The sound of a ukulele can give us holiday vibes and evoke emotions of bliss and euphoria. People usually associate the twangy sound of a ukulele playing with moments and memories of bliss like traveling, exotic locations, and beaches. A ukulele (also called a uke) is easier to master than a guitar.
Buying a ukulele online can be confusing, as there are many types available, built of various materials. Read our buying guide below to find out which one will suit your style of playing. Later you can shop from our top 10 list featuring the best ukulele brands in India like Kadence, Vault, Mahalo, and more.
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Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player, you have the choice of investing in a uke intended to be used for many years or buy a cheaper one to learn or practice. This buying guide will help you choose a ukulele based on various factors like size or pitch, quality of build materials, extra features, and more.
Sopranos have 12 to 15 frets, while concert and tenor have 15 to 20 frets. All baritones have 19 or 20 frets. More frets make it easier for you to determine the positions for playing various notes. The lesser the frets, the easier it is to play the ukulele.
If you want to play various music styles, we recommend going for a concert or tenor as more frets allow playing more notes. The standard tuning of the soprano, concert, and tenor is GCEA, which are called chords.
The baritone is tuned to DGBE. Consider the type depending on your portability requirements too. For example, a soprano can be a great companion for your travels as it is the smallest. Here is a video that compares the sounds of all four ukuleles for your reference.
Yes, each type of ukulele sounds different. But what about the quality of sound? The build materials determine that. Find out about the commonly used body and fretboard materials and their characteristics from the sections below.
The top of the ukulele body is called the soundboard. It plays a major role in determining the tone and lifespan of a ukulele. Spruce is the most popular soundboard material, mainly because of the bright tones it produces. It is recognizable from its pale color that adds to the uke's aesthetics.
You will find ukuleles with a spruce top producing crisp and distinct tones. The wood sounds good when combined with other tonewoods like mahogany and rosewood for the back and the sides. We recommend buying a spruce top ukulele if you want a visually appealing one for public performances.
Mahogany is one of the most common solid wood materials used for building ukuleles. It is suitable for both fretboard and body. Compared to softwoods like spruce, you will find ukes with a mahogany top producing less bright tones. That's why mahogany is mostly used for making the back and sides of a ukulele.
Mahogany ukes produce crisp and clear mid-range tones. If you are a professional looking for a uke that produces a well-balanced range of tones, we recommend going for a combination of spruce top and mahogany back and sides. The warm tones produced by this combination are suitable for almost all music styles.
Every string has a fundamental pitch. When you strum a string, some associated frequencies higher than the fundamental pitch are also produced, called overtones. Some of these frequencies may make the fundamental tone sound less pleasing. As a fretboard material, the oily pores of rosewood absorb these stray overtones resulting in warmer tones.
Rosewood ukuleles are one of the most sought-after in the world. It is a preferred wood for both the body and the fretboard due to the versatile palette of tones it provides. A lesson to take from here is if you want your ukulele to provide richly ringing overtones, go for one that uses non-porous (also called closed-grained) body and fretboard materials.
The ones with pores will absorb the overtones (and stray overtones), while the others don't. A uke that provides well-balanced tones will have both porous and non-porous types of solid woods as build materials.
Wood laminate is made by gluing several pieces of wood together. Ukuleles made using laminated wood are cheaper. Solid wood ukes use solid sheets of wood and tend to be more expensive since it is difficult to procure and work with solid wood. If you are confused about which type to consider, here are some factors that may help you decide.
Solid wood ukes last longer (maybe decades, if cared for properly!) as they are of higher quality. But they are also sensitive to weather conditions. For example, the humidity can cause the wood to expand (causes tuning and intonation problems), while dry weather can cause cracks to appear on your uke. Solid wood ukuleles sound better than laminate ones as they have better resonance.
If you are a beginner, you have the option of investing in a premium one that you can play for a long time or buy a laminate uke for practicing. If you plan to carry your ukulele to your holiday destinations, a laminate one is the safer bet as it is less sensitive to weather. If you are a performer, you would want to invest in the best solid wood ukulele made of spruce, rosewood, mahogany, etc.
A nut is a piece of hard material present on top of the fretboard. It has grooves that hold the strings in position. It is one of the critical components of a ukulele that can affect its tone, resonance, and sustain. A good nut can also make tuning your uke easier, as there won't be any rattling of the strings.
When it comes to the materials, you have bone, plastic, metal, graphite, ebony, and ivory. In terms of the quality of sound and durability, ivory, bone, and metal are the best in the market. Plastic is commonly found in affordable ukeleles and is prone to faster wear and tear. If you are opting for a premium ukulele, make sure the nut material is bone or ivory.
One of the benefits of playing the ukulele is that the nylon strings are soft and don't hurt your fingertips. But there are other materials as well, like fluorocarbon and steel. Fluorocarbon strings produce a brighter tone than nylon and last longer, while steel produces a twangy tone. We recommend steel strings for seasoned players and nylon string ukuleles for beginners.
