The Top 6 Beginner Ukuleles for 2015

I went to the pub with a couple of colleagues from work last week. Somehow the conversation managed to get onto playing the ukulele (it’s strange how often that happens), it turns out that one of my other colleagues plays the ukulele but the others who were there don’t. A day or two passed and one of the others who had been there came up to me and revealed she had been thinking of taking up the ukulele since our chat in the pub. The only issue was finding a good ukulele to start out on.

Top 6 beginner ukuleles 2015 Uke university

She didn’t want to buy a dud nor did she want to spend lots of money for something she might not really get into. It’s a common problem as there are so many ukulele makes out there, some of them great and other plain bad or over expensive. I offered to take her to a local music shop and help her find a good Ukulele.

However, I can’t do that for you. If you are thinking of starting to play the ukulele then I’m going to do the next best thing. Take you to a virtual music shop and recommend a few Ukuleles that are great for beginners in 2015, 2016 (and beyond).

The following 6 beginner ukuleles (two for each of the main body types) will all be worth purchasing and will insure that you don’t pay over the odds or buying a poorly made budget ukulele. This is not to say that they are the only ukulele’s worth buying for a beginner, but that you won’t go wrong by picking up one of these ones. If you have bought an alternative ukulele and would like to recommend it then leave a comment with its details below.

Soprano

If you need help deciding between different size ukuleles then check out guide to the differences between different ukulele sizes. A quick summary is a Soprano is the smallest and therefore is going to be the cheapest starting ukulele.

 

Makala Dolphin Sopranos

Makala dolphine Ukulele light blueMakala are the budget brand of Kala ukuleles (also a great choice). This is probably the cheapest ukulele I’d recommend without getting my hands on it first. They are made of plastic which might put you off straight away but the build quality is good and they can produce an okay sound. Obviously a more expensive solid wood ukulele will sound better but this is a beginners ukulele.

Makala Dolphins also come in a variety of snazzy colours. (US buyers can find them in Surf green, Mako blue, Red sea, Yellow coral, Great White, Pink Shell, and Black)  Overall this is a great choice for a kid. [UK link]

Lanikai LU-21 Soprano

Lanikai LU-21 Soprano UkuleleUnlike the Makala the lanikai is a ukulele made out of wood. So if plastic puts you off too much then you might want to check out the Lanikai. 

[Extra options to consider: Kala Mahogany Soprano Ukulele and the slightly more expensive Cordoba Mahogany Soprano Ukulele with a natural satin finish )

Concert

A concert ukulele is the goldilocks of the ukulele world. Not as small as the Soprano nor as big as the tenor.

Kala Mahogany Concert

Kala KA-C Concert MahoganyI have a soft spot for Kala ukuleles. My first Ukulele was a Kala and it has lasted well. This concert size ukulele is made of solid wood, has a few more frets than the soprano offerings and comes with a nice bag, polish and other useful things. [UK link]

Lanikai CKCGC Concert Ukulele

lanikai concert ukulele koaLanikai make great ukuleles, some Lanikai concert ukulele come in Koa wood (pretty much the Hawaiian wood, and good looking too). This is more expensive than some of their other models using cheaper woods but could be worth the extra money (in my opinion) if that choice of wood is available (if you get the chance, try comparing them and see what you think). [UK link]

Tenor

Tenor ukuleles are the biggest common size ukuleles (yes there are Baritones but they are much rarer and more akin to a guitar). Tenors can be strung with a low g-string for a deeper sound if you prefer that.

Lanikai Tenor

Lanikai LU-21TE Electro Tenor UkuleleAnother Lanikai, this time one which is cheaper than my previous suggestion even though it is bigger. Don’t let that put you off, it is a good solid Ukulele made of Eastern Mahogony. Lanikai do offer more expensive Tenor Ukulele’s but I wanted to show you a cheaper tenor option, especially considering the next Ukulele I’m going to show you. [UK link]

Kala Koa Cutaway Tenor

kala koa tenor cutaway electro ukuleleIf you are planning on playing live then you will probably want to plugin your Ukulele and boost it’s volume. Luckily this Kala tenor Ukulele comes with a built in pickup so that you can play loud and live. It’s also made of Koa and has great build quality but it does come at a price. This is the most expensive Ukulele on my list and I’d only recommend it for someone who knows they are going to play and play a lot. I do own a Kala cutaway tenor with plugin and I can testify to it’s great quality.  [UK link]

Try one in a store

Although any of these six would be a fine choice for a ukulele, it would probably be a good idea to try one in a store if you can. That will let you get a feel and find the right size for you as well as compare the different sounds of the ukuleles (the choice of wood makes a huge difference).

