Uke Buying Tips

Some many ukuleles, so few kidneys to sell.

I’ve written a few articles that I hope will help you make the right ukulele choice and keep the body parts sold to a minimum. If you’ve got any tips to share yourself, please do leave them in the comments.

Best ukuleles for Beginners

Tips on the size and price of ukulele that people looking to buy their first ukulele should take into consideration.

If you want me to cut to the chase, two good options for beginners are the Lanikai LU-21 and the Kala KA-S.

Which Size?

Some thoughts on the pros and cons of the various sizes.

How Much to Spend?

A look at the sort of price you can expect to pay for your ukuleles.


  1. sean November 1st, 2012 11:54 pm

    ive had an lu-21 soprano for about a year now, and it was a great first ukelele, but im want to upgrade to a better uke. i think i want to get a concert but id try a tenor or another soprano and hopefully one thats soild wood… my prise range would be about $650 any suggestions?

  2. paul December 10th, 2012 7:15 pm

    HI!!! I have been playing the uku for bout 2 months now,ive got all the easy chords perfect but im having alot of trouble with new and more complex chords now,my fingers dont stretch to where they need to go..Is there any tips i can do to help in this?

  3. Jana December 31st, 2012 10:22 pm

    HI Thinking of getting for my first UKE a Mainland I saw mentioned here. Any opinions about the pineapple shape vs. peanut shape? How about the soprano head with the concert neck or concerthead with tenor neck? Any experience here? Also, do you love the mahogany as much as the cedar???
    Thanks so much!

  4. Paul January 12th, 2013 12:39 am

    I started playing a Tanglewood Java concert uke about 2 months ago and I totally love it. When I went to buy a uke, mine was marked up at £149 but I haggled it down to £100.

    I’ve no music background and I’m learning by using You Tube. There is a wealth if tutorials on there and you can learn new stuff all the time.

    I’m currently looking for a soprano and I’m swaying towards a Makala MK-SC in bright yellow. Read many reviews on them and they seems to be good for the price.

  5. Victor Melo January 27th, 2013 8:29 am

    Hey, I’m new with Uke and i’m thinking about buy a Luna “the great wave” and i don’t know if is a good brand and is a good uke… does anybody nows about it ?

  6. wally g March 26th, 2013 5:26 am

    I am 84 and I started building ukes about 3 years
    ago. I’ve tried several kinds of woods.My first was pretty crude I must admit.I did’t know how to
    bent wood so the first three I build were triangular which were easier to build. I got better at it as I went along.Sofar I”ve build 15
    of them and have sold some of them for $250 and
    some I gave to my grandkids.I build them all of solid wood like mahogany,maple,and walnut with
    spruce tops.They sound pretty nice and with aquilla srings have nice sustain. They are all tenors.If this is of any interest and you wood like to know more send me an E-mail.
    By the way I started this 4 years ago and I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve joined several uke
    groups. They like my ukeleles

  7. Gladys March 29th, 2013 11:58 pm

    I come from Hong Kong and a complete new learner have no idea to buy which brand of ukelele in Hong Kong? Please enlighten me

  8. MGIlbert March 31st, 2013 6:29 pm

    Hey there!I see that you don’t speak about Baton Roughe Ukes on the long list of them hehe would you say they are any good? I want to buy a good concert ukulele and I think I really liked the sound of it. What do you think?

  9. Matt April 5th, 2013 5:53 pm

    I am new to the uke and I have to choose between the Mahalo U-30 or the Diamond Head DU-10. Which is better?

  10. Kim May 17th, 2013 6:37 pm

    Hi, I’m very interested in learning to play the ukulele and am looking to buy my first one. I’ve searched across and found one which looks really nice, is affordable and has very good reviews. I would love to purchase it right away, but straying on the side of caution I would like some opinions from more experienced and savvy ukulelists here before I make a choice.

    The ukulele I have found is made by ‘Stagg’, with the product title: Stagg Traditional Soprano Ukulele with Tattoo Design – Natural Finish. The product specifications are: Top – Nato wood; Back and sides – Basswood; Neck – Sepetir wood; Headstock – Nato wood; Fingerboard and bridge – Nato wood; Tuners – Geared pegs w/plastic knobs; Total length – 540mm, 21.25in (with other measurements of the uke parts).

    I’m not sure if the Stagg brand is good or not but the image of the uke itself looks professionally made and solid, and the ‘tattoo’ around the soundhole looks great with the overall look. Also, not sure about the three types of wood included in the specs above – would they make a good sound for the uke? And by ‘Natural Finish’, does that mean the uke is made entirely out of wood material?

    Any suggestions, information or advice would be very appreciated. The uke can be searched for in with the product title I mentioned above if anyone wants to take a look at it. It’s very pretty, but I don’t want to choose it purely for its looks – I want to know if it’s a good quality instrument too.

