Top 5 Best Ukuleles in 2020 Reviews

ukulele buying guideThe ukulele is an easy instrument to learn. It is small and you can take it with you anywhere. In addition, it has a fantastic sound that only ever puts people in a good mood.

Buy ukuleles on Amazon

I can easily understand why you’d want to get a ukulele and that’s exactly why I’ve made this page. I want to share my many years of experience with the ukulele. The ukulele was my first instrument, and I’ve played it for the past 9 years.

I have a great deal of knowledge about which brands you should keep away from and which brands are really good. So if you want to know which ukulele you should buy. Then sit back in your chair and take 5 minutes to read this ukulele buying guide.

Top 5 Best Ukuleles

Below I have selected the market’s five best ukuleles. These include soprano, concert, tenor and a baritone ukulele:

Overall Winner: Best Ukulele Right Now


Best concert ukulele


Best soprano ukulele


Best tenor ukulele


Best baritone ukulele


Best electric ukulele


back to menu ↑

The history of the ukulele

Many associate the ukulele with Hawaii, and they are correct. First of all, however, we have to go to Europe, and back to the 18th century, where string instruments already had a long history at that time. In line with developments within string instrument building, other types of string instruments had also emerged. Some smaller than others and some larger than others. The small string instruments were especially advantageous for seafarers who did not have much spare room onboard their ships. In Portugal a musical instrument called a “machete” (or “machete de braga”) was developed.

The instrument resembled a guitar, despite the fact that it had only 4 strings and a small body. The Ravenscrag (the name of the many ships that exported consumables to Hawaii) headed for Hawaii in 1879. Onboard the ship there were 4 Portuguese carpenters. Their plan was to sell expensive, large and ornate Portuguese furniture, but the Hawaiian people were, generally, poor, and therefore not interested in buying such furniture. Instead, the carpenters began to design and make their own instruments. The instrument had the  common features of the machete but was different in a number of ways. Thus, the ukulele was created by these four men.

The Royal Family of Hawaii welcomed the instrument, as did the rest of the Hawaiian people. At the beginning of the 20th century the ukulele had become commonplace in Hawaii, and since then it has stayed popular. When the United States annexed Hawaii, US traders became very keen to sell this tropical musical instrument in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The ukulele had its big global breakthrough during the Panama international show in 1915, where American traders had made a show with ukulele music, involving a performance from Jonnah Kumalae (a Hawaiian musician and ukulele maker). At this exhibition, the rest of the world saw the mysterious and exotic instrument for the first time.

The ukulele quickly became very popular during the 30s and many musicians began using the instrument in their music. Since then, the popularity of the ukulele boomed. Occasionally, the popularity has fallen in times of crisis, but overall the interest in the instrument has been huge – even today.

back to menu ↑

Ukulele parts and construction

ukulele parts

It is always good to know your instrument. Both for your own sake (if you, for example, lack one or more parts of your ukulele) but also if you talk to others about the instrument. Below I will discuss the structure of the instrument, including the parts of the ukulele.

Head: The head is the upper part of the ukulele (see picture to the right of the text). On the head you will find the tuning pegs. In addition, the manufacturer logo is often printed at the top of the head. The head of the instrument is found in many different forms and shapes.

Tuning Pegs: The part of the ukulele that holds the strings in place. When you turn them, you can loosen or tighten the strings to get them in tune.

Saddle: This ensures that the strings stay in their correct positions. So the strings, for example, do not suddenly move when you play.

Neck: The neck connects both the body and the head. The back of the neck is often semicircular in shape, so you can easily hold the it in your hand. Importantly, the neck supports the fingerboard, where your fingers press down on the frets to play different notes.

Frets: The fretss are the small metal bars that are built into the neck. They make it easier to play the right notes. For example, a violin does not have any frets, and therefore it is harder to find the correct note on a violin, compared to on a ukulele. You press down and hold the string between two frets to play a note on the ukulele.

Body: The body consists of two sides, a bottom and a top. The size and shape of the body has a decisive influence on the sound of the ukulele. There is a choice of wood varieties to make the body of a ukulele out of, and we will come to this later.

Sound hole: the vibrations created when playing the instrument come out of the sound hole.

Bridge: The bridge is very important as it holds the saddle together and therefore also helps keep the strings in place.

