Ukuleles are easily one of the most unique and fun stringed instruments you can play. These mini-guitars of sorts offer a rich, lively sound that often reminds one of the shores and beaches of Hawaii, where the uke first rose to prominence.
They are also great for those who are just learning how to play a stringed instrument.
There’s certainly no shortage of ukuleles out there, whether it’s the cheap souvenir models found in gift shops all around Hawaii, or the higher-quality, more professional ukes that musicians use for performances and recording. So what are the best ones out there, from beginner to pro?
The truth is, the ukulele market is a bit oversaturated, so it can be hard when trying to shop for your first one. Fortunately, we’re here to make things a little easier on you.
Below are our picks for the best ukuleles available in 2019. We were sure to keep things around $200 or under, appealing to a wide range of budgets within. After reading this guide, you should have plenty of vetted options to consider, and be in a much better position to make the best purchase for your needs.
We’ve also included some helpful info on what to look for when shopping for your new ukulele. But first, let’s get to the picks themselves, starting with the best ukulele for those just beginning to play.
Best Ukulele For Beginners
Best Ukulele Under $200
Best Ukulele Under $100
When buying your first ukulele to start out, it’s best to look for not only the quality and affordability of the uke itself, but also a way to acquire most or all of the accessories you need to get started with.
By doing so, you’ll have all of the essentials out of the way with one purchase. The Lohanu Concert Ukulele Bundle is a perfect example of this.
This bundle starts with a surprisingly high-quality ukulele that has a great sound, and backs it all up with a number of extra items that cover everything from tuning to storage, and more.
This concert-sized ukulele has a beautiful color that looks far above its price range.This is the result of blending mahogany with sapele, which has a similar look and tone of mahogany, but helps to trim the price down some. The sound of the uke has a good amount of projection, and a balanced, warmer tone.
The fretboard and neck are made from rosewood, which is a common choice for most ukuleles. The actual feel of the neck is good for a beginner, providing smooth action up and down. This aspect is enhanced even further thanks to a nut design that keep strings low-profile, allowing beginners to play cleanly from the start.
The tuners at the end of the neck are chrome diecast and loosen up a little after a few tunings, which makes the tuning easier. They do a solid job of keeping strings in tune for extended periods, with minimal adjusting needed every so often.
The strings included with the purchase are Aquila Nylgut, so you’re getting the best strings available on a beginner uke. You also get an extra pack as backup, which is always a good thing.
So what else do you get with this bundle? Aside from the strings, you also get a digital tuner, gig bag, strap, and even a hanging cord so you can keep the uke off the ground if you’d like. Each accessory is of great quality, especially the tuner and bag. Again, everything needed to get started immediately, and gain proficiency quickly.
The Lohanu Concert Ukulele would already be worthy of being the best beginner ukulele on its own, so the added accessories just helps to push it further over the top. As an added bonus, the price is extremely reasonable. This bundle is absolutely the best purchase for anyone looking to get started playing the ukulele.
One of the best aspects of the ukulele is how much you can get for the money.
The small size of the instrument allows your money to go a long way, so those who can afford to spend a bit more can receive a significant upgrade in the overall quality of the uke.
The Kala KA-CE Concert Ukulele is an acoustic-electric uke that also makes sure to throw in some helpful extras as well.
This bundle is geared towards those who may just be getting started with playing the ukulele, but want a higher-quality instrument they can grow for years with.
The level of quality with this uke is apparent from the outset, as the tone of the wood itself shows out of the box. High-grade mahogany is used for the entire body of the uku, giving it a fantastic sound with lots of projection, clarity, and that classic uke tone the instrument is known for.
As for the fingerboard, it’s made from walnut, and mahogany on the back. This gives it a very solid feel, and further enhances the playability and overall tone. Both the nut and saddle are NuBone, giving the strings more precision, and a lower profile that’s still appropriate for beginners working on their hand strength and chords.
The bundle includes a pack of Aquila Nylgut strings, so you’re getting the most popular strings on the market. Diecast chrome tuners hold everything in place, providing easy tuning adjustments when needed, while also ensuring strings don’t slip out of tune easily.
The uke includes an electric input for a cable, allowing you to use it with an amp, or run it directly through a PA. Controls for the electric mode include volume and tones, so you can hone in that perfect sound.
