Best Ukuleles

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
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.Read more 
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.

Buying guide for best ukuleles

Last Updated December 2019

Ukuleles are small, four-stringed instruments that are highly portable and easy to learn. If you’re considering purchasing a ukulele, you should consider which size is right for you and what style suits you best, as not all ukuleles look or play the same.

The four main types of ukulele are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The soprano is the most popular size and is what most people picture when they think of a ukulele. The concert and tenor are slightly larger, both tuned to C like the soprano. The largest ukulele size is the baritone, which is tuned to D. Ukuleles are either made of solid wood or plywood covered with a wood laminate. The type of wood will determine the look and sound of the instrument and is a large determiner in price.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced ukulele player, you should carefully consider which size is right for you and what style suits you. Continue reading to learn more about the factors to consider when looking for a ukulele.

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.

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
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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