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.
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.
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 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]
Unlike 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 )
A concert ukulele is the goldilocks of the ukulele world. Not as small as the Soprano nor as big as the tenor.
I 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 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 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.
Another 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]
If 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?