With Christmas right around the corner, there isn’t a better time to learn how to play the ukulele.
We’ve looked at the 5 Best Ukuleles to Buy for Beginners, but through the discussion in the comments of that post, there have been a lot of other great recommendations from all of you that I missed.
So in this post, I’m taking your suggestions and looking at 16 best ukuleles to buy… without breaking the bank.
Honestly, there are hundreds of brands and options out there, so I know I’m going to miss some, but these ukuleles I’ve either played or I’ve heard really great reviews from you.
These ukuleles are perfect for beginners and beyond.
Note: As I said, I recommend these ukuleles because I’ve played them and because people who are apart of the Ukulele Tricks community have recommended them. I receive a very small commission if you buy a ukulele through my affiliate link. If you’ve found this information helpful, or if you want to find a way to say “thanks” for all the tons of free information I offer on Ukulele Tricks, I would be very grateful. 🙂
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest and most traditional type of ukulele. They have a classic bright, jangly sound that is characteristic of the ukulele. Those of us who have big, fat fingers might not find the soprano ukulele to be the easiest to play.
1.) Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele ($39)
Don’t let the price fool you. This little ukulele gets rave reviews. While they are made out of plastic, they have great tone and playability (listen to how the Makala Dolphin sounds in this video). You’ll want to put a new set of Aquila strings on it, but once you do, you’ll have a great sounding ukulele.
The cool thing about the Makala Dolphin is that it comes in a lot of different colors. Click any of the colors to learn more: red, pearl white, black, light blue, metallic blue, pink, yellow, green, or purple.
2.) Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele ($69)
This ukulele is one of the most popular entry-level ukuleles. For those of you who don’t like the idea of having a plastic ukulele, this is a great alternative. Some people have reported having minor intonation issues with the LU-21. This means that the notes you play higher up the fretboard can sound out of tune. However, the likelihood of playing past the fifth fret on a soprano ukulele is pretty minimal. For the price, you can’t go wrong with the Lanikai LU-21.
Click here to learn more about the Lanikai LU-21 soprano ukulele.
3.) Kala KA-S Soprano Ukulele ($70)
I’ve heard from a lot of people on Ukulele Tricks who own and love this ukulele. Kala is one of the most reputable ukulele makers out there known for their quality and craftsmanship. They created this line of mahogany ukuleles to be affordable while still maintaining excellent quality.
Click here to learn more about the Kala KA-S soprano ukulele.
4.) Martin 0XK Soprano Ukulele ($279)
The price of this ukulele is a bit higher than the other options, but I recommend this ukulele because this is the ukulele my grandpa plays (if you’ve downloaded my free lesson book, you know that my grandpa taught me how to play ukulele). I absolutely love this ukulele. The playability is excellent and the tone is very even and balanced. Sometimes soprano ukuleles can sound a bit shrill and thin, but this has a nice “fat”, warm tone for being a soprano ukulele.
Click here to learn more about the Martin 0XK soprano ukulele.
Concert ukuleles are a little bit bigger than soprano ukuleles, which makes them appealing to those with larger fingers. However, they aren’t so much bigger that they loose that classic ukulele sound.
5.) Lanikai LU-21C Concert Ukulele ($89)
The Lanikai LU-21C is the bigger brother of the soprano LU-21. Those with bigger hands and fingers might prefer the LU-21C over the LU-21.
Click here to learn more about the Lanikai LU-21C concert ukulele.
6.) Kala KA-C Mahogany Ukulele ($98)
Similar to the Kala KA-S, the KA-C is Kala’s concert version of their mahogany ukulele. You can expect the same great playability and sound.
Click here to learn more about the Kala KA-C mahogany ukulele.
7.) Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele ($149)
The Oscar Schmidt OU5 ukulele is a beautiful ukulele. It’s much prettier in person. When I played it, I was impressed by how easy it was to play. It sounds great too. You’ll probably want to put on some new strings when you get it, but overall, I’ve found this to be a great ukulele and haven’t hesitated to recommend it to friends of mine.
Click here to learn more about the Oscar Schmidt OU5 concert ukulele.
8.) Cordoba 20CM Solid Mahogany Concert Ukulele ($149)
This ukulele is unique to the previous ones in that the top of the Cordoba 20CM ukulele is constructed from solid mahogany wood. The previous recommendations are constructed out of a laminate plywood. Solid wood sounds better with time.
Click here to learn more about the Cordoba 20CM concert ukulele.
Tenor ukuleles are a little bit bigger than concert ukuleles. Due to its larger size, it tends to sound warmer and deeper than a soprano or concert ukulele. Those with larger fingers will like the feel of a tenor ukulele. There are also more frets so fingerstyle players love playing tenor ukuleles.
I love my tenor ukulele. I will often switch the tuning around between standard and low G tuning. This gives me a lot of different creative options.
9.) Kala KA-T Mahogany Ukulele ($110)
If you’re thinking you’d like the bigger size of a tenor ukulele, or if you’d like to have the option of playing in low G tuning, the Kala KA-T tenor ukulele will be a great option. It’s bigger than the KA-S and KA-C, so you’re going to get that warmer, more full bodied tone.
Click here to learn more about the Kala KA-T mahogany ukulele.
10.) Lanikai S-T Solid Spruce Tenor Ukulele ($170)
This is another ukulele that has a solid wood top. The Lanikai S-T has a solid spruce top which gives this ukulele a loud vibrant sound. The mahogany back and sides provide warmth and body to the tone. Lanikai has a tenor version of the LU-21, but honestly, I would pick the S-T over that in a heart beat.
Click here to learn more about the Lanikai S-T solid spruce tenor ukulele.
