’s worth a little time and investigation
Recommended Beginner Ukuleles (all under $100)
Here are what I consider to be the among best ukuleles for beginners. All of the below provide decent bang for the buck are relatively cheap and should give you a good platform to start your learning with. Kala feature pretty prominently in this list and rightly so, they have a great reputation for making affordable, quality entry level ukuleles.
I’m of the opinion that beginners should buy a ukulele that is decent quality but is also quite cheap, you can always upgrade further down the line.
On to the list which isn’t necessarily in any particular order…
For an entry-level instrument the KA-15S is tough to beat. The satin body looks and feels great in the hand. From around $60 you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beginners ukulele. Traditional looks, great tone and it’s made by Kala which is a great endorsement in itself.
Aquila Super Nylgut strings, 12 frets, rosewood fingerboard and mahogany neck and sides. The Kala KA-15S is well worth the money.
Makala MK-SD (Dolphin)
The Makala MK-SD, or Dolphin as it’s better known is one of the best selling entry level ukuleles around and comes with a cracking reputation. At around £30 ($45) this is considered by many to be the best budget uke around. It might be worth pointing out that not everyone will like the dolphin bridge from a cosmetic point of view, but if you can get past that then they’re great. The Dolphins are available in a range of colours. Makala ukes are made by Kala, one of the best known ukulele brands in the world. Stick some Aquila strings on it and you’re good to go.
The Dolphin is a popular choice with kids due to it’s bright colours and dolphin shaped bridge. For those that don’t want a dolphin bridge Kala have a slightly cooler version that features a shark instead.
Luna Tattoo Concert
The Luna Tattoo is a concert scale ukulele meaning it’s bigger than the others on this list. It has a laser etched solid spruce top which is very striking and incredibly popular with players on Youtube.
At $98 it’s a little more expensive but it’s well specced and sounds pretty good too. The concert scale suits anyone that feels a soprano wouldn’t be right for them and the 18 frets do come in handy for those that wander around the fretboard. Open geared tuners, rosewood fretboard and a rather nice satin finish. A solid ukulele that is really popular with Youtubers.
The 15SM is Cordoba’s best-selling ukulele and for good reason. The satin finish, abalone rosette and pearl buttons make this one beautiful beginner ukulele. It comes strung with Aquila Nylgut and is also available in concert scale. This is one highly respected entry-level ukulele. At $89 it’s a little bit more expensive than the other ukuleles on this list but if you can afford a little extra, it’s worth the step up.
The Makala MK-S is a decent alternative to the Dolphin. There are some similarities although the Dolphin has a plastic back and sides whereas the MK-S has an agathis body (the Dolphin has a more muted sound) and it has more of a classic soprano look. For around £35 ($50) this is a ukulele that looks, feels and plays really well. Check out my review of the Makala MK-S right here.
So there you go, 5 beginner ukuleles for you to take a look at. If these 5 don’t take your fancy then take a look at some of my other ukulele reviews. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’d recommend spending as much as you can afford (otherwise you could just end up buying twice). If you can get to a store to try some out then that’s the best option, even better if you can take someone with you who knows a thing or two about ukuleles.
I would generally always recommend buying in store if you can but that be a little bit prohibitive when it comes to ukuleles. Good ukulele stores are few and far between. The reason I do recommend buying in store is simply the ability to actually pick up a ukulele and have a play. You’ll get so much more from picking it up and playing it and getting a feel for it.
Although I’ve covered quite a lot of general information in this post, I have a ukulele buyers guide which has more detail if you’re really wanting to do your ukulele homework before you make that purchase.
When you’re first starting out you’ll be pleased to know there isn’t a huge list of added extras that you need to buy in order get playing but one thing I would recommend is that you buy up a clip-on tuner at the same time as making your ukulele purchase.
Clip-on tuners are pretty much a necessity for beginners as ukuleles are notorious for going out of tune and it’s very difficult to tune a ukulele without one as a bit of a newbie. Clip-on tuners start at around $7 so it’s not something that’s going to break the bank. If you’d like a few pointers when it comes to buying a clip-on tuner then check out this post – the best ukulele tuners to help you make an informed decision.