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What is the Best Ukulele for a Beginner? 5 Best Picks!

What is the Best Ukulele for a Beginner

Photo by Marco Verch

With its happy and perky sound, the ukulele craze has swept music stores all over the world. And I must admit, even I fell for this instrument for a good reason. Ukulele, or uke, is a four-stringed instrument that’s easier to learn than guitars. It’s also smaller, lighter, and less intimidating. But the ultimate question is this: what is the best ukulele for a beginner? In this post, I will share my top five picks as a long-time musician and uke player.

Quick Comparison

Ukulele Starter Kit (15-FREE-Bonuses) Mahogany Uke, Compression Sponge Case, Aquila Strings, Felt Picks, Tuner, Chord Stamp, Chord Chart, Leather Strap, Live Lesson & More (Limited Time)
Ukulele From Lohanu Amazing Looking Spalted Maple With Armrest Glossy Finish With 3 Band EQ & Pickup With All Accessories Included! (Tenor Size)
Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Tenor Cutaway Ukulele
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
Kala KA-C Mahogany Concert Ukulele Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Ukulele Starter Kit (15-FREE-Bonuses) Mahogany Uke, Compression Sponge Case, Aquila Strings, Felt Picks, Tuner, Chord Stamp, Chord Chart, Leather Strap, Live Lesson & More (Limited Time)
Ukulele From Lohanu Amazing Looking Spalted Maple With Armrest Glossy Finish With 3 Band EQ & Pickup With All Accessories Included! (Tenor Size)
Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Tenor Cutaway Ukulele
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
Kala KA-C Mahogany Concert Ukulele Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Brand
Bondi Ukuleles
Lohanu
Cordoba Guitars
Washburn
Kala
Reviews
180+
140+
190+
200+
360+
Price
$199.00
$199.97
$199.00
$139.99
Price not available
Prime
-
-
Ukulele Starter Kit (15-FREE-Bonuses) Mahogany Uke, Compression Sponge Case, Aquila Strings, Felt Picks, Tuner, Chord Stamp, Chord Chart, Leather Strap, Live Lesson & More (Limited Time)
Ukulele Starter Kit (15-FREE-Bonuses) Mahogany Uke, Compression Sponge Case, Aquila Strings, Felt Picks, Tuner, Chord Stamp, Chord Chart, Leather Strap, Live Lesson & More (Limited Time)
Brand
Bondi Ukuleles
Reviews
180+
Price
$199.00
Prime
Ukulele From Lohanu Amazing Looking Spalted Maple With Armrest Glossy Finish With 3 Band EQ & Pickup With All Accessories Included! (Tenor Size)
Ukulele From Lohanu Amazing Looking Spalted Maple With Armrest Glossy Finish With 3 Band EQ & Pickup With All Accessories Included! (Tenor Size)
Brand
Lohanu
Reviews
140+
Price
$199.97
Prime
Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Tenor Cutaway Ukulele
Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Tenor Cutaway Ukulele
Brand
Cordoba Guitars
Reviews
190+
Price
$199.00
Prime
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
Brand
Washburn
Reviews
200+
Price
$139.99
Prime
-
Kala KA-C Mahogany Concert Ukulele Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Kala KA-C Mahogany Concert Ukulele Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Brand
Kala
Reviews
360+
Price
Price not available
Prime
-

Contrary to common beliefs, ukuleles didn’t originate in Hawaii, but in Europe. It just happened that a Portuguese immigrant brought his branguinha guitar to Hawaii, which then adapted the Hawaiian name ‘ukulele’. From then on, the Hawaiians developed a deep fondness for the instrument.

Nowadays, the ukulele is associated with the beach, summer, and the tropical vibe. It’s a fun instrument to learn, even for those with no musical background. Young kids who want to learn an instrument will also thrive with a ukulele as an introductory string option.