11.) Cordoba 20TM Tenor Ukulele ($170)
Like it’s smaller brother, the Cordoba 20TM has a solid mahogany top and mahogany back and sides. This instrument will have a very warm and balanced tone.
Click here to learn more about the Cordoba 20TM tenor ukulele.
12.) Fender Nohea Koa Tenor Ukulele ($199)
The biggest draw to the Fender Nohea tenor ukulele is the koa top, back, and sides. Koa is a very beautiful tonewood that has a clear, warm tone similar to mahogany but with less bass. With this being a laminated instrument, you might not find many differences between this and a mahogany ukulele, but it’s a beautiful instrument, which is worth the price for some.
Click here to learn more about the Fender Nohea tenor ukulele.
Baritone ukuleles are the largest ukuleles, which means they carry much more bass than any other ukulele. A baritone ukulele is tuned like the bottom four strings of the guitar (DGBE). This means that the chords for a baritone ukulele are not the same as the chords for a soprano, concert, or tenor ukulele.
13.) Oscar Schmidt OU53S Baritone Ukulele ($175)
As far as baritone ukuleles go, this is a great entry-level baritone ukulele. When I played this ukulele, I found that it played easy and it had a very good low end presence while still maintaining clarity.
Click here to learn more about the Oscar Schmidt OU53S baritone ukulele.
14.) Lanikai S-B Solid Spruce Baritone Ukulele ($190)
With a solid spruce top, this baritone ukulele will have a lot of projection. The mahogany back and sides will provide added warmth and clarity.
Click here to learn more about the Lanikai S-B solid spruce baritone ukulele.
15.) Koloa Baritone Ukulele, Solid Mahogany ($190)
Unlike all of the other ukuleles on this page, this ukulele not only has a solid mahogany top, but it also has a solid back and sides. With time and a lot of playing, this ukulele will age very nicely.
Click here to learn more about the Koloa baritone ukulele.
16.) Kala Solid Spruce Top Baritone Ukulele ($199)
This Kala baritone ukulele has a solid sitka spruce top. Sitka spruce is known for it’s very lively and clear sound. Sometimes with baritone ukuleles they can sound so dark to the point of being muddy. Because of the spruce top, you won’t have that problem with this ukulele.
Click here to learn more about the Kala solid spruce top baritone ukulele.
What Ukulele Do You Recommend?
What ukulele do you have? Would you recommend it to a friend? It doesn’t have to be on this list. The more recommendations we can get the better. Let’s hear it!
I’m loving my Mainland concert, mango wood uke!
Mainland makes a great uke!
I have to disagree on a few of these. The Fender is not worth $50, let a lone $200. Also I would have to say leaving out Mainlands was a huge mistake. pretty much a great uke for the price. I understand that if people click on the uke and buy it on amazon you get a cut, it still is a little suspect.
Hey Tim, thanks for your comment. Your opinion is valuable because I know you’re someone who reviews a lot of different ukuleles. There have been a couple times where I’ve recommended folks over to your site because I trust your expertise. I don’t expect everyone will agree with all these ukuleles on this list, and that’s okay, and good!
However, I think you might be misunderstanding where I’m coming from and my intention for recommending these ukuleles. These are ukuleles I’m recommending because I’ve either played them, or because I’ve received several recommendations for them from our discussions in the comments of Ukulele Tricks and through emails. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these ukuleles to a friend.
I created this list for somebody who wants to buy a ukulele “without breaking the bank.” I have no problem recommending Mainland ukuleles based on their excellent reputation, but for the majority of my audience, I know that’s going to be a ukulele that’s a little bit too much for just starting out. Same goes for any “K” brand.
Also, I don’t think there is anything suspect about getting a small cut from Amazon for recommending some ukuleles that I’ve played, that I think fit within this “budget” price range, or that have been recommended by this community. I spent a lot of time over the past days compiling this information in order to help answer a question I receive on a very regular basis: “I’m just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot. What ukulele do I buy?” For that person, this is a very, very helpful compilation.
I’ve never mentioned this before, because I never thought this would be a problem for somebody, but as an open disclosure, for anyone who is wondering, I receive a couple bucks if you click a link above and order a ukulele through my affiliate link. If you’ve found this information helpful, or if you want to find a way to say “thanks” for all the tons of free information I offer on Ukulele Tricks, I would be very grateful. 🙂
Thank you for your time and help, it is appreciated . I got the baritone koloa for my daughter with. Hard shell case and it is a beautiful instrument and sounds great! So Thanks for the good advice
What do you think about the Sojing brand? EBay has a Sojing
Walnut soprano uke for $45. Ripoff or bargain?
I have to agree with Tim – the Mainland is such an obvious choice, I disagree it’s out of the price range of most beginners, and it’s nowhere near as costly as a K brand (only a fraction of the price). Another one is Bruko which make the most competitively priced all solid uke I know of.
More concerning though – I would never recommend any beginner buys a uke of this price from Amazon. At these price points, the ukes often need some setup and adjustment that Amazon just won’t deliver. The recommendation should be to buy from a real store. That gives the player an opportunity to listen to them, and for the shop to adjust them. If they are forced to buy online, many of the same real stores will still be available over the phone to talk about choices and you can ask them to check setup. Try that with Amazon!
I get so many beginner emails asking me about trouble tuning and buzzing. When I ask where they bought their cheap uke, the majority answer Amazon or WalMart..
These are all great suggestions for a beginner, Barry, and you are completely right that you’ll always get a better instrument from a music shop that specializes in setting up and selling ukuleles versus ordering online. However, where I’m coming from is that this might not be the best route for a completely new ukulele player. I’ve talked with too many folks online, and in “real” life, who’ve never played an instrument, are really interested in ukulele, but don’t have more than $100 to spend and the time and energy to worry about getting a ukulele set up. Definitely not ideal, I agree, but this is the reality I think a lot of people find themselves in. It’s hard to justify spending more than $100 or even $200 on a soprano Mainland that you don’t know if you’re going to like in the long run.
