Ukuleles are awesome. Who doesn’t love a cute little guitar-like instrument that just screams “I own property in Hawaii”? They’re easy to pick up and certainly easy to travel with. Just think of all the cute songs you’ll sing once you’ve gotten a few chords down.
If you’re a total newbie, that’s ok. We’ve put together a list of our top picks for best Ukulele. Plus, we’ve answered a few questions you may have about what to look for and how to get started playing. Let’s take a look.
Our Ukulele Favorites
Donner Soprano Ukulele Spruce DUS-3 21 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner – Best Soprano Ukulele — $
Our first Ukulele is a rich, soprano with a traditional sound. Mahogany on the back helps with resonance while a rosewood fingerboard is comfortable and durable. Chrome plated tuners don’t slip after you tune, solving a common problem with cheap Ukuleles.
It has a really fun design on the fretboard, swirling clouds that move up from one end to the other. The sunburst design around the sound hole complete the beachy theme. It’s comfortable enough for beginners but should satisfy more advanced players with a pure, rich sound.
Donner makes excellent Ukuleles. These aren’t the cheap, big box store instruments that are always falling out of tune. This one comes with everything you’d need as a beginner, including a strap, a case, and a tuner.
The strings are carbon nylon and should be durable through quite a few tunings. They have a clear sound with no buzzing. Fret position marks starting at the fifth fret, and the bridge design makes it easy to change the strings out.
The soprano style ukulele may be difficult for people with larger hands to pick and play. If you have large hands or very long fingers, you may be happier with a concert-style instrument.
- the rosewood fingerboard is comfortable
- comes with a tuner (batteries included), a strap, and a case
- design is fun
- soprano style may be difficult for large hands
VIVICTORY Concert Ukulele 23 Inch Spruce Mahogany Painting Style With Beginner Kit – Best Solid Wood — $
Vivictory’s concert style Ukulele is a gorgeous painted instrument with a unique paint splash design. The body and neck are mahogany while the top is spruce. This wood combination creates more resonance, so your Ukulele projects farther despite its small size.
Rosewood fingerboard is durable and comfortable to play. Die-cast tuners prevent slipping so the Ukulele will stay in tune longer.
It comes with a beginner’s kit that includes picks, a strap, a bag, and a tuner with batteries. The nylon string is soft and comfortable to play. It produces a sweet sound without buzzing.
Concert Ukuleles are slightly bigger than sopranos, so you may find it more comfortable to play as a beginner or if you have larger hands. The sound isn’t much different, but this particular one is good at projecting.
The tuner is convenient, but we didn’t think it was very good. We ended up downloading an app to our smartphone to keep things tuned.
- gorgeous paint job
- concert style is better for larger hands
- combination of spruce and mahogany is excellent for sound projection
- the tuner wasn’t our favorite (but should work fine if you don’t have anything else.)
Concert Ukulele, 23 Inch Mahogany Ukuleles For Beginners – Best For Older Kids — $
This concert Ukulele uses mahogany for a rich sound while the rosewood fretboard increases comfort and durability. The frets have a coating that resists oxidation, so the oils from your fingers won’t wear down the finish as quickly.
THey’ve designed the neck to resist warping and cracking. The intended audience is children, and this instrument comes with a lot in its kit. Your child gets a water-resistant bag, a tuner, a book, picks, a strap, an extra pair of nylon strings, and a cleaning cloth. Because today’s kids are video oriented, it also comes with one free online lesson and online lectures for beginner students.
It comes with a three-year limited warranty against mattress defects. It takes a few days for the strings to stretch, so your tuning may be off until the strings settle. The tuning pegs stay put pretty well. The one downside is that if your child is elementary aged, they may want a smaller, soprano style Ukulele.
- comes with everything including a video lesson
- the bag is water resistant (kids always find water, don’t they?)
- frets resist oxidation
- concert style is ok for most children, but some may find soprano better.
Kala KA-15T Satin Mahogany Tenor Ukulele Bundle – Best Tenor Size — $$
This beautiful, dark Ukulele is a tenor style. It has a unique walnut fingerboard for a bright wood that will age beautifully with use. The rest of the instrument is mahogany for a deeper, richer sound.
It’s a standard tenor size, giving you a bit of room on the frets. The frets are marked starting with the fifth, and the bridge style makes it easy to change the strings. The matte finish ages well with the natural oils of your hands.
The sound should satisfy even an advanced player. Tuning knobs are anti-slip, which is a common problem in cheap Ukuleles. It comes with a gig bag with backpack straps, a chromatic tuner that attaches to the head, and a DVD. The cleaning cloth is gentle enough to clean without scratching.
The tuner works on vibrations, so there’s no need to have a quiet room to get the tuning just right. The case isn’t that great, so you may want to upgrade later. The DVD is very basic, and you may want to find other information sources if you’re a beginner.