Also included with this purchase are a digital tuner, a gig bag, an instructional DVD from Austin Bazaar, and even a polishing cloth to help you keep the uke free of smudges and harmful oils that may otherwise break the coating down. The bag is of far greater quality than you usually see with bundles, as it has a rigid feel that offers better protection, and has a felt liner inside.
The Kala KA-CE bridges the gap between a beginners ukulele and one that experienced players can also appreciate. Its mixture of quality materials and electric input are complemented by an array of great accessories, making it with every bit of the price.
Bass isn’t exactly what people first think of with ukuleles, but there are plenty of bass ukuleles that merge the small and plunky aspects of a traditional uke, with the bass strings and tone of a legitimate bass.
The results are often versatile and unique, making bass ukuleles much more than a novelty purchase.
The Donner Dub-1 Bass Ukulele is simply too good to leave off this list.
This small instrument packs a huge punch, a legitimate bass sound, and surprising playability.
Add to that a low price, full electric capability, and some extra features, and you have one of the best ukuleles on the market — regardless of type.
First off, know that this is an actual bass that uses the same EADG tuning of a full-size bass. The body is crafted from fine African mahogany throughout, giving it plenty of attack, while still ensuring a warm and full tone that sounds great acoustic or electric.
This uke is 30 inches long, making it longer than standard ukes, but that’s obviously by design. The added size gives you more room to work with when playing with your fingers, and also gives the uke more depth for the proper bass sound.
The strings are Aquila Nylgut, but have a larger size to support the needed string action for bass playing. The material helps to resist moisture as well, and are easy to tune when needed. Each string is the same density, providing consistency that enables better playing for this size.
The electric input comes with EQ settings that let you adjust the high, mid, and bass, allowing for total control over the tone when plugged in. Not only that, the preamp even comes with an integrated tuner, so you don’t have to use an external one.
You also get a padded carrying case that is definitely gig-worthy, and includes a front zipper compartment to store extra strings, cables, picks, or whatever else.
Overall, the Donner Dub-1 Bass Ukulele would already be a perfectly solid regular ukulele, but the bass build really pushes it to a superior level. This uke is ideal for bass players looking for a viable bass that uses less space, provides a unique sound, and is still suitable for live use. Also, it’s just incredibly fun to play in general.
The Kala KA-15S is well known and beloved for a reason.
This beautiful mahogany soprano ukulele is the best value on the market in regards to beginner ukes, but that doesn’t mean it looks or plays like a beginner’s model.
The Kala KA-15S is very much intended for those who are starting out, but don’t want something on the bottom level.
A beginner can grow with it, and experienced players can appreciate the tone and playing action of the Kala KA-15S, making it an all-around great buy for any skill level.
This 21” uke is fashioned from mahogany, and has a natural look that includes the texture from the wood grain. A thin matte finish helps to emphasize the more bare appearance, and also gives the Kala KA-15S a little more volume and clarity as well.
A rosewood fretboard is combined with Nubone nuts that help the strings to resonate better, while keeping the low as well. The action on the strings is one of the lowest you’ll find, which is actually great for those who are first learning how to play, as high action strings can be a bit discouraging at times.
Geared tuning knobs make the tuning process easier, while helping to hold the tuning better as well. The gearing prevents slipping, while offering precision with the tuning. A stark contrast from the more flimsy-feeling tuning knobs on lesser models.
As for the strings, the Kala KA-15S comes equipped with Aquila Nylguts, which are well revered among ukulele players, and give the uke a high-end feel.
To sum up the Kala KA-15S, it’s clearly designed to be very accessible and affordable for new players, while offering enough quality that one can play it for years without feeling like they are dealing with some low, entry-level uke that feels more like a novelty.
For under $60, there is simply no other ukulele that rivals the Kala KA-15S’s quality and playability, both for beginners and advanced players.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to wind up with a great-sounding ukulele, and you also don’t have to compromise on quality when looking for a uke that is appropriate for beginning players who are just starting to learn.
The Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele Bundle is one of the best purchases available for anyone who wants a exceptional sounds and playability with a beginners uke, receive some essential accessories in the process, and still keep the price point well below $100.