I completely agree that there are certain problems that can come with a lower budget ukulele, but as far as I’m concerned, if you’re interested in playing ukulele, play whatever the heck you can get your hands on. If it means dusting off your grandpa’s old ukulele in the attic, or taking a couple minutes and ordering one from Amazon, do it! Everyone has to start somewhere, and you don’t have to start with a ukulele out of your budget. Then, if and when you find some joy in the ukulele, save up some more cash and buy a nicer ukulele.
Budget aside though, I’d always recommend buying from a real store. Aside from the professional help in choosing instrument and setup (which a good store will do on even the cheapest uke, so no extra money worries), but it is supporting valuable local music businesses that are being challenged by the big corps like Amazon.
Any one play a Flea or a Fluk?????????????
I agree with Brett. As a beginner, no way would I spend a $100.00 on an instrument of which I am uncertain I would be disciplined enough to continue to play. Got my Lanikai LU21-C concert on sale for $69.99. Love it! It will be a long time before my untrained ear will get tired of its beautiful sound.
Hi Baz – just to point out you can buy ukuleles from real stores through Amazon. While for Amazon direct, a ukulele is just a product in a box – more sales through Amazon are actually generated from marketplace sellers – often real stores, like you suggest.
I can’t agree with you Tim. I own 8 ukuleles, from cheap to a really nice Wixom custom made one. The first tenor I bought was this model Fender, and it is a very nice instrument. It has nice resonance, stays in tune, has a nice feel, and is very playable. Furthermore, it looks great.
I have recently put an electric pick up on it, one of the stick on variety. It also works very well as an amplified ukulele.
Are there better ukes on the market. Of course there are, but I don’t understand why you are so negative about it.
I have to agree with Elwyn regarding the Fender Nohea Uke. I bought mine approximately a year and a half ago from The Ukulele Site (Hawaii Music Supply) and it is a fantastic little instrument! I play various stringed instruments and have done so for years. I have come to learn that a good set up will make or break an instrument…expensive or cheap. Hawaii Music Supply does a complete set up on all their instruments before they are sent out and what a difference it makes! The Fender plays well, sounds good, and looks BEAUTIFUL! I have it sitting in my living room so that I can see it every day. It just makes me want to pick it up and play it! What fun it is. I have recently ordered a Pono MT all Mahogany Tenor as an upgrade and that one will be tuned in lower g (the Fender is in high g). Can’t wait to get it. The Ukulele Site has decent prices, and great selection, fantastic customer service, and as I said, the set up is second to none. Once the set up is done, their shipping is very fast! So…I highly recommend the Fender Nohea but I also recommend that you get one from a place that does a proper set up. Later (or Aloha!) 🙂
Just a word about the Pono MT…FANTASTIC! What a great sound in low g. The Mahogany wood has such a nice, rich tone. The Fender has a bright high tone and this one has that nice, deeper rich tone…best of both worlds! Now I’m looking for my next one…I’m afraid I am addicted and the collection will be growing! What a great little instrument for young and old alike. I am 61 years young and started playing the Uke just to keep the old brain active in my retirement years and am I glad that I did! I think it’s doing the trick and what fun! I can’t believe that I didn’t get interested in one many years ago, but I remember Tiny Tim and “Tiptoe through the Tulips” and that was a turn off for me. When I hear the expert players now, it’s just incredible to think that four little strings on such a small instrument can make such BIG music! Wonderful little instruments. I am hooked!
Hey, Brett…good job with your “16 Best…”Review. My wife and I have several of the Ukulele’s you recommend in addition to some quite expensive models. In our view the Fender Nohea Koa is an excellent instrument and my wife loves playing her Fender Soprano in addition to her Ko’Aloha. We would have no hesitation in agreeing with the selection you have chosen for this review. Absolutely! You deserve a small cut for referrals considering all you provide for free. Very best wishes for next year, Brett. Tony and Tippawan Tucker, Muaklek, Thailand
Hey Tony, thanks for your comment and review. It sounds like you have a fleet of ukuleles. I love it!
It’s always good to hear from you! Best to you and your wife as well.
Hey, I’ve been looking at getting a makala concert ukulele. Is this a good ukulele for the price range?
These are great little ukes for the price range. I’ve heard from other folks on Ukulele Tricks that have Makala ukuleles and they seem happy with them. They aren’t going to be as nice of quality as a Kala ukulele, but they are perfect for starting out on.
Hi again from the UK Brett,could you give me your view of the Fluke range im thinking about a “sop Flea” in the new year and would value your input.Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas.
David, I completely forgot to add the Flukes to this list! I should have thought more outside of the four types of ukuleles. My friend has a Flea uke. I love them. I’ve found that they record really nicely. They hold tune great and they are easy to play. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. Merry Christmas to you too!
Love your site, just wanted to put my two cents in. I picked up my Kala Travel Tenor uke today ($189), and I’m so unbelieveably happy with it. It’s a solid little uke, and it’s only an inch and a half thick. I laughed at my friend when he pulled it out a few months ago, but the sound from this skinny little thing is incredible. I fell in love, and went and bought one myself. It also came with a soft gig bag from Kala (much to my delighted surprise), and it’s definitley motivating me to push my own limits and become a better ukulele player.
A very, very solid ukulele that won’t break the bank.
Great review! Thanks, Dennis!
i had a Hudson Baritone uke for Christmas, and she plays like a dream! 🙂
Your generosity with this website is heartwarming during the holidays and all the time. As someone whose hands have grown a bit old and rusty with diabetes, so that it became a struggle to play the guitar, the uke has given me new life. Your kindness is very much appreciated.
