Ukuleles are by far one of the most exciting and unique stringed instruments you can learn to play. Their small size makes them a perfect source of entertainment for traveling.
Unlike guitars, figuring out what is the best ukulele for you is a bit more complicated. Because of that, we have decided to write this guide.
- Best Ukulele: The 2017 Guide
- What Should You Look for as a Beginner?
- Top 10 Best Ukulele Brands
- You might find this interesting:
We will show you the best ukulele brands, and give you brief ukulele reviews of models we think you should consider.
However, before we get into any of that, we are going to discuss the ukulele itself. There are various types of this instrument, all of which have their own purpose.
Best Ukulele: The 2017 Guide
Since they are acoustic instruments, there’s a lot of factors that need to come together for a ukulele to be good.
The type of tone wood, build quality, hardware and more all must come together to create a great Ukulele.
We will address all those parts but first, let’s define what you should pay attention to when looking for your first ukulele.
What Should You Look for as a Beginner?
As a beginner, there are several things you need to pay attention to when choosing your first ukulele. Before we get to any of that, let’s discuss budgets.
As a beginner, you probably don’t want to spend too much money on your first instrument. That is perfectly fine, however you shouldn’t cheap out either.
You will see a lot of super cheap ukuleles out there, some even going under $30. We strongly suggest you avoid those.
The main reason for this is that those super cheap ukes usually aren’t built well, nor did the manufacturer use decent materials.
As a beginner, you need a solid instrument, otherwise you won’t get the proper feedback necessary. Figure out your budget and try to keep it within reasonable limits.
With that out of the way, let’s check out different tone wood ukuleles are made of. Later, we will talk about sizes of ukuleles, and which ones are most popular now.
Impact of Tone wood
If you are familiar with acoustic stringed instruments, you probably know that the choice of tone wood has a huge impact on the sound of that instrument. Same goes for ukuleles.
The only difference here is that tone wood used for ukes is a bit different in most cases than the one used for acoustic guitars.
Your traditional ukuleles were made using one type of tone wood for every element of the sound box. That means top, back and sides.
The more modern approach is to have a type of softwood at the top, while the sides and back are made of hardwood.
There is a good reason for this. Softer wood at the top resonates much better, while the hardwood all around it acts as a reflector of sorts.
The difference in sound between the traditional and modern ukes is not that huge, but some players prefer one over the other.
Types of Tone wood
Most traditional tone wood for ukuleles is Koa. This is a wood that was abundant in Hawaii when the ukulele was first invented. Because of this, initial builders used it the most.
Ever since then, it has become the go-to choose.
Mahogany has proven to be the next most popular choice, due to its similar density and tonal properties.
In terms of softer tone wood, cedar and spruce are among the more prolific choices now. Listing all types of tone wood used for building ukuleles is honestly impractical.
There’s a large variety in use today, however you will see rosewood, walnut or even ebony out there.
When it comes to which tone wood is best, there is no precise answer. If your ukulele of choice features solid wood construction, you should be fine for the most part.
Tone wood we listed here is most common, although a good beginner ukulele might come with some tradeoffs in terms of materials.
Types of Ukuleles
Ukuleles come in different sizes, just like acoustic guitars. Depending on the size of the ukulele, you can expect to hear a difference in their tone, projection, and volume.
There are four main sizes of ukuleles – Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone.
Soprano is the smallest type of ukulele. These are also the most popular. In terms of size, you are looking at around 20 inches worth of instrument.
The sound of a soprano ukulele is crisp, with not a lot of bass, and is what people usually associate with ukuleles.
A notable model in this size is Kala KA-15S.
The concert model is a slightly bigger instrument than a soprano ukulele. the main difference here is the longer neck, which means spaced out frets.
A lot of people prefer the concert size since it’s not much larger that the soprano, but is significantly easier to play.
Washburn Oscar Schmidt OU5 is a great representative of this category.
After the concert bunch, we have the tenor ukuleles. This size is recently becoming more and more popular, mainly because a lot of professionals prefer them over smaller ukuleles.
In terms of tone, tenors have a much more noticeable low end that gives their sound some thickness. You could say that tenor ukuleles have that classical guitar vibe going.
Kala MK-T is a good beginner ukulele in this size.
Baritone ukuleles are rare animals. Their size brings them closer to a standard classical guitar, and their sound isn’t too different either.
For most people, baritone ukuleles are too big and have the least unique tone. If you are just starting out, we suggest you avoid baritone ukuleles.
However, if baritone is what you’re interested in, Cordoba 20BM one of the best baritone ukulele models now.
Top 10 Best Ukulele Brands
Figuring out top 10 ukulele brands is anything but easy.
There are so many great manufacturers out there, including several smaller shops whose instruments are harder to find. Because of that, take our top list with a grain of salt.
