Uke Can Do It

Ukulele Buyers Guide

 

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, feel free to reach out to a knowledgeable Heid Music representative to learn more!

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How do I pick out my first ukulele?

A ukulele can be a very affordable way to get into music. In fact, there are plenty of great ukuleles available at Heid Music with a starting price of around $40. Sure, someone might be able to find a ukulele at a big box store with their favorite superhero on it, but that isn’t going to be much more than a child’s toy. Choose a uke that catches your eye but be cautious when prioritizing looks over materials. You may end up with a pretty ukulele that doesn’t provide you with the sound you’re looking for. Of course, as the overall quality of the materials improves, features are added, and more time is spent on craftsmanship and construction of the instrument, the investment increases. The most expensive ukulele is not necessarily going to be the best one for a particular player.

To help narrow down your search for the right ukulele, check out this Ukulele Buyer’s Guide created by talented musician, popular YouTuber, and ukulele teacher, Katie of the One Music School YouTube channel

 

 

Are there different tunings for each ukulele?

Uke_Tuning2

Beyond the physical size differences among the various types of uke, there are two different tunings that specific types utilize. A soprano, concert or tenor ukulele use the traditional uke tuning, GCEA. The baritone version is tuned to DGBE.

 

Which tuning is best for beginners?

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.

For example, playing a G chord with standard GCEA tuning, you use a D chord shape. A G chord on the Baritone’s DGBE tuning looks more like a guitar’s G chord, with the highest string held at the third fret. 

 

The image below shows different fingerings for a standard ukulele tuning of GCEA (left), and a baritone G chord (right).

 

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:

 

Flight Quilted Ash Soprano UkuleleSoprano — 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.

  • Check out the Flight DUS410 Quilted Ash Soprano Ukulele. This is the perfect on-the-go ukulele. Small and lightweight, the Flight DUS410 features a bone nut and saddle, as opposed to plastic, for a perfect pitch. And with an included lightweight gig bag, you’ll be ready to play no matter where you are!

 

 

 

Ohaha Cynthia Lin Signature Concert UkeConcert — 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.

  • Check out the Ohana Cynthia Lin Signature Concert Ukulele. This piece is the product of a collaboration between Ohana and ukulele artist and YouTuber Cynthia Lin in an attempt to make the perfect ukulele for the discerning student.

 

 

 

Lanikai Quilted Maple Tenor UkeTenor — 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.

  • Check out the Lanikai Quilted Maple Tenor Ukulele. It’s packed with features including a Fisherman® Kula preamp and tuner, high-quality D’Addario strings and a wider nut for perfect player comfort.

 

 

 

Cordoba Striped Ebony Baritone UkeBaritone — 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.

  • Check out the Cordoba 21B Striped Ebony Baritone Ukulele. This ukulele is perfect for beginners who are already familiar with acoustic guitars. It’s built from solid spruce wood, the most popular wood for guitar soundboards.

 

 

 

Identifying parts of a ukulele

 

 

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, with materials listed from most affordable to most expensive:

 

Plastic — A ukulele made from plastic is great for traveling because it is going to be able to handle some abuse. Additionally, advances in plastics have really improved the sound quality of uke made from this material.

  • Plastic Ukulele for Beginners: The Flight TUS35 Travel Soprano Ukulele. This uke is extremely durable, affordable and with its small size and included carrying case, it’s a breeze to take on-the-go.

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.

  • Laminate Ukulele for Beginners: The Ohana CK-10 Concert Ukulele. These beautiful models feature a satin finish that brings the graining to light. These reliable pieces are perfect for beginners whether at home, in a workshop or in the classroom.

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.

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.

  • Tonewood Ukulele for Beginners: The Kala Concert Ukulele. This uke will show consistent quality for beginners all the way to professional players. With walnut tonewoods and a simple satin finish, you can be sure this ukulele will consistently provide clear, rich tones.

 

 

What's the best wood for a ukulele?

Uke_Wood_Sample_copy

While plastic ukuleles are generally better choices for younger players due to their durability, any player choosing a new instrument will find that ukuleles produce different tones depending on the type of wood the instrument is built from. 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.

It’s important to remember that regardless of which wood suits your playstyle best, wooden ukuleles will need some additional care as opposed to plastic models. Because wooden instruments are more prone to cracking and warping under climate change, players should consider purchasing humidification kits, like the Boveda 2-Way Humidity Control Starter Kit.

This humidification kit is extremely easy to use. Simply tear open the plastic wrapper on the outside of the pack and remove the Boveda. Put the Boveda in one of the provided fabric holders and place it in the instrument case. It’s important to remember to keep the case closed, even when you’re playing your ukulele. This will keep the case humidified for the longest time possible, for up to three months.

 

 

What brand of ukulele is better for beginners?

 

The great thing about ukuleles is that there is no specific brand that’s better for different ages or player levels, allowing your instrument to be a free extension of your personality or playstyle. While the Flight series is popular for children because of the plastic bodies, each brand typically features lower end models for beginners and higher end models for more advanced musicians.

 

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!

 

 

 

Getting started with your new ukulele: accessories to consider

 

So you just bought your new ukulele and are ready to get jamming, but you’re not sure where to start in your uke journey. Other than humidification accessories like the Boveda mentioned above, there are numerous other products that will help you get started in mastering your new instrument:

 

Tuners - The D’Addario Eclipse Tuner is an extremely popular and affordable choice from a trusted brand. Simply mount it on the headstock of the ukulele and adjust the screen so it’s easy to see while you’re tuning. The screen offers fast and accurate readings that are easy to read. 

Also consider our Ukulele Tuner & Pick Bundle, which includes the D’Addario Eclipse Tuner and three felt pics, designed specifically for the ukulele. 

 

Beginner Music Books - The Easy Songs for Ukulele music book features some of the most popular classics from the Beatles to Johnny Cash. Better yet, the songs are presented in the order of difficulty, so you can improve your playing just by practicing from front cover to back!

 

Cases - Heid Music carries a wide variety of ukulele cases. When looking for a case, there are a few important factors to consider:

  • Style of ukulele - Because baritone, concert, soprano and tenor ukuleles all vary in size, it is important to make sure that you are selecting a corresponding case based on what type of ukulele you have.
  • Style of case - Soft-cover cases are typically made from soft cotton with layers of padding and fleece for better protection. They may feature more pockets for pick and tuner storage and are generally more inexpensive than hard-cover cases. While hard-cover cases do tend to be more expensive and feature less pockets for storage, there’s no substitute when it comes to protecting your instrument.

 

Strings - Heid Music also carries a wide variety of ukulele strings from name brands such as D’Addario and Martin & Co.. Much like selecting a case for your uke, it is important to pay close attention to the style of strings you are looking to purchase. For example, it’s important to note that depending on the type of ukulele you own, you’ll need a specific string type:

  • Soprano strings: 21 inches long for a 13 inch scale length
  • Concert strings: 23 inches long for a 15 inch scale length
  • Tenor strings: 26 inches long for a 17 inch scale length
  • Baritone strings: 30 inches long for a 19 inch scale length


Learning a new instrument can seem daunting, but the experts at Heid Music are standing by ready to help you with any questions you may have! Stop by one of our five locations today to browse the various ukuleles we have for sale in our showroom, or give us a call to learn more! One of the expert Music Enthusiasts will be happy to walk you through your available options. You can also shop our entire ukulele inventory online 24 hours a day!

 

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