Carol, you are very welcome. It gives me so much joy to be able to share the ukulele with such a great community of people such as yourself.
I have two soprano ukuleles. My first is a Leolani Mahogany deluxe soprano that I had to buy while on vacation in Hawaii ($80 with gigbag). The second is an Islander MSS4 solid Mahogany, payed $219 and is very nice looking. I have to admit that I like the sound of the Leolani the best and would recommend it to anybody.
I got a Cordoba concert uke for Christmas with Aquila strings. It sounds really good, and keeps its tune very well.
I’ve never played a stringed instrument before, but now (with a little help from you) I sound like a pro. Thank you!!!
Hey Toni, so glad to hear! Keep up the good work! 😉
Hi Brett, I just discovered your website tonight and I’m so impressed by your warm, respectful, clear instruction and communication, not to mention your generosity sharing all this. It obviously takes a lot of time. I downloaded your free ebook, and while I’m just the next thing to a complete beginner I loved hearing about your grandfather and found your strumming instruction helpful so plan to sign up for strumming tips. I played the Railroad song while trains are going past our small holiday cabin in the mountain town of Arthurs Pass, New Zealand.
I’m also a singer songwriter (fledgling!), is there somewhere I can hear your original songs?
So many thanks, for your treasure of a site, I’m sure we’ll talk again.
Hey Leela, thanks for your comment! It makes me very happy to hear you’ve been enjoying Ukulele Tricks. That’s awesome you’re a songwriter. Right now, I’m in the process of recording some songs of mine, so unfortunately, I don’t have anything up yet. I’ve kept pretty busy lately working on a project for a friend of mine. I just played ukulele on her record as well as guitar and some other things. I’ll probably post something about that here once she releases to give you a glimpse into some of the music stuff I’ve been working on! 🙂 Do you have anything posted?
I picked up a Sojing electric tenor ukulele for $70 on ebay. I just love it. I play it with earphones so it doesn’t bother my wife when she is reading or watching television. If I use just one ear bud and then put the earphones on over it, I can play along with your lessons on the computer. Now that I can practice as much as I want, I’m getting much better.
Hey Peter, that sounds really cool! Clever practice idea with the headphones. I like it!
I love my Islander MT-4 by Kanile’a.
It is a Mahogany laminate with great tone and Kanile’a quality even
though not actually made by Kanile’a.
I just got my Kala KA-S Suprano last night from Amazon. For only $49 (reg. $70)! What a bargain 🙂 I did my research before I decided on this ukulele vs a Makala MK-S. The Kala has better Aquila Nylgut strings and that was my deciding point. It sounds good and looks good. Not cheap-looking. This is my very first ukulele and I am a total beginner. So, I wanted a good ukulele that was affordable for now.
I downloaded your free ebook last night and tonight I will sign up for your video course. Great content and great-looking website Brett! So yes, you deserve to get a few bucks for offering great content and recommendations.
P.S. I also bought a ukulele tuner. Excellent for a beginner who still has to train his ear for tuning 🙂 I highly recommend an electronic tuner for beginners. A new ukulele goes out of tune really quick.
Great choice! If I was in your shoes, I would pay the little extra to get the Kala over the Makala. Welcome to the website. It’s great to have you here!
I bought an Indonesian concert uke (Samich-$70.) about a year ago and it plays well I guess. I practice and still have trouble making the notes ring clear and carry. Would upgraded strings help this or should I be blaming my imprecise fingering?
Thanks Brett. I like your style on the web and behind the uke. Keep it up.
Hey John, it could be a couple different things. It could be your fingering. Whenever you strum a chord and it doesn’t ring clearly, it can help to play the chord but pluck each individual string to try to isolate which string isn’t ringing out clearly. Then, find a way to adjust your finger to get the chord to ring out clearly.
It’s possible the ukulele’s action is a little bit off. The action refers to how high or low the strings are from the fretboard of the ukulele. Sometimes when you fret a chord the chords can end up getting caught up on other frets higher up the fretboard.
Strings can always help the sound of the ukulele, but the strings don’t usually affect whether or not the strings ring out clearly.
Welcome to the site. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it!
Firstly thank you for your website, I have been playing for 5 months now and am loving the Ukelele. (I played guitar so the shift was relatively easy but way more fun!) For other readers I use an iPhone App called Ukelele Companion for tuning my Uke by ear, I find it easier than using my tuner. Plus you can select any chord and play the sound so you can hear if you are playing it right.
Anyway, I play in a rock band and want to add some Uke songs to the mix, what is a good mid priced electric Uke to buy?
Thanks again for all your help.
Hey Andrew, I would look at the offerings from Kala. They have some good ukes with pickups in a reasonable price range. I just played ukulele for an alt pop band this past week (braemusic.com) and I used a Kala and it worked great!
My first Uke was a $30 no name ( it had the word JOEY on it ) I thought it sounded ok but after a while the strings ( maybe fishing line) sounded stretched. I thought about getting a real one and did some research ( thanks to all the fantastic web sites) , I ended up with a Cordoba Concert Mahogany for $149 AUD. I bought it at my local music shop late last year. Had to wait 6 weeks for them to get me one as they were very popular. It looks, feels and sounds great…. so glad I chose it. It keeps in tune surprisingly well. Recently I bought my brother a Kala Concert mahogany…. it’s nice…… but I love my Cordoba best. 🙂
Thanks for the review, Susan!
