The ukulele is a stringed instrument that resembles a guitar and means different things to different people. For some, it is a novelty instrument used to add variety to songs while for others it is an instrument they choose to pursue seriously.
Types of Ukuleles
The most important thing you should be aware of is the range of sizes that ukuleles come in. Ukuleles are four main types from the largest to the smallest: baritone, tenor, concert, and soprano. Here is a more detailed description of the different varieties.
Soprano: The soprano ukulele is what usually comes to mind when people think of ukuleles. Some manufacturers refer to it as the standard ukulele and are the smallest of all the ukuleles, which gives it the brightest tone. It usually has 10 to 12 frets, and its typical length is 21 inches.
Concert: The concert ukulele is more comfortable for full-grown adults. It is larger and more comfortable to hold and play with larger hands. It usually has 15 to 18 frets, and its typical length is 23 inches.
Tenor: The larger the instrument, the deeper the tone. The tenor ukulele fits between the concert and baritone. It leans more towards bass than the soprano and concert. It usually has 17 to 19 frets, and its typical length is 26 inches.
Baritone: The baritone is the largest sized ukulele. The voicing of the instrument also reflects characteristics similar to those of a classical acoustic guitar. It usually has 18 to 21 frets and has a typical length of 29 inches.
If you are just getting started with this amazing instrument or have been playing it for years, here are four suggestions that you can find on Amazon.
1. Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
The Kala KA-15S has amazing workmanship, quality, and tone, which makes it a phenomenal value for money. The Kala KA-15S is a quality mahogany instrument that’s highly playable. The fit and finish of the instrument are exceptional and a pleasant surprise.
People often down their instruments due to frustration or physical discomfort due to lacking the dexterity and skill to play notes on stringed instruments. However, since the KA-15S is so well put together, this will never be an issue.
The setup of the instrument is amazing right out of the box, which makes it very user-friendly to pick up and start playing. The KA-15S has Aquila Nylgut strings, which are of amazing quality and some of the best in the industry.
The top and sides of the KA-15S are satin-finished mahogany. The satin finish is exceptionally done and gives the ukulele an understated vibe where the wood’s grain and pores are still visible, but the instrument exhibits vintage simplicity and a subtle styling appeal.
The neck of the KA-15S feels great while the brass ferrets fit into the rosewood finger quite well. On the sides of the neck are position markers where the fretboard is marked at the fifth, seventh, and tenth frets. The nut is made of plastic and works quite well to keep the strings in place.
One area that could do with some development is the open geared tuners, but that is being a bit picky. The tuners feel somewhat second class and cheap. They do work, but the pearl button feels a bit too plastic-like.
Having said that about the instrument, it is a bit odd to complain about it since it offers amazing value for the price. Regarding tuning, users have suggested using the KA-15S for several weeks to get used to the strings, but before then you are likely to experience the strings slipping a bit causing tuning problems.
The sound of the instrument is where the KA-15S shines. It is a soprano with the classic ukulele sound and does a great job of producing a balanced and even tone. It is so good that most people would be unable to tell the difference between it and a ukulele costing ten times more.
Today, it is almost unmanageable to find a high-quality ukulele at an affordable price. However, the KA-15S manages to provide good value for money by blowing expectations out of the water. It has received numerous reviews online with most being positive. Whether you are getting started with ukuleles or are a seasoned guitarist, the KA-15S is a great instrument.
2. Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Ukulele
The Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Ukulele features unique “tattooed” aesthetic, which offers amazing value to a budding ukulele player or even an experienced musician. It features a mahogany top, back, sides, and neck with a rosewood fretboard.
The design carved into the Tattoo Concert ukulele by Luna Guitars is inspired by Hawaii tattoos, i.e., black ink on brown skin. Luna Guitars has stated that the design is based on a Hawaiian turtle, which is a symbol of endurance and longevity rendered in a Polynesian tattoo style.
The Luna Tattoo ukulele oozes character and style. It features mahogany construction, and there is some amazing richness to the wood grain. It is a well-made instrument considering that it is priced below $100. Its finish and fit are impressive, especially around the frets and neck.
The ukulele has 18 frets, which is a great extension from smaller soprano ukuleles. The Tattoo ukulele by Luna Guitars is already properly set up right out of the box. It comes strung straight from the factory with Aquila strings, which are some of the best in the industry.
Like any other ukulele, the Luna Guitars Tattoo ukulele requires a break-in period for the strings, which can last for a few days as the strings stretch. It also comes with a gig bag, which means that you can protect its finish from scratches, dings, and dust.
The Luna Tattoo Ukulele has an impressive tone. It sounds better than what you would expect such an affordably priced ukulele to sound. The ukulele’s sound has even made a television appearance courtesy of the hit show “America’s Got Talent” on season 11 where the eventual winner used it to play.
