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.

73 Comments

  1. Dag May 4th, 2010 1:44 pm

    Buying a ukulele is not on the same level as buying a car, but there are some practices one should utilize before making a purchase. In this Internet age, the ability to select from about as wide a range as one could imagine is both a boon and a bane. Given that, here are a few pre-purchasing tips.

    1) Determine your skill level. Are you new to playing the ukulele? Are you new to music in general? If you are new to music, then you are not going to want to spend a fortune for an instrument that you may not even be able to play. If you have some musical background, then you can opt for a more expensive model, but again you should not go whole hog on the purchase. Remember, you can always upgrade to a higher quality instrument (hence, more expensive) once you are past the initial playing phases.

    2) Gauge your overall interest level. Are you a hobbyist or are you a fanatic? Sometimes the interest starts out as casual, but the tendency to fall in love with this instrument is strong. However, you should weigh exactly how much time you’ll be able to spend playing and practicing. Decide whether you are willing to dedicate a couple of hours a week or a couple of hours a day to this pursuit. Finally, seriously assess if you are the type of person easily frustrated by lack of immediate progress. Even if you are a skilled musician, there will be a learning curve.

    3) Go out and actually find a ukulele you can test. Find some good instrument/music shops that carry not only ukuleles, but a variety of them. This includes not only different makes (e.g. Oscar Schmidt, Lanikai, Makala, Martin, Cordoba, etc.), but different types as well (e.g. soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone). Get your hands on one to feel what it is like to play the instrument. Learn to differentiate between the different fit and finishes available. Moreover, discover the different sounds each brand and type can produce. Not all ukes sound or even look the same (wait ’til you see your first pineapple body ukulele).

    4) Talk to ukulele players. More important, find a uke group in your area. These people can tell you things about ukuleles that are near impossible to quantify. Interaction with casual hobbyists to serious musicians (professionals) will give you the opportunity to study the instrument from different perspectives. You might also get to handle some ukulele models you’d otherwise miss or only read about. Furthermore, you will already have a base of support and playing partners if you do decide to get a ukulele.

    5) Do research on the Internet. Like almost all topics on the found on the Web, there is both good and bad. Spend time reading and researching. This will help with the first three items. You can find the debates between people regarding makes and models, and there are many. There are numerous sites dedicated to ukulele playing, so get out there and dig around. The more time you spend educating yourself about the instrument, the better the decision you can make.

    6) Don’t rush. Avoid the temptation of “instant gratification.” It doesn’t matter whether you are going spend $80 or $800 on your instrument; you want to get the best quality instrument for the money you are willing to spend. Hence, any research you do up to the purchase point will aid you in reaching this objective. Take your time and you will be happier over time with your final choice. They say time is money, and it is true in this case as well. Wisely spend your time, and you will wisely spend your money. Above all, you do want to be happy with your final decision, regardless of what you choose.

    7) Make a purchase decision and then… wait. Yes, wait. Give it another week or two or three. Review the deciding factors one last time. Be certain you are comfortable with the amount you are willing to pay and any accompanying trade offs. Make certain you understand the make and model of the ukulele to be obtained. Re-read the last two lines of point number 6.

    People will hit you will all sorts of arguments regarding this ukulele or that for both make and model. Listen to them. Judge their level of passion and seeming knowledge. Weigh one opinion against another. Some purists will howl than anything other than uke made in Hawai’i is a waste of money. In the same vein, anyone who recommends anything simply because “it’s cute” should be discounted. Eschew extreme positions. When all is said and done, you will be the one who decides and you will have to live with your choice.

    In the words of a heavily copyrighted movie by one of the top directors, “Choose wisely.”

    (My first ukulele was a Lanikai LU-21C, a concert uke. I love it even after hundreds of hours of playing it. It’s a solid, good sounding, relatively inexpensive beginner uke that holds up well over time.)

  2. Woodshed May 5th, 2010 8:59 am

    Thanks very much for that, Dag. Some very useful pointers.