I shop built a plywood mahogany soprano from a kit (Grizzly) and I thought it played pretty good. Then I picked up an Eddy Finn classic tenor because my fingers are just too big for the soprano. Now I can’t even pick up the soprano because the Finn sounds so good. It has a solid mahogany top and (I assume) plywood back and sides. I picked it up new for only $70 and can’t believe my good fortune. A terrific buy!
I currently have the Lanikai LU-21 concert uke and I love it! Great quality for a decent price. I have been playing for almost 2 years (BTW I am only 17 haha) but yeah, I’m looking to upgrade to something a little better quality than the Lanikai and I was happy to see the Fender Nohea tenor ukulele on here because my friend has one and its just beyond gorgeous in person and the sound is AMAZING! it is most definitely going to be my next uke in the near future…. as for the price, its out of my budget haha! but I’ll make it work 😀 Anyways, I just wanted to share my small story with you.
What do you think about the Pono AT Tenor Ukelele? http://koolauukulele.com/at/ and
I am wanting to learn ukelele and this one sounds so nice.
I’ve heard great reviews about the Pono. A lot of people play and love them!
Has anybody ever played a Hanknn uke ??? I`ve seen a beautiful looking tenor uke on e-bay and would love to know a bit more about it. On the site it sounded okay, but this could just be the salesroom one, with a bit more work gone into it. Any info greatly appreciated
Did you get the Hanknn Bill? I am also thinking of buying one and would be interested to know how they sound. Thanks,
I’ve got a low end Hanknn concert. All mahogany/sapele ply. One of the finest sounding and playing ukuleles for under £100 it’s been my pleasure to plunk. Looks nice too, but looks are subjective. Very thin ply for the soundboard, thinner than the soundboard on my spruce uke, allows it to vibrate and it fair sings. It doesn’t get harsh and out of control when I thwack the strings and still responds beautifully during those more delicate fingerpick moments. Despite having a bad case of UAS, it remains my go to player for its balanced, warm sound with some lovely chimey overtones. Their solid koa topped concert may well be acquired soon.
Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. There is no known cure.
In my opinion the best starter ukulele out there is the Makala Dolphin Soprano Ukulele. A green one of that make was my first and the best out of my four. Keeps it’s tune very well and has a lovely sound to it and great strings on it to. 😀
I need help!!ASAP! My boyfriend loves playing guitar and has mentioned he’d like to get into playing the ukulele… Since Dave Matthews does, he needs to, too!! So, I have no idea where to start. I’ve been doing research and it seems like a tenor would be a good choice for him since heplaynguitar?? True? And, I want a quality ukulele that’s not too expensive (max I’m thinking $200). Any tips would be great! His birthday is in a few days!!
I started playing 2 months ago. I decided to get the Kala Traveling Tenor Uke. Having a great sound makes practicing more fun. It was a bit pricy for me ($260) but I haven’t regretted it. I practice a lot and am going through your strumming videos, which are wonderful.
What do you think of a low g string vs a high g string?
I really think the Luna brand ukes are worth reviewing for their price. Theyre definitely equivalent, if not better than similarly priced lanikais. and theyre much more unique which seems to be a good selling point, especially for women. I bought mine as my first uke, soon to be my “throw-around-beach-bum-uke” when i invest in a nicer solid body. the whole luna line seems to be decently made and they’re real eye catchers. The nut and action in the cheap line could use some tweaking but they could def get some clicks on ads to amazon. C; worth checking out but beware of buying instruments online. Make sure the return policy is pretty relaxed (like amazon) because complications (manufacturers flaws or from sitting in a warehouse too long) do often arise and you’ll want an exchange/refund.
Thank you for research. It’s very helpful. I am seeing a bundle ukulele at
Costco (kahuna soprano). What’s do u think? Pls give an advice.
I’m a beginner player.
Hi MJ, I’m always a little skeptical of bundles, especially from Costco. I’d recommend going to an actual music store like a Guitar Center or Sam Ash to try out different ukuleles in person. Even if you can’t play, the staff can usually give you some recommendations and play them to give you an idea of the sound.
Hey Brett, I want to get started with ukuleles but I would like to buy one with pick-ups. What’s a good ukulele that can be played both unplugged and plugged?
Hi James, it all depends on your budget. I’ve played a ukulele by Kala that had electronics that sounded pretty good. I think it was the Kala KA-TEME.
I have an Oscar Schmidt tenor and it plays great
Very interesting to read everyone’s recommendations on their favorite Ukes! I have Concert Samick’s by Greg Bennett for my students at school where I teach Elementary Music. I have had them about 6 years or so and they have done well for my Beginning Students in Grades 1-5. I personally have a Kay Ukulele from around 10 yrs old for my first Uke. My favorites I have purchased since for myself are Soprano Applause (Ovation) Acoustic/Electric, Fender Koa Nohea Tenor Ukuele, and Luna Soprano Pineapple with the Ocean scene. Enjoy your website! Thank you! Mahalo!!!
I’m brand new to the ukulele, love the sound of it and have been looking a bunch of ukes and found 2 that I really like and was wondering what you thought of them. They are the Luna Maluhia and the Kala KA-PWT. Either one good for beginners?????
I’d like to buy a ukulele as a gift for my boyfriend and can’t decide between a soprano or a concert. He has never played another string instrument (or any instrument for that matter). I’ve read that sopranos can be difficult for those with larger hands and fingers; his are average (I suppose?), but I’d like to buy him whichever would be easiest to learn on. Price isn’t an issue, so that’s not a deciding factor. If you could help, I would much appreciate it. Thanks!
Wow, Brett, thanks for all the information!
I’ve read through all the comments as well and just wanted to say I don’t find your commission mini-plug to be suspect at all. Your site has re-inspired me to bring my ukulele goals to fruition and I would gladly send a few bucks heading your way by purchasing through our site.
