What to Consider When Buying Your First Ukulele - dummies

What to Consider When Buying Your First Ukulele

By Alistair Wood

With all the different sizes and brands available, choosing your first ukulele can be a bit daunting; but you need to put some thought into this important choice. Without a decent ukulele, you won’t get a good sound and you can quickly become discouraged.

If you have a ukulele club nearby, pay a visit before you buy a uke. Most clubs are very welcoming and often have spare ukuleles available for beginners. You can try out a few different sizes and makes of ukulele to see what suits you, and maybe even persuade an expert to go ukulele shopping with you.

Some of the decisions you have to make include

  • How much to spend: Nothing is more discouraging for a beginner than not being able to get a good sound out of a badly made ukulele. So avoid the cheapest ukuleles, which can have some terrible problems.

    You can pick up a good starter ukulele for around $40–$50. If you have the budget, spending up to $100 is well worthwhile. But hold off spending more at this stage. After you’ve been playing a while you’re going to have a better idea of what type of ukulele you want and what suits you.

  • What size to get: The best bet for new players is to go for a soprano ukulele. This size is perfect for playing chords and the smaller frets make stretching less of a problem.

    Just because you have big hands, don’t assume that you need a bigger ukulele. People with huge, sausage fingers swear by soprano ukuleles, and others with tiny, little hands love tenors.

    If you’re switching from guitar to ukulele and want to do some more fancy playing, a tenor ukulele is a good option. Don’t make the mistake of switching from guitar to a baritone uke. The baritone is too similar to the guitar to be interesting and doesn’t give a true ukulele sound.

Ukuleles come in different varieties and with all sorts of bells and whistles that can tempt the new player. Some of those extras cause only frustration for a beginning player, so avoid these options in your first uke:

  • Friction tuners: These tuning pegs stick out of the back of the headstock. Although high-quality friction tuners offer some advantages, beginners should stay away. Ukes with cheap friction tuners are a nightmare to get in tune and don’t hold their tuning well. Instead, buy a ukulele with geared tuners that stick out of the side.

  • V-shaped ukuleles: A V-shaped ukulele is cheap and eye-catching, but these ukes sound horrible and are uncomfortable to play.

  • Six- and eight-string ukuleles: Ukuleles with extra strings can provide a really rich sound, but avoid buying one as your first ukulele because they’re a bit more challenging to play. Also, the extra strings on these ukes put more tension on the parts, which can lead to broken bridges and necks.