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.
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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!”
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.
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.
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.