What Ukulele do you recommend for a beginner?

I'm an English as a Foreign language teacher who loves playing the Ukulele and spreading that joy as well. This is my site.

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5 thoughts on “The Top 6 Beginner Ukuleles for 2015

  1. My first uke was a Lanikai LU21C. The Soprano version is featured above. It is still a favourite of mine ( even though it is the cheapest ) and I have a few now. The “C” indicates the Concert size. I decided, when buying my first uke, to go for the concert as it is a little bigger and the spacing between the frets gives you just that little bit more room ….especially if you have big fingers. This is something that may need to be considered when buying your first uke.

    Much is made of the quality of the strings. Most decent ukes come with Aquila strings. These are very good but with my Lanikai I decided to try a set of Worth strings. These come in different gauges. I went for the mid range and have been very pleased with the results. Worth strings tend to be lighter than Aquila and give more of a “ring” which suits my picking style. Having said this, there is nothing wrong with Aquila. It may be worthwhile asking which strings are fitted to the uke of your choice and if they are “no-name” then ask for Aquila to be fitted. It does make a difference.

    I did a lot of research before I bought my Lanikai. I listened to video reviews and read countless articles. I bought it off the internet ( Southern Ukulele Store ) and this, luckily worked out well for me. Really you need to try the uke out, even if you don’t play too well. Each one is different and you will get a feeling for the one that is right for you. It does not necessarily follow that a more expensive uke is better than a less expensive. It is literally what works for you.

    Lastly, if you are buying from a music shop of on line, they should offer a “setting up” facility.
    I know many outlets do this for free.
    Setting Up is where the uke is checked over and the function of the machine heads and the action ( angle between the strings and the fret board ) is checked. The action may need to be altered if there is any “buzzing” found. This is where the string just touches a fret where it should be just clear. The frets are also checked to make sure that there are no burrs ( sharp bits ). In short, when you get the uke it will play as it should.

    I hope this adds a little to what has already been said. 🙂

    Keep strummin’

    KenB

    • Great addition advice Ken. I’m a big believer in trying out a ukulele if you can. Even models of the same type can have subtle differences sometimes (though I have bought two of my ukuleles online without trying them first!)

      That’s a great tip about getting the ukulele set up right and using good strings. Sometimes a certain type of string isn’t the best for a certain model of ukulele (or person) so experimentation is a great way forward here. I’m quite a fan of Aquila nylgut what about you?

  2. the Kala’s and Ohana’s are the real beginners gems.. For very little money and getting a pickup, playability and good sound is the Ohana CK20CE, solid mahogany top, laminated sides and back. Very little care needed regarding humidification. Perfect starter!
    The real gold gem and a uke that can be played as you grow as a player and be viable.. Sounds excellent, solid mohogany top, sides , and back, Grover closed gear tuners , Graphtec XB nut and saddle, Shadow pickup and preamp,
    very nice construction, nice frets…. And the cool look of a cutaway, faux tortoise shell binding is the Kala KA-SMHCE-C
    The graining of the wood is sweet, it plays excellent for the price, and sounds really, really nice… Perfect for the beginner to intermediate player
    Both of these instruments are available as tenors as well…

  3. Speaking of setup.. It is critical of all ukes being purchased, wonky intonation and improper high action can turn off a beginner in a heartbeat. So many retailers say they set up an instrument, but only set string height…
    I can most heartily endorse Mim’s Ukes out of Virginia ..,you can catch at mimsukes.com or at her eBay store
    Mim does a compensated setups on all instruments she sells regardless of price, plays them for one to two hours and sells at the same prices as the discount retailers, does free shipping 2 day expidited .. FOR THE LOVE OF THE INSTRUMENT!!!….call her for advice..SHE IS AWESOME!!!!
    Oh and as Ken B noted, I would also start with a concert size as well…

  4. Chris Wilson, the Aquila Nylgut strings are a great all around string…
    For just a little brighter tone is your thing(not really my preference) the D’addario
    Nyltec strings feel similar, perhaps a bit harder, hence giving a bit brighter tone..
    I prefer the Aquila’s as well, especially for the price!