- gorgeous walnut fretboard
- comes with a good tuner
- good sound
- the bag isn’t that great
Luna Uke Honu Turtle Spruce Soprano Ukulele Bundle – Best Case — $$
The frets are marked with stylized shark teeth and begin on the third fret. It includes nylon strings, for comfortable playing. The soprano size is excellent for those with smaller hands and for children who are just learning.
The kit comes with a tuner, a hardshell case, and a cleaning cloth. It doesn’t come with a strap, which is a shame but not a dealbreaker.
The tuning pegs do experience a small amount of slippage so make sure you can adequately tune it each time you play it. However, it’s a good value for the money, and the addition of the hardshell case makes this one more useful for travel because of the protection and the storage pockets.
- hardshell case with storage
- excellent, natural Hawaiian design
- soprano size is suitable for small hands
- slight tuning slips
Kala MK-SS-GRY Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele – Best Laminate + Tonewood — $
Kala’s soprano ukulele uses the standard composite wood for the back and sides but includes a pleasant surprise for the top tonewood, Kauri. Kauri’s sound has extra sustain and warmth, making this one of the best sounding ukes in our opinion.
The neck is mahogany, which is comfortable and ages well. The body is painted a vintage seafoam green. The bridge has a fun, shark shape, an excellent detail for this Hawaiian instrument.
The kit comes with a gig bag, a clip-on chromatic tuner that you can leave on while you play, and a polishing cloth. It also includes a basic DVD to help you get started.
The soprano size is suitable for beginners and those with smaller hands, but be aware that if your hands are larger, you may want to go with the larger concert size.
The composite wood does help cut down on cost, considering the unique tonewood they used, but we’d always like to see a solid wood back and side for even better tone. However, it does help make this an affordable option.
- Kaui is a wonderful addition to the ukulele’s structure
- affordable woods give a good sound
- the shark-shaped bridge is a fun detail
- we’d like to see something other than composite wood, to be honest.
Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1 23 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner – Best Concert Ukulele — $
This is the concert-style version of the very first ukulele we shared. It’s slightly larger but features the same quality woods as the first. The mahogany body is vibrant and gives you a good sustain for such a small instrument. A rosewood fingerboard is comfortable and durable to play.
This ukulele isn’t decorated. Instead, Donner allowed the natural beauty of the wood to shine through with a simple inlay design around the sound hole and small dot style fret markers beginning on the fifth fret.
It uses chrome plated tuning pegs that resist slipping, so you hopefully won’t have to tune as often once your strings settle. The bridge makes it easy to change the strings. Carbon nylon strings are soft but very durable.
It comes with everything a beginner would need. You have a bag, a strap, and a digital clip-on tuner. Changing strings is easy, but you may have to google a video the first time you do it because the bridge doesn’t mimic that of a guitar.
- the simple design is elegant and suitable for adult beginners
- mahogany body has excellent sound
- concert style is better for larger hands
- the design may be too simple if you want a unique ukulele
Ukulele Soprano Size Bundle From Lohanu – Best For Small Fingered Adults — $
The rosewood fingerboard is excellent for comfort and durability. The simple design really highlights the wood while chrome die-cast tuners prevent tuning slips. The strings are Aquila strings and come preset.
One excellent feature of this ukulele is it already has two strap pegs installed for easy transport. The strap comes with the bundle. You also get a clip-on tuner and a gig bag. IT has an unconditional lifetime warranty against defects so you can relax about ordering an instrument from the internet. That warranty includes the accessories too.
The soprano size might be too small for some adult players, so we recommend this one if you’ve got very small fingers.
- design is gorgeous
- comes with two strap knobs
- Sapele wood sounds good but doesn’t cost as much as mahogany
- small size may not be suitable for all adults
Makanu Cutaway Concert Ukulele 24 Inch Mahogany – Best For Intermediate Players — $
If you do a lot of ukulele solos, you’ll appreciate this design. It’s the only one on the list with a cutaway to help you get to those higher frets for solo work. It’s a concert size, and while it’s suitable for beginners, we recommend it for players with experience.
The matte wood finish is gorgeous and should age well. A mahogany body is bright and resonant with rich tones. Rosewood on the fretboard is comfortable and durable. Die-cast chrome tuning pegs help keep it in tune longer.
The maple bridge holds strings in place and is stronger than other bridge woods. A bone nut and saddle is a beautiful design detail. It’s a gorgeous instrument, hands down. It comes with a gig bag, but no strap or tuner.
