UK Best Buy Ukuleles
Updated: January 2020
#1 Pick: Score = 95%
#2: Top Alternative
#3: Another Great Pick
Ukuleles: A Complete UK Buyer’s Guide
Ukuleles are instruments that many people may have heard but may not have actually tried for themselves! It’s a crying shame – as it’s one of the most rewarding musical instruments around. While it may seem similar to a guitar in many ways, a ukulele is an instrument that has its own specific sound and style which is otherwise impossible to emulate.
With all of this in mind – where do you even start when it comes to buying your first ukulele? Are there materials and makes you should be aware of? What are some good tips for beginners?
As with our other instrument buying guides, we won’t be probing too deeply into how to actually play the ukulele here. In this guide, we will instead consider all of the factors and features you’ll need to shop around for.
We’ll look carefully at what sets ukuleles apart, and what might work well as beginner choices. If you’re already a dab hand on the strings, we hope to give you information that’s new to seasoned players, too.
At the end of the guide, as always, we will also look at a few common queries and questions people ask when buying ukuleles for the first time. Otherwise, for now, sit back and read on – and don’t go buying any ukes until you’ve read our guide in full!
Buying a Ukulele – Getting Started
Buying a ukulele, or at least finding the right one, can be tricky. Much like buying guitars, there are a plethora of different things you need to compare when looking for the perfect fit.
When it comes to buying a ukulele that is right for you, you will need to find an instrument that not only plays the sounds you desire, but which is also comfortable for you to handle. This goes for most, if not all instruments, of course, but with ukuleles, there is often a wider choice available.
You may notice that there is plenty of variation in terms of ukulele out there online. What’s more, you may even be surprised at how affordable the instrument can be. This is nothing to worry about. Ukuleles are famously cheap at least compared to other instruments – however, that doesn’t mean they are less worthy of your playing time.
It’s easy to find ukuleles for beginners. They are often easier to pick up and get used to than guitars. They are seen as great entry-level instruments for any budding musicians who want to get into the string side of music.
However, it is a good idea to look for a good quality uke, especially if you are serious about carrying on your hobby for considerable time to come. There’s no point in picking up a ukulele that’s a cheap build if you really want to stick at it.
One of the first things you should look at when comparing ukuleles is how it’s built. Build quality means a lot when it comes to sound as well as comfort and durability. Therefore, don’t be afraid to look closely at different styles and shapes. Many people, for example, choose mahogany when buying ukuleles.
This is because it’s a wood that can help to carry a soft sound, and it’s one of the more affordable woods available on the market. Authentic ukuleles, those built in Hawaii (where the instrument hails from), will normally be built from koa wood. However, due to the authenticity involved, you will likely end up paying more for koa than other types of material.
Be careful if you choose a ukulele built from plywood. This is thought to be lesser quality than natural build, meaning the sound won’t be as good, or at least not as authentic as you may have heard elsewhere. Many good ukuleles make use of ply and hardwood in a hybrid fashion, however, offering durability as well as fantastic sound quality.
Build and wood quality isn’t always easy to spot online, which means if you are keen to go for the best wood possible, it may be worth trying before you buy, at least for sound, in a music shop.
Ok – we’ve mentioned build quality briefly, but it’s worth touching on again. Most people will choose a specific type of wood for the sound or the authenticity. However, it’s also worth looking at the quality of the build when buying a ukulele. Some will have quick finishes or flimsy construction.
Many people prefer paying more for natural hardwood. Not only is this a good marker for authentic sound quality, it’s also a good sign that you are buying an instrument which will withstand considerable use.
Again, try and take a look at a few ukuleles in person before you take a chance on anything online. A ukulele may look great from a simple photo, but until you’ve held or felt and instrument for yourself, it’s hard to gauge just how great the build quality actually is.
Ukulele Size and Type
Believe it or not, there are multiple sizes of ukulele. It’s tempting to assume that all ukes sit comfortably on your knees, but as they are great instruments for kids as well as adults, you’ll find that one size rarely fits all. Therefore, while all ukes will play the same four notes, you’ll generally spot them split up under four different categories.
The size you choose will alter your comfort as well as the length of your scale. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider your own playing style, comfort and needs before you make any bold assumptions.
Soprano ukuleles, for example, are the smallest. They are perfect for kids to start learning with. They offer an authentic sound, and it’s ideal for anyone with nimble fingers.
However, concert ukuleles, the next step up, offers wider frets while keeping the same authentic sound. Concert ukuleles are considered the best mid-ground option for beginners, kids and adults alike. However, your own comfort and playing style may vary.
Tenor ukuleles are much bigger and offer a deeper sound. These ukes still give the same authentic feedback you’d expect from soprano and concert instruments. However, tenor ukuleles tend to be the most popular professional choice, and the best all-rounder.
Baritone ukuleles, meanwhile, weigh in as the biggest of the bunch, and offer the deepest sound. They are much more in line with traditional guitars than other types of uke.
Baritone instruments can be big and cumbersome, meaning they may not be too popular with musicians or hobbyists looking to play music on the go. However, they may be a good choice for new players who already know how to play guitar.
Ukuleles: Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re new to playing the ukulele, it’s likely you will have a few questions to ask when buying your first instrument. Luckily for you, we’re here to help! Here are a few common queries buyers ask when shopping around.
Which Ukulele is Easiest to Learn With?
This really can vary from person to person. However, it’s safe to say that a soprano ukulele is likely to be a good choice for beginners of all ages. A concert ukulele may offer a little more comfort to some players, but tenor and baritone ukes are best for professional use. Why not see how you get on with a soprano or concert uke and work your way up?
How Much Should I Pay for a Ukulele?
This can vary in terms of the quality of wood and build you buy into; but you can find some instruments for as little as £20-£30. However, in our collective opinion, it may be worth paying more for a good quality instrument which you can grow with as you learn. Alternatively, you could buy cheaply in terms of a soprano or concert model, and upgrade to a reasonably-priced tenor.
Is It Hard to Learn Ukulele?
The ukulele is an instrument that is famously easy to pick up and start learning. It has four notes, making it less complex than an average stringed instrument.
However, it can take a lot of time and effort to master. Therefore, you should always make sure you invest in guides or watch tutorials to ensure you have the best form when playing. You will likely find it a very rewarding instrument to learn, especially if you already enjoy Hawaiian music, for example!
Can I Amplify a Ukulele?
Yes! You can buy semi-acoustic ukes, for example, which you can plug into an amp and play in public. As the ukulele is beginning to pick up in terms of popularity again, it’s not hard to understand why so many models are compatible with a wide variety of amps and speakers.
The ukulele is a very particular type of instrument that is a great choice for anyone who wants to get started with stringed music. However, keep at it, and you’ll soon be creating fantastic tunes and stylised sounds. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for more than just a simple guitar or bass.