You already know how the various build materials affect the quality of sound, and the same applies to the bridge and the saddle of the ukulele. They do one of the most important jobs of transferring the sound from the strings to the soundboard. The bridge is also responsible for holding the nylon strings of the ukulele in place.
The harder and denser the wood, the more efficient the sound transfer would be. So companies mostly prefer hardwoods like ebony, mahogany, rosewood, and teak for making the bridge. A bridge saddle is present on top of the bridge and shares the responsibility of sound conduction from the strings to the soundboard. Just like the nut, the bridge saddle also affects the tonality of the ukulele.
Bone, synthetic (TUSQ, Nubone, and Micarta), and plastic are the materials used to make a saddle. Bone is the superior of the three, offering loudness and clarity of sound. Since plastic is soft, the sound transfer quality is poor. Synthetic materials come in between the other two in terms of performance. Go for synthetic materials or bone if you ever need a saddle change.
To find out if a ukulele is an acoustic-electro variant, look for an equalizer on its side. Such ukes will also have a metallic socket for connecting them to an amplifier using a 6.3 mm jack. A feedback (an undesirable howling noise) normally occurs when a microphone is placed in front of the ukulele (sometimes inside too) for playing the music through the speakers.
The amplified sound that gets played through the speakers will get picked up by the microphone again. The cycle goes on, resulting in feedback. A ukulele connected to an amplifier through a mono jack (a 6.3 mm) won't cause such issues. Here is some extra information for you. Remember the equalizer we talked about earlier?
It's a physical tool that you can use to control the bass, treble, and mid. Basically, it helps you alter the sound of the ukulele, enabling you to play various styles. Some ukuleles come with an equalizer and a tuner too. Beginners will find this feature helpful for learning to tune a uke on their own.
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NuBone Nut and Saddle For Durability and Tuning Reliability
Concert Sized Ukulele
Comes With an Equalizer for Controlling the Bass, Mid, and Treble
Tenor Ukulele Kit
Arched Back Body Results in Stronger Resonance
Semi Electric Baritone Ukulele
Built-in LCD Tuner for Easy Tuning
Soprano Arched Back Ukulele
Rosewood Fretboard Absorbs Stray Overtones
Spruce Top Makes the Ukulele Sound Good Across All Frequencies
Hano Series Tenor Ukulele
Premium Look With Gold Plated Machine Heads and Black High Gloss Finish
Concert Size Ukulele
Pineapple Shaped Ukulele for People Looking for Something Different
Maple Neck Offers Clean Sound by Absorbing Unwanted Vibrations
U-Smile Series Soprano Ukulele
A Fun Design for Kids and Adults Alike
Kala KALA-LTP-S is a soprano ukulele, the smallest of all. Compared to the other four, this type produces sharp trebly tones. Because of its small size, this type is easier to carry too. It has a fretboard made of laurel, which is identical to rosewood as it provides the same type of tone and absorbs stray overtones.
Even though the entire body is made of mahogany (which produces less bright tones than spruce), you will find the uke producing sharp tinny tones that can be expected from a soprano. The NuBone (a synthetic material) nut is better than plastic in terms of durability and intonation but inferior to bone.
We recommend Kala KALA-LTP-S for beginners since this kit consists of everything someone new to string instruments needs. You get free online lessons, a quick start guide, a gig bag, and a tuning app for your smartphone.
Kadence Concert ukulele features an onboard equalizer that allows treble, bass, and volume control. You can connect it to an amplifier using a 6.3 mm jack for stage performances, preventing feedback problems that can happen if a mic is used instead. The seller (not the brand) also provides a tuner that will help beginners and professionals alike.
The nut is made of high-density bone, which is better than plastic and synthetic materials in terms of reliability and durability. Its mahogany body provides clear mid-range tones, while the rosewood fretboard absorbs stray overtones for clarity of fundamental tones.
If you are looking for a uke that can play tones with a bit more bass compared to a soprano, the Kadence concert ukulele is the one for you.
Juarez Tenor Ukulele Kit consists of a gig bag, strap, and two picks. The tenor ukulele is bigger than the concert and smaller than the baritone. A special feature of this ukulele is the arched back, which results in stronger resonance. The solid wood mahogany body and the rosewood fretboard make this uke durable and comfortable to play.
You can expect the fundamental tone to sound more pronounced as the rosewood fretboard will absorb overtones. The nut material is plastic, which is the least durable. You may choose to replace it with bone or synthetic materials like NuBone. To find out if this ukulele type is the right one for you, watch this video to know how a Tenor sounds.
Mahalo Semi Electric baritone ukulele is the biggest of all. It sounds similar to a guitar, hence the least popular of the four. The body is made of nato, a tonewood similar to mahogany in terms of tone and looks. You will find the notes resonating longer as the body is arched. Teak is used to make the fretboard and the bridge.
As teak is dense hardwood, you can expect efficient sound transfer from the strings to the soundboard through the bridge. The NuBone saddle is a fitting companion for the teak bridge. But the nut material is plastic, which may be a drawback.
