Monday, March 5, 2012

What ukulele is best for a beginner?

Thinking about picking up the ukulele? You're certainly not alone! The ukulele, by all accounts, is one of the hottest instruments out there right now. But before you head to your local music store or hop on ebay to pick out your first...there's a few things that you should know.

When I was 15, I spotted a ukulele at the local music shop. All I knew at the time is that I WANTED one! It was made by Samick...and while I don't remember the name or model, I do
remember how stupid I felt when I finally moved up to a decent Lanikai. While that first uke will always hold a special place in my heart since it was the first one I played, it was not the one that I would have chosen to learn with if I would have known then what I know now. Don't make the same mistake that I made! It's my hope that my two cents here will help you pick a good first ukulele to start your adventure with!

There are four basic types of ukuleles: soprano, concert (or alto), tenor, and baritone. Here's the rough specs on each of these....


Length: 21″
Tuning: GCEA, ADF#B
Number of frets: 12-15

Length: 23″
Tuning: GCEA
Number of frets: 15-20


Length: 26″
Tuning: GCEA, DGBE
Number of frets: 15+


Length: 30″+
Tuning: DGBE
Number of frets: 19+

If you're a beginner, I'd STRONGLY recommend crossing the Tenor and Baritone ukuleles off your list and focusing on either a soprano or a concert. While the Tenor and Baritone ukes fit their purposes well, the odds are that these won't work well for a beginner. The main reason that I shew you away from these is the sound. The Tenor and Baritone are both geared for a richer, fuller, and deeper sound. The typical jangly ukulele sound that you're most likely searching for will not be present in these two options.

That being said, we'll focus in on the Soprano and Concert size ukuleles. Two of the best beginner ukuleles are made by Lanikai and Kala. Before we get into models and price range, it's best to determine what kind of a beginner ukulele player you are. What I mean is, are you someone who has never touched a stringed instrument in your life? Or...are you a guitar, mandolin, banjo, or bass player? There is something to consider here...

The first instrument I picked up was a guitar. I played on that for 4 years before moving into the realm of ukuleles. In fact, a lot of guitar players (as well as other stringed instrument pluckers) are transitioning into the ukulele. If that description fits you, go for a Concert ukulele! While there is still some playing adjustments that you'll have to get used to, there's more room on the fretboard for ya, and you'll welcome that if you're fingers are used to bigger fret spacings. I still have trouble playing on Soprano ukuleles for this very reason. A Concert uke also has greater tension on the strings, so it won't be as easy to accidentally bend a note out of tune. Of course, if budget is a big concern to you, the Concert size might be less appealing because the price tag is a bit heftier. Staying with Lanikai and Kala, two good beginner Concert ukuleles are the Lanikai LU-21c and the Kala KA-C. Both of these can be had for right around the $100 mark.

If you've never touched a stringed instrument in your life, then a Soprano ukulele is right up your alley. If you have small fingers (or if you're buying your child his or her first uke), this is the one you want to go with. The Lanikai LU-21 Soprano or the Kala KA-S are good beginner options. A Soprano size ukulele carries a cheaper price tag than it's big brothers. Both of these models can be found in the $50-$75 price range.

I hope that this information will benefit you as you go shoppin' for your first uke! And of course, a little shameless self-promotion here to top it off. If you're looking for some good ukulele felt picks to start your playing experience with, I encourage you to pick some up (no pun intended) at the UKEonomics shop.


  1. Thanks for this great article. I got a Hilo 2500BK Soprano Ukulele for $28 because there was a chip in the black enamel paint, and it has surprisingly good sound, and keeps its tune even after practicing for a long while. I've already got UAS bad, so I know I'll be buying mo bettah ukes, but for now, the Hilo makes a sound I can stand to listen to, and the price was right.

    1. Glad to hear that you found you can love! Those "beater" ukes will surprise ya sometimes!

  2. soprano ukulele is the type that is appropriate for beginners

  3. ADM 21 Inch Deluxe Zebrawood Starter Soprano Ukulele from Bizarkdeal

    The ukulele arrived promptly and was well-wrapped with no defects or travel damage. The uke's body is smooth and lightweight, and the zebrawood is beautiful and unique. I especially like the patterning around the sound hole! The gear tuning pegs don't slip as easily as friction pegs (which is good because I'm so bad at tuning!). The strings are Aguila nylon too so they'll last me a while. Of course, the sound is the most important part of any instrument, and I'm happy to say this uke isn't just a pretty face, it also sounds lovely too! I would definitely recommend this shop to anyone looking to get into a new instrument.

  4. lANIKAI lU-21 Is the amazing ukulele for beginners. I brought is few months ago.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing the information.
    I am a contemporary ukulele player. I always prefer "Kala Ukulele" which is the most popular brand in Ukulele world. There are more Ukulele brands at UkuPlanet, you can choose the right one according to your preference.