How To Choose Your First Ukulele

store-wideShopping for your first ukulele can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for.  There are a lot of factors to take into consideration.  You want your first ukulele to be something that you enjoy playing.  The more you enjoy it, the more you’ll play it, and the more you play it, the better you’ll become! and the funny thing about that, the better you become, the more you want to play.  That being said, what makes you enjoy something?  How it feels? Looks? Sounds?  All of these things are factors in enjoying an instrument.

What size is most comfortable for you to hold and make chord shapes on? Ukuleles normally come in 4  sizes. The are , Soprano; the smallest one also referred to as the standard size. This one is little and fun, and many times very big sounding, but usually the soprano is cramping for medium-larger size hands, especially as you get to more advanced chords. Also, it has the shortest scale length, usually under 14 inches. This allows the strings to be easily bent out of tune, a common issue with beginners and something to consider when choosing your first one. For children under the age of about 10, the soprano is a good choice because of the comfort of the size and tension. For adults, it is not the most common choice, but it can be a fun size to have in your collection! The Concert is the medium size with its’ own sound and feel. It is a popular size, and the second most requested to the next size up – Tenor; the size used most often by professionals and converted guitar players. It gives the largest range while still being the G C E A sound associated with the ukulele. It is also common on the Tenor to put a low G rather than high G string on the bottom string. This gives a deeper, and usually richer tone with more sustain and depth. Of course, the deepest and warmest sounding one is the Baritone; the largest of the bunch and tuned a 4th lower. Because it is tuned a 4th lower to D G B E just like the high 4 on a guitar, it is considered a bit of its own instrument, or perhaps not the one to start on if you want an “ukulele sound”.

Once you decide on the size, if you have the ability to try some out,  you can figure out what brand has the neck shape that you like most. This will be a complete “preference” step as everyone’s hands are different. If you want to go over this subject just contact us at the store.

Why would looks matter? Because we shop with our eyes first. Something that has strong visual appeal is more likely to be an enjoyable to us than something that doesn’t.  Look at the ukulele.  Look at the wood type, the fit & finish, and the accents.  Take into account the build quality and make mental notes on what you like & don’t like.  Ask questions. Make sure to find out if the ukulele is made from solid wood or laminate wood.  Keep in mind that over time solid wood opens up or “blooms” while laminate wood remains the same. Of course, price will be another key factor, and a laminate instrument can still be a very musical instrument. And the one that looks AMAZING may not be in your budget. Ultimately, if you goal is just to learn with this one, looks are not the most important factor. On the other hand, if you can afford to get something really nice; the more you love your ukulele in every way, the more you will want to play it.

Do you like how it sounds?  This is crucial.  Remember that your “ear” acclimates over time to what you are used to hearing.  Tone is completely subjective and there is no “wrong” tone, just different colors.  If you like the sound, the sound is good. Having found what feels, looks, and sounds good is great, but now we have to try to get one that fits the budget.  Remember, by no means does an ukulele have to break the bank to be a great uke.  Some really good ones are out there at unbelievable deals.  Likewise, the cheapest ukulele isn’t always the best deal.  Be sure to shop at a reputable store with a knowledgable sales staff. Also, remember that ukuleles are like fingerprints, everyone is different. If you find “the one”, then that’s the one to get.  Don’t ask to get one from the back unless you are willing to go through the same process with that one too.

Remember that buying an ukulele doesn’t have to be hard. It can be fun; and should.  You only get one first ukulele so have fun & choose wisely.  ~ Aaron & Andrew from

Hawaii Music Supply – TheUkuleleSite-


Comments 7

  1. Picking out a ukulele in person is always the best plan, but what do you do if the ukulele you desire isn’t available locally. Buying mail-order can be really scary. That said, I’ve purchased 4 ukuleles from HMS this year (2 for me, 1 for my daughter, & 1 for my office) and each has been a joy to play. The most noticeable difference has been the extra care in set-ups, especially the attention given to the frets. The frets on ukuleles I’ve bought elsewhere have frequently needed to be filed/sanded on the edges before feeling good and comfortable. None of the ukes I’ve received from HMS has had any issues what-so-ever. Buying from HMS has been a very satisfactory experience. I just hope I’m able to someday make it to their shop in person.

  2. Andrew, I have a kanilea tenor TP as my primary instrument with MiSi pickup system. I want to get a second instrument for low G songs. Since 95% of w hat I play is High G, I’m looking for a less expensive instrument, but one that will still have that bell like sound and decent sustain when I play the a string at the 10th fret. I can go up to approx $800. A few suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. Hey Doc, The Pono pro classic line is at a better deal than ever. I don’t think anything else in this price range is as good. Thx!

  3. My brother recommended buying my first uke from you. I’ve tried learning the guitar over and over and have finally realized it’s not something I’ll stick with. Working “past the pain” in the left hand just won’t cut it for me – yes, I know, I’m a wimp. I also have pretty small hands, and a bit of arthritis. My brother also has arthritis and said that he has no problem playing the uke, even thinks it’s got exercise for his hands. Anyway, I’m trying to decide between low g or high g. I’ve watched the videos and read the reviews, so I’m leaning towards the low g. However, as this will be my first uke I wanted your opinion. I’m a singer, with a preference towards folk music. Although I have a decent range, my voice is richest in it’s lower registers. I love the traditional uke sound, but am mainly looking for something I can play while I sing. Since the low g has more of a guitar sound to it, it seems it would better lend itself to accompanying a variety of folk songs – such as Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, etc. The other option of course is to go with the high g and have a different sound to these same songs. Just wanted your thoughts before I make my final decision. Thanks!

  4. I am interested in learning the ukulele. Which size would you recommend? I am interested in a very “traditional” sound.

    Thank you,


    1. Soprano is the most traditional sound but you should go with what is most comfortable. For many guys that’s a tenor. Try to get to a store and feel the size differences and see what you think. There is no right or wrong first size and soprano concert and tenor are all tuned the same so they all make the same music. You just get a bigger sound as you go larger in size, typically at least.

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