Take note that ukuleles are available in different sizes and tonewood material. If you want to skip the hassle of scouting among the hundreds of options in the market, here are my top five picks:

1. Bondi Ukuleles Concert Mahogany Uke

If you’re in the market for an entry-level option with excellent sound and build, you should get the one from Bondi Ukuleles. This is a 24” concert uke with an African mahogany body and black ebony fretboard. It’s also fitted with Italian Aquila Nylgut strings for the best sound.

Beginners will have a great start with this ukulele. As a concert size, it has 18 frets, which is a favorite among adults who are just getting started to learn the instrument.

Sale
Ukulele Starter Kit (15-FREE-Bonuses) Mahogany Uke, Compression Sponge Case, Aquila Strings, Felt Picks, Tuner, Chord Stamp, Chord Chart, Leather Strap, Live Lesson & More (Limited Time)
  • DID YOU KNOW IF YOU WERE TO BUY EACH INDIVIDUAL ITEM IT'D COST YOU OVER $400? IT'S HARD KNOWING WHAT TO BUY, HOW TO GET STARTED, WORRY OF WASTING MONEY! Each kit is shipped flawlessly to your home with no missing pieces - It all just works perfectly together. Our 40 years in the Music Industry has ELIMINATED the RISK and GUESS WORK. Every item accelerates your learning, want to know how? Keep reading below or beat the price rise and secure one of the last remaining "Limited Launch Edition" sets.
  • SPEND THE EXTRA $20? IT'S OK TO BE COOL! IMAGINE WALKING AROUND WITH A PLASTIC UKULELE OR AT YOUR 1ST LESSON GETTING EYEBALLED. That's right, we are hip, we are honest, we do stand by our products and we do care. Isn't it always the case, you get what you pay for? Personally, we've found it so and after testing nearly every ukulele on the market through our 27-point QC -We were shocked by fake parts. We aren't the cheapest, we know this, you know this. But cheap often doesn't bring happiness.

The best thing is that this ukulele comes with a starter kit bundle. With that, the package also includes a colorful padded case, tuner, uke strap, extra strings, felt picks, cleaning cloth, bookmark, chord chart, and training videos. It’s complete with everything a beginner needs to start playing.

Overall, this ukulele is well-made and has good sound. I also like that the frets aren’t sharp, unlike other cheap beginner instruments I’ve purchased online. The only thing I noticed is that the fretboard is a bit dry, but it’s easily fixed with a drop of fretboard oil.

In my opinion, this is the best deal for beginners. The free lessons really help a lot, and as an experienced musician, I’m quite impressed by the sound quality for its price range.

Pros

  • Complete bundle kit
  • Comes with free lessons
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons

  • The fretboard needs hydrating, but it’s only a small issue

2. Lohanu Spalted Maple Ukulele

If you have knowledge of stringed instruments, the Lohanu Spalted Maple Uke is a great choice if you want to learn another instrument. It’s available in concert and tenor sizes, on which both are made of spalted and laminated maple wood. Meanwhile, its fretboard is made of technical wood fitted with Super Aquila strings.

One thing I like the most about this Lohanu uke is the arched back. This gives a fuller and warmer sound than non-arched ukuleles. Also, I like the bindings that add a classy look to the body of the instrument.

Sale
Ukulele From Lohanu Amazing Looking Spalted Maple With Armrest Glossy Finish With 3 Band EQ & Pickup With All Accessories Included! (Tenor Size)
  • From the brand Lohanu, makers of one of the BEST SELLING Tenor Ukuleles on Amazon! Amazing Beautiful Glossy Uke! Special feature Armrest! Electric pickup, 3 band EQ with Built in Tuner
  • UNCONDITIONAL LIFETIME WARRANTY for Ukulele & All Accessories!!! BEST Customer Service from a Canadian Company!! FREE BONUS UKULELE VIDEO LESSONS!

There’s also a built-in sounding pickup as well as tuner and 3-band equalizer. It’s gig-ready, which makes this instrument sustainable if you’re serious about playing the ukulele.

