How to Choose the Right Ukulele for You

Interested in having a ukulele as your introductory instrument to the world of music?
This article will guide you through your first purchase!

Nowadays, people of all ages have a profound curiosity about musical instruments.
While guitars and pianos are commonly chosen by the majority as their go-to introductory instruments, the ukulele is an often overlooked, rarely appreciated hidden gem that may be a better choice for you if you’re starting out.

So, in this article, we’ll provide you with a guide on how to pick a ukulele that’s best suited for your needs.

Short Answer

To choose the right ukulele for you, you’ll have to consider factors like body size, string material, and price range. For instance, a ukulele’s size and string material directly influence its tone and playability.

How Do I Pick the Right Ukulele?

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There are a few factors that’ll come into play when choosing your ukulele. Let’s have a look at them.

Body Size

Since ukuleles come in many sizes, picking the right one might be a daunting task. Not only does picking the size that suits you most guarantees comfortable playing, but it also directly affects the tone of your ukulele. 

So, here are the sizes you’ll come across while shopping for your uke:

  • Soprano: At 21’’, it’s exactly what comes to mind when we think of a ukulele. It produces the traditional bright, tuneful sound and is more appropriate for children or people with small hands due to its incredibly small size.
  • Concert: At 23’’, it’s slightly heavier than the soprano and produces a louder sound. There’s also an increased space between its strings thanks to the wider neck, which makes it more appropriate for people with thicker fingers or those looking for a tone similar to the soprano but with greater comfort.
  • Tenor: At 26’’, it strays away to produce the deepest, richest tone among the traditional ukuleles. It features a wider neck for more room to create chords and a larger resonating chamber for greater sound projection. If you don’t mind the bassier sound, it’s the most comfortable choice for a beginner.
  • Baritone: At 30’’, it’s the biggest ukulele and is completely different from previous models. The baritone is strung differently and closely resembles an acoustic guitar in tone, as it’s tuned the same as the top four strings of a guitar (D-G-B-E) instead of the standard ukulele tuning (G-C-E-A). It’s not recommended for beginners, though.

String Material

Another aspect that greatly alters the tone of your ukulele, aside from its size, is the material with which the strings are made. Let’s have a look at the materials used for making the strings.

  • Nylon: Being gentle on your fingertips, nylon strings ensure long periods of playing with minimal pain. However, they don’t hold to their tuning and aren’t very durable. We recommend them if you’re a beginner looking for an authentic ukulele experience.
  • Fluorocarbon: It’s more durable than nylon and is capable of holding on to the standard tuning longer as it’s less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. It also sounds punchier and brighter, so it’s a viable alternative if you’re looking for a sound similar to that produced by nylon with greater durability.
  • Steel: While they’re more commonly used in guitars and bass, ukuleles can also be fitted with steel strings. They’re the most durable and produce a sharp, vibrating sound. However, they’re harsher on the fingertips, so only consider buying them if your fingertips are acclimated to playing.
  • Gut: It produces a shimmery, resonating sound and holds tension well. However, gut strings are very expensive, susceptible to changes in moisture, and break easily. You’ll also need to trim your fingernails every other day while using them.

Price Range

Needless to say, your budget dictates which instrument you’ll opt for. But before making a buying decision, you need to know what factors influence the prices of ukuleles. 

Body Size

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The size of your ukulele directly affects its price because bigger ukuleles require more material to make. For instance, sopranos, at 21’’, will be fairly less costly than baritones, which measure 30’’. 

Body Material

Generally, ukuleles are made of solid wood, plywood, or plastic. 

Solid wood ukes vary greatly in price, depending on the type of wood they’re made of. Although they’re much more expensive than other options, they guarantee you top-notch craftsmanship, premium tone, and extreme longevity. This type is for you if you’re an experienced player with keen ears looking for that perfect sound.

While plastic ukes are waterproof and affordable, their biggest flaws are that their tone is inferior to that of wooden ones and they don’t resonate well. We recommend buying a plastic ukulele if you have a curious child or you’re willing to only try the instrument out.

Lastly, plywood ukuleles are made for beginners looking for a budget option. They’re less durable than solid wood and don’t sound as premium, but they still do a great job at producing the same gentle, mellow sound that lasts longer than plastic. They’d be your go-to option if you’re looking for an instrument that combines affordability and quality.

Final Thoughts

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Ukuleles are a great start if you want to begin your musical journey. And when choosing the right ukulele for you, make sure to pick a suitable body size, your preferred string material, and, most importantly, one that’s within your budget. Enjoy playing!

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