Buying a ukulele
To tell you absolutely everything that there is to know about buying ukulele would be nigh on impossible. If you have the opportunity, then you should always opt to head to a music store where they can run you through the various options on the market. My intention with this page is to run you through a few of the things that you should be thinking about.
Types of Ukulele
You will notice that elsewhere on this website I have written about the various types of ukulele there are to choose from. So, here I am not going to go into the pros and cons of each of them. I just want to give you a quick overview of your options:
- Soprano: this is the ‘original’ ukulele. The scale length is 13”. You will be hard-pressed to find a ukulele that is over 21” in total. The smaller size means that this is the ideal ukulele to purchase for a child. The sound of these ukuleles is very bright.
- Concert ukulele: the second option is the concert ukulele. It has a 15” scale and 23” overall length. The sound is similar to the soprano, albeit a bit thicker. The larger size of the scale means that it is easier to move around the fretboard.
- Tenor ukulele: 17” scale (roughly) and the length is 26”. The fretboard is ideal if you have very large hands. It is easy to play on a tenor and the sound is nice and thick.
- Baritone ukulele: with this type of ukulele you are entering guitar-style territory. It offers a tremendous amount of bass. The guitar is tuned like the four highest strings on the guitar. This is the option that most people opt for when they are looking to transition between the two instruments.
Ukulele Shapes to consider when you are buying ukulele
The next thing you will need to consider when you are buying ukulele is the overall shape of the instrument. There are three main options here. To be honest, the shape of the ukulele is probably not going to matter that much beyond the look that you are going for.
- Guitar: this is the most common option. As you can probably guess from the name, this is similar to a guitar. There may be a cutaway in the body which will make it easier to access the upper frets. Chances are, this is the route that you are going to go be going down.
- Pineapple: this shape came from Hawaii. As you may have guessed, the shape of the body is very similar to a pineapple. The frets are all within easy reach, so if you play the higher notes a lot, then you may find that this route is the best one for you to go down.
- Boat Paddle: similar in shape to a boat paddle (obviously). I doubt that this is a ukulele style that you will be encountering all that much if I am honest with you.
Should you opt for an electric ukulele?
Probably not! Well, it is going to be dependent on the type of ukulele that you buy.
If you purchase a solid body electric ukulele, then you have to remember that the sound will always need to be amplified or you will not hear anything, let alone the people that you are performing for. Some people find that by amplifying the sound of the ukulele you will be taking away from the gorgeous tone that the ukulele is known for. That being said, some people really love to experiment with the tone and filter the sound through a few guitar pedals. If you are planning to play the ukulele the way it was meant to be played, then this is not the best option for you.
You can, however, purchase electroacoustic ukuleles. These will work the same way as a standard ukulele but they will have a small pickup inside which amplifies the sound. You do not need to use an amplifier with them when you are practicing, which means that you can use this in several ways. If you must go down the route of an electric ukulele, then this is your best option bar none.
Brands to consider when you are buying a ukulele
One of your main considerations when buying ukulele is the brand. One issue that I have seen a LOT when it comes to ukuleles is the fact that people who are getting into the instrument opt for a cheaper brand. They think that this is the best route to go down. It is cheaper, and they feel that it is OK just in case they do not get into the instrument. 9/10, if you go down the cheaper route then you have no chance of getting into the instrument as they do not play well. My suggestion is that you invest a bit more and stick with a quality brand. You have a far, far better chance of sticking with it.Check out the Best Ukulele Brands
The final consideration you will need to make is the wood choice. In most cases, you will want to opt for a solid wood ukulele but I know that these can be a bit more expensive. When you opt for solid wood, you will get a much ‘fuller’ tone than if you had opted for a laminated ukulele. Here are the most common woods you will find:
- Koa: native to Hawaii. Probably the most common wood for a ukulele. Gorgeous color and a very balanced tone. This is similar to Acacia (a slightly cheaper wood)
- The sound the mahogany produces will be dependent on where in the world it comes from. The tone tends to be darker and warmer. It is fantastic when used in a ukulele neck, not so much the body.
- Spruce: loud and bright tones. Similar to the way a spruce guitar would sound.
- Nice and soft. If you want a mellow tone, then cedar is the route to go down.
- A nice balance between spruce and cedar and very common for fretboards. Most people opt for red wood if they want something which offers visual appeal.
- Maple: dense grain which produces a full bodied sound.