Aside from the ukulele, you will also get a strap, picks, ukulele bag, clip tuner, hanger, and extra strings.

Overall, this is a gorgeous ukulele, and I’m planning to get one to add to my collection. The best thing about this Lohanu piece is that it’s covered by an unconditional lifetime warranty. If you encounter quality issues with the instrument, call Lohanu, and they will send a replacement or refund.

Pros

  • Unconditional lifetime warranty
  • Built-in pickup and tuner
  • Contoured hand rest

Cons

  • Slightly high action, but tolerable for most beginners

3. Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Ukulele

I had a Cordoba guitar before, and I’ve been impressed by the sound quality ever since. Now with their 20TM-CE ukulele, I’m happy to say that the Cordoba quality is in the works. This uke is made of solid mahogany back, top, and sides. Meanwhile, its fretboard and bridge are made of rosewood.

I’m a fan of satin finishes, and this uke did it just right. It projects the natural color of mahogany, which is very aesthetic and easy in the eyes. I also like the soft cutaway that gives this ukulele a bolder appearance. Aside from that, this uke is outfitted with a 2-band equalizer as well as a sounding pickup.

Cordoba 20TM-CE Mahogany Tenor Cutaway Ukulele
  • Solid Mahogany top
  • Mahogany back and sides, Rosewood bridge and fingerboard

This Cordoba ukulele is modeled after the traditional and original Portuguese ukulele (branguinha). This makes the uke lighter with a one-piece neck and heel. So far, this is one of the loudest ukes I’ve ever used, which is quite impressive for its price range.

Moreover, the 20TM is available in all sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. But for beginners, I suggest skipping the baritone.

Overall, this uke is a steal for its price range. But if there’s one thing I would add, it would be strap buttons.

Pros

  • Authentic Portuguese ukulele design
  • Solid neck and heel
  • Built-in pickup and tuner

Cons

  • No strap buttons

4. Oscar Schmidt OU5 Koa Ukulele

Another ukulele that caught my eye is the Oscar Schmidt OU5. I’m no stranger to this brand, so I’m confident that their ukes bear the same excellent sound quality. Their OU5 uke is made of Hawaiian Koa wood with a glossy finish. It also has Abalone binding with rosette on top.

This one is available in concert size, which is preferable for most beginners. It has 16 frets on a fretboard that’s made of high-quality rosewood. Meanwhile, it’s neck is made of nato wood.

Sale
Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
  • It features select Hawaiian Koa body and top with gloss finish
  • It has Abalone binding and rosette on top

The best thing about the Oscar Schmidt OU5 is the lifetime warranty. Brands that offer this kind of guarantee stands by the quality of their instruments. The package also includes a set of extra strings.

I also like the low-action strings, which makes it easier for beginners to press. The sound resonance is also impressive for a lower price range than Lohanu, Cordoba, and Bondi.

The only snags I noticed is that it doesn’t have strip buttons. Another, which isn’t a big deal for beginners, is that the back isn’t arched. Other than that, this uke is a beaute.

Pros

  • Made of excellent Koa tonewood
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Glossy and aesthetic finish

Cons

  • No strap buttons

5. Kala KA-C Makala Ukulele

For those who are on a budget, the best ukulele would be the Kala KA-C Makala Ukelele. This one has an agathis body and a mahogany neck. Meanwhile, its fingerboard and bridge are made of rosewood.

This is a concert size uke with a simple look. It’s my first time using a stringed instrument made of agathis wood, but I can say that the sound quality is decent enough for casual playing. It has a satin finish, which is aesthetic and low-key.

Moreover, the uke is bundled with a CD playing guide, bag, strap, tuner, extra set of Aquila strings, and a cleaning cloth. It’s value for money if you don’t want to spend a lot on your first uke.

I’ve talked with beginner uke players, and many have been using Kala. With its price and sound quality, it’s already a wise buy. It’s a great bundle, especially if you have zero knowledge about stringed instruments.