  3. Jayster August 29th, 2010 6:17 am

    My question to you, Dag is this. I have written two children’s albums using my ukes and when I went to buy a tenor, the biggest dilemma I had was what kind of strings work better. I have have all sizes but I find that I prefer to have steel string some where in my tenor setup. what is your opinion on this and can you give me some advice on strings in general. I am at the stage where I am contemplating spending a couple of thousand on a good performance uke. Thanks Jay

  4. Dag September 23rd, 2010 4:34 pm

    Jayster… strings are all about how the tone is embodied as it comes out of the f-hole (after bouncing around inside the body). Here are a couple of things to consider first when deciding on strings:

    1) What type of wood (or woods or laminate) is used to create the front, sides, and back. Dense woods like mahogany will bounce the sound back in a more true fashion. Softer woods like spruce will “mellow” out the sound. Nato wood tends to add a sharpness to the sound, but one that I kind of like. Laminates can produce uneven results depending on the composite woods used (and I have heard some sweet, sweet laminates). You also need to consider the joinery method used as this can affect the tone. If large nub strips are used to join sides to front and back, that can mute the sound (and tone), or create uneven reverberation. Thus, you have to know the original tone of the uke.

    2) Three basic choices: gut, nylon, or steel. It all depends on the effect you wish to achieve. Secondly, sustain is going to be affected by the type of string you use. Steel has the longest sustain with gut coming in third. The tone produced also varies widely, of which you seem well aware. Since you seem to like steel strings, and you can get some great intonation out of steel, here is one aspect to seriously consider:

    Steel strings have very little “give” until the snap. They don’t really stretch in the same manner as gut or nylon. It is easier to tune steel strings. Once you get in the range, it takes very little to hit the tune note. However, a string extruded imperfectly will never find true. The worrying aspect of steel strings lies in the fact they can warp the neck, regardless if the neck is reinforced.

    Take into account the thickness of the C (3rd) string (if using the standard G-C-E-A tuning). That string can take an amazing amount of tension. Now, combine that tension with the other three strings, and I think you can see where this is heading. There is a lot of force built up between the nut and the saddle. Depending on the design and structure of the neck, it may not be able to take the tension. Caution is by the by-word.
    On other item about using steel strings: examine the frets. Make certain they are made of a material than can withstand the use of steel. I think more uke manufacturers have gut or nylagut in mind when they select fret material. If they are brass frets, then the brass will etch and score after a while with steel strings. This can lead to fuzz or other distortions later in the life of the instrument.

    I have a Fender Hau’Oli mahogany tenor. Not a very expensive model, but has a very interesting tone. It came with D’Adario strings with a nickel-wound 3rd string. Those strings sounded awful! I switched them out for some Aquila Nylagut strings, and then things got interesting. My tenor tends toward the treble end of tone, and I really like it. However, not every song takes that that sort of tone. I have tried gut strings on it, but the sound was muted… and Fender ukes tend to have a bit of muteness to begin with and the gut strings made it worse.

    Since you are more than likely going after a quality instrument, the issue of price is not going to matter much, so comparable quality is the key point. If you go with steel, my instincts advise that you stick with solid extruded steel strings. Avoid “wound” strings. I think the tone quality will be much better with solids. If you go with steel, take a week to properly “extend” the strings (versus stretching them). Tighten them up little by live over the course of a day. Once you hit tune, play the strings until they go out of tune. Then, tune again and let them sit over night. Due this for about 7 days or so, and your strings will be tempered. This will preserve the sound quality in the long term and will help you avoid warping the neck.

    If you want a more mellow sound, go with nylagut or gut. I highly recommend Aquila strings. You get excellent quality at a decent price. Aquila gut will run you about $10 – $12 per pack. Aquila Nylagut comes in around $5.00, give or take a dollar depending on source.

    I hope this helps

    - Dag

  5. Bobb October 11th, 2010 5:25 pm

    Hey – I just bought a new Uke in Japan. It’s called a Hanalei. I know it’s not a great one as it cost 4900円 ($50) but I can’t find much info about them. Not even in the exhaustive list on ukulele brands which seems to include everything from terrible to fantastic. Can you let me know if you heard of them and how you rate them. If I get better I will treat myself to a better one – so whats next?

    I love the site by the way.

    Bobb

  6. Tinpan Chuck November 17th, 2010 7:39 am

    I recently purchased a Lauren SU14 Soprano Ukulele from a local Music store, and had never until then heard of the brand name. It has geared tuning pegs, and there is an oily smell emanating from the soundhole, but interestingly, I have only had to tune it one time since I bought it.
    My decision to buy it, came after I had ordered a Mahalo Uke online, and was told it was on backorder, I had also heard some scare stories about the Mahalo brand, and so, I cancelled the order, and bought the Lauren Uke a day later. I am very happy with it, and I now have a Gig bag on order for it through the music store where I bought the Uke.

