New to ukuleles or thinking about an upgrade? We’re here to help with a guide to the five best concert ukuleles on the market right now.
Compared with other ukulele sizes, concert ukes are larger than soprano ukuleles and smaller than tenors. They have a clear, bright island sound, and they typically have more room between frets so players with larger hands find it easier to hit all the right notes.
While the concert ukulele isn’t the smallest you’ll find, it is still sized for easy portability. The strings are arranged exactly like those on a soprano or tenor uke, so if you started out with a different size or are thinking about transitioning later, you’ll be able to play all the same songs.
Quick Links: Our Top 5 Picks For the 5 Best Concert Ukuleles
- Kala MK-C Concert Ukulele
- Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele
- Lohanu Cutaway Electric Ukulele
- Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
- Kala KA-SCG Solid Spruce Mahogany Concert Ukulele
Now that you know a little bit about the concert ukulele and why it’s such a popular choice with musicians everywhere, let’s take a look at some things to consider when deciding which concert ukulele is best for your needs.
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Concert Ukulele
As with all other instruments, quality is the number one consideration when choosing a concert ukulele. We’d like to mention up front that this guide intentionally omits high-end and custom ukuleles from the lineup.
These are clearly superior and if your budget has room for one, you should definitely make the investment. There’s nothing like a custom ukulele made just for you.
Many of the best concert ukuleles available in music stores and online fall right in the middle of the scale.
These are the ones we’re focusing on and the competition is intense! We had to do a lot of comparing to come up with our choices and not everyone will agree since many factors are a matter of personal preference.
Again, choose the instrument that’s right for you. If it’s one of our choices, we’re glad that we were able to help! If not, we’re thrilled that you found the best concert ukulele for your needs. After all, you are the one who’s going to be playing it.
At the end of the day, make quality your main consideration and you won’t go wrong. Look for overarching themes as you check into reviews, as there are some definite “duds” out there. Let’s take a look at some other things to keep in mind.
When choosing a concert ukulele, be sure that you like the way it sounds. The best way to do this is to either visit your local music shop and try ukuleles until you find one you like, or create a shortlist of ukes available online and see if you can find clips of those ukuleles being played. Most manufacturers add videos to their websites and there are tons of great clips on YouTube and similar sites.
Action / Setup
String action impacts your playing experience. High action means you expend more effort, while low action means that it takes less effort to press the strings. There’s more to the story, though. High action reduces the odds of strings buzzing against frets, so many manufacturers intentionally set the action a bit on the high side so that most players will be able to produce a pleasant sound right away. Action is adjustable so don’t let it be the final deciding factor.
The strings themselves have a major impact on the way your ukulele sounds. Don’t worry if you find a ukulele that you like but you aren’t particularly impressed with the strings. These are cheap and easy to change. If you visit a luthier, they’ll be able to do this for you and in most cases, they can adjust the nut and/or saddle, or perhaps even replace these parts with better ones. As your skills develop, you may even wish to learn how to set up a ukulele on your own.
Playability refers to how easy it is to play the instrument once it has been set up. We’re rigorous in this regard, looking for faults like rough edges, weird sticky finishes, and other factors that tend to take some of the joy out of playing. The good news is that even the cheapest ukuleles can often be rendered playable with a little bit of TLC and some upgraded components. Get a better one if you can afford it and you’ll enjoy your playing experience a whole lot more.
Type of Materials Used
Once upon a time, most ukuleles were made with Hawaiian koa wood. These days, acacia, mahogany, cedar, spruce, and other woods are more common. You’ll find a few great solid wood concert ukuleles on the market, but these tend to come at a premium. Laminates are more common, and they have the added advantage of durability. Our advice here is to get something you like, that suits your budget. If you’ve been playing for a while now and you love the idea of owning a real koa wood ukulele, then you should invest in one!
Be sure to check out the rest of the instrument. The neck should be made with a nice hard wood like mahogany, and the fingerboard and bridge ought to be a good tonewood like walnut or rosewood. The tuners should be of good quality with no room for compromise. The frets can be filed if they’re a little bit rough, but they need to be straight and level. Decorative components like shell inlays, beautiful binding, and special finishes are nice to have, but not necessary.
Many mass-produced concert ukuleles are of decent quality, and they’re easy to improve by replacing bad strings with good ones and adjusting the setup to suit the player’s needs. In case your budget isn’t quite ready for one of the best concert ukuleles on the market, you can weed out the really bad ones by checking for major issues that seem to recur from one customer review to the next. Bad fret positioning, a faulty bridge, split wood, and warped neck are a few things to be on the lookout for.
