Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Ukulele

A ukulele is a wonderful way to introduce and share music, even with a low skill threshold.

Group of friends hanging out at a party
Even if you’ve never played a stringed instrument before, you can learn to play a ukulele with just a few solid lessons.Ranch

Grass skirts, leis and coconut shells might be the first thing popping to mind when you hear a ukulele, but the popularity of ukes around the world is undeniable. The instrument’s portability, relatively low cost and ease of playing make them a great instrument to learn and accompany lots of different music. Don Ho’s ukulele in Tiny Bubbles might define a certain musical genre, but they have an amazing adaptability—just ask Zac Brown about his “Chicken-Fried Ukulele!”

Ukulele Size

Official Kala Learn to Play Ukulele Soprano Starter Kit
This ukulele kit features a soprano uke, along with case, tuner and instructions.Kala

Ukuleles come in four basic sizes, ranging from about 21 inches for a soprano ukulele to 30 inches for the largest baritone. In between there are the concert and tenor-sized instruments. Being smaller, the soprano uke is a good choice for youngsters and others with small hands, and beginners. In general, the soprano and concert ukuleles tend toward a brighter sound while the larger ukes have more tonal warmth.

Ukulele Construction

Concert Ukulele Ranch
This ukulele features solid wood construction using sapele, a tonewood on the warmer side of the spectrum, and quality tuners.Ranch

All but the most inexpensive ukes (mostly toys) are made of wood. Higher quality ukuleles are made of solid tonewoods like koa, spruce, mahogany and others. Some feature construction of composites or plywood covered with a tonewood veneer. Look for well-machined metal tuning pegs instead of easily broken plastic.

Ukulele Shape

Ukulele Soprano Beginner Mahogany
Here’s a uke kit with a standard figure-eight body shape.Kmise

By far the most popular ukulele body shape is the standard figure 8, but other shapes re available. A pineapple-shaped uke tends to have a larger (and thus louder) body shape. Banjo-shaped ukes (banjo-leles) are a marriage between the instruments and have a unique sound.