Even if you have no musical experience, Ukuleles are among the easiest instruments to learn. That’s due to having fewer and softer strings than a guitar, which helps with learning chords. Plus, Ukuleles have been popular for years, so you’ll find no shortage of learning material. And you don’t even have to spend much to get started.
What to Look For in a Ukulele
A quick Amazon search for Ukuleles will reveal at least a hundred results (if not more), and that’s probably overwhelming for a first-time buyer. Unfortunately, a lot of cheap Ukuleles will harm your learning experience, rather than help. They may sound terrible, due to material choice or substandard strings, and that, in turn, may discourage you from continuing.
But if you keep in mind a few things, it’s not hard to find a Ukulele that will do the trick whether you’re an experienced musician, a first-timer, or you want your children to learn.
- Size: Ukuleles come in four sizes. From smallest to largest, they are Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. The soprano is probably the size most people think of when they picture a Ukulele, and it tends to be the least expensive. But you may want to consider Concert or Tenor if you have larger hands or fingers. Baritone Ukuleles differ from the other sizes; the strings are tuned like the four highest pitched strings of a guitar. That makes for a more natural transition if you already play guitar, but they do sound different than the other Ukuleles.
- Price: If your Ukulele sounds terrible, you won’t want to play it. So finding the sweet spot in price is essential. If this is for your younger children, they probably have less decerning ears and can make do with a $20 instrument. If you’re learning on your own, spend more but don’t feel the need to go over $100. You won’t get a significantly better sound without spending professional level prices (in the hundreds of dollars).
- Accessories: Many Ukuleles come with some accessories now, and that can save you money. Look for an instrument that, at the very least, comes with a case. Other useful included accessories include a tuner, a strap, any learning material, and a pick. Traditionally Ukuleles are played with fingers, but a soft pick can help with the transition from a guitar.
All the Ukulele’s found in this guide are suited for beginners who want to learn the instrument. If you’re ready to move on to something of higher quality, your best bet is to go to an instrument store and test Ukuleles out in person. For everyone else, here are some starting instruments.
Best Overall: Donner Ukulele Mahogany DUS-1
Donner’s Ukulele entry comes with nearly everything you need to get started, including the instrument, case, a tuner, strap, and picks. You can buy them in Soprano, Concert, and Tenor sizing, and the instrument’s fretboards are a little wider than most Ukuleles, making for comfortable play.
Donner used mahogany to make this Ukulele, which isn’t the nicest looking wood on the market but provides a beautiful full sound (at least for this budget level).
Donner Soprano Ukulele Mahogany DUS-1 21 inch with Ukulele Set Strap Nylon String Tuner
Thanks to the use of mahogany, the Donner ukulele is a great sounding instrument for the price. You also get a case, tuner, picks, and strap to get you going right away.
Best Premium Option: Lohanu (LU-S) Ukulele
If you want something that looks and sounds better than Donner’s entry, check out the Lohanu Ukulele. Lohanu constructs its Ukuleles from a combination of mahogany and Sapele wood and arches the back of the instrument. That arch directs the sound towards the opening, which results in a fuller tone.
This kit comes with a case, tuner, straps, picks, extra strings, and video lessons to help you get started. Lohanu even offers a lifetime warranty for the instrument and the included accessories.
Ukulele Soprano Size Bundle From Lohanu (LU-S) 2 Strap Pins Installed FREE Uke Strap Case Tuner Picks Hanger Aquila Strings Installed Free Video Lessons BEST UKULELE BUNDLE DEAL Purchase Today!
If you want to step up to a fuller sound, pick the Lohanu. Its arched back directs sound towards the opening, leading to a better tone. It comes with nearly everything you need, including picks, a case, extra strings, a tuner, and video lessons.
Best Budget Option: Diamond Head DU-101 Ukulele
If you aren’t sure you will stick with the Ukulele, or you this is a gift for young children, the Diamon Head Ukulele is a good choice. Diamon Head chose maple for its wood, which is abundant in North America, so a good cost-cutting measure. Sound does suffer for it, however, but it does come in a variety of colors so you’ll like the look of it.