  7. Tiy November 27th, 2010 9:12 am

    Hi i am new to the ukelele and would like to buy a solid wood one .within a mid range price up to $450. So far between string types ,sizes and woods i am overwhelmed with all thats available.There are three brands so far that i am interested in but have no experience to know what is a good brand ,tone etc for my money . The pono tenor solid mahogany satin finish , the Kala tenor solid acacia ,and most of all confusion the aNuenue lani or papa ? I did get to play a aNuenue long neck solid koa soprano which sounded nice but the shop had nothing to compare it to.could someone please give me some advice on soprano’s and tenor’s (although i do know the tenor is larger)but thats about all.thankyou for your time …

  8. clint November 29th, 2010 2:18 am

    I would welcome any opinions-from the beginner to the seasoned expert. Upon the recommendation of a musician friend, I’m seriously considering starting my 5 year old daughter with a ukulele. She’s expressed an interest in music and I wanted to start her on an instrument that would not frustrate her into quitting after a week. I thought about a 1/2 size guitar, but the friend said a uke would probably pose less frustrating and more gratifying and rewarding and thus keep her enjoying music.
    Given that she’s 5, I don’t want to start with some thousand dollar instrument that’s going to give me palpitations should she start swinging it around. I’m looking at the $50 range, but also want as good a $50 uke as you can get. I know nothing about brands, but did recognize Ibanez and Hohner. However, just because I recognize them doesn’t necessarily mean they’re putting out a quality(albeit inexpensive) product. I also wouldn’t know where to buy except Amazon and Guitar Center.
    Can anyone offer this newbie some suggestions as to a good brand for the price? Besides the places I mentioned, any other retailers? What about size? Should I go with a soprano or concert? Finally, where to go for lessons? Would a guitar teacher be able to teach ukulele? Thanks for any input and direction.

  9. Tor December 13th, 2010 3:29 pm

    clint: My 2 cents, as a fresh ukulele player (but longtime guitar player):
    1) Get a soprano. It’s big enough for a 5-year.
    2) Don’t buy an expensive instrument, however one problem with cheap ones is that they may not be set up well. For example, the nut grooves may not cut deep enough, so that it’s hard to press the strings. That’ll be tough for a 5-year’s fingers. Likewise, the action may be too high (the overall string hight). So it’s better if you can try out instruments in a shop, instead of buying online. A shop may even be able to help with filing down the nut, if necessary. (Even if you don’t play a stringed instrument yourself you’ll probably be able to feel the difference in string pressure while trying out instruments. Try pressing the strings at the first fret, for example.)
    3) Better strings may make a cheap instrument sound better but may also be easier to play. Some of the black nylon strings on cheap instruments are quite hard.

    As for teachers.. I’m way out of my league here because I’m such a newbie at ukulele myself, but as a long-time guitar player I would say “yes”, if you don’t find a teacher for ukulele a guitar teacher should be able to teach ukulele, to some extent (he or she would have to take a quick look at some instructional material though, well, even youtube would do). An ukulele is tuned exactly as a guitar with a capo at the 5th fret if you look at the first four strings only, except that the fourth string (the G) of the ukulele is tuned one octave up. In other words, a guitar player can get a feel for it by capoing the 5th fret and stick to the four first strings.

  10. Judgemental January 21st, 2011 5:31 pm

    I bought a resonator by Marshall Stapleton it is a one off handmade work of art. It is a concert and it is made from douglas fir. Actually I’m told it is made from a recycled church pew. I call it “Voice of an Angel’, and the sound is just so beautiful.

    Do you know of any other people using recycled materials for the construction of ukes?

    Thanks for a great website

  11. John P February 11th, 2011 11:18 pm

    Having done much research, this is what I’ve learned:

    So many questions. So many options. So many choices. I’ll make it easy… especially if you are just starting on the instrument.

    Get a soprano/standard first. Spend $50-$70. Lanakai LU21 or equivalent is perfect to start. If you advance in skill or find that you like the instrument as much as I did, get a tenor made with solid koa. $350-$450 and you should be set for life. aNueNue Oahu (solid) Koa III is a lifetime investment at $350! Higher prices only improve aesthetics or appearance or afford you a prestigious name.

