Three Things to Know About Ukuleles for Beginners

Easy to learn, but hard to put down.

Man playing ukele in park.
Who’s up for a jam sesh?Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Purchasing a musical instrument is always tricky. It seems like there are so many options, and ukuleles are no different. What material do you want? What size—soprano, tenor, baritone or concert? What body shape? But don’t be scared. Ukuleles are fun, and you should have fun buying one.

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Ukuleles evolved on Hawai’i, from similar Portuguese four-stringed instruments. They come in several sizes, the most common being (in ascending order of size): soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. For those learning for the first time, opt for a soprano or concert, which are tuned the same way. Soprano is ideal for kids, too, because of the small size.

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Ukuleles may look like tiny guitars, but there are some key differences. For one thing, they have four strings, while most guitars have six. The strings, too, are made of nylon, which gives a warm, soft tone; most guitars use metal strings (though the Spanish guitar also uses nylon). Ukuleles are also tuned differently, using what’s called an “open” tuning. Strumming a ukulele without touching the frets will play a nice chord, and ukulele playing relies more on one or two fingers than guitars, which are often strummed with four.

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With an arched back, this instrument provides a thick, full sound and comes in soprano, concert and tenor.Lohanu

Ukuleles can be made from a wide variety of different materials. The cheapest ukuleles will be made of laminated wood, thin strips of wood adhered together, while the more expensive ones will have a regular sheet of wood. Laminated isn’t necessarily bad though; it can be more sturdy than regular wood. The type of wood used can also vary dramatically, from dark woods like koa and mahogany to more typical guitar woods like pine and cedar. Avoid plastic though, as it provides a chintzy tone.