You’ll need to buy some additional accessories, however, as this kit only comes with a case.
Diamond Head DU-101 Rainbow Soprano Ukulele - Brown
To get started for the least dollars possible, look to the Diamond Head. It costs less than most Ukuleles, but you do give up better tone and accessories. Diamond Head offers the instrument in a variety of colors, though, so you can pick a look that suits you.
Build Your Own: StewMac Ukulele Kit
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could build your own Ukulele. This kit makes the process easier by including precut and shaped wood pieces for the sides, front, back, and neck. Most of what you’ll do is attach the pieces with glue, and a small amount of drilling. Then you pick a finish you like for a beautiful Ukulele. You can choose from Soprano, Concert, and Tenor sizing.
Like the Donner Ukulele, StewMac chose mahogany as its wood of choice, which should make for a good sound. The company promises no woodworking experience is needed, but we feel that’s a little optimistic. This is more difficult than an IKEA assembly, so check out the instructions before buying. You’ll need clamps, bands, a drill, and an awl to complete the project. And you’ll have to purchase all your accessories, as this kit only includes the Ukulele parts. But for your extra effort, you’ll be rewarded with a Ukulele you assembled and finished, which may give you extra drive to stick with learning to play it.
Don’t Forget the Accessories
While most of the instrument suggestions above include accessories, not all of them do. And most of them don’t have everything you need (like lessons or a music stand). So after you pick an instrument, see what accessories it has and look here for anything else you might need.
An Opening Set of Lessons: 21 Songs in 6 Days for Ukulele
Here’s the truth about picking up a new skill. The sooner you see results, the more likely you are to stick with it and get better. That’s especially true with instruments, where it can take ages before you learn to play even basic songs.
21 Songs in 6 Days will have you playing simple songs in no time flat. The authors also offer video lessons and frequently release new follow up books with new songs. This book assumes you’ve never played an instrument before and covers the bare basics of Ukulele theory, from strumming patterns to chord formation.
21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way: Book + online video (Beginning Ukulele Songs)
If you've never played an instrument before, this book is for you. You'll learn everything from strumming patterns to chord progressions and start playing songs almost immediately.
A Learning App: Uke Like The Pros
If you prefer a little more interaction in your learning process, an app can help. You can download Uke Like The Pros for both iOS and Android, and it includes video lessons that range from beginner to advanced players. The lessons cover everything from strumming technique, to fingerpicking, to musical styles like Blues and Reggae. You’ll even learn some music theory along the way, covering topics like whole note and pentatonic scales.
The app itself is free to download, and you can unlock all lessons with a single in-app purchase. When you’re ready for more advanced lessons, you can visit the Uke Like The Pros site, which expands on the lessons with monthly memberships.
A Music Stand: GLEAM Music Stand
You’ll need something to hold your songbook and sheet music, and the GLEAM music stand is perfect for that. It has arms that swing and holds pages in place and adjustable body and legs to get the ideal height. When you’re not using the stand, it folds up into a compact form and slips into an included case.
GLEAM Music Stand - Wide Shelf Bold Pipe Folding Sheet Music Holder with Carrying Bag
Gleam makes a nice portable music stand that folds up and stows away easily. It even includes a case. The stand is adjustable in height, and features two arms to hold your music in place.
A Tuner: Snark SN6X Clip-On Tuner for Ukulele
No matter how nice your strings are, you’ll need to tune your Ukulele occasionally. Changes in weather alone can lead to your instrument going out of tune (that is, the string pitch isn’t correct, either too high or too low). This clip-on tuner is easy to read and easy to use. The swivel head helps you see your results from any angle. You don’t tune Soprano, Concert, Tenor Ukuleles as you would traditional guitars, so be sure to check out instructions specific for your instrument.
Snark SN6X Clip-On Tuner for Ukulele (Current Model)
This tuner clips directly to your Ukulele and features a swivel head so you can easily see it whether your left or right-handed. The padded grip prevents damage to your instrument, and it includes a CR2 battery.