Fret markers: Fret markers can be found on virtually all string instruments. They help make it easier to remember which fret you are playing on. In the picture above, the ukulele has 3 fret markers, which are dots on the neck of the instrument. One on the 5th, 7th and 10th frets respectively.

Strings: The strings are what creates the vibrations. When you pluck the strings, vibrations are sent down through the sound hole, after which they are sent out of the sound hole again as audible notes.

back to menu ↑

Different types of ukuleles

Generally, we refer to 4 different types of ukulele. The difference between these lies in the scale length (the distance between bridge and saddle/the length of the string between where it is held in place, at these two points) and the total length of the ukulele. In addition, how many frets the ukulele is equipped with and which tuning the ukulele is played in. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Soprano ukulele

The soprano ukulele is also called the standard ukulele. It is the original ukulele and the smallest of all. Most often it has a scale length of 13 “/ 34 cm and a total length of 21” / 53 cm. Children start playing on this ukulele due to its small size. The Soprano ukulele has the brightest sound of all types, and that’s probably the sound you associate most with the ukulele. It often has between 12 and 14 frets, which provided some limitations. I have reviewed the best soprano ukulele and it can be found at the top of this page.

Concert ukulele

The concert ukulele is a mixture of tenor and soprano. It has a deeper and richer sound than the soprano ukulele, but at the same time it has some of the well-known ukulele sound we know from the soprano ukulele. Most often a concert ukulele has a scale length of 15 “/ 39 cm and a total length of 23” / 57 cm. In addition, this type is usually cheaper than the tenor ukulele. I have reviewed the best concert ukulele and it can be found at the top of this page.

Tenor ukulele

Over the past few years the tenor ukulele has received a larger following. The most famous tenor ukulele player is Jake Shimabukuro, who has given ukulele music an innovative breath of fresh air. The tenor ukulele is mostly used to play music that you do not associate with the ukulele and Hawaii. For example, pieces like While My Guitar Gently Weeps . A tenor ukulele has more resonance and a deeper, richer sound than the concert ukulele. This is also due to the fact that the scale length is approximately 17 “/ 45 cm and the total length is 26” / 65 cm. . I have reviewed the best tenor ukulele, which can be found at the top of this page.

Baritone ukulele

Last but not least we have the baritone ukulele. Due to its scale length of 19 “/ 49 cm and a total length of 30” / 76 cm, it has an even deeper sound and a super, delicious bass. This type of ukulele is usually tuned to the guitar’s 4 upper strings (D3, G3, H3, E4). You therefore also have the opportunity to transfer some music from the guitar to the ukulele, without much problem. The baritone ukulele is actually almost the same size as a 2/3 guitar. The best baritone ukulele I have reviewed can be found at the top of this page.

Ukuleles in various shapes

We can also distinguish between two different forms/shapes of ukulele:

Guitar form: We’re all familiar with this. This type of ukulele is, simply, shaped like a guitar and the body is 8-shaped. The upper arc is usually smaller than the lower arc. The guitar shape is the most common form of ukulele.

Pineapple Form: This type of ukulele is characterized by having a body shaped like a pineapple. There isn’t much more to say about it. There are not many of these.

back to menu ↑

How to choose a ukulele

There are a number of factors I think are a good idea to consider when purchasing a ukulele. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Wood types

If you are a beginner, this topic of wood will not be particularly relevant. As a beginner, the choice of wood does not mean much and I do not recommend spending a lot of money on buying a ukulele of a particular wood species – at least not if you just want to try playing ukulele for fun. But it is, of course, good to have a knowledge of the different types of wood and how they can affect the quality and tone of the sound. Below, I will address the most common wood varieties that ukuleles are made from:

Mahogany: mahogany is undoubtedly the most widely used wood for making musical instruments, including the ukulele. Almost all necks of ukuleles are made from mahogany, as the wood species has a huge strength. It is a hard wood, but far from the hardest. The renowned brand, Martin & Co., have almost always made mahogany ukuleles. Mahogany provides a more focused sound. The sound is full-bodied and can provide some nice light tones but can also provide a good bass.

Koa: The original wood species from Hawaii. Koa gives a warm and direct sound. There are fewer overtones, but, on the other hand, it has a good sustain and strong midrange. Over 90% of the sound comes from the sound hole and head. Therefore, these are the two elements that you consider most when choosing a type of wood.  Koa is often chosen for ukuleles because the species of wood has a famous history with the instrument.

