Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: First Ukulele

Deciding which ukulele to buy is tricky even for seasoned uke players. If you play uke for long enough you’ll discover the right answer to the question ‘which ukulele should I buy?’ is ‘all of them’. If you’re buying your first ukulele or you’re buying someone else’s first uke it can be difficult to know where to start. So I’ve put to together a little first time ukulele buyers guide (particularly for people buying online). If you’ve got any advice to add, let everyone know in the comments.

Ukuleles make great gifts for kids to get them into making music – they fit into child sized hands and let them jump around pretending to be rock stars. They’re also great presents for musicians – particularly guitarists – as they are very portable and easy to learn.

Unless you live in Hawaii, dedicated ukulele shops are hard to come by. Local music/guitar shops will probably sell a couple of very basic models. If you want some real choice, the internet is probably your best bet.

There are a number of dedicated ukulele sites in the US, The Ukulele Shop in the UK and RISA/Uke Surfer in Germany. But the biggest choice is to be found on eBay. Buying on eBay can be a bit risky sometimes, but there are some ukulele sellers with good reputations. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything buy glowing praise for musicguymic from anyone. All the instruments he sells, even the cheapest, are expertly set up. ukulele4u is another popular seller and usually has a wider selection of lower priced ukes.

Which Size Ukulele Should I Buy?

There are four main sizes of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The smallest of these, soprano, is the classic ukulele and the one that most people start on – particularly children. If someone has asked you to buy them a ukulele, this is probably what they mean.

How Much Should I Spend?

There are a lot of cheap ukuleles for under $20. These are usually playable – many people start out on these – and would make a good present / stocking filler for a guitar player. However, they’re often not set up ideally which isn’t handy for a beginner. Spending a little more will give you a much better instrument and will be more playable straight out of the box.

Ukuleles for Under $50

Makala ukuleles are your best bet if you’re on a tight budget. As I mentioned before, if you musicguymic it will be properly set up (which makes it worth the small premium). It’s also worth getting a decent set of strings to put on it (such as Aquila).

Another popular budget option is Mahalo ukuleles. Their popularity stems mainly from looks, particularly the Mahalo Flying-V ukuleles and – insanely popular with girls of all ages – pink Mahalos.

Ukuleles for under $100

Kala ukuleles mostly inhabit the $200 – $300 price range but also make some lower price models. The Kala Soprano ukulele with set up and strings for $60 looks like a good deal to me. Oscar Schmidt are another popular company that sell ukulele in this price range.

In a similar price range in Europe, is the Ashbury Concert for £50. I have the Koa version and wouldn’t be without it.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

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14 Comments

  1. zym December 5th, 2007 7:29 pm

    nice post

    Ive recently bought my first uke :)
    In the end, I went with a Concert Ohana from theukuleleshop, and am very happy with it!

    The chap i spoke to there was very helpful, and even managed to help me get over my fear of friction tuners :)

  2. Woodshed December 5th, 2007 8:59 pm

    I still can’t decide whether I prefer geared or friction tuners. Ukes feel so much better balanced with friction but they can be a pain in the arse sometims.

    Which Concert Ohana did you get?

  3. Ian December 5th, 2007 10:23 pm

    Though it’s not exactly a starter uke…. so far my favourite ‘budget’ ukulele that I”ve played on is teh Mitchell Koa (Mu-100 or something like that). Though the koa is a laminate, it still sounds very nice… pretty good sustain and a nice bright tone. They also have a mahogany that costs around 100 dollars; it’s nice… but it’s not… koa. Guess that’s pretty much the only way to put it.

    I think my Mitchell ran me about 160 USD… well worth the money spent.

    (and honest, I wasn’t paid by Mitchell to say this… wish I was, though… oh well)

  4. zym December 5th, 2007 10:28 pm

    Ive got the CK-35
    Its the mahogany one with the binding.

    It comes with Aqulia strings so its nice and bright, but its also quite mellow when im playing with my thumb.

    I havent had any problems with the tuners so far.
    *touches wood*

  5. Woodshed December 5th, 2007 11:49 pm

    Ian: That’s a good looking uke. I wasn’t familiar with Mitchell. It looks fairly similar to the Oscar Schmidt and the Ashbury ukes. No bad thing.

    zym: You’ve just got me browsing the Ukulele Shop. Very dangerous. I’ve been checking out the KoAlanas as a consolation prize for deciding I can’t afford a KoAloha Sceptre.

  6. zym December 6th, 2007 12:03 am

    ive already got my eye on a KoAloha ;)

  7. Woodshed December 6th, 2007 12:17 am

    Show off :P

  8. Ian December 6th, 2007 2:37 am

    Ooh… are we fantasizing about ukes that we most lekely won’t end up getting any time soon?

    How about this nice Kanile’a that I ran across on Ebay… Link

    or this… a nice, 3,000 USD ukulele…

    http://www.koolauukulele.com/model500.html

    If I ever win a lottery…….

  9. weelie December 10th, 2007 11:35 am

    as for German uke shops, don’t forget http://ukulele24.de/

  10. Woodshed December 10th, 2007 7:20 pm

    I didn’t forget. I’d never heard of it :)

    Looks like a cool shop.

  11. mk47 March 23rd, 2009 3:34 am

    the applause U-A10 by ovation guitars is a very nice uke for the priceits rugged with its round plastic back which all of ovations instruments holdand is a fairly cheap price i love mine

  12. Woodshed March 23rd, 2009 9:46 pm

    Thanks for that mk47.

  13. ally February 28th, 2010 8:42 pm

    I’m looking into buying a lanikai soprano pineapple uke with aquila strings. does anyone have anything to say about this uke for beginners? i’ve been eyeing it for sometime now

  14. Woodshed March 2nd, 2010 10:25 pm

    ally: Go for it! Good choice for a first time uke.

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