    Keep in mind that some professionals or masters play on a $100 uke!

    Tone woods: I’ve seen and played them all:

    Nato: louder, more resonant … good for beginner
    Mahogany: more like a guitar’s sound
    Mango: muted; less projection, but beautiful in appearance. Great if u play publically or in a group.
    Koa: distinct, highest quality sound. Most authentic to “Hawaiian” sound.

    Solid is always better if you can afford it… or FIND it for that matter!

    Remember… you don’t need a uke crusted in diamonds, but you don’t want one that should come in a Happy Meal from McDonald’s either. Get a decent uke. Your sound will be fine. The rest is in your hands… literally.

  12. rachel :D February 27th, 2011 11:37 pm

    RIGHT, Here’s the thing:

    I wouldn’t say I’m a complete beginner, but on this website I’e gotten up to tabs and fingerpicking and thats going good and I really enjoy that bit :D

    So I want to buy a new ukulele, this one, in my opinion looks a bit cheap (but pretty cause I painted it xD) and I want a better quality one…
    a lot of you fine people are suggesting the Lanikai LU-21 isn’t it?

    Is that a soprano or concert..? Which one should I get? Thank you :)

  13. Luanne Crosby April 6th, 2011 2:17 am

    I’ve been a musician (guitarist,singer,songwriter)both fronting a band and playing solo for many years (almost 40 at this point!). My daughter gave me a Lanikai Concert Uke for Christmas and I am smitten. Haven’t hardly ever had this much fun with an instrument. I decided to upgrade to a tenor and want an acoustic electric so I can play it when I’m with my band. I ordered an Oscar Schmidt Spalted Mango Acoustic Electric and when it arrived the electronics were not set in the body correctly, the screws had broken the wood and the finish. I called the company where I purchased it and they sent me another. That one had buzzing strings, which I was able to massage a little and the buzzing stopped, but compared to the first one (which had fantastic tone despite the manufacturing defect) it was a little flat sounding, especially the highest string. I don’t like the way Oscar Schmidt takes an acoustic and sticks the electronics on as an afterthought – I believe the integrity of the instrument is compromised by that approach, and the screws are too long and inside you can see that eventually the wood might break. Sooo… I think I’ll get an acoustic and then have an after-market pickup installed. My question is, how can I make sure I get a great instrument (resonant, etc.) buying online? There’s no brick and mortar store in my area where I can go and try 5 of the same Uke to find the best one. Will any on-line store open the box, make sure its set up and sounds good before shipping? Also, if I plan to spend under $300, is there a brand that I might like better than the Oscar Schmidt? I want a tenor (and I love the look and sound of the spalted mango). Any advice?? Thanks!

  14. Susie April 28th, 2011 1:22 pm

    Hi,I’m new to Ukes.The Easter Rabbit gave me a Soprano Uke a few days ago. He bought it off eBay expecting mahogany and took it to a local music shop to check it out because it arrived looking a bit manky. They told him it was an amazing hand-made Uke, probably about 12years old, worth hundreds and they can’t get enough of them.

    Another music shop has said that they would have trouble selling it because it has a lump of wood inside at the base of the neck which would impair the sound and could be a repair job. They thought it was probably cherry and we could pick up a new hand-made one like it for £75 ($120).

    I’m left wondering if my husband (Easter Rabbit) should return it as it might end up being frustrating to learn on (I notice that it doesn’t have geared machine heads – should a uke?)and we start again or is it a good one.

    Thanks for reading this and what do you think?

  15. Paulie April 29th, 2011 3:48 pm

    I just received an Oscar Schmidt I purchased new. Other than a problem with the strings continuing to stretch out of tune, I love it. I am hoping the strings will stabilize pretty soon, but as a guitar player who plays steel strings I am wondering if these nylons will ever stop stretching. This is my first uke experience (my son is marrying a Hawaiian girl and they want me to sing a Hawaiian song at the wedding). I wish I had picked one up years ago. I find it much easier to sing with for some reason than my guitars. Can’t wait to get to the beach. If you see a chubby guy under a palm tree in Daytona playing a ukelele with a goofy grin on his face—that’d be me.