Spruce: Spruce is a soft wood and, because of this, it provides a light and high sound. At the same time, however, you get a rich and warm sound. By ‘warm sound’ I mean a sound that does not have so many hard and extreme tones to it. That is my interpretation, at least. A spruce ukulele therefore has plenty of strength in the middle and lowest pitches.

Cedar: this kind of wood is used often for the sound hole. This wood type is softer than spruce and has more bass in relation to spruce. This wood species also gives some more lively overtones.

Redwood / American Giant Furnace: Redwood is very similar to cedar wood but still stands out on some essential points: a very powerful and spacious sound. Some consider this sound to be unfocused. Personally, I love this wood species. The next two types of wood are primarily used to make the ukulele’s neck.

Rosewood: Not used as much for the manufacture of ukuleles, as it is with guitars, but this wood species gives some powerful mid-tones and slightly lower overtones. I have played on a pair of ukulele, which were made only of rosewood and they were really good .

Maple: Finally, we have maple, which is characterized by having a clear tone but with less overtones. The tone is also full. Maple is mostly used for the body’s sides and back. If the instrument is built correctly, maple is a great material. It is important to mention that the choice of wood is an individual choice, and there is no recipe or type of wood that is “the best”. Try some different ukuleles and you will quickly find out what kind of wood you like best.

Best ukulele brands

Kala Brand Music Co.: Kala / Makala is one of the world’s largest producers of ukuleles. They stand out by only selling ukuleles and U-basses. This means that they devote all their time to product development of ukuleles – and nothing else. The company has existed since 2005 and is located in California. I personally think they make the best ukuleles in the world, and, therefore, I have a Kala tenor ukulele (Kala KA-ST). Kala’s ukuleles are always of really good quality and, at the same time, the prices are reasonable.

Yamaha: The Japanese company is one of the world’s largest producers of musical instruments. Their ukuleles are also really good, but they are not better than Kala’s. On the other hand, they make some fine travel guitars – I can recommend them.

Price

Price and quality are not always connected, but my experience tells me that price and quality are related when buying a ukulele. I would advise that you to stay away from cheap products; as soon as a ukulele costs less than $75, you can be sure that the quality is not very good and you can expect to be disapointed. If you, instead, spend more than $75, you will have the opportunity to find some really nice instruments. Even a budget between $75 to $150 can do you well.

back to menu ↑

Ukulele strings

Although strings are not a huge investment, there is a big difference in their quality. The strings included with the purchase of a ukulele are often of poor quality. Therefore, at some point I would advise you to buy a few new strings for your new ukulele. Let’s take a closer look at the size of strings you need.

The choice of ukulele strings depends on the type of ukulele you have. As mentioned above, you generally distinguish between 4 types of ukulele. The thickness of strings varies depending on which type of ukulele you have. The bigger your ukulele is, the thicker your strings should be. I’ve made your choice easier by finding the best ukulele strings on market and showing them below:

Best Soprano Ukulele Strings


Best Concert Ukulele Strings


Best Tenor Ukulele Strings


Best Baritone Ukulele Strings


back to menu ↑

Ukulele tuning: How to tune an ukulele

There are many ways to tune you ukulele. You can easily do it online at ukutuner . Of course, you can also buy a tuner in a music store. The 3 most common tunings are:

  • GCEA
    • This is the standard tuning for the ukulele (also called C tuning). You can easily tune the ukulele without using any tools. The song “The Little Ole with the Umbrella” contains only these four tones at the beginning.
  • ADF#B
    • This is called D-tuning and it is tuned 2 frets higher than the C tuning.
  • DGBE
    • This tuning is for baritone ukuleles and, as mentioned, is the same tuning as the guitar’s first four strings.
back to menu ↑

Learn to play ukulele

There are many opportunities to learn how to play ukulele online. You can find a lot of tutorials on Youtube, and then you can go on to pay for a monthly subscription to get further lessons, if you qish. If you really want to learn how to play ukulele, then I’d recommend you take out a monthly subscription with ukuleleunderground. As a member you get access to a huge library of ukulele videos and you can learn everything on a ukulele. Right from how to hold the ukulele to how to play particular songs.

8 Comments

Leave a reply