Tune into Tranquility- Best Ukuleles for Effortless Strumming

Introduction

With a sweet and harmonious tone, Ukuleles are the melodious essence of the Hawaiian culture. These members of the guitar family remind you of tropical islands and the sea. Known worldwide due to their attractive yet compact structures, Ukuleles are versatile and easy to learn.  The learning curve of the ukulele is easier than that of a guitar. If you look closely at a ukulele, you’ll find that there are lesser number of strings compared to a guitar and the tension of the strings is lower. This means that beginners can pick up the chords on a ukulele with ease. If you’re someone who is looking for a miniature music buddy that is highly portable,, then you’ve come to the right place. We have crafted a list of ten ukuleles that have been created to produce music which goes straight to your heart. Choose from a variety of soprano, concert, tenor and baritone ukuleles to appease the ukulelist in you.  

List of 10 Best Ukuleles- Overview

Model Name

Tonewood Type

Number of Frets

Price

Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele

Mahogany rosewood and walnut

12 brass frets

Kala Learn to Play (Soprano Ukulele)

Mahogany and walnut

12 brass frets

Alvarez RU22B Baritone Ukulele

Mahogany and rosewood

18 frets (joined at the 14th fret)

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Mahogany and rosewood

18 frets (joined at the 14th fret)

Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele

Glossed, laminated Koa, nyato and rosewood

16 frets

Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit

Laminated sapele body, rosewood fretboard

18 frets (joined at the 14th fret)

Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1

Mahogany and rosewood

18 brass frets

Lanikai QM-BLCEC Concert Ukulele

Qiuilted maple and rosewood

18 frets

Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele

Hawaiian Koa, rosewood and nato

19 frets (joined at the 14th fret)

Luna High Tide Series Koa Concert Ukulele

Koa, mahogany, walnut and maple

20 frets

Best Ukuleles for beginners under 200$

1. Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano

Why should you buy this?

Topping the list is KA-15S from Kala, a brand that creates ukuleles which caters to the needs of both beginners and advanced level players.  Using mahogany as tonewood for body and neck, this soprano ukulele emanates rich and warm tones. It also features rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Along with 12 brass frets with fret position marks on 5th, 7th and 10th frets on a walnut fingerboard, Kala has added a light, sunburnt finish on the body, neck and headstock of their uke. Matte finish on the smooth textured wood acts as a plus for resonance. KA-15S boasts of having absolutely no ‘high action’ and zero buzzing which means you don’t have to worry about going off-tune mid performance. Its performance is further accentuated by high quality Aquila nylgut strings that will create symphony sweeter than a harp. Light build and minimal, satin finish makes this uke great for regular use. As an instrument for beginners, this uke is easy to play, durable and guarantees good amount of volume with base resonance. Being priced under 200$, this model comes with straps, clip-on chromatic tuner, extra set of strings and a gig bag which makes it totally worth your money.

Who should buy this?

KA-15S is a great option for beginners who are looking for quality ukuleles to learn the basics with premium nylon strings in a moderate price. Seasoned players can also choose this model since it is classy, has a sturdy rosewood fretboard for long hours of playing and a mahogany body for a high-end feel which is budget-friendly.

Pros

  • Mahogany tonewood for rich, warm tones.
  • Aquila nylgut strings for sweet tunes.
  • Light build.
  • Matte finish increases resonance.

Cons

  • Nylon strings tend to go out of tune often.
  • Some beginners may find it expensive.

2. Kala Learn to Play Kit (Soprano Ukulele)

Why should you buy this?

Kala is a popular name in the world of ukes because it creates instrumenets that suits the needs of  beginners,kids and professional players. Learn to Play by Kala is highly economical being priced under 200$.. The kit features a high quality, mahogany soprano uke with satin finish that gives a rich sound. Adding to the quality are premium Aquila nylgut strings for soft and smooth strumming. A special quality open gear tuner, Polynesian Shark Teeth and graphtech nubone nut makes the uke easy to play. The soprano features the shortest scale length and really tight fret spacing tuned G,C, E, A which is ideal for beginners who are just getting familiar with ukes. Along with this, it also has 12 brass frets, mahogany neck and a soft walnut finger board and bridge. Also available in concert and tenor types, the soprano version is most common due to its small size. Apart from the uke, you also get a tote bag from Kala, a 20 page starter booklet to kickstart your playing and information about Kala’s online sessions that will tutor you right. Kala’s tuner app which can be accessed from your phone or computer helps beginners to tune their ukes. You can choose from a plethora of styles like classic, Hawaiian Island, Hawaiian Tatoo and Spruce Top. Pick this kit if you’re looking for a quality kit with a price that won’t be heavy on your pocket.

