Whenever I take my ukulele somewhere like the local farmer’s market or camping with friends, I always get bombarded with questions. And when I tell people that I’ve only been playing for a few years, they always ask me which are the best ukuleles for beginners.
It’s always a tricky question to answer because there are so many options for ukulele players! If you’re a new ukulele player, read on to find out which is the best ukulele for beginners, and how to find the right ukulele for you!
Ukuleles for Beginners: Sizes
The four most common sizes of ukulele that you’ll find in any ukulele store are soprano (14″), concert (15″), tenor (17″), and baritone (20″ with different tuning). Any of these would be a great ukulele for a beginner, depending on what you’re looking for in your first ukulele. Each of these different sizes of ukuleles has its own benefits.
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest of the ukulele family, coming in around 21” long, and are a great starter ukulele for beginners. Their small size makes them easy to carry around with you, and the shorter neck means a shorter scale length, which is easier for a lot of people to play. Soprano ukuleles are also great for young kids – the small size makes them easy to hold, and the shorter neck is easier for little fingers to navigate. For beginners, sopranos are often the best choice because the shorter neck length means that you can quickly learn the basic chord shapes.
Concert ukuleles are the next size up at around 23”, with larger body size and a longer neck with a longer scale length. Concert ukuleles are great for anyone – they’re still easily handled and played by kids and adults, and the larger body size gives them a slightly deeper timbre than the soprano ukulele. Many beginners love this size ukulele because it’s a nice in-between size, but still allows you to play in the first position for most of your chord shapes. Most beginners will choose either a soprano or concert-size ukulele for their first ukulele.
These are the largest of the three traditional sizes of ukuleles at 26”. Their larger body size might be a little tricky for young children to hold and navigate, but for many adults, this is the perfect size for the ukulele! A larger body gives them a slightly deeper timbre than the concert or soprano, and the longer neck gives you a longer scale to play with. Choosing a tenor ukulele as your first ukulele gives you lots of room to grow in your chord shapes and play up the neck!
These instruments are still in the ukulele family, but can almost feel like an entirely different animal! These ukuleles are the largest in size, around 29”, comparable to a half-size guitar. Large body size and longer neck mean you get a slightly lower timbre than the tenor ukulele, and lots more room to play scales! Most baritone ukuleles are tuned D-G-B-E like the bottom four strings of a guitar, so these are sometimes a great “gateway” instrument to playing the guitar or the guitarlele. If you really want a larger ukulele, you can even get baritone ukuleles strung with G-C-E-A strings so they play like your soprano, concert, or tenor ukuleles.
But which one is right for you?
When you’re choosing the best ukulele for beginners, think about a few things before you start shopping.
- How large of an instrument do I want? Each ukulele size has distinct advantages, depending on your needs. Don’t be afraid to start small with a soprano and play your way up to a tenor or a baritone. Or if you’re a confident beginner, go for it and get a tenor or baritone uke.
- Do I want to be able to hook my ukulele up to an amplifier? Electronics are a big consideration when choosing which ukulele is best for beginners. Many ukuleles with electronics installed also include a built-in tuner that makes it easy to tune up and play. If you choose a ukulele with electronics installed, expect to pay a little more for your instrument. This leads us to…
- How much do I want to spend on my ukulele? Thinking about everything else, budget is very often where new ukulele players start. What can you reasonably afford? Ukuleles in all sizes come in a wide range of prices, depending on tone woods, electronics, and accessories. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a huge budget for your first ukulele, either – sometimes all you need is a great, inexpensive ukulele to get you hooked on playing. You can always upgrade later on!
- Who is going to be playing this ukulele? If this ukulele isn’t for you, who is it for? A young child? A teenager? An older adult? Is this ukulele for someone who has a lot of experience playing other instruments, or is this their first instrument? Are you going to be sharing this ukulele with a friend or family member?
- Should I look for a used ukulele? This is a big one. Many of us don’t mind buying a gently used ukulele, or a ukulele that’s been used but is still in fantastic condition. A used ukulele can be a great way to save a few dollars and stretch your ukulele budget if you’re a beginner. Make sure that, before you buy a used ukulele, you have it inspected to determine if there are any issues with the instrument. Look for things like scratches on the finish, cracks in the body, or where the neck is attached to the body, check the tuning pegs and tuners for rust and see if they still move freely, and, most importantly, if they hold their tuning. Look around the sound hole of the instrument for any cracks or scratches, and make sure the bridge and nut are in good working condition.
- What brand of ukulele do I want? There are so many great ukulele brands out there, choosing one can definitely feel overwhelming! When I started playing the ukulele as a beginner, I started out with Kala ukuleles because they were consistently great sounding and affordable within my budget. Once I had a little more experience playing ukulele, I added a few Ohana and Lanikai ukuleles to my collection and I wasn’t disappointed with the quality and the sound.
Other brands of ukuleles that you can rely on for consistent quality at an affordable price are Enya, Flight, and Cordoba. If you’re looking for a higher-end instrument, you’ll want to look at brands like KoAloha, ANueNue, Kanile’a, Pono, or Romero Creations.
So… Which is the best ukulele for beginners?
Now that you have all this information, the final decision about which is the best ukulele for beginners is entirely up to you! As long as you choose an instrument that sounds great to you and meets your needs as a music maker, you’ll get many years of pleasure out of your ukulele.
Did you know that we have the #1 music store for all your ukulele needs? Uke Like the Pros is also your one-stop online learning site where you can find ukulele courses for beginners! Take a look at our ukulele shop where you can browse hundreds of different ukuleles and watch video demos, and then take a look at our extensive library of online ukulele courses! You’ll be playing ukulele in no time!