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What ukulele is best for a beginner?

“I’m a beginner – what ukulele should I buy?” This is a question that I have been asked so many times over the years, both at festivals and in email / telephone enquiries. For a beginner looking to buy their first ukulele, it can be quite overwhelming. There is so much to consider – size, build quality, solid wood or laminate, strings, acoustic or electric, etc. Of course, there is a lot of buying advice online but it can often be conflicting – and this can add to the confusion. In this guide, I’m not going to recommend one specific ukulele for a beginner, but rather describe what I feel are some of the best options, and how they differ from each other.

What size should I buy?

Without doubt, the first thing to decide upon is which size to buy. There are four common ukulele sizes, and ANY one of these could be suitable for a beginner.

Soprano

Sopranos are the size which most people view as the classic, archetypal ukulele, both in terms of appearance and sound. Typically 21 inches in length, they are the smallest of the main ukulele sizes. Standard tuning is the same as the larger Concert and Tenor ukuleles (GCEA). They tend to be the size that children will begin to learn on.

A Soprano would be a great choice for a beginner, although it would be a mistake to dismiss it as purely a starter instrument. There are many professional musicians who view the Soprano as their ukulele size of choice.

Concert

Concert ukuleles have a slightly longer scale and larger body, which gives them more volume and sustain and a fuller sound than a Soprano. They measure around 23 inches (approx. 58cm) in length, and are typically played in standard tuning (GCEA).

A Concert can still give you that classic ukulele sound which you will get from a Soprano size, but the extra frets and larger body allow more scope for intricate playing and melodies. As such, it could also be a great beginner ukulele.

Tenor

Tenors have become very popular recently, and are larger than concert ukuleles. They normally measure 26 inches (66cm), with a scale length of 17 inches (43cm). Standard tuning is the same as Sopranos and Concerts (GCEA), but the larger body is able to produce a louder, more resonant sound.

If you are looking for a larger ukulele with a louder sound, a tenor would be an excellent choice for a beginner.

Baritone

Baritones are the largest instrument in the ukulele family and are renowned for having a warm, deep and mellow sound. Baritone ukuleles measure around 30″ inches (76cm) and are tuned differently to soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles. They are tuned the same as the top four strings on a guitar – DGBE – and often will have a low, wound D.

As such, if you are coming from a guitar-playing background and would like to be able to transfer your existing fretboard knowledge, a baritone could be the perfect choice for you.

A handmade, solid wood ukulele

Of course, a major consideration when buying your first ukulele is deciding how much you are prepared to spend. This will determine the build quality of the instrument and the materials used to make it. While the temptation as a beginner can be to decide that you are ‘not good enough’ to justify buying a good quality ukulele, the counter argument is that you are far more likely to progress and perhaps most importantly enjoy playing a better quality instrument. By spending a bit more, you can then get an instrument made from real wood and set up correctly in a workshop which means it will be much more comfortable to play.

All Noah Ukuleles are made with solid woods (not laminate) and are built and set up by experienced luthiers in a small workshop. Having a well-set up ukulele which you enjoy playing should hopefully give you the best chance of making progress and developing your playing.

Hopefully this guide will help you in choosing your first ukulele, but of course if you have any questions please get in touch by sending an email to: matt@noahukuleles.com

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