A convenient feature of the Mahalo semi-electric baritone ukulele is the onboard LCD tuner. The high gloss finish makes this uke visually appealing for public performances. Mahalo Semi Electric baritone ukulele has 20 frets, allowing you to play more notes with ease.
Sopranos are not known for their resonating tones. But if you are a fan of the trebly tones of a soprano and want those overtones to resonate longer, go for the arched back Vault UK-100S. The body is made of mahogany laminate, which is inferior to solid wood mahogany but much more resistant to the effects of weather.
The rosewood fretboard provides bright tones with clear low-end frequencies. The nut and saddle are built of low-quality plastic, which is actually not a drawback considering the affordability of this product. You also get a gig bag and an ebook for learning. The neck of this ukulele is made of maple, a tonewood that can absorb unwanted vibrations of the strings.
We recommend Vault UK-100S to beginners since it is affordable and the combination of build materials provides good value for money. Customers who bought this product find it to be of decent quality for the money.
If you are looking for a concert ukulele built with premium materials, the Kadence Concert ukulele UKCE01 can provide you good value for money. It has a spruce soundboard with a mahogany back and sides. This combination of materials is popular for producing well-balanced tones.
The pale color of the spruce top and the onboard equalizer makes this one of the best ukuleles fit for stage performances. Customer reviews show that the sound produced is loud, and the notes are crisp and clear. We recommend this ukulele for both beginners and professionals as the premium features fit players of all skill levels.
This Tenor ukulele from the Mahalo Hano series will impress you with its distinct high gloss black-colored body. It has a body made of sengon wood, a type of soft, porous wood. Sengon is cheaper compared to other tonewoods, and you will hear the fundamental tones more pronounced because of its porous nature.
It has an arched back that will make the fundamental tones resonate longer. The teak bridge with NuBone saddle will ensure efficient transfer of string vibrations to the body. The plastic nut is a huge drawback for this price. We recommend replacing it with bone or NuBone for more reliability while tuning and for better intonation.
Want to stand out among the crowd? Then go for this pineapple-shaped ukulele. It will be a perfect companion for your travels and hangouts with friends. The body is made entirely of Sapele, a tonewood that closely resembles mahogany in terms of the tone but brighter. The parallel streaks on the body make this ukulele visually appealing.
The neck is made of mahogany, a strong, dense hardwood that provides good low-mid frequencies. Customer reviews show that the strings go out of tune quickly. But this is normal for new ukuleles using nylon strings. After the first few days, the strings will hold fast. There are 18 frets on this ukulele, making it easier for you to determine the position for playing various notes.
Vault UK-003 is an affordable soprano ukulele with a bright yellow body. You will definitely enjoy playing this at beaches with your friends or family. Since it is a budget ukulele, expect affordable build materials. The basswood body makes this soprano lightweight and loud because of its soft nature.
The fretboard material is rosewood, and the neck is made of maple, both known for absorbing unwanted string vibrations and overtones. Vault UK-003 is available in red, blue, black, and white colors. We recommend this uke for kids and adults alike due to its small size and the vibrant colors it is available in. There are 12 frets on this uke, which is the lowest of all types.
An affordable soprano made of affordable woods like sengon and jabon. We recommend this ukulele if you are not strict about the quality of materials but the richness of the tones. Hardwood mahogany is used as the bridge and fretboard material. The nut is plastic, but the saddle is made of NuBone, which works efficiently for sound transfer.
Mahalo U-Smile Series can be a precious gift for your loved ones. Take this ukulele with you while traveling with your friends or family. The bright colors and tones will make that trip memorable. You can choose from pink, white, yellow, and green colors as well.
We are sure you don’t want to sound rough, so to get a smoother experience, learn how to tune your Ukulele first. This video includes steps like;
Need to know more about a very close relative of the ukulele? Follow the link below to read the buying guide for choosing the best guitar for beginners. We have covered topics such as choosing a guitar based on the quality of the build materials, size, accessories offered, and more. You can also shop from our top 10 list featuring the best guitars for beginners to buy online in India.
Before you start shopping for a ukulele, here are some questions you can ask yourself. Invest in one for long-term use or buy a cheaper laminate one, so you can buy a premium one later after mastering the ukulele. Buying a cheaper one also has another advantage. The next time you are out shopping for a uke, you would be more careful about the size and build materials.
You can choose from several ukulele types like soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The choice can be made depending on the type of sound each type produces or the size (think which would be more comfortable for you to hold). Check if an onboard equalizer and tuner are available for easy tuning and sound control for stage performances.
Author - Arun F Xaviour
No. 1: KALA | KALA-LTP-S
No. 2: Kadence | Concert Sized Ukulele
No. 3: Juarez | Tenor Ukulele Kit
No. 4: Mahalo | Semi Electric Baritone Ukulele | MJ4VT3TS
No. 5: Vault | Soprano Arched Back Ukulele | UK-100S
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