Who should buy this?

If you’re a beginner who is passionate about ukes, Kala Learn to Play kit is a choice you should seriously consider.. This kit is an overall value package that gives you the perfect instrument you need. Along with this,the online sessions will also guide you if you ever feel lost while playing. You can invest in this kit and be assured that you are sessions are going in the right direction with the right brand.

Pros

  • Aquila nylgut strings for soft and smooth strumming.
  • Mahogany tonewood with satin finish that gives a rich sound.
  • A quick start guide and tuner app to ease you into playing.

Cons

  • Tote bag not padded gives lesser protection to the uke.
  • Tuners need to be bought separately.

3. Alvarez RU22B Baritone Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

If you’re looking for auke  that does the job within a budget without being too fancy, then RU22B is an option that you should consider. Being a uke under 200$, it does not compromise on quality. With a standard mahogany laminate body with satin finish that is durable and classy, RU22B is a Baritone type uke with no electronics.. Featuring a traditional style with no cutaways, it also has an abalone rosette around the soundhole. In this model, you also get a sturdy dovetail joint which attaches the mahogany neck of the uke to the body.  Adding to its classic style is a  rosewood fretboard with 18 frets and dot markers. Accentuating the  vintage make of this model is a real bone nut and saddle that delivers a consistent tone. Furthermore, RU22B has Aquila Nylgut strings and chrome-closed gear tuners with black buttons in the headstock which holds the tuning well. The mahogany wood with a fan-braced top does an excellent job of producing warm, rustic tones with good sustain and intonation.  This makes it apt for musicians who want their ukes to emit the familial sound of tropics.  

Who should buy this?

Beginners who are looking for entry-level ukes within a budget should opt for RU22B. Keep in mind that this model has no electronics so opt for this only if you’re looking for traditional ukes.

Pros

  • Mahogany laminate body with satin finish gives a warm tone.
  • Fan-braced top for good output and sustain.

Cons

  • No electronics.
  • May not cater to professionals.

4.Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

If you like to go old school with your instrument, Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele might be the one for you. With a body of mahogany tonewood for rich tones, this uke also has a rosewood fingerboard and a satin finish. What makes it unique is an ivory binding on the fingerboard which not just offers protection but also makes it more aesthetic. This medium sized uke produces fuller tones due to its longer neck with more tension on strings. This also gets rid of tuning problems. A blend of rosewood and mahogany used in the fretboard of 18 frets eases your struggles during fretting. Also, if you’re a beginner then the large spaces in between frets makes practice sessions easier as you get used to your uke. Cordoba has made use of classic Aquila Nylgut 7U strings for a balanced tone along with abalone-style rosette. With all the necessary features, Cordoba lives upto its name of creating lightweight yet solid instruments that have almost zero cons.

Who should by this?

Cordoba 15CM Concert Uke is medium sized compared to a larger tenor type. Despite its compact size, it scores full marks in terms of hardware and performance.  It’s a great choice for both entry-level and professional players who are looking for an all-round uke under 200$. Beginners will find this model easy to use while professionals can deliver a classic performance with this rustic beauty.

Pros

  • Rosewood and mahogany used in the fretboard for easy fretting.
  • Ivory binding on the fingerboard for an antique look.
  • Large spaces in between frets.

Cons

  • No electronics.

5. Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

Oscar Schmidt has succeeded in creating a uke that is glamorous yet affordable. We welcome the graceful OU5 concert ukulele on our list which is a quality uke for beginners under 200$. With a glossy laminated Koa body, matching abalone purfling and rosette, this model will definitely grab your attention. The body also includes a cream binding that beautifully outlines the uke and also protects the edges from being damaged with use.. in addition,OU5 has a unique nyato wood forming the neck of this model and s a rosewood fretboard with 16 frets. Moreover, if you like your instruments vintage with no modern touches, then this uke will please you with its 100% acoustic design. In terms of tuning, OU5 is packed with good chrome closed-gear Grover tuners to hold the tuning well. Along with this, the model features a rosewood bridge and ABS nut and saddle. In terms of output, the projection of this uke is well balanced and crisp. While this uke does not come with added accessories, it does offer high quality craftsmanship as well as a performance that is worth your money.

Who should buy this?

