Are you still wavering which ukulele you should buy? There are thousands of ukuleles out there with various brands and types.
Sometimes your favourite one may not fit your budget or vice versa, sometimes the one you can afford is not what you need.
Check out the following 7 tips to choose the best cheap ukulele for yourself:
1. Choosing the right size:
Maybe you have already seen different sizes of ukuleles. But not many beginners know that ukuleles are divided into 4 types based on those sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.
The problem is: they are not only different in their sizes, but also in the sound produced and even the way you play.
Therefore, choosing the right ukulele size is very important for beginners.
a. Soprano Ukulele:
A soprano ukulele is usually 21 inches (53 cm) in length with 12 – 15 frets. It is the smallest out of 4 abovementioned types and is tuned in GCEA, or ADF#B.
Perhaps Soprano is the best choice for beginners and those who have small hands because of the close distance between frets.
b. Concert Ukulele:
Concert ukulele is not much different from soprano, but it is more suitable for people who have larger fingers or hands. It is 23 inches (58 cm), including 15 – 20 frets and is tuned in GCEA.
c. Tenor Ukulele:
Unlike Soprano and Concert types, which are often chosen by beginners, tenor ukulele is normally played on stage by professional or well-known players. This type is 26 inches (66 cm) with 15+ frets. Because it is longer, it would help to reach higher notes on the fretboard.
d. Baritone Ukulele:
The final and also the biggest ukulele type is baritone ukulele. It is about 30 inches (76 cm) and sometimes even bigger, with 19+ frets. The tuning for this is quite different from the others. It’s tuned out lower to DGBE, similar to the tuning of the bottom four strings on a guitar.
For the sound produced, you should keep in mind that the larger the ukulele is, the deeper sound it can produce. It means that baritone has the deepest and fullest tone, sometimes it even sounds like a nylon stringed guitar.
Whatever size you like, the advise here is: You should try plucking on all the types of ukuleles to see which one your fingers feel most comfortable with. Then you will be able to have better decision.
2. Your feeling is the most important:
For beginners, choosing a good ukulele is not simple at all. Because you haven’t got enough knowledge and experience to know which is the best, you will feel overwhelmed among thousands of brands on the market.
In this case, the best solution is deciding based on your feeling. It means that you can try playing notes on different ukuleles, listening to their sounds, looking at their appearance to see if you have a good feeling for it at the first time. Then you will know what you need.
In fact, many people often buy low-quality instruments when they start learning how to play. They think that they only need a cheap small one to get familiar with it first, then they will invest in a better one after reaching a higher level.
However, that is a totally wrong idea. A good instrument with nice sounds will create more inspiration for learners to keep practicing. Practice makes perfect. So if you want to learn ukulele seriously, you should buy a good one right at the time of beginning.
3. Your Budget – make sure you have a ukulele and not a toy:
Budget is also a very important factor to consider before purchasing a new ukulele. Of course, if you just start at beginner level, you shouldn’t spend too much money on it. It may be wasteful if you only play your ukulele on the first several days then throw it to some corners in your house.
However, it doesn’t mean that you will only spend $20 – $30 getting a secondhand instrument. It would be even more wasteful because you will never learn anything from those “toys”. And sometimes, the price for repairing or replacing the strings or other parts would be much more expensive.
Normally, a good-enough ukulele for beginners costs from $100. If you spend less than $50, maybe you’re going to purchase a “toy”, not an instrument. So, think carefully before decision.
4. Acoustic-Electric Ukulele vs. Acoustic ukulele?
There are 2 types of ukuleles: Acoustic ukulele and Acoustic – Electric ukulele.
Acoustic ukulele is a ukulele that produces the original sound. There is no supporting equipment to adjust the sound. This instrument is suitable for self-practice at home or performance in front of a small group.
On the other hand, acoustic – electric ukulele is equipped with an EQ system, a device used to adjust the volume and timbre of a note during the performance. It is usually used on stage or in clubs.
If you’re a beginner, you should choose an acoustic ukulele because there is no need for an EQ system. The price for a ukulele with EQ system is also more expensive, so it only suits professional performance in front of a crowd.
5. Solid Wood vs. Laminated Wood vs. High-grade polycarbonate ukulele:
The material used to create a ukulele is also very important. Normally, ukuleles are made using a variety of woods and construction techniques. There are 3 main types of materials: solid wood, laminated wood, and high-grade polycarbonate.
In general, ukuleles with bodies made of 100% solid wood will have higher quality. They are also much more pricey. If you want to buy an affordable one, you should look for those made with laminates.
Laminates here means several thin layers of wood glued together and sometimes covered with attractively grained veneers. However, in some cases, the internal part of a ukulele body is made with laminates, but the top is made of solid wood such as spruce or cedar.
Since the top of the body most strongly influences the instrument’s tone, ukuleles made of laminates mixed with solid wood would be a good choice. They are much cheaper, and don’t affect the sound produced.
Inspite of not being resonant as solid-wood ukuleles, laminated wood models seem to be stronger in cold and dry weather (prevent from cracking or splitting). Their sound will also be stable throughout their life without any changes.
Beside solid and laminated wood, ukuleles are also made of high-grade polycarbonate with water-resistant ability. They are suitable for outdoor activities or camping trips together with your family and friends.
So, think about your need, then wisely choose the best material!
6. Brands of strings:
Another important tip to choose the best cheap ukulele for beginners is choosing a good brand of strings.
Most ukulele strings are made with nylon. However, as you already knew, there are 4 types of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. Each type has their own size, so they have different scale length, and suits different set of strings.
Before you buy any set of strings, you should make sure you know your ukulele’s size and read the manufacturer’s direction carefully on the labels.
Normally, the most recommended string brands are D’Addario and Aquila. Both of them received good feedbacks from users all over the world. You can research more to see which one you prefer.
7. Don’t forget these essential ukulele accessories:
You need to invest in some essential accessories as follows:
- Ukulele case: this will protect your ukulele from being broken or scratched.
- Ukulele tuner: a device to help you tune your strings more accurately. Choosing a good tuner is very important for beginners and amateur players.
- Ukulele Stand or Ukulele Wall Mount Hanger: these will help to hold your ukulele on the wall or on a surface where you place it, avoiding it from falling down the floor or being broken.
That’s all for 7 tips of choosing the best cheap ukulele for beginners. After considering all the above factors, you can absolutely choose a good instrument for yourself and start playing!