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Best Ukuleles

Updated June 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 40 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 170 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best ukuleles

    Last Updated June 2018

    Versatile, affordable, easy to play, and highly portable, the ukulele (or "uke" for short) is gaining popularity among people from all walks of life. From Paul McCartney to Taylor Swift, many famous musicians play the ukulele – and you can, too!

    Picking out the right ukulele can be overwhelming, however, especially if you're new to the instrument. You'll find a variety of ukes on the market, from compact sopranos to beefy baritones, and deciding which is the best one for you can be a challenge.

    But the good news is that we at BestReviews are here to help you. We do extensive research to bring you the best product information around.

    Read on to learn all you need to know about ukuleles, or head to the product matrix at the top of the page to see our favorite choices.

    Most ukuleles have the classic “figure eight” shape of an acoustic guitar, but you can find some rounded "pineapple" models, as well as "banjoleles," which are essentially miniature banjos, and so not true ukuleles.

    Types of ukuleles

    You'll find four main varieties of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each has its own properties and is designed with its own sound and uses.

    • Soprano: Measuring roughly 21 inches from end to end, the soprano is the smallest ukulele. This is the traditional size for this instrument, so it gives you that classic, bright sound you expect from a uke. Due to its small size, it isn't extremely loud, and it can be tricky to play if you have large hands. Soprano ukes are usually tuned to regular C (G-C-E-A), but are also tuned to D (A-D-F#-B).

    • Concert: These ukuleles are slightly larger than sopranos, about 23 inches long. This marginally larger size makes them louder (and hence more suitable for concerts) and easier to play while still retaining the traditional ukulele sound. These ukes are often tuned like soprano models (regular C and D).

    • Tenor: At approximately 26 inches long, tenor ukes are the second largest variety. Although they're usually tuned to regular C, like soprano and concert ukes, these have a slightly deeper tone. That means they don't retain that really typical ukulele sound. That said, they do still sound recognizable as ukuleles and are popular among professional players as their larger frets make them less fiddly to play.

    • Baritone: Baritone ukuleles are the largest type, at around 30 inches long, and have the deepest tone, more akin to a classical guitar. These are generally tuned to the same notes as the top four strings on a standard guitar (D-G-B-E).
    EXPERT TIP

    A concert ukulele is your best bet if you want a classic uke sound that is loud enough to be heard by an audience when you're playing on stage.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Ukulele features to consider

    Solid wood vs. laminate

    Ukuleles are either made from solid wood or wood laminate (plywood) with wood veneer to give it a solid wood appearance. Solid wood ukuleles give you an undeniably better sound, but they're also significantly more expensive. That said, unless you've got money to burn, a laminate uke will suffice for your average beginner or intermediate player, or anyone who just wants to play the ukulele for fun at home or with friends.

    Common tonewoods

    “Tonewood” is a term used to describe a wood used to make ukuleles (or other musical instruments). The type of wood used to make the uke affects its tone.

    • Spruce: An inexpensive wood, spruce is usually found on the less expensive solid wood ukuleles. It has a fairly dynamic mid-range sound and an accentuated top end.

    • Cedar: Since it isn’t as dense as other tonewoods, cedar is sensitive to light strumming and plucking and has excellent harmonics.

    • Mahogany: Another popular choice, mahogany gives you a rounded top end, a rich midrange, and a full low end. It's also a more affordable option than koa, generally found on mid-level ukes.

    • Koa: A traditional Hawaiian ukulele tonewood, koa gives a balanced tone with a pleasant mid-range and overall warm sound. It also has a beautiful grain. Koa ukes are generally high-end models.

    Build quality

    The overall build quality of a ukulele is important. A poorly made uke is unlikely to stand up to regular use. On the other hand, a well-constructed instrument should last you for years to come with very few issues even if you play daily. We'd recommend looking at the quality of the hardware (such as the bridge and tuning pegs) because these are often the first things to break on a ukulele of lesser quality. Metal tuning pegs tend to last longer than plastic. Bridges are generally made of plastic, but these should be sturdy and not flimsy.

    Accessories

    It's worth thinking about any accessories you might need to go with your ukulele. While you don't really need anything other than the uke itself to start playing, you may find some accessories useful.

    • Tuner: Unless you can already tune by ear, an electric tuner is extremely useful to make sure each string is tuned to the correct note.

    • Bag or case: You might also want a gig bag or hard case to make it easier to transport your instrument from one place to another and to offer some protection from knocks and scrapes.

    • Plectrum (pick): While many ukulele players don't use a plectrum, others find it easier to play with either a felt pick or a standard guitar pick. If you're unsure, consider buying a few different picks to experiment.
    DID YOU KNOW?

    Fret markings are the inlays in the fretboard that help you more easily find the correct finger positions. Most fret markings are simple circles or diamonds, but some ukes have more intricate designs.

    Ukulele prices

    You definitely don't need to take out a loan to start playing the ukulele – it's one of the least expensive instruments around. That said, if you want a professional-quality instrument, you'll have to shell out a significant amount. You can find ukuleles that cost between $20 and $3,000.

    • Soprano ukuleles cost from $20 for extremely basic models to $1,000 for professional-quality instruments. You can find excellent mid-range ukes that will suit even the most avid of recreational players for $100 to $200.

    • Concert ukuleles start at around $40 and go all the way up to $1,500 and more for high-end professional instruments. We wouldn't recommend paying below $60 to $70 if you want a model that will last.

    • Tenor ukuleles can cost as little as $40 to $50 for the cheapest beginner models, but $60 to $100 will get you something a bit more solid. The most expensive tenor ukes cost in excess of $3,000, but they're overkill for most players.

    • Baritone ukuleles cost a little more due to their large size. Even basic models cost between $80 and $100, and high-end professional instruments can cost up to $3,000.

    If you're serious about playing the ukulele, we wouldn't recommend buying the cheapest instrument out there because you'll soon want to upgrade.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Tips

    • Decide if you want a ukulele starter kit. Some ukuleles come with a range of accessories included, so you have everything you need to get started. While these sets can offer value for money, the instruments are usually basic and may not be of the best quality.

    • Pick a size of ukulele. If you have large hands, you might find the smaller soprano and concert ukes too tricky to play.

    • Choose what strings you'd like to use. You can buy ukulele strings of different thicknesses and materials, all of which change the sound of your instrument slightly. If you're not sure what you favor, you'll have to experiment.

    • Consider whether looks matter. Do you want a ukulele whose appearance you love? Or do you simply want one that's affordable or plays well? Only you can decide!
    Most ukuleles have a natural wood finish, but some models come in a range of bold colors and patterns.

    FAQ

    Q. What kind of music can you play on a ukulele?

    A. Ukuleles are Hawaiian instruments, so they pair perfectly with Hawaiian music, but the fun doesn't stop there. Bands and musical artists of all genres have used the ukulele in their music, from the inimitable indie songwriter Amanda Palmer to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. No matter what sort of music you're into, you can play it on a uke!

    Q. Can you plug a ukulele into an amplifier?

    A. Traditionally, ukuleles are acoustic instruments, meaning you can't amplify their sound unless you buy and fit a separate pickup. However, you can find some electro-acoustic ukuleles that have all the relevant wiring and hardware to be plugged into an amplifier of your choosing.

    Q. What resources are available to help me learn to play the ukulele?

    A. While there's no substitute for face-to-face ukulele lessons with a professional teacher, you'll find plenty of resources available to help you learn if you want to go it alone. Not only are there lots of instructional videos and web pages dotted around the internet but you can also buy books and DVDs on the subject.

    The team that worked on this review
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      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Rich
      Rich
      Writer