The brands we are going to show you are among the top, and will provide you with a good quality ukulele.
However, it’s worth noting that we chose brands which offered good beginner models.
Kala is by far one of the most popular and names in the business. If you were to ask us what is the best brand of ukulele, we’d say it is Kala.
Their range of models includes anything from beginner ukes to high-end ones, which are just impressive.
Based in California, Kala has been working aggressively to enhance every single aspect of their instruments. This vigilance is what earned them the place among the elites.
One thing that a Kala ukulele is going to bring you is quality. This goes for their entry level models, not to mention their higher end stuff. If you’re not sure which brand to go with, Kala is the way to go.
Best Kala Ukuleles
Lanikai is a brand that is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Their instruments are the reflection of the what ukulele is all about, which is probably why their motto is ‘Makes me happy’.
In the grand scheme of things, you could say that Lanikai ukes belong anywhere from the entry level segment to the high-end category.
Their more affordable models are by far their most popular product.
Best Lanikai Ukuleles
If you ask some of the more experienced ukulele players, they will probably tell you that Mahalo was the brand of their first ukulele.
Compared to other manufacturers we have listed, and will list later, Mahalo is more dominant in the beginner segment of the market. As a matter of fact, they don’t build anything else.
Mahalo is known for effort they put in into designing and building great beginner ukuleles. This is the reason why we included them on our list.
Best Mahalo Ukuleles
While Hola! is one of those brands which are not that well known, their ukuleles are becoming more and more popular.
This is mostly true for beginner players looking for their first instrument. the In our opinion, their entry level stuff is decent, especially considering the price.
We have selected two models which we think are great for those looking to find a decent instrument at an affordable price. Let’s check them out.
Best Hola! Ukuleles
Luna instruments are well known and include a variety of different types. In other words, this brand doesn’t work exclusively with ukuleles.
With that in mind, it’s worth saying that their reputation is good no matter which type of instrument you look at.
Ukuleles made by Luna are solid, no matter which segment you look at. They make awesome high-end ukes, but also good beginner models.
Here are two that we think are best suited for someone just starting to learn how to play ukulele.
Best Luna Ukuleles
If you are familiar with acoustic guitars, you’ve probably heard of Oscar Schmidt. Their instruments are usually top quality stuff that is affordable compared to their immediate competition. Same goes for their Ukuleles.
While the brand has limited exposure, anyone who has an Oscar Schmidt instrument is almost always happy with their choice.
Two ukes we must show you today are among the best ukuleles you can get as a beginner. Let’s see why.
Best Oscar Schmidt Ukuleles
While they are not as widely known as Kala, ADM is the type of brand that produces solid ukuleles in the entry level range of the market.
If you look at their current lineup, functionality seems to be the name of the game.
So far, the consensus is that ADM ukes are worth considering, which is why we wanted to present you with two great models.
We wanted something that featured a proven design, and that is exactly what we found.
As a beginner, getting one of ADM’s ukuleles is an option you should consider.
Best ADM Ukuleles
Sawtooth ukuleles are primarily aimed at the entry level user. This brand isn’t really known for their higher end ukes, but their beginner models are creating waves on the market.
Overall, the quality is there and makes Sawtooth ukes a real bargain compared to some other brands.
If you need an affordable ukulele, we can recommend Sawtooth as a viable option.
Best Sawtooth Ukuleles
Diamond Head, much like the previous two brands we talked about, is a relatively unknown ukulele manufacturer outside the affordable range.
Their best work comes in form of traditional, entry level ukuleles that focus on delivering sound over aesthetics.
The quality of Diamond Head instruments is good in most cases.
You can expect great fit and finish, although smaller craftsmanship errors are a possibility.
The two models we’ve selected for you are among their most popular ones.
Best Diamond Head Ukuleles
Cordoba is a very prominent brand in the world of high-end classical guitars. Their knowledge and experience translated well when they decided to start building ukuleles.
Fortunately for us, Cordoba offers a very nice selection of entry level ukes as well as medium range ones.
You can expect quality in every aspect of the instrument with this brand.
The two models we have selected to show you should push that point home rather clearly.
Best Cordoba Ukuleles
What is the best ukulele to buy?
That question is borderline impossible to answer without knowing your personal preferences, your budget and what your intended playing style is.
We showed you ten awesome brands, which vary in their specialty. We also showed you some of their best ukuleles.
No matter which one of these you go for, based on your abilities and personal style, we are sure that you will be satisfied.
With that said, doing your own research is something we are strongly encouraging.
Ukuleles are generally a bit more complicated to figure out. Some will look great on paper but completely fail to deliver once you pick them up and play them.
That’s why you should do your best to learn as much as you can about this instrument, and investigate different brands including the ones we talked about today.
We hope this guide has helped you and gave you enough information to make an educated decision. If so, we have accomplished our main goal.