As much as it comes with a strap, you have to get the strap button drilled on a guitar shop. Other than that, this is a nice uke for a low price.

Pros

  • Bundled with lessons and accessories
  • Affordable for beginners
  • Comes with extra strings

Cons

  • No strap buttons

Which ukulele to buy for beginners?

When it comes to ukuleles, the last thing I want is a piece that sounds toyish. It kills the musicality of the instrument, and it doesn’t give players the chance to sustain their playing field. So if you want a beginner ukulele that sounds close to the pros, you should consider the following features.

Choose the right size

The first thing you should consider is the size of the ukulele. Ukes are available in four different sizes, which indicates its sound range. Below are the sizes so you can choose the best type of ukulele for beginners:

Soprano. This is the smallest of all ukulele sizes. It has a high and vibrant tone as well as a small build suitable for kids and those with small hands. Soprano ukuleles are traditional options, which is usually 20 inches long.

Concert. A tad bigger than soprano ukes is concert types, also known as alto size. It has a few extra frets to increase its range. Concert ukuleles are 23 to 24 inches long, which is suitable for older and slightly bigger hands.

Tenor. I personally prefer tenor ukuleles due to its wider range, louder sound, and bigger size. Tenor ukes have a standard 26-inch length with a sound similar to a classical guitar. Many professional musicians prefer tenor ukuleles because of this. For beginners, this is also a good option, especially for those with larger hands and longer fingers.

Baritone. Lastly, baritone ukuleles are the largest with a standard 30-inch length. This has a very deep sound similar to a classical nylon guitar. It’s not very popular, especially for beginners due to its size, wider frets, and higher price.

Ukulele for a Beginner

Photo by sutulo / Pixabay

Tonewood material

Another important part of choosing a ukulele is the tonewood used on it. Tonewoods are special selections of wood used in instrument production since they possess excellent tonal properties. The following are the widely used tonewoods on stringed instruments.

Mahogany. This is the most common tonewood, and it has excellent sound, too. Middle-end ukes are made of mahogany, giving it a rich yet softer sound than koa.

Sapele. Sapele is a popular alternative to mahogany since it has a similar shimmer and stain. I have a sapele uke, and I love its loud and well-rounded sound. Beginners won’t really notice its difference to mahogany.

Koa. This tonewood is used on higher-end ukuleles. Koa is a wood from Hawaii that gives a warm and loud sound. It has a beautiful grain as well, which gives a natural aesthetic to the ukulele.

Spruce. Spruce is usually found on lower-end ukuleles since it’s cheaper. Nevertheless, spruce gives a smooth and sweet sound.

Maple. Maple is found on higher-end ukuleles. It gives a crisp, bright, and resonant sound. If you want a durable uke, look for one made of hard maple.

String action

Another thing you should check is the string action or the distance of the string to the fretboard. The ideal string action is 6/64 to 8/64 of an inch on the 12th fret. This is equivalent to 2.5 mm to 3 mm.

A very high string action will hurt the fingers, and it will be very difficult to press. However, avoid very low action since it may buzz and create an annoying sound.

With or without pickup?

Next, decide if you want a uke with a built-in pickup. For sure, this is an extra you’d want to have at your disposal should you need to play on a crowd or record the ukulele sound. The only downside is that ukes with pickups have a slightly higher price range.

Extras

Lastly, look for extras like a tuner (built-in or clip types), straps, strap buttons, gig bag, extra strings, and picks. If you’re a total newbie, look for a ukulele bundled with free playing lessons.

These extras add more value to your money. It also reduces the learning curve of the instrument.

Final words

What is the best ukulele for a beginner? For me, it’s a piece with the right balance of sound quality and price. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your first uke, but you wouldn’t want to pay for dirt cheap options either. If you’re in doubt, you can always consider the five options I reviewed here. As a ukulele player, I’m confident that these options will satisfy the musician in you.


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