    So useful answers will be great. Thanks!

  11. Tim May 21st, 2013 1:11 am

    There are literally dozens of things to consider when choosing a uke. First I look for visible defects. Cracks and dings are obvious. Poor seams take a harder look. Crooked or buggered screws on the tuners. Are the nut and bridge fitted well? Cloudy or bubbled finish. Excess glue, even inside the instrument. It’s important to look around inside the instrument as well as you can. That’s where quality can slip, out of sight. A dental type mirror and small flashlight make it easy to take a look-see.

    Once I’ve examined a uke for physical flaws, my next concern is the playability.

    Are the strings at a comfortable height above the fingerboard, to press down easily for the notes? Is the note at the twelfth fret the same as the open string? Does each note play clearly without a buzz, without sounding dull on some notes but not others?

    These are the basic checks I do…. My first ukes were a pair of Lanikai LU-21Cs, ordered online. I have been very pleased with them for years, and second the recommendations of a LU series uke as a first instrument, in whichever size you’ve decided on.

    I also recommend the Lanikai (Hohner) hard foam and fabric shell cases. Much better protection than a gig bag, for just a little more money. I know it’s hard to spend half the price of even an inexpensive LU uke on a case, but you’ll be glad every time you bump that better case against something.

  12. Marko July 12th, 2013 11:40 pm

    A method a beginner could pursue to buy a ukelele:

    [1] Go to a store with several instruments. [2] Compare all the *inexpensive* ones: How does the top sound when tapped? Is the neck straight and joined at proper angle? If you play a scale on the frets is intonation correct? Buy the best you find, with NO PAINT. [3] If tuners are not geared-type, replace them. Stew Mac sells Grovers for $14/set. [4] If string height is an issue due to nut/bridge, either file better grooves or replace nut/bridge($3-$5 ea.) [5] New strings! Best investment you can make.

    I bought a $40 mahogany soprano at Guitar Center, added tuners ($14), bone nut & bridge insert ($7), steel-wool & oil-refinished back/sides, finally Aquila strings ($7). Did my own shop work, but 2 hours would be way too much – so your tech ought to charge less than $100, even in NYC. Materials were $68+tax.

    This little bug now sounds high and sweet – a great match for my baritone voice! Several people have offered as much as $250 for my instrument – not knowing it cost me around $150 ($75 of which is for my time).

  13. Marko July 12th, 2013 11:55 pm

    Also an option, Stewart-Macdonald ( sells a uke kit.
    I’d buy the instructional DVD with the kit (both together $132/soprano or $185/tenor).
    You’ll need some supplies and some basic tools, but – from reading the comments – when folks finish many seem to go right on and build a custom instrument with the skills they learn.

  14. Marino July 28th, 2013 4:58 pm

    I’m going to buy a tenor ukulele, i have narrowed it down between Lanikai LU21T (132$) and Lanikai S-T Solid Spurce (150$). is the ST model worth the extra 18 bucks, considering I’m mainly buying an ukulele to play Beirut songs and Zach Condon is known to play the LU21 model.

  15. Kim August 20th, 2013 5:19 pm

    Based on everything I’ve read, I decided to get the Lanikai LU21T. Just ordered it and it’s on it’s way. Super excited! I’m marrying into a Hawaiian family this weekend. Now I’ll be able to join in when all the uncles are playing their ukuleles. Yay.

  16. Elise October 6th, 2013 9:53 pm

    I purchased my first ukulele, a lanikai Lu-21 soprano, this summer and fell in love with the instrument. I play practically every day and am looking into getting a tenor. I’ve researched a bit and haven’t really come up with anything. They’re so many options! I’d like to get something with solid wood, maybe mahogany, but I’m not sure what’s best. Any suggestions?

  17. Steffi November 14th, 2013 10:16 pm

    @ Elise check out
    I have KPK soprano which I love more than my expensive Mele, Kanilea tenors or my Lanikai KC1. I requested a low action set-up which I am thrilled with. The KPK have stunning voice and looks. Second choice would be a Pono tenor

  18. Acc December 30th, 2013 11:30 am

    can you sell me a aNueNue Maui Mango I Soprano Ukulele All Solid Mango free gigbag or where can I find that item?



  19. eric alexander March 8th, 2014 10:17 pm

    wanting to buy a george formby style ukulele,abbott maybe? dont want cheap crap.where and how do i go about this ?

  20. Barry March 27th, 2014 8:19 pm

    any advice on buying a baritone uke and tuning it GCEA.. What strings to use?

  21. Cuchman April 22nd, 2014 2:32 am

    Anyone still reading these? I am looking for an acoustic electric uke in the $150- 225. Price range. Any suggestions? Looking at some Luna’s and maybe oscar schmidt….I need the pickup to be able to play live more easily.