The first thing you’ll notice with the Lanikai LU-21 is the look of the uke.
It has a darker tone not often seen in this price range, with a rich color that hints at the enhanced sound the body provides. This is made possible from the use of Nato wood (aka Eastern Mahogany) that ensures a loud projection with an even tone and enhanced mid-range — both rarities under $100.
The uke’s fretboard is crafted from rosewood, which helps to mellow the tone just a bit, and further compliment the mid-range. The strings are kept at a relatively low profile to make playability easier for new users, while avoiding any unneeded string buzz or loose feel.
The Lanikai LU-21’s tuners are chrome diecast, and come geared at 14/1 to make tuning much easier and more accurate. The tuners are fully geared to prevent slippage, keeping the strings in tune for extended periods of playing, even with heavier picking and strumming.
As for the strings themselves, the Lanikai LU-21 comes with Aquila Nylguts, which most consider to be the industry standard. Including the strings lets you get started with the ukulele immediately, right out of the box.
Since this in fact a bundle package, Lanikai includes a few more things as well. You also a clip-on tuner that is very easy to use for beginners, helping to maintain proper tuning accuracy in quick fashion.
A padded gig bag protects the uke while providing easy transport, and you also get an Austin Bazaar instructional DVD and cloth to keep the ukulele free of smudges and oils.
And there you have it. A perfect beginners ukulele package, and a fine ukulele that features solid craftsmanship, quality materials, and a traditional soprano size. If you need a beginners ukulele on a budget, but also want something you can grow with, the Lanikai LU-21 is the perfect choice.
Ukuleles are small, simple instruments, but they still have plenty of features and aspects that can create a substantial difference between one product and another. Below are some core aspects to be mindful of when you are deciding on a new uke purchase.
The ukulele is a member of the guitar family, so the material that it’s made with is going to have a huge influence on the overall sound and quality of the instrument.
The size and nature of a ukulele lends itself to some materials you don’t commonly see with guitars, but there are also some familiar ones as well.
The most popular material for a ukulele is mahogany, as this wood ensures an even tone and resonance that is ideal for most sizes and usage settings. Mahogany can be used for the entire body, although to will see it combined with other woods from time to time.
Koa is a more expensive wood type, often reserved for ukuleles played by professionals.
Spruce is now common for some ukuleles, especially on the top portion. This is one example of a common wood shared by both acoustic guitars and ukes.
Cedar is often used for larger ukuleles, typically tenor and baritone. The makeup of the wood is better for offering more depth and warmer tone, something these ukulele types require.
As for the neck and fretboard, rosewood and maple are used frequently.
Cheaper ukuleles will use a mixture of laminate woods and plastic. This gives them a hollow and dull tone, but also makes them incredibly affordable. These are best used as novelties, or for small children.
The size of the ukulele has a huge effect on how it sounds. Here are the four common sizes:
The “type” of a ukulele is sort of a broad term, so in this instance we’ll use it to refer to acoustic and electric ukes. Acoustic ukuleles are simple a uke lacking any electric input jack, so they must be played in an acoustic setting, or use an external pickup.
Electric ukuleles can be played as acoustics, but have a built-in jack that allows you to connect a cable, and then run it through an amplifier, or a PA system.
As with any other instrument, an extended warranty is a good sign as to the quality of the ukulele itself, and how much the manufacturer stands behind it. If you’re going to be spending over $50 for a uke, look for models that have some sort of warranty. The longer, the better.
There are a number of accessories one can use with a ukulele.
While there are several different products available, many would consider a strap, tuner, case, and polishing sloth to be among the most essential items you must always have on hand.
Other accessories can include things like amplifiers, cables, hanging cords, effects pedals, and so on.
These are simple instruments in many respects, but there is plenty of variance among all the different choices out there. With that said, we hope you have a much better understanding of the ukulele, and all the critical information you need to know before buying one.
While our overall favorite for beginners is the Lohanu Concert Ukulele Bundle, any of the above ukuleles are a phenomenal purchase, whether you’re looking for a cheaper, smaller model, a bass version, or want to try out concert-sized ukes. It’s all up to you.
Regardless of what you choose, we encourage you to stick with it. Before long, you’ll be making beautiful music on your own ukulele for years to come. Good luck!