How to Buy a Ukulele
Want to buy a uke but don't know where to start?
Ukulele's are incredibly fun instruments and make great gifts for musicians of
all backgrounds. The choices, however, are vast and can be confusing. Between
the different wood types, sizes and configurations, the possibilities can be
overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to provide you with insight into
your basic uke questions in order to help you decide which uke is right for
Which size should I buy?
In general, ukes are available for purchase in 4 different sizes: Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. Each ukulele, with exception of the Baritone, is tuned to the key of C. The baritone is tuned to the key of G. This means that if you learn on the soprano, concert or tenor uke, you can play any of those three since they are all tuned the same. If you are a guitar player, transferring to the baritone instrument is quite easy as the 4 strings are tuned exactly the same as the 4 smallest strings on a guitar (D-G-B-E).
Why buy a soprano ukulele?
Of the 4 ukulele sizes, the soprano is the most common and the most popular. They are small and compact and can be carried just about anywhere. The cost is typically lower on a soprano uke compared to the other models. When you hear a ukulele on your favorite song featuring the ukulele, often times you are hearing a soprano uke.
Why buy a concert ukulele?
There are a few reasons to buy a concert ukulele over the other instruments offered. First, the concert uke gives you a bit more range than the soprano. Due to its larger size, the concert ukulele also gives you more projection and robust sound. Lastly, concert ukes afford you more versatility over the soprano due to its extended fretboard. You will have more range in sound than the soprano uke. If you pick up a soprano ukulele and feel it is too small for you, the concert may be a better choice.
Why buy a tenor ukulele?
Most customers who have larger hands typically chose a tenor ukulele. In general, the neck is larger and longer than the concert and soprano ukulele. In addition, the tenor ukulele is typically the choice of professional players due to it's versatility. The tenor ukulele has more projection than the soprano and concert ukulele due to the size of the body.
Why buy a baritone ukulele?
The baritone ukulele is tuned to G; not the C tuning used by the soprano, concert and tenor. Actually, the baritone strings are tuned exactly like the botom four strings of a guitar (D-G-B-E). If you are a guitar player, transitioning to this instrument should be relatively easy. Conversely, if you are looking to get into guitar, a baritone ukulele is a great starter instrument to give you the feel of the fretboard and strumming.
Which wood do I choose?
Each wood has its own characteristic tone. There are many different types of woods to choose from including mahogany, spruce, koa, maple and cedar. There are more exotic woods available such as zebrawood, monkey pod and acacia. In general, if the wood is a harder wood, the projection of the instrument will be louder. If you are looking for a sweeter more mellow tone, the softer woods will do the trick. The most common woods purchased are mahogany and spruce and they tend to produce the best well-rounded tone.
How much should I spend on my ukulele?
This really depends on your intentions. In my opinion, if you are looking to stick with it and are really committed to learning the instrument, spend a little extra and get what you really want. I think the way the instrument looks and sounds has a lot to do with whether you stick with it or not. If you feel good about the looks of the instrument, you are more apt to pick it up and play it than if you are not satisfied with the way it looks. I would look to spend around $99+ to get something that you can grow with and cherish for many years to come.
If you are not sure whether you will stick with it, I would spend no less than $40-$50 on an instrument. In that price range and above, you are not purchasing a "toy". Be very careful which instrument you choose because there are a lot of poorly crafted ukes on the market that are no better than a child's toy guitar. The instruments we sell on UkesOnline.com are all real instruments and we do not deal with toy ukuleles.
All in all, you cannot go wrong with buying any ukulele. Whether you buy a soprano, concert, tenor or baritone, you are sure to have fun with the instrument. Studies have shown that they are good for stress relief as well as music therapy. Picture yourself and your new ukulele and I bet you will be smiling. It is almost impossible to play it without bringing a smile to your face and those around you.
By Jimmy Daugherty, UkesOnline.com