  16. Lee May 8th, 2011 9:45 pm

    I am a complete beginner. My dad played uke during my childhood. I love the sound. I am learning all i can before buying my first uke for myself.

    What do you think about the “Flea” concert size?

  17. luk May 16th, 2011 5:26 am

    lanikai Lu-21C Concert or Kala Ka-C ??
    what´s the difference? which should i buy?

  18. Eduardo May 18th, 2011 12:54 am

    I am purchasing a sonny d, and im really excited about it. I met the man today and he was so nice, I considered buying a kamaka here in hawaii, but when i stumbled upon sonny d’s shop today (I am a first year teacher at Waipahu high) and talked to him and checked out his workspace I realized I had to buy it from Sonny D. He encompasses the aloha that these instruments should carry. I think he picked up on my enthusiasm and respect for his dedication and he is making me a deal on a dark koa tenor uke that could easily sell for 1200.00.
    Im stoked. I think sonny D is the true hawaiian undergroung uke maker.

  19. Dani August 16th, 2011 7:06 pm

    I have a few friends who play ukulele, and it seems like a fun instrument, so for my birthday I am getting myself one. I’m only 12, so my father said that if I could teach myself in the beginning and stick with the instrument he’ll get me some lessons. I’ve been doing some research the past few days and found out that the guitar center literally 30 seconds from my house sells the Lanikai LU-21, which is what I plan on buying. It comes with Aquila strings, which is awesome, but here are my two questions:

    1. How can I test the uke in the store if I have no experience with string instruments at all? Like I said, I’m 12, so I don’t have the cash to buy many ukes until I find the right one. I need to get a good beginner one and prove to my dad that I can play it.

    2. What accessories will I need for my uke? I honestly have no idea.

  20. Michael August 25th, 2011 11:02 pm

    I have a Kala KA-S that I got over a year ago and have been happy with it. Lately I have been wanting to add another uke. I have been thinking about a concert with the electronic addition. I was checking out a Luna in a music store for 150. And was wondering/hoping you had some suggestions.

    Also, since I have been out shopping and listening to other instruments I have to say that I appreciate my Kala even more. Listening to other instruments they don’t all have the same tone. The ukes I was looking at today for instance did not seem to resonate as well as my Kala, but they felt solid. Some may have been solid woods. Am I just used to my Kala, nuts, or a little of both?

  21. Kelli September 2nd, 2011 8:06 pm

    Anyone have anything to say about Blue Maui ukuleles? I played a koa tenor last night and fell in love. I’m thinking about buying it or a sweet Koaloha concert that’s on sale. So hard to choose!

  22. Tony the Tiger September 27th, 2011 8:52 pm

    Hi all
    I’ve been playing guitars around 30 years and last year bought a cheap Tanglewood uke to learn on and just cannot put it down. Recently tried an Ashbury Tenor AU 34T solid boa in a shop in Leeds and I am thinking of buying it, looks, feels and sounds great to me but would appreciate any comments good or bad to help me make the right decision.
    cheers
    tony

  23. TheViolentVicar October 2nd, 2011 5:50 pm

    It’s hard to go wrong with a Flea or a Fluke. They’re well-made, have a nice tone, and are relatively inexpensive and tough. Add to that a funky cachet that makes ready used market, allowing you to dump it if you discover that the instrument is not for you, and you have a winner.

    I have three ukes: a Flea, an Applause, and a Recording King resonator. I like the RC the most (that Knopfleresque ring makes me grin) but play the Flea more. It’s lighter and I an not so ascairt of marring its plastic body. The Applause is a nightmare: quiet, dull tone, and with a curious combination of a narrow neck and big wide head that makes it difficult to navigate the fretboard in 1st position.

  24. Olivia October 5th, 2011 8:27 pm

    Hi, I’m looking to buy my first ukulele. I would like to spend around £30 ($45) on it. I have played the flute for eight years and the piano for two, so I do have some musical experience. Would anyone be able to recommend a ukulele that would be suitable for a beginner, would be just about the best I can get for £30, and is stocked by someone willing to ship to the UK? Thank you!

  25. Tracy Woodard October 11th, 2011 12:51 am

    Dani, Welcome to Ukulele. I hope that you are still checking for responses to your question. I am self taught and am playing on rather inexpensive ukes and having fun. As far as testing a new Uke in a store, first teach yourself 3 basic chords: C F & G7. These three chords are VERY easy to learn and with them you can play dozens if not hundreds of songs.
    so my advice is to learn these 3 chords and then learn a few songs so that you can play that song with each of the ukes that you consider buying.

