Ukulele FAQ and Buyer Guide For Beginners
Have you found yourself with some extra time on your hands? Learning a musical instrument is a great way to fill that time, and the ukulele has quickly become a popular instrument for people of all ages. It is easy to learn, portable, and fun! The key to giving any new hobby a chance of taking hold is to start with the proper equipment.
When it comes to picking out the right uke for you, it is important to know what you’re looking for in your instrument. Before you visit our showroom or spend time browsing on HeidMusic.com to start shopping for your first ukulele, there are some things our team of Music Enthusiasts would like you to think about.
If you have any questions on your journey to learn to play the ukulele, reach out to a Heid Music representative today by calling, 920-734-1969.
How do I pick out my first ukulele?
What's the best size ukulele for me?
When you’re picking out your first uke, you’ll be presented with four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. Each individual size will have a different sound and richness of tone. For the beginner, the various sizes will allow new players to find a ukulele that is the most comfortable for each individual:
Soprano — The soprano ukulele is also known as the standard ukulele. It is the smallest and lightest of the lineup, which makes it a perfect choice for children or people with small hands. A soprano ukulele contains 12 to 15 frets.
Concert — With 15 to 20 frets available, the concert ukulele is slightly larger than the soprano and features a longer neck to accommodate the additional frets. It will produce louder sounds and a wider range of notes.
Tenor — A tenor is a popular uke for adults learning to play. The instrument’s 15 to 25 frets are wider than the frets used on the soprano and concert ukuleles. Some new uke players find the wider frets more comfortable to play. Additionally, the larger body creates a fuller tone and is a favorite among performers.
Baritone — The baritone ukulele is the largest of the four types. Its larger body and lower tuning give the baritone a deeper and darker sound. Its 18 or more frets sit on a wider neck that really lends itself to finger picking. A baritone ukulele is tuned differently than the other uke styles which is something a new player should keep in mind.
Are there different tunings for each ukulele?
Beyond the physical size differences among the various types of uke, there are two different tunings to be had. A soprano, concert or tenor ukulele use the traditional uke tuning, GCEA. The baritone version is tuned to DGBE. A uke with the GCEA tuning could be a better choice for the beginner, because most uke tutorials and sheet music books are going to focus on that tuning. However, players who are coming from guitars to the world of the ukulele will find the tuning used by the baritone a natural transition as a baritone uke is tuned the same way as the four highest strings found on a guitar.
What should my first ukulele be made from?
The materials used to build a ukulele will make a major impact on both sound quality and the size of your initial investment in the instrument. Some new players may find some materials more comfortable to play than others. Must ukuleles available for sale at Heid Music will be made from one of four materials, plastic, laminate, solid tonewood and a combination of laminate and tonewood. Here is how the materials can affect a player’s decision to buy a specific ukulele:
Plastic — A ukulele made from plastic is great for traveling because it is going to be able to hand some abuse. Additionally, advances in plastics have really improved the sound quality of uke made from this material.
Laminate — Layers of wood are pressed and bonded together to make the materials to build a laminate ukulele. These instruments are very affordable without sacrificing tone or playability.
Tonewood — These are really going to be the best ukuleles on the market. By using tonewood to build the ukulele, the player is going to get a rich and consistent sound. However, a tonewood ukulele is going to be on the more expensive end of things.
Laminate/Tonewood — For players looking for a ukulele with the best possible sound, but at a lower price point than something built solely from tonewood, a combination laminate/tonewood ukulele could be the answer.
What's the best wood for a ukulele?
When any ukulele player is choosing a new instrument, they find the sound they are looking for means examining the types of wood used to make the ukulele. Are you interested in something with a deep sound? Brighter? Warmer? More mellow? Knowing what you want will make picking out which type of wood you want much easier. The most popular species of wood used to build a ukulele include koa, spruce, cedar and mahogany.
Koa — Is dense tonewood taken from the tropical forests in Hawaii. A uke built from koa will produce a balanced tone with a focused midrange.
Acacia — Acacia ukes have similar properties to that of a koa instrument. The sound is often described as "woody" and the balance between the deep sounds and the bright sounds make it great for fingerpicking.
Mahogany — For a warmer or softer tone than what is produced by a koa instrument, a mahogany uke is the way to go.
Spruce — A ukulele made from spruce will produce bright tones with a lot of ‘zing’ as well as a more dynamic midrange profile.
Cedar — Looking for more mellow or rounded tones? A cedar uke is for you. This material also puts a noticeable emphasis on low notes.
Maple — Dense hardwood with good projection. Maple ukes don't have as much sustain as a koa instrument, but it has plenty of brightness and clarity.
Bocote — If you take the warmness of mahogany and mix it with dark, well-rounded tones, you will get bocote, a dark wood from Mexico.
What brand of ukulele is better for beginners?
Heid Music has a large and diverse selection of ukulele options from most of the most recognizable manufacturers in the music industry. Some of the ukuleles you’ll find in our showrooms and on our website will come from:
To be sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to any choice you make – and the same holds true for picking out a ukulele. However, it’s less important to focus on a particular manufacturer and more important to find an instrument that catches your eye, pleases your ear and you are comfortable playing.
If you would like to spend some time looking at the various ukuleles we have for sale in our showroom, please give us a call today. One of the expert Music Enthusiasts will be happy to walk you through your available options. You can shop our entire ukulele inventory online 24 hours a day!