Beginner Ukulele players don't need a great instrument. Scratch that. No one who is new to playing any instrument needs a great one. In fact, a novice probably won't appreciate a great instrument.
On the flip side, though, no one should have to learn to play on a poor excuse for a Ukulele. The low quality can make the instrument constantly need tuning and sound poor even when it is
The good news, if you're shopping for your first Ukulele or an upgrade to a poor first purchase, is that quality ukuleles can be found for a decent price. No Ukulele in this article is over $400, and many are closer to $100!
As a beginner, there is a good chance you don't know which size you want either. Our first advice is stick with one of the major four sizes. So you're looking at Soprano, Concert, Tenor, or Baritone.
Concert and Tenors tend to be popular for beginners. These two sizes aren't as small and difficult to hold as a Soprano, but are much more traditional than a Baritone that can feel like a travel guitar.
To help with this, we've also broken this guide down into four sections, one for each of the main sizes of Ukulele. If you aren't familiar with the different sizes that are standard for Ukulele, we recommend you read our guide on the different types of Ukulele before purchasing!
If you already know what size Ukulele you'd like simply find that section and check out our recommendations!
With Gig Bag
Most cheap Ukuleles are more toy than actual musical instrument. In fact, with one exception we'd say that any Ukulele under $50 is probably not worth the money. The Makala Dolphin Ukulele is that exception.
You will want to change the strings, but after that is done this instrument will sound great. Especially considering the price. It comes in a wide range of colors that make it fun for kids or those young at heart.
You will want to be careful with this Uke, it's not made to take a beating. For someone who wants to learn the Uke, or simply wants to have fun at a good price, this Ukulele is a winner!
If you are on a budget and but still want a great Ukulele that is a bit more traditional than the Dolphin we listed above, this is your Uke. The Kala KA-15S is made by the same company as the Makala but has a real wood look. The other major upgrade you get is a full mahogany body with a satin finish. This model can be found for under $60, making it a perfect first instrument for a beginner!
The first offering from Lanikai on this list, the LU series is the company's entry-level instruments. The LU-11 is similar to the Kala KA-15, but if you want a step the LU-21 is a great priced upgrade. Another bonus about this instrument is that it comes with a full bundle of accessories for a beginner who doesn't have any of the pieces. No, they aren't top of the line, but they are great starter package. Upgrade the parts as you need nicer ones later!
The nicest Soprano Ukulele we found for a buyer on a budget, the Kala KA-SSTU Soprano Travel Ukulele. This model features a thin body design with an arch back to produce a full sound. The combination of a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides gives this instrument a touch of quality. If you want to grab a great starter instrument or an upgrade to a poor first purchase, you could do much worse than the KA-SSTU!
Series Tattoo Concert
Magic Flea Co
The Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Concert Ukulele is a design dedicated to Hawaiian tattooing traditions. The design is based on a "Honu" (turtle) in a Polynesian tattoo style. Not only does this Ukulele have a distinctive yet traditional style it's got a solid spruce top with mahogany sides and back. Starting under $75 dollars, this Uke is great for larger individuals who don't want something as small as a Soprano but still want the classic Ukulele sound.
Cordoba was started as a guitar company but they had so much success they've moved into other stringed instruments. Most notably, the Ukulele. The Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele is their best selling offering featuring a Mahogany body and rosewood fretboard. This Ukulele can also be had in Soprano or Tenor sizes, or in an acoustic-electric Edge Burst model (for a few extra bucks).
No "top instrument" list would be complete without an offering from Oscar Schmidt. The company has been making stringed instruments since 1871 and are truly masters of thier craft.
The OU5 Concert Ukulele is made with a Hawaiian Koa top, sides, and back and their unique Nyatoh neck giving this instrument an authentic feel. Oscar Schmidt also has a lifetime warranty backing up this great sounding Uke.
There are several options for packages with this model. You can simply get the Ukulele with the link above or check the "also viewed" section for several different bundle options.
This might be the most unique of the Ukulele's making this list. The Flea is a custom design and uses a molded plastic and wood combination to produce a great sound. The resonant thermoplasitc body gives off a light and energetic sound and is more durable than a traditional wooden instrument.
Mahogany Tenor Electric Ukulele
Co Fluke Designer
Floral Mango Tenor Ukulele
Lanikai All Curly
Standard Mango TunaUke Equipped
The Oscar Schmidt OU2TG Mahogany Tenor Ukulele is a limited edition release with Gold Tuners for nice upgrade in quality and looks. The instrument is completed with a full mahogany body and rosewood bridge.