- good for more experienced musicians
- cutaway helps you get to upper frets for solos
- gorgeous wood finish
- no strap (or pegs for that matter)
Donner Zebrawood Ukulele Soprano DUS-2 21 inch Ukulele Kit – Most Unique Wood — $
Our final ukulele is our third one from Donner. This one uses a unique Zebrawood for the body. Not only does it have a beautiful grain, but it highlights darker tones. This can give your ukulele a slightly different sound than the standard uke. We love it.
The rosewood fingerboard is comfortable and durable. Frets are marked with a unique star pattern beginning on the fifth fret. The body has handmade, deluxe bindings for a striking look. This is by far one of our most beautiful ukes.
It comes with a strap, a chromatic tuner, and a case. The tuning pegs help resist tune slipping, and the nylon strings have a nice, comfortable feel.
The soprano size may not be suitable for all adults. If you’ve got large hands, a concert size might be more appropriate for you.
- good for smaller hands
- Zebrawood is visually appealing and produces a unique sound
- resists tune slipping
- soprano size may be too small for some adults
Still have some questions about how to choose a ukulele? Let’s get them answered.
Where Do Ukuleles Come From?
These diminutive stringed instruments were first created in Hawaii during the 1800s. Royalty on the island fell in love with the sound, giving the instrument it’s first popularity boost. The word “ukulele” comes from the Hawaiian word for “jumping flea,” a testament to the fleet movements of players’ fingers.
Now, it’s a symbol of Hawaii, much like the Lei and the Luau. The instrument is similar to other stringed instruments with frets and fingerpicking giving the tune.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Ukuleles?
The original Ukulele was the soprano style, a 21-inch instrument and the smallest of all the modern Ukuleles. This model is suitable for children and those with smaller fingers. It has the most original sound, but if you need some space, it’s not too different than the next size.
The Concert style gives you another two inches, stretching the fretboard out just a bit. This style is suitable for adult beginners who want an authentic sound but need just a bit more space. The sound is very close to the original soprano style.
The tenor style is even longer at 26 inches. The tone begins to change with this scale, producing a deeper sound than the soprano. It’s suitable for beginners, but may not be what you’re looking for if you want the classic sound.
The deepest ukulele of all is a 30-inch baritone. It’s a good transition for guitarists because of its similar (but slightly smaller) feeling to a guitar. These are the most uncommon to see of the ukulele family.
Solid Wood Or Laminated Wood?
Ideally, you’d get a ukulele that uses solid wood. Solid wood constructions offer a true, rich sound with excellent scale. It ages beautifully and doesn’t usually have a buzz that some laminates can get.
Solid wood can be very expensive, however. Laminate woods are significantly cheaper, but they don’t have the same resonant qualities as solid wood. They’re good budget options or if you aren’t sure you want to put effort into learning to play.
Sometimes, ukuleles have both laminate and solid wood. The back and sides aren’t as responsible for the sound as the top, which is sometimes called “tonewood.” The tonewood can be a solid wood such as spruce or mahogany, producing a clear, resonant sound. The back and sides are laminate, reducing weight and cost.
We recommend a solid wood top with a laminate body if you don’t have the budget for solid wood. It will give you a good sound but won’t break your wallet until you’re sure you want to invest in a professional instrument.
How Do I Tune My Ukulele?
Part of the Ukulele’s appeal is that the three smallest options are “open tuned.” If you strum the strings without your fingers on any of the frets, they produce a pleasing cord. That makes it easier to produce music quickly with little experience. Tuning usually follows a chord like G-C-E-A.
Baritone ukuleles are tuned to D-G-B-E or the highest strings on the guitar. It follows that tuning, but it doesn’t strike an open chord. It can take a little longer to produce music without the open tuning.
If you can get a ukulele package that includes a tuner, that can really help you out as a beginner. If you fall in love with a ukulele that doesn’t include one, you can download a tuning app to your phone, or find a youtube video that can help you.
How Much Do They Cost?
Like any instrument, the most professional ones can be thousands of dollars. Luckily for you, ukuleles are very affordable on average.
You can get a quality laminate ukulele with a solid wood top for less than $100. Exotic woods and solid woods may be more expensive, but you shouldn’t have to exhaust your wallet to get a quality ukulele.
If you really want to learn to play, you should invest in a real ukulele, not a $15 toy version from a big box store. Toy versions aren’t going to hold the tuning and will be challenging to restring if something breaks. Although ukuleles do look like toys, real versions definitely aren’t.
Learning to play the ukulele isn’t that difficult as far as string instruments go. They’re excellent for traveling because of their small size, and the sound is so blissfully happy. We always think of island breezes when we hear their sweet sound.
Our list of ukuleles is an excellent start for someone buying their first instrument. You can get right to playing with minimal effort and a lot of gratification. Even if you’ve never played a stringed instrument, we think the ukulele is an excellent place to start your journey.
Do you play other types of stringed instruments or is the ukulele your first? Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.