Oscar Schmidt OU5 concert ukulele is a brilliant choice for beginners because it is economical and of good quality. Due to its build and playability, even intermediate players can consider this uke to be a good option.  Remember that as a beginner when you buy this uke, you might take some time to get adjusted to the instrument. You’ll notice that its nylon strings take some time to stretch but this will give you a good practice with tuning your uke.  

Pros

  • Attractive design.
  • Fully acoustic.
  • Chrome closed-gear Grover tuners to hold tuning.

Cons

  • Less volume.
  • Tone not rich in quality.

6. Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit

Why should you buy this?

Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit is another great option for beginners who are looking for instruments and accessories under 200$. This kit has everything you need to help you start from scratch. Starting with the instrument itself, you get a Bondi MA-C full sized concert uke that has a laminated, natural looking sapele body and an engraved soundhole rosette. A rosewood neck and fretboard with well-spaced 18 frets marked by triangle inlays adorn this model.  Classic Aquila Nylgut strings and chrome die-cast tuners ensure hassle-free playing. Along with this, you also get a well-padded gig bag with compression sponge that is so much better than nylon bags that offer zero protection to ukes. This is a bonus for musicians who often travel with their ukes and require good cushioning to protect their ukes from bumps on the road. Bondi’s starter kit is ideal for beginners as it comes packed with an instructional video course and a skype lesson to guide you during your learning sessions.  In addition, you also get a clip-on digital tuner, felt spectrums, a neck strap and a gold plated bookmark.

Who should buy this?

Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit is perfect for beginners who are looking for a uke and accessories all in one place. It is also highly economical since it is priced under 200$. You don’t just get a quality uke but also an equally good value package that is backed by the promise of a good brand.

Pros

  • Well-spaced fretboard for ease in practice.
  • Padded gig bag for protection.
  • Additional accessories.

Cons

  • No electronics in the uke.

7. Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1

Why should you buy this?

We’re ending this list with another budget-friendly uke that is suitable for beginners and is under 200$. Donner is a popular brand name in the world of ukes and its mahogany DUC-1 is worth your attention. This model is a traditional concert uke with classic mahogany tonewood used for body and neck to give a rich, deep sound. For the player’s comfort, Donner has used rosewood fingerboard and bridge. DUC-1 also features Donner patented, chrome-plated guitar style tuners and a special ABS rosette which adds to its beauty. There are 18 brass frets with markings at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th fret on the neck and at the top of fingerboard. But the uke is not the only thing you get for your money. As a bonus, you get a bag, a uke strap, carbon nylon strings and a digital clip-on tuner.

Who should buy this?

Beginners who are looking for traditional ukes which don’t cost a bomb should opt for DUC-1. Since it can be difficult to choose accessories separately as a beginner, Donner will provide you with not just a quality uke but also add-on items to venture into the music territory.

Pros

  • Mahogany tonewood for rich sound.
  • Chrome-plated guitar style tuners.
  • Accessories.

Cons

  • Not suitable for professionals.

Best Ukuleles for Intermediate to Advanced Players

8. Lanikai QM-BLCEC Concert Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

Exhibiting an amazing blue, stained, quilted maple body, Lanikai QM-BLCEC concert ukulele is a strong contender on this list. Part of Lanikai’s ‘Sun, Sand and Surf’ series, this model has the ‘Surf’ finish that will remind you of your days at the beach. A lot of attention has been paid to detailing to give this uke a high-end feel. With an attractive abalone soundhole rosette and rosewood fretboard, this concert uke will definitely grab your attention. Featuring a solid Fishman Kula preamp system with 3 band EQ (bass, middle and treble), Lanikai has also added a built-in digital tuner making this uke suitable for professionals. Further enhancing the sound quality are high level Deluxe Grover chrome open-gear tuners on a light, slotted headstock. If you’re a player who’s all about that bass, then QM-BLCEC has added premium Nubone XB nut and saddle for an intense bass effect. Along with this, chrome strap buttons and D’Addario strings act as a bonus to the player in terms of playability. A no-tie rosewood bridge makes it easy to change strings quickly while playing. The number of frets in this model is 18 placed on a rosewood fretboard. In terms of sound quality, Lanikai’s laminated wood body gives a powerful acoustic tone and the Fishman system emits an amplified sound which is naturally balanced. Other equally attractive versions of this model are available in the Sun and Sand series that come perfectly protected in a Lanikai foam case.

Who should buy this?

Lanikai QM-BLCEC is ideal for stage and recording by professional players who are looking for that wow factor in their ukes. Along with having a stunning exterior, this model scores full marks in terms of sound quality and loudness of tone.

