Top 5 Ukuleles for Beginners

Ukuleles are rather popular these days so it isn’t too difficult to purchase one regardless of where you live. 10-15 years ago you could walk into a music store and likely find only a couple on the wall, but now they have entire rooms dedicated to them. One of the biggest problems now is simply sifting through all the different brands out there!

Whether you buy one of the ukuleles mentioned in this article or you continue shopping there are a few pointers to remember when buying a ukulele;

  • Have an idea of what size you may want. Ukuleles come in soprano, concert, tenor, baritone, and now even more variations. For most beginners it is best to stick with a soprano or concert, I often recommend concert size for adult beginners or soprano size for kids. If you are an adult and you are worried about your finger size than perhaps a tenor is more suitable. A baritone is very similar to a tenor guitar so it’s not always the best for a beginner who wants to have that “ukulele sound”. In general, a concert ukulele gives you the classic ukulele sound with just a little more finger space for learning. Plus, the concerts also have larger bodies so they sometimes will sound better.
  • The style of wood that the ukulele is made with (or at least the top part) is important. The most common wood is mahogany and sounds ok for a ukulele, and is often the most affordable. They also have spruce tops, acacia, and the most expensive and sought after Hawaiian koa wood. Most beginners stick with mahogany and that works great until they decide to upgrade to a better sounding material.
  • As a beginner you aren’t likely going to be spending much money, and that is ok. Just remember in the lower price ranges that ukuleles by all companies are mostly made in factories. In fact, some brands are all made in the same place they are only later stamped with a different name (this is common for many instruments these days). When you are buying a ukulele that is mass produced you have the chance of getting a lemon, always make sure you order from a place that allows returns. When you are buying in person this isn’t as big a deal as ordering online.
  • Just as these beginner ukuleles are mass produced they are not going to arrive to you all set-up. A proper set-up can take a cheap mahogany uke and turn it into a great sounding instrument. High quality strings, good action, and proper tuning can make all the difference. Always make sure your new ukulele is properly set-up to get the most out of it.

With all that in mind here are 5 great ukuleles for a beginner.

Makala Dolphin Soprano

I’m not usually a fan of instruments that are too cheap, after all you get what you pay for. However, there are way too many good reviews for the Dolphin soprano to deny it is a great beginner ukulele. It really does sound comparable to other ukes that are twice the price. If you are really on a lower budget, there is nothing wrong with starting out with the Makala Dolphin Soprano. There are plenty of colors to pick from and they make great gifts for kids. If you aren’t sure you or another music student will stick with playing the ukulele, it is best to start at a lower price like the Dolphin line.

Ukulele Makala Dolphin

Ukulele Makala Dolphin

Features

Size: Soprano
Top Wood: Kauri
Back And Sides: Composite
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Nut And Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard

Lanikai LU 21 or LU22CGC

The Lanikai LU-21 is the soprano size and the LU-22 is the concert size, I have included these both because they are great purchases depending on the size you need. The Lanikai basic model is just a little bit more expensive than the Makala Dolphin and maybe better for a player who wants a less colorful and more classic ukulele look. Lanikai is always discontinuing old models and making new ones so overtime these models may change numbers. Either way entry level Lanikai’s have great reviews and will make a new student very happy.

Ukulele Lanikai LU21

Ukulele Lanikai LU21

Features

Size: Soprano or Concert
Top Wood: Mahogany
Back And Sides: Mahogany
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Nut And Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard

Makala MK-T

The first tenor I ever bought was an affordable Makala MK-T, I wasn’t expecting much and had planned on it being a little beater uke that I could take to campfires. It turned out to be a surprisingly decent ukulele for the price, especially since it is a tenor. With some Aquila strings put on, the Makala tenor makes a great beginner ukulele. If you already own a soprano or concert and wish to try out a tenor this is a very affordable way to do it. Unfortunately, this tenor only comes in the classic look shown below, no other colors or styles.

Ukulele Makala MK-T

Ukulele Makala MK-T

Features

Size: Tenor
Top Wood: Mahogany
Back And Sides: Mahogany
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Walnut
Nut And Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard

Cordoba 15CM

This concert ukulele also has many great reviews online; many players swear by it. I have played a few of these in music stores and I can see why so many people love it. It is very affordable and one of the options I will give potential students when they are looking to get into playing the ukulele. The Cordoba is a little pricier than some of the other soprano and concert entry level ukuleles, but not by much. If you prefer the sound of the 15CM to Kala or Lanikai models than it too is a fine choice for a beginner.

Ukulele Cordoba 15CM

Ukulele Cordoba 15CM

Features

Size: Concert
Top Wood: Mahogany
Back And Sides: Mahogany
Finish: Satin
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Nut And Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Standard

Oscar Schmidt OU-5

I have a bit a bias for the OU-5, I purchased mine 10 years ago and I still own and love it to this day. When I first started playing ukulele I had a cheap no name mahogany uke that sounded kind of dull. So when I first played the Oscar Schmidt I was surprised at how bright it sounded, it was even noticeable by the audiences I would play for at the time. Oscar Schmidt may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of ukuleles, but the OU-5 is worth every penny. The longer you own it, the better it sounds. Because it uses select Hawaiian koa wood it is about twice the price of other entry level ukuleles. Sometimes saving your money and spending a little extra is absolutely worth it!

Ukulele Oscar Smidt OU-5

Ukulele Oscar Smidt OU-5

Features

Size: Concert
Top Wood: Select Hawaiian Koa
Back And Sides: Select Hawaiian Koa
Finish: Gloss
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Nut And Saddle: Plastic
Headstock: Nyatoh

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