  22. Scoobs June 9th, 2014 11:30 pm

    I can heartily recommend Risa. My local music shop got one in for me to check out and almost matched any internet price. I don’t mind paying a few extra quid to support a local business.
    It’s solid European acacia top, back and sides. Furnished with Aquilas it has a ringing tone I’m really enjoying. There are a couple of finish issues but nothing that bugs me too much.

    I’ve had the uke almost a year but only recently picked it up in earnest and am thoroughly enjoying the learning curve. I’m a guitarist which is a great base to start from. It’s fun transposing some of my old favourite songs, the ones I’ve played for years, onto the uke. Hotel California on uke? You better believe it!
    I can heartily recommend the Risa to anyone looking for an affordable (approx £160) solid wood soprano ukulele.

  23. Fran June 11th, 2014 3:43 am

    Interesting reading all the notes on choices for a uke…I am researching and see that there are alot of choices….has anyone out there purchased a uke from the Hawaiian Ukulele store on line?

  24. Grayson August 5th, 2014 3:02 am

    I bought a Kala KA-S a while ago and have fallen in love with ukulele. Recently I’ve been looking for a higher quality, concert ukulele and i came across a Dean ukulele but i haven’t been able to find any reviews online. Can you help me out? Also any other recommendations for a good quality $200 ish concert uke are appreciated.

  25. Lindsey October 9th, 2014 6:51 am

    I’ve read a lot of reviews/opinions about ukeleles for beginners and it sounds like the Lanikai ukeleles are a good option. I’ve been looking at the different concert ukes on the Lanikai website and I like the look of the LUTU-11s. I’ve only seen people post about the Lanikai LU-21 though, and I’m wondering what the difference is between that and the Lanikai LUTU-11s. Help?!

  26. Lindsey October 10th, 2014 6:43 am

    Excuse me, *the soprano ukes.

  27. amy January 2nd, 2015 5:53 am

    Hi I’m planning to get my friend a ukulele for his birthday and personalizing it. I am considering the Kala KA-S. If I wanted to paint on it, what kind of paint would you recommend? Also, is there something I should do before painting it? I know some websites it says to sand the ukulele first, but those seem to be the already painted ukuleles such as the Denver ones that are already painted. Any tips and suggestions? I would really appreciate it! Thank you so much!

  28. martha January 27th, 2015 6:51 pm

    I’m also planning to buy a ukulele for my close friend, who plays a bass guitar in his band, and also plays a double bass. He plays ukulele for fun, but he doesn’t has his own. I think he would love it! I’d like to get something proper and fabulous.
    Could you please help me decide and choose what ukulele would be the best?
    Thank you 🙂

  29. Rosalyn February 19th, 2015 5:04 pm

    I purchased a Córdoba soprano a few years ago and love it. My husband bought a Leolani concert in Oahu. The action on it was high making it hard to play. I took it into a local music shop and they lowered the bridge which helped some but it is still hard to play. I get buzzing on some of the chords. I have noticed when I set the Uke on a level table the back end of the Uke is raised a little. does this mean it is warped? Could that be my problem? I have been looking to purchase a new Uke….have looked at Pono but wood choice by me is Mango and not sure how that will hold up. I have been taking lessons for a few years so I a, beyond beginner. Two questions…can the concert I have be fixed? If not what do you recommend. I played a few at the music store and am leaning toward a tenor. Thank you. Rosalyn

  30. Kjersti May 10th, 2015 5:00 pm

    I played an Amahi zebrawood uke in a shop the other day, and, as a two year uke player with a Mahalo looking at a possibility of getting a higher quality uke in a few years, am wondering if anyone knows anything about the Amahi. It is a beautiful instrument, and sounded good, although I didn’t have time to compare it with many others.

  31. Siobhan May 24th, 2015 10:10 am

    I’m not sure whether to get a Lanikai LU-21 (Soprano), Lanikai LU-21C (Concert) or a Kala KA-15S (Soprano). Any thoughts? 🙂

  32. Rohan Kamath June 28th, 2015 8:25 pm

    i play guitar really well and have kinda become an expert so wanted to try my hand at ukulele. Which ukulele would you recommend so that this is my first and my last ukulele. wouldnt buy an another one.

  33. Joe Kwiatkowski February 21st, 2016 8:58 am

    Recently bought a Kala KA-15S for my 14 yr. old son who plays advanced level Viola in his school strings orchestra an apparently caught the Uke bug. He just loves this thing and so do I! It looks, smells, and most importantly plays and sounds fantastic! Over 900 reviews on Amazon.
    Insane bang for the buck! Highly Recommended!!!

  34. Dave D February 27th, 2016 8:28 pm

    I have three ukes 2 sopranos and 1 concert, a nice Tanglewood TU7. My fingers are bent on both hands and I find stretching difficult. As I only strum chords. Is it okay to stick with a soprano for a while?

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