I am the current owner of a cheap Romanian uke I purchased while living abroad. I’ll be honest that I’ve never spent more than an hour total with the thing, as it won’t tune properly to begin with, let alone stay tuned at all. (Oh well, I bought the thing for 25 euros and at this point it’s more of lovely reminder of past adventures!)
Anyway, the arrival of spring (when I first borrowed a friend’s uke and strummed on the thing all day long) as well as my tax refund has got me to looking at ukes again…this time I want to invest more money and feel really connected to it, as I know it will motivate me to get playing. I’ve also read your post explaining the difference between uke sizes and for me it’s a toss-up between a soprano and a concert. I don’t know if the video you posted of the concert uke was extremely good sound quality, but it really called to me more than the soprano. Maybe that’s a little ambitious though, for a beginner. Any thoughts?
I bought two ukes. One was a Samick Greg Bennet and it is nice. The other one was a Bruce Wei (bruceweiart on ebay) hand made in Vietnam, which cost me $82 plus another $80 for postage. It is a unique instrument with a very pinched waist and a lute-like lacey wooden frill in the soundhole. The price included aquila strings and bone nut and saddle. I’ve had it about six months and it is absolutely beautiful – very careful quality construction, has a fairly wide fingerboard, it sounds wonderful, and I know I have a unique instrument, it’s the only one like it in the world. I’ve also bought an LU-21 BEK baritone with fishman electronics, but I’m still paying that off. Thank you for your helpful list.
i have a riptide UT-5NS tenor it is a full mahogany body with two holes. http://www.bouldercreekguitars.com/product/tenor-ut-5ns
nice uke for a relatively fitting price of $99
I just bought a Mitchell Concert ukulele for $99 and it has got to be one of the best ukuleles I’ve ever played. The sound is wonderful and they stay in tune beautifully. They come in both spruce and mahogany (if that matters) but they don’t come with a case (which is the only downside).
I own a Kamaka soprano and the deep rich sound of a Hawaiian made koa wood uke is beautiful. We also own a Fender, Kala, and Lanikai and they are great but personal preference is Hawaiian made.
I bought a Samick UK-70/N concert uke (I live in Australia) and I love its warm sound. For my daughter (she is 10) I bought a soprano with a more ‘ukulele’ sound, a LAG? Two hard cases as well as we take them camping… My suggestion is to try as many different ukes as you can, within the price range you can afford….and you will find ‘the one’…. It is worth spending a bit extra on a nice instrument as you will play it more, you will practise more; and will be duely rewarded with a wonderful sound..this will then make you want to play more and so you keep getting better! (It is much harder to sound good on a crappy cheap uke!) happy Uking everyone, I love this website and your inspiration, your rendition of Halleluja is wonderful..I played it for my dad for Father’s Day and he had tears in his eyes! : )
Hello Brett: Have enjoyed your comments about the different ukuleles. One point of explanation that should be corrected on your description of the Baritone Ukulele. They are tuned like the “top” E-B-G-D four strings of the guitar. You did identified the strigs but hey are the top four. The “bottom” four would have to be identifed as G-D-A-E. I play with a Ukulele ensemble group and I am the only one that plays the Bariton primarily because I play classical guitar an did not want to learn a new fingering for chords when playing the smaller three Ukuleles. If I place a capo at the 5th fret of my guitar I will convert it to a six straing smaller ukulele. Of interest to know that if player of the three smaller ukules were to applly the same fingering for chords used in guitars It would sound OK except the sound produce will be 5 semitones higher than the Baritone or the reverse, a Baritone player using the fingering for chords used in the smaller Ukuleles it spunds will be 5 semitones lower but it will not crate chaos on the melody lines of a musical piece. The Tenort size Ukulele can also be fitted with Baritone strings.
Hi Joseph, indeed, you are correct that D-G-B-E are the “top” four strings of guitar in terms of pitch. I should clarify that when I talk about the “bottom” strings on an instrument I’m speaking in terms of their relative position as if you are holding the ukulele, rather than in terms of pitch. I agree this can be a confusing point, so I appreciate your comment!
Hi, Bought my first uke April 2012, Mahalo Tenor in mahogany and love its deep sound. Stays in tune and has good intonation. Price CDN was $135.00.. Also bought Concert Ibanez last December price $160.00 CDN, pretty and not bad sound although high, intonation not super great but fun to learn on along with my tenor. Love your great strumming course so far and other info you provide. Wish I had seen your stuff before I bought my ukes, but just got internet in September, 2013. I am 69 years old and really love the uke. I find strumming hard on my arthritic fingers and like finger style a lot because it does not hurt as much. I’ll keep working away at it though. Didn’t know there was such great music out there for the uke so though I may never give anyone a concert I sure am having fun.
I have a Pono MT ukulele. This is a fantastic ukulele for under $350. Intonation is right on, action is great, and it’s got classic good looks too. It’s also solid Mahogany. I purchased it from Hawaii Music Supply and I couldn’t be happier.
I have a super soprano in koa and a Brazilian rosewood with a spruce top tenor,both of these we’re made by Bruce Wei and we’re won on eBay then sent from Vietnam.they are both superb instruments and I would highly recommend them. I also have a lag soprano and a kala spalted maple concert, unfortunately these two take a bit of a sideline as I favour the Bruce Wei uke’s
In looking for a Christmas present for my son -just an FYI the 15.) Koloa Baritone Ukulele, Solid Mahogany ($190) is listed via your link at $237.30.
I agree that the Lanikai ST tenor is a great uke. I have two of them. The solid spruce top gives amazing volume and responsiveness. It was very playable right out of the box but I added a bone saddle and that brightened it up a bit more. They are 99 dollars at zzounds today! Normally about 140.
