What Kind of Ukulele Should I Buy?
Some of you must have bitten the bullet and decided to get a ukulele (bravo!), because a handful of you have been asking which one to choose when starting out. After asking my musician friends, inducting a newbie into the ukulele world and drawing from my own experience with string instruments, here is what I came up with.
IT NEEDS TO STAY IN TUNE. The biggest factor in buying any stringed instrument is making sure it stays in tune. Many of the lower-priced ukuleles go out of tune much too quickly. Then you get frustrated because it sounds terrible and it ends up sitting in the corner of your living room next to the board games, making you feel endlessly guilty for the rest of your days. We can't have that!
You want to invest at least $50-$60 in a ukulele if it's a soprano, especially if you are buying it online and not going to a music store to hold it in your hands first. On the other hand, I wouldn't spend too much on one, either. The idea is just to get playing.
IF YOU CAN, GO TO A MUSIC STORE. Mostly because I'm a purist and believe that your instrument, like a pet or a boyfriend, tends to find you. Also because you would be supporting the local music market. I brought my friend Madeleine- a total music newbie who got ukulele fever from the recent blog posts- to a local music store here in Nuremberg, Germany. I thought she would choose a soprano uke, the standard starter size for beginners. But she gravitated to a tenor ukulele, which has a larger body. Who knew?
Holding a few ukuleles in your (or your kids') hands, even if you don’t know how to play, gives you a closeness to the instrument. They are like little friends, after all! The resonance, weight and feel, even how it smells, affects whether or not you’re going to love it. Because you want to love your instrument! Most ukuleles in stores are also available online, and really, if you are just wanting something ASAP, that also works.
WHICH SIZE? Case in point about Madeleine and the tenor uke. Which one should you get? There are a few different sizes of ukuleles. Soprano is the smallest, followed by concert and tenor. Forget the baritone if you are just starting out. Most people choose a soprano ukulele because of it's price and higher tone. It is much smaller, a bit harder for adults to fit their fingers onto it, yet easy for a child to get their hands around. The tenor or concert ukuleles on the other hand are more expensive, but if you want to grow into the instrument, might a better option. I play a concert Cordoba 10cm and love it.
Really, there is no wrong way to go with which size you pick- they all do the same sweet job at the end of the day.
SO, WHICH UKE SHOULD I GET? Here are a few models that were recommended by my friends or that I was able to test out myself: Kala KA-15S -This soprano is the lowest price you want to go and have it still stay in tune. Cordoba 10 or 15CM- What I play and what I love- a concert model, so a size larger from the tiny body of the soprano. Kala KA-S- A step up soprano from the 15S, and probably a bit more dependable. Lanikai LU-21- recommended from a few musician friends, I'm sure is a fine option to start out on. Dolphin soprano- even though these look like Disneyland and Las Vegas had a baby, this Kala-branch model is supposedly great. Made out of plastic instead of wood, this is the price point exception at $45, and could be fun for kids to learn on.
APPS. There are a ton of apps out there to tune your ukulele and even show you where to put your fingers. iPhone's Uke Pal, Tuner Lite and Ukulele Tuner are all free and a great tool to have so you don't have to bring a tuner with you everywhere you go.
I hope this was a clear place to start! Let me know in the comments below which uke you went with and how it's going so far... I can't wait to hear. Good Luck and feel free to get in touch with any questions!