You can find this Ukulele in it's standard edition also, which is still a very solid choice. An example of the regular version is reviewed in the video below.
Another solid offering from Kala, The KA-TE Mahogany Tenor Electric Ukulele is the first of two acoustic - electric Ukes to make our list. The full mahogany body of this instrument sounds great acoustically, and when plugged into an amp the Nano-Flex EQ system provides great output.
Just like the concert Ukulele from Magic Fluke we listed earlier, the Fluke Designer Floral Mango Tenor Ukulele has a great, unique style all its own. Due to it's flat bottom it can actually stand up by itself, how many Ukes can say that? It is made with the same combination of molded thermoplastic and wood as other Magic Fluke Ukuleles.
The size of the tenor makes it perfect for standard GCEA tuning, but capable of sounding great in High D (Baritone) tuning as well!
Check out how good this Uke sounds in an abandoned building in the video below. If it can sound good there, imagine how it would sound in your own house!
Lanikai as a brand has made it a point to produce traditional Ukuleles using Hawaiian woods and materials. This does tend to make thier instruments fairly expensive for a beginner, but not having one on this list would have been a crime.
The Hawaiian Curly Mango body gives this instrument a genuine look and feel. This instrument also can be perfectly tuned and adjusted thanks the Lanikais TunaUke saddle system. Check out the video to see how it works!
At $299 this instrument is the most expensive on the list, and might be out of reach for beginners. However, if you're looking for a traditional Ukulele, or want to spend a little extra on a quality upgrade, the Lanikai Curly Maple is a great choice.
Zebra Wood Baritone
Acoustic Electric Uklulele
OU57 Splalted Mango
The first Baritone Ukulele on our list is also the only one that uses Zebra Wood for its body. The CB103 sports a mirror polish finish as well, giving it an eye popping shine.
At 30 inches long, the CB103 is big even for a Baritone Uke. This makes it a great choice for guitarist that want to switch to the Ukulele. Tune it in High D tuning which will match the highest four strings on a standard six-string guitar.
This model is also an acoustic electric hybrid and comes stock with a three band EQ tuner.
The Makala (made by Kala) MK-B Baritone Ukulele Bundle is a great mixture of quailty and price. This Ukulele has an agathis body with mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard.
The model we've linked to comes with a gig bag, clip on tuner, instructional DvD and polishing cloth. You can buy the Ukulele alone, but it will only save you $7 and the pieces in the kit are worth much more than what you'd save!
The step up from the Makala MK-B is this uke, the Kala KA-B Mahogany Baritone Ukulele. The $40-$50 dollar difference may be out of your budget, but if not we suggest spending the extra here. For the extra money you'll get a full mahogany body and Aquila Nylgut strings that will play better right out of the box. As a beginner, you may not be able to tell the difference, but as you advance you'll start to notice the quailty of the KA-B.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Oscar Schmidt OU57. This beautiful instrument is constructed from Spalted Mango wood that gives it a great resonance.
While this is one of the more expensive instruments on the list it's still less expensive than many guitars of much lower quality. Experienced guitar players and beginning Uke players alike will enjoy this instrument greatly!
When we selected these Ukulele's we had a LOT of options. As you can imagine, we quickly had to figure out how we were going to differentiate and make sure we present the best ukulele for beginners.
So, we picked out four different categories we considered: Material, Strings, Price, and Sound.
Ukulele's are either made out of some sort of composite, (which is basically plastic), a laminated wood, or a solid wood.
Plastics make up the bottom of the line, toy type Ukuleles and we generally will recommend you stay away from them. There are a few exceptions, but most of these produce poor sound and will need to be replaced very quickly.
Laminated woods make up most of the Ukuleles on our list and vary the greatest in terms of price and quality. You can find some that are mostly cardboard or plywood shavings that aren't much better than plastics, while the good ones are nearly as nice as solid wood instruments.
Lastly, solid wood instruments are exactly that, made from a single piece (each side). Most of these instruments are out of a beginners price range so we haven't added many.
Until you are experienced enough to hear the difference strings can make we don't really recommend you pay much attention to them. When you are ready to explore your options you can read our post giving you 8 string options!
As a beginner you probably don't want to spend a ton on an instrument. So, we wanted to make sure that we balanced quality with price to find the best values possible.
Most importantly, your instrument has to sound good. If your instrument doesn't ring true, or quickly needs to be re-tuned, it will make learning much more difficult. We've made sure that all of these instruments produce the highest quality sound.
Did we miss a Ukulele you think deserves to be on this list? Please, leave us a comment and we'll look into it! Your suggestions are welcome and appreciated!