I’m pretty new to Ukes but purchased a Oscar Schmidt OU2 ukulele. Both the OU2 And OU5 were well recommended at the music shop. The OU2 at about half the price. They recommended a string upgrade for either but told me that after the string upgrade they would sound so close to the same that at this stage I wouldn’t know the difference. That left it down to do you want the inlay of the OU5 or savings of the OU2. I went with the savings as it let me get a hard case, tuner and the new strings and still hit a mark well under 100 dollars (about 85 if I remember correctly.) Their recommended strings were Aquila and that is what I got. Now I cannot say what is bettr than what or who is a better manufacturer than who but what I do know is that the OU2 sounds better than the one I got to try my first and only “live” lesson on, and the teacher was pretty happy with that one.
Something I would recommend is even if you cannot walk into a music shop, give them a call. I started my quest for what I eventually purchased on the web, then to amazon. Eventually I figured out that much of what I was considering looking at amazon was actually coming from the same seller. So I gave them a direct call. I talked to 2 pretty knowledgeable people who answered my dozen or so questions, gave good advice, and ultimately beat their own amazon price by 15% plus a better case. So don’t be shy, call the stores up and talk to them, likely the worst your gonna get out of it is some good advice.
The OU2 is mahogany laminate and the OU5 is koa laminate. I have played both and they sound excellent but with comparible aquila strings the OU5 has a better sound, in my opinion.
Do you know anything about a Kahua KA-21M Soprano Ukulele? It was deal I saw on Amazon but couldn’t find any Information on them. The 2 reviews on Amazon were positive but just wondering if you knew anything else about them.
I am going to get a ukulele but I am torn between two ukes as of right now: Kala KA-C or the Cordoba 20CM. I have absolutely no idea which one to choose, someone please help me! Any opinions?
I have the Mikala Dolphin uke and changed the strings to Aquilas. It is perfectly nice to learn and play on, plus you can travel with it, without worrying about losing or damaging it since it is so inexpensive. I also have a flea soprano which I don’t find easy to play. The frets are the same color as the non-wood brown fretboard and it is not that easy to know where you are fretting. I had to but tape in the frets to show contrast. I also tried white out. Both white-out and tape wear away with time, but you do figure out the spacing with time. Mine also did not keep tune well until I tightened the pegs. It is a fun shape, however, and you can leave it standing up, like a vase, and grab it when you pass by. My Mainland mahogany concert uke makes me deliriously happy and make the other ukes pale in comparison. It’s easy to play, sounds gorgeous and is so beautiful. You can also choose the type of tuners, color of metal and peg heads to give it the look you like! A mainland mahogany soprano is under $200 before shipping and w/o a case but so much better than the other ukes I have tried in shops. I must say, though, all ukes give happiness because they are intrinsically delightful little instruments.
Not to criticize or anything like that but another ukulele brand that I would definitely recommend is LUNA GUITARS ukuleles. This brand has ukuleles from a soprano size to a baritone and all of them are VERY VERY good quality for the price. Typically they are around 100 bucks but sometimes they get more expensive the more nice looking they get. However, I believe that the quality of the ukuleles are definitely worth more than the price they have. One of their 100 dollar ukuleles is probably the same quality as a 200 ukulele from a different brand. I have one of these luna ukuleles myself and I definitely believe that if your looking for something cheap but nice then you should buy one of these.
I’m a beginner and have asked friends who play ukes for advice but most of the instruments they recommend would break my bank! I came across a Koloa soprano solid wood uke in a music store’s catalog. Don’t remember the model but the list price was around $130 and he said he’d order and let me have it for $100 with tax. What do you think?
Here’s another one I’d like to run by you: Amati Snail Soprano Mahogany Ukulele with Red Tortioise binding. Rosewood Fingerboard and bridge. It’s strung with Aquila Strings.
I have the Kala KA-ASAC-T.
I plan to buy a gift for my husband on his birthday. What is the best brand for ukelele?
We are going to Hawaii Oahu , we are looking at buying a hawaiin made ukulele that wont break the bank, con you recommend anyone, or where to get one??? 1st time user, don’t want a cheapy or china made.
Love your site, perfect for a beginning ukulele enthusiast! This list helped me look into the popular beginner brands Kala and Lanikai, and I went into the store planning on trying out a couple of ukuleles, was deciding between the Kala KA-S soprano and Oscar Schmidt OU12 soprano and decided to get the Oscar because it was on sale and cheaper. The kala did sound better because of the Aquila strings but I figured if I really wanted to I could just get the strings myself for the Oscar and that would still cost than the Kala. When I got home, I found that the E string buzzed whenever I pressed down on it (plucked without pressing no buzz). I googled causes of buzzes and thought maybe the saddle was too low. I put a paper about 2-4 mm thick on the E string saddle to raise the action and the strong buzz did go away. However there are still some slight buzzing every now and then, ( I have borrowed a friends ukulele for a week before purchasing my own and I think it didn’t buzz that often, and theirs wasn’t a very expensive one either) and the E string does sound less sustained. This is pretty disappointing to me, I was thinking of ordering another Oscar if this one was defective or is this buzzing common in the Oscar OU12 (anyone else have one?). Not sure if I should return this one and whether I should get another Oscar or a different brand.
I have found Oscar Schmidt quality control to be among he best in the industry. I have purchased 3 different models in the past two years and they were all spot on out of the package…no set up necessary. You probably just received a rare lemon…the store should make it right for you…set up, repair or replace…whatever is needed. Good luck!