If you’re buying your ukulele at a music store, you shouldn’t have to look for defects; brick and mortar shops protect their reputations fiercely and most will only carry good products. If you’re buying online, be sure to check reviews and look for a warranty if you’re on the fence about anything. Even if you’re opting for a cheap concert ukulele, you’re not saving any money if it’s not something you enjoy playing.
Concert ukulele scale length is usually 15 inches. The scale length might vary a bit from one brand to the next, however don’t let this concern you as it’s a matter of preference rather than an indicator of quality.
Most of the time, concert ukulele nut width is between 1.38” and 1.5” the wider the nut, the wider the neck, and the more room for your fingertips between the strings. This isn’t a huge concern for most players although larger-statured people with big hands often find that a wider nut makes for easier accuracy. Some manufacturers don’t mention nut width, so you might want to move on to the next brand if you’re concerned about this factor.
Kala MK-C Concert Ukulele
The Kala MK-C concert ukulele features a mahogany top, back and sides with a nice satin finish that doesn’t pick up a lot of fingerprints. The neck is mahogany, and the fingerboard is walnut. The nut and saddle are plastic, however there aren’t a lot of complaints about them and they can easily be replaced. The strings are Aquila super nylgut, great right out of the package.
This ukulele offers a scale length of 14.875 inches; just a touch shorter than average. It has 18 frets and it measures 1.38 inches at the nut. This ukulele has a sweet, pleasant sound that’s as it should be. It comes as part of a kit that includes some nice extras like a gig bag, a tuner, and a neck strap. For beginners or those on a tight budget, this is one of the best concert ukuleles around.
Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele
Cordoba has a great reputation for building quality instruments, and we’re happy to see that the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele keeps the company’s standing high. This is a gorgeous ukulele with mahogany top, back, and sides, a pretty abalone-style rosette, ivoroid binding on the body and fingerboard, and pearl buttons on the silver tuners. Aquila Nylgut 7U strings are provided.
As anticipated, this ukulele offers a warm, rich sound that’s a pleasure to listen to. Its nut width is just over 1.37 inches and its scale length is 14.76 inches. This ukulele is handmade, with careful attention to all components and finishes.
Lohanu Cutaway Electric Ukulele
If you’re looking for an acoustic electric concert ukulele and you like the idea of easily accessing all the frets on the fingerboard, then you’re probably going to like everything about this cutaway ukulele. The Lohanu electric cutaway ukulele features a sapele/mahogany top, back, and sides, a rosewood fingerboard, and handmade ABS bindings. The chrome diecast tuning machines add even more value, as do pre-installed strap buttons.
This lovely ukulele features built-in electronics including an onboard tuner. It is sold as part of a package that includes some useful extras such as a gig bag, an extra set of strings, and a neck strap. There are occasionally quality control issues with these instruments however Lohanu ukuleles come with a lifetime warranty and customer service is top notch.
Overall, this is one of the best concert ukuleles in its price range and a fun upgrade from a basic acoustic model. It delivers plenty of rich “Aloha” sound and there’s a lovely quality to its tone.
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
A beautiful instrument from every angle! The Oscar Schmidt OU5 concert ukulele is made with select Hawaiian Koa wood, and offers a glossy finish, which is easily maintained using the accompanying polishing cloth. Grover chrome tuning machines add convenience. The nyatoh neck supports a contrasting rosewood fingerboard, and the mustache style bridge is also made with rosewood. An abalone rosette and abalone binding add to this uke’s visual appeal.
This ukulele offers a 15 inch scale length and 16 frets. The nut and saddle are made with durable ABS. The Oscar Schmidt OU5 nut width is 1 7/16 inches. This ukulele offers a rich, deep tone with plenty of volume and all the sweetness you’ve come to expect from a quality concert uke. Overall, this is one of the best concert ukuleles available in the mid-range department, and it’s one of the prettiest at this level as well.
Kala KA-SCG Solid Spruce Mahogany Concert Ukulele
Wow! It’s always amazing to find a great price on a ukulele with solid wood components. The Kala KA-SCG features a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides, along with a mahogany neck. The black binding is simple but offers some pleasing visual contrast. The walnut fingerboard and bridge look and feel fantastic.
This ukulele features chrome tuners. The nut and saddle are made with Graph Tech NuBone. There are 18 frets on the neck, and the scale length comes in at 14.875 inches. The nut width is 1.39 inches, just a touch wider than average. Thanks to the spruce top, this ukulele sounds a touch brighter than average. It’s a beautiful option and it comes with some nice extras including a bag, a tuner, and more.
Whether you’re hoping to relax and play some mellow tunes or if you’re hoping to take to the stage at some point, a quality ukulele is always the best choice. Not only does it sound great, it feels fantastic in your hands – you might even feel like it’s hard to put down! Unless you’re going with a custom instrument, you’ll find that the best concert ukuleles are quite affordable. Like us, you might not be able to stop at one!