The bottom line is that there is much to like about the Luna Guitars Concert Ukulele. Its engraved tattoo design helps to set it apart from the other ukuleles in the market. It has a wonderful sound, it is extremely well set up and easy to play, and is priced below $100. It is great for the beginner, intermediate, and even professional ukulele players.
3. Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele
If you are ready to move on from a beginner ukulele to something better, the OU5 concert ukulele should be one of your top picks. Oscar Schmidt is a division of Washburn, which is a very reputable manufacturer of instruments and this ukulele is not only gorgeous to behold but also produces a quality sound.
The strikingly beautiful finish is one of the most striking things about the Oscar Schmidt OU5 ukulele. It features koa tonewood on the top and sides, which has a very attractive pattern and grain. It is quite hard to find an instrument within this price range that is as stunning as the OU5.
Still, there is a small issue since the instrument uses koa laminate and not solid koa. A solid koa ukulele would cost three times as much as the OU5, so to keep the costs down, koa laminate was used since it was the sensible option.
The glossy finish looks great and feels amazing. Looks aside, the OU5 is a well put together instrument. Right out the box, it is well set up, and the action is nice and low. It is always good when manufacturers make an effort to do a proper setup at the plant, so the ukulele is ready to play upon arrival.
It features Grover chrome tuners, which are a nice touch and after breaking-in the string, it tunes quite well. The new nylon strings do take time to stretch and settled, so don’t be surprised if your OU5 does not stay in tune too well during the first few days.
Regarding sound, the OU5 sounds just like a good concert-sized ukulele should. Its brightness is distinctive, and the notes ring out clearly. A solid koa wood ukulele would likely sound mellower and benefit from the wood’s aging effect, but the OU5 offers the resonance and warmth you would ever need in a ukulele in this price range.
If you would like to update from your lower-priced ukulele and would like a more serious instrument, but are not ready to spend upwards of $300 for one, the OU5 offers a good balance regarding quality and features. An all-solid wood construction would be great, but it would be significantly more expensive. Overall, it is a stunning looking ukulele, easy to play, and a lot of fun.
4. Godin 36080 Ukulele
The Godin 36080 is handcrafted in Canada and a great option for an intermediate to advanced ukulele player. It features a cedar top for warmer voicing or a spruce top for brighter voicing. It features a chambered mahogany body.
It is not a completely acoustic ukulele and features an onboard pickup and preamp with equalizer adjustment. The instrument truly shines when you plug it into an amp. The Godin 36080 is a premium instrument, and the price reflects that.
The 36080 is a professional-grade instrument and since it is so finely crafted, it is highly unlikely that you will need to upgrade anytime soon. The instrument is practically flawless with low action, a perfectly radiused fretboard, and amazing fit and finish.
The Godin 36080 not only feels high end but also looks the part. It is more of a modern art piece with no imperfections or flaws on the finish you can identify. From the reviews, it seems that the manufacturer is quite consistent when it comes to setting up the instruments at the factory.
If you pay for quality, you obviously expect to have a great experience from the beginning to the end, and the Godin 36080 certainly does not disappoint. It features D’Addario Titanium strings that are perfectly matched to this tenor ukulele.
The Godin 36080 ukulele is truly an acoustic/electric instrument. In fact, it could be somewhat more electric than acoustic. One thing you will notice is the missing sound hole at the body’s center. In its place is an onboard slider adjustment for bass, mid, treble, and volume.
If you play the 36080 acoustically, it still sounds amazing, but not as loud and resonant as when it is plugged in. Users have described this sound as ‘a bit thin.’ If you play it solely, it produces enough sound, but if you play it with other acoustic instruments, it will have problems keeping up with the volume.
The onboard equalizer works exceptionally well and lets you sculpt your tone in the way you deem most appropriate. Overall, the ukulele’s pickup system is quite well done and quite loud and clear that you will probably not experience any feedback.
The only downside to the Godin 36080 is its hefty price tag. However, as with other handcrafted instruments, you will get what you pay for. With the 36080 you will be getting an instrument with an almost flawless setup, a solid wood back and sides, and an exceptional pickup system. If you put all that together, you have a ukulele that plays beautifully on stage or in your bedroom.
The Bottom Line
The ukulele has grown in popularity in recent years, which means that different models have flooded the market. You will find a lot of knowledge out there about ukuleles and wade through it all can be sometimes overwhelming.
The information and suggestions provided here should set you on the right path regarding the best choice of instrument for your needs. The four models discussed here will make a wonderful instrument regardless of your level of experience.
The ultimate goal is to find a ukulele of the right fit for you and your lifestyle and accommodate you with many years of enjoyable playing.