Great site, real people who love music. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is getting the kid a cheap, nearly impossible to play instrument. Then tell them “when you get good at it I’ll get you a good one”, yea right! I got a Cordoba 15CM, don’t even remember how much, about 2 bills with the cute gig bag. A great investment. After strumming a couple of cords on everything in the store, I chose the Cordoba for its sound then looked at the price tag, by far not the most expensive one! I even got an additional 10% for tuning everything up for the shop keeper. Looking at her closely, her name is Ding-A-Ling, she’s a beautiful instrument, white edging, abalone inlay around the sound hole and a beautiful wood grain. After a set of good strings she got even better! I am married and after 40+ years definitely not looking, but when I take Ding-A-Ling and Lucy, my Golden Retriever, to the doggie park I become a chick magnet. My only regret is that I did not come up with that combination 45 years ago! Learn a couple of good Reggae strums and become a pied ukulele piper! Three Little Birds is a great start.
I bought my first uke at ‘The Ukulele Site’ up on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s a Keli’i mahogany concert and I got it for $375. Its sound is very rich and mellow and by spending so much I pretty much guaranteed I would learn to play it! When we returned to Hawaii I bought two more-solid Koa and solid Mango-from a garage luthier at the Aloha Swap Meet. He cut me a deal and I got them both for $375. I love the Mango-it has a very bright, bell-like sound. The Koa is okay but not great and it cracked in the dry air here in San Antonio. And just recently I bought the Les Paul acoustic-electric at the Gibson factory store in Memphis. I use both the mahogany and the mango when performing with an all-acoustic folk group and the Les Paul with an amplifier when playing with a rock-and-whatever ukulele band. I realize that I have been very fortunate to be able to buy my ukes from the source, so to speak, but if it is in any way possible that is the best way to get them.
I’m a fairly new player but I do have a background in music. The Kala KA-B was recommended to me. I am now on my third in 6 months. They play well for the first month or so and then start to buzz. The G string mostly. I replaced the strings on all at my expense. Had the frets shaved again at my cost. The swap t out my last one and now the new one is buzzing…………so much for Kala for me. I guess $140.00 is too little to pay fr a Baritone Uke?
I just bought a Mainland tenor which I discovered through this discussion thread. I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years and wanted a solid wood top just like a good acoustic guitar. The Mainland was a little more expensive but not a bank breaker.
Glad to hear about your experience with Mainland. My friend has one and it plays really nice.
Hi Brett, about a year ago I went into a music shop in Newcastle , England and one of the salespersons was demonstrating an instrument I had not seen before and the sound was amazing and I thought it would give me the best of both worlds so I bought it for the princely some of £ 69.00 the instrument is a Yamaha Guitalele GL1 and I love it to bits.
The question is not, “What is the best ʻukulele?”, but it is, “What is the best ʻukulele for me?”. Picking an ʻukulele can be a little tricky, especially if you don’t know much about ʻukulele. I will recommend the high end and popular ʻukulele brands to you. Keep in mind that the best ʻukulele are only made right here in Hawaiʻi. Anything else is not much better. If you are a heavy strummer and strum very rarely like me, then go with Kamaka. If you are a light strummer and a moderate picker, go with Kanileʻa. If you are a straight picker, go with KoAloha. Pono and Koʻolau are also up there with those high end names, but they are more diverse. They would be the equivalent to a Kanileʻa, but at a more affordable price. Every other brand like Lanikai, Kala, Kohala, etc. are all either generic or imported. I hope this helps you find YOUR best ʻukulele!
I do agree with Kaulike when it comes to the Kamaka soprano ukulele. I have one that my auntie gave me about ten years ago before she died. She owned it for over 35 years and it plays beautifully. It is expensive. The last time I looked (about 5 years ago), a new one was priced at $650. but it is a quality music instrument. I will be playing it for an event here on the mainland tomorrow and I am always proud of owning it when I take the “uke” out of its beat-up case which is just as old. If you buy one direct from the Kamaka family in Honolulu, you will be purchasing a great musical instrument.
What do you think of the Eastman EU3C Concert ukulele?
First – let me agree with everyone else – your site and your lessons are great! I picked up a uke that was sitting around the house and have just started to learn to play. This is really the first time I have put any effort into learning an instrument and I enjoy the process and the distraction it provides! But now I think I would like to invest in a nicer ukulele. What are your thoughts on soprano vs concert and also tuners… geared vs not? Any other suggestions are appreciated.
Hi, I have a choice between a Roy Smeck Harmony Vita from 1930’s $180, a Oscar Schmidt OU-5 concert in “excellent condition” $150 or a wood Makala $30 that “needs a major tune-up” says seller. I’ve always wanted to play since the old summer camp days so i’m going to take lessons. Which one should I choosd? I have a$200 to spend. Can someone respond today?
i am a beginner. not knowing anything about the different brands of ukuleles.
there is only one music store where i live.
i bought a Ventura concert ukulele. i couldn’t find any information about this brand
I decided after Christmas that at the ripe old age of 68, and having never played a note in my life, I was going to learn to play a musical instrument and, because I have very short fingers so the guitar is out of the question, I decided on the uke. I bought a Brunswick Mahogany Soprano from Amazon and have been absolutely delighted with it. It’s beautifully built and has a lovely rich, mellow sound. I also signed up for Brett’s courses which I’m slowly working through. The Brunswick comes with Aquila strings and, after a couple of weeks I replaced the “g” string with a low G, also Aquila. I prefer this sound.
However, I’m sitting here this evening , having done my daily practice and feeling mellow, and I thought that I’d like to have another uke – a tenor.
So, I’ve done my research and within my budget I have decided on the Lanikai LU-21T Tenor Ukulele, again from Amazon. When I get it I will restring this with a low G and re-string my soprano with a high g.
I think that after that I will be pretty set, and will spend the rest of my days getting a little bit better every day.
Best wishes to all,