Pros

  • Fishman Kula preamp system with 3 band EQ for balanced tone.
  • Nubone XB nut and saddle for enhanced bass effect.
  • Attractive body.

Cons

  • Expensive.

9.Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

Fender lives upto its brand name with its Montecito Tenor Ukulele. Displaying a telecaster headstock shape, this traditional tenor sized uke has used Koa as its tonewood to give a light tone that is balanced and has depth. Montecito has a comfortable, glossy nato neck, acrylic abalone rosette and a rosewood fretboard with 19 frets. The overall feel of the model is intensely Hawaiian. If you’re looking for a typical uke that does not have any electronics, then this one’s for you. For tuning stability, Fender has added a set of 4 sealed, nickel die-cast tuners and a no-tie sonokeling bridge to make string changes convenient. A bone nut and saddle is also present. This uke grows in its performance as you keep using it and the solid Koa wood will add to the richness and warmth of tone. The only drawback of Montecito is that it’s not as loud in projection as you’d expect it to be.  We personally loved the iconic telecaster shape of the uke which will look great if you plan on performing in front of a live audience.

Who should buy this?

Intermediate players who are want a uke that is moderately priced and is intrinsically traditional in terms of sound and physicality should consider Fender’s Montecito. Despite being a brand name famous for making guitars, Fender does not disappoint in the domain of ukes.

Pros

  • Traditional Koa body for a bright tone.
  • Nato neck for comfort.
  • A no-tie sonokeling bridge for fast string changes.

Cons

  • Less volume.
  • No electronics.
  • Gig bag not padded.

10.Luna High Tide Series Koa Concert Ukulele

Why should you buy this?

Luna as a brand is known for incorporating the tribal essence of the woods in their models.  The Hide Tide Series by Luna is inspired by the celestial moon in its design. Ideal for intermediate to advanced players, this concert uke has a tonewood made up entirely of Hawaiian Koa which emanates a full bodied sound that has intensive depth. Crafted from tropical woods, the model has a soundhole lined by an abalone ring. If you look closely at the fretboard with 20 frets, you’ll see abalone wave fret markers that ‘rise’ as they move upwards towards the symbol of the moon on the headstock. This is a unique feature that makes this model stand out from other ukes on the list. The cutaway makes accessing the higher frets easier. A mahogany neck, soft walnut bridge and fretboard make sure that the tone emitted is crystal clear. If you’re someone who likes your music loud, then the onboard preamp system will raise the bar in terms of amplification. Open style tuners ensure that your guitar is tuned just right. The use of maple and walnut woods for binding coupled with a satin finish makes this model a strong contender when compared to its counterparts. This series includes a branded travel bag too.

Who should buy this?

Intermediate to advanced level players who need the earthy, close-to-nature feel in their ukes should opt for Luna’s High Tide Series. Naturally aesthetic, Luna offers not just brand name but an outstanding quality for its price.

Pros

  • An exclusive feature of abalone wave fret markers.
  • Onboard preamp system.
  • Koa tonewood gives a sound with depth.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Ukulele vs Guitar:  Similarities and Differences

Similarities

Guitar and Ukulele are cousins of the stringed family of instruments. The sound of these instruments is generated when strings are plucked or strummed over a hollow wooden body. What’s also similar is a fretboard which include strings suspended over a long strip of wood (the neck) that’s separated by metal bars (frets). Both the stringed instruments are easy to carry around making them perfect for live gigs.  In terms of similarity of shape, guitar and ukulele are crafted in the outline of the number ‘8.’ Furthermore, these two instruments feature cutaways and can be both acoustic and electronic. Feel free to customize these instruments and tune them according to your needs. 

Differences

Guitar

Ukulele

  • Nickel-plated strings
  • Bigger in size
  • Nylon strings
  • Smaller in size
  • Less portable
  • Highly portable
  • 6 strings
  • Tuning – E A D G B E
  • 4 strings
  • Tuning- G C E A
  • Difficult to play
  • Easier to play
What is the difference between a concert and tenor ukulele?

Concert Ukulele

Tenor Ukulele

  • Usually 23” long- smaller in size
  • Lesser string tension leading to lower volume
  • Usually 26” long- bigger in size
  • Higher string tension leading to louder volume
  • 15” scale
  • 17” scale
  • Frets placed closer to each other
  • Fretboard joins the body at 12th fret
  • Frets placed farther to each other
  • Fretboard joins the body at