    As long as the action or playability of the uke fits you well and the tone of the instrument is pleasing to YOUR ear, then buy it.

    Hope this helps

    Tracy

  26. Trent Roberts October 12th, 2011 3:45 am

    Hey guys, i have been playing guitar for about 15 years and am seriously considering a ukulele. I am a large bloke with fairly big fingers, just seeing if anyone has any ideas on what type would suit best. Thanks heaps

  27. Joe E October 19th, 2011 7:42 am

    I had an intro uke lesson in mid-August. I held out a little more than a week before buying my own ukulele. I got a Lanikai concert based on the good rep of Lanikais online and the slightly larger size for my fat fingers. And I love it!

    About a month later I bought my second uke, a Luna soprano (tattoo). Found a shop online that does expert setup on each uke. Due to the set-up and the pineapple shape, it’s very resonant for its size. I practice with them both though my friend who’s lagging behind me in practice and skill prefers the larger concert.

    Someone recently said that tenor is the most popular size for guys — overall bigger. Baritones are tuned somewhat like guitars, so consider one if you already play guitar. Sopranos, concert/altos, and tenors are all tuned alike for ease of changing instruments.

    I guess what I’m saying is: read a LOT online, consider a Lanikai, and practice, practice, practice. And this site helped me a lot in getting started.

  28. Clyde Seltzer October 26th, 2011 9:29 pm

    I have my Father’s Martin Ukulele that he purchased in 1928.
    My Brother Gene, out of the kindness of his heart had the Body replaced by Martin in 1988 due to some minor fractures in it. Gene, not a player…I am. We both regreted it in retrospect.
    In reading Alistairs “Ukelele for Dummies”, Recognising Ukulele brands the Martin Ukulele 5K was mentioned, and I wondered how to identify the 5K from others, namely mine. Thank you, Clyde

  29. Teddy November 12th, 2011 10:05 pm

    I’ve been playing for about six months now, so I’m not what you’d call a long term player, but I would highly recommend for beginners the Makala Dolphin. It’s made from mostly plastic and laminates, but don’t let that fool you, combined with Aquilla strings you can get a good sound out of it. I’m not saying it’s up there with the Flukes and Fleas, but it’s generally recognised as the best in the £20-£30 range (my soprano cost £23), and can even hold its own against some of the £40-£50 range.
    They come in a variety of colours (lets face it, that’s what really matters to a beginner, I know it mattered to me, yellow for the win), although god help anyone trying to find a red starburst paintjob, have a wooden dolphin built into the bridge, and what looks like mahogany on the fretboard, although I can’t claim any kind of actual knowledge for that, just a guess. It also has geared tuners, the kind used on most guitars for those who don’t know, but don’t suffer from the Mickey Mouse ears look that a lot of geared tuner ukes do, and they are unlikely to slip, or go to far out of tune, providing you check it regularly. However, you may have trouble finding them in stores, as from what I can tell, Kala (the company that makes them) deal mostly online, but it is an excellent beginner uke.
    I’ve also been resonably impressed with the Union Series by Tanglewood, which costs around £19, and is more likely to be found in an actual store, but I still prefer the Dolphin in general. It’s an entirely laminate body, but still gives a pretty good volume considering, and can be quite loud given Aquillas, but sometimes has a slight slant on the bridge, with one end higher than the other, which can affect playing, but you can fix that with a bit of precision filing. The fretboard’s plastic, but not bad despite that, and has geared tuners like the Dolphin, but doesn’t suffer from the Mickey Mouse problem either. The main flaw however, is the way the strings are attatched at the body, with a normal knot stuck through a plastic slot, which slipped a few times while I was re-stringing, forcing me to start all over again, but other than that, not a bad beginner uke, although I’d spend a few extra pounds and just buy a Dolphin for the reliability.
    If there’s one thing I recommend you not to buy, it’s a Mahalo. They’re representative of pretty much everything I despise about the music industry, nay, all industries; large companies flooding the market with cheap, shiny, and above all, inferior instruments that attract beginners, who are then discouraged when through no fault of their own they can’t get a decent sound out of them. You might get a decent one every few thousand produced, but that’s more by luck than design, and even if you disagree about the sound, they did create the flying-V model, which while a thing of beauty for a guitar, is quite simply a crime against Ukulele. Give them a wide berth is my only advice.
    For more info, there’s a blog you can visit called “Got a Ukulele”, which was a big help to me when I was trying to pick my first Uke.>

  30. Tom Keenan January 15th, 2012 4:45 pm

    Thanks for all of the great tips and advice. I bought myself a Lanikai LKP-C. It’s a really nice Koa uke strung with the Aquila Nylagut. I’m having so much fun with the instrument. Having many years of guitar behind me, I managed to hit the ground running. I’ve also started teaching my daughter who’s finding it much easier than guitar and getting her re-interested in learning an instrument.

  31. Robert M February 14th, 2012 8:17 am

    Stay away from Sonny D ukulele’s. There ukuleles are so off and have buzzing issues. And if you bring it to there attention they will bash you and all the other ukulele makers. That guy had nothing nice to say about anyone but himself.

  32. Emily March 24th, 2012 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the tips, it was really helpful. I’ve been planning on buying a Lanikai SZW-C, which is a bit pricey but gorgeous. I’ve been playing guitar for quite sometime, so when I borrowed one from a friend and learned to play it, it was not only easier to overcome, but I pretty much fell in love.

  33. arnoomy April 13th, 2012 7:39 am

    在中国,我买了$30的ukulele在自学,现在想买把kala旅行琴~~大概$200,可惜中国没有卖kala的店

  34. L5ke April 30th, 2012 6:11 pm

    Trent: I reckon a concert size should be ok. It’s small enough that you won’t have to be spending too much money on it, but at the same time it’s just a bit bigger than a soprano which will help you get to grips with the more fiddly chords. You could think about taking it up to a tenor, but personally I think a concert should be pretty much ok for most people. The best thing to do however would simply be to go to a shop and try some out!

  35. Ruth June 10th, 2012 3:33 pm

    Hi,
    i really want to learn the ukulele, but i don’t know anything about them!
    i’ve been playing the clarinet for 4 years, so i have a little bit of musical experience.
    i’m 13 and i want to know, what is the best make of ukulele? also, what size would be easier to play? i’ve got small fingers, and i tried a guitar once but it was hard to reach some of the frets!
    what do u think?!
    :-)

  36. Ruth June 10th, 2012 4:46 pm

    help! i don’t know which ukulele to get a lanikai lu-21 or a kala ka-s! i’m looking for a beginners ukulele…

  37. Stijn June 10th, 2012 6:02 pm

    First of all, i love this site. I spent weeks looking for a good ukulele site and this one is definitely the best, so thanks for that :)
    I want to buy a ukulele, but I live in Belgium and the music stores don’t really sell decent ukulele’s here (only crappy plastic ones), so I’ll have to buy on the interwebs.
    Are there specific webshops that I should consider, or should I just stick with Amazon?

    Thanks!

  38. Ellie July 11th, 2012 8:57 pm

    I have been teaching myself on a Kamoa Concert ukulele that i absolutely LOVE! I play around 3 hours a day because it is so awesome! I have decided that I want a saprano uke but I don’t know where to get it. I would love to get it from Kamoa again but they are a little pricey and my parents won’t help me out. I am willing to spend around 200-300 dollars. Please help!

  39. Teena July 21st, 2012 2:52 am

    Ellie,
    if you go to the Kamoa web site and read, they have a group of ukuleles in your price range, the E3 series…new for 2012.I think the saprano is only about 200 MSRP. Probably 20% less in an online store or ebay.
    See what you like and they go to ebay…Mim is a seller that carries Kamoas and does what is called a “setup” on them for free. a setup checks the “action” (how high or low the strings are to the fretboard and checks for other things that make the uke the most playable. There are other dealers, look online and see what you can find.
    Good luck.

  40. Teena July 21st, 2012 2:53 am

    please excuse my spelling…soprano

  41. Brad Nelson July 24th, 2012 4:56 pm

    I am an acomplished guitar and bass player, I plan to buy a ukulele and want to spend $200 or less can you please recommend a decent one to buy. There are no real good uke dealers in my area so I will have to order one.

    Thanks Brad Nelson

  42. Joannn August 3rd, 2012 2:18 am

    I’m extremely happy with my aNueNue Papa II Concert! Sounds great, looks great (love the embossed look!), quality’s great and it comes with a good quality bag as well! Even my electric guitarist husband is very impressed with it. I spent AUD$219 (everything is double and triple here in Australia!! :( Sucks!). Comes with Aquila strings as well. Can’t go wrong. The aNueNue U900, Rabbit and Bear edition, are so damn cute!

    Prior to aNueNue Papa II Concert, I purchased a Stagg AUD$40 and it’s a piece of crap, although the turtle and turquoise colour caught my attention. It’s just crap and can’t hold the tune without it going wonky straight after playing ONE chord!!! Returned it, got a refund and couldn’t make up my mind about whether to get Lanikai-21 or Kala-KA. Glad I did more research and scouring around before I purchased the aNueNue Papa II Concert. Can’t go wrong with aNueNue! :)

  43. Maria September 13th, 2012 6:27 am

    Hi! =)
    Im a complete beginner at ukes and I have no experience playing instruments. I’ve been researching about them and I think I’m going to buy a soprano or a concert uke. Since I can’t go to a music store and test them (because ukes are not available in Peru) I can’t make up my mind about which one I should get. My main concern is that a soprano uke might be a bit too high-pitched for my voice and Im really looking forward to sing along. Which one would you recommend?
    Thanks a lot!! =)

  44. Witold September 25th, 2012 2:07 pm

    Being quite old I am very new to ukelele.I have destroyed Aquilla G string of my soprano uke and was given Aquilla G string from tenor uke set.
    Can I do such a replacement, please, or I will need the string dedicated to soprano size uke?
    All the best.In anticipation.Witold.

  45. Witold October 2nd, 2012 6:11 am

    I have found answer to my own post…….
    Do not do it. Such a swap may brake smaller ukelele while tuning it w.

  46. Lisa October 4th, 2012 3:50 pm

    Hey all, Hoping for help. Want to get my husband a ukulele for his birthday. He is musical — has played sax for years, but this would be his first string instrument. Have been looking at Lanikai (21-C and LKP-C). Any suggestions on the best for a beginner who is interested in learning for recreation?

  47. Dan October 6th, 2012 2:13 am

    Have been playing the Lanikai LU-21ce for over a year now and I am really happy with it. It is really comfortable to play and it has a great clean sound. I have had 2 friends purchase custom made Uke’s although i still prefer the sound from Lanikai. The Pickup in it really gives out a good sound too. I have played many other brands although still prefer Lanikai sound it is classic Ukulele without a dull sound. Can I say anymore about the sound?

  48. Lynne October 17th, 2012 2:25 pm

    Hi all! This site is amazing. I picked up a toy ukulele and had a blast playing it. I decided I would like to be a serious player. I have some music background. I played drums, trumpet and some guitar. Right now I am a total beginner. Probably want lessons and I can self teach. I am looking for a decent beginners instrument that I can play songs and it sounds good. I have short fingers and would like something with the thin neck. Also since this is my first instrument I would like it to be under $100. I live in Boston MA area. If anyone has anything to offer send it along or email me. Thanks!! Can’t wait to get started. I plan to purchase with in the next few weeks.

  49. Geri Randall October 21st, 2012 2:22 am

    Great site and lots of information, but I still can’t decide which UKE to buy. Have a cheap $40 one made of laminate and got new strings. Ugh, it sounds tin’y and even with tuner, it never seems in tune. so very frustrating. TIME for one that will give me HOPE.

  50. Nate October 25th, 2012 4:59 am

    I’m in an acoustic trio and was thinking it’s be fun to do some Ukulele songs.
    If we were to buy three Ukes would it be better sound-wise to have three different sized Ukes?
    Soprano, Concert and Tenor?
    Or would it be just as effective to have three concerts?
    Or some other configuration?

  51. 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?

  52. 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?

  53. 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!

  54. 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.

  55. 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 ?

  56. 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

  57. 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

  58. 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?
    Regards!

  59. 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?

  60. 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 amazon.co.uk 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 amazon.co.uk 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!

  61. 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.

  62. 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).

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

    Also an option, Stewart-Macdonald (StewMac.com) 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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?

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

    @ Elise check out http://pilikoko.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=3
    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

  68. 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?

    K.R.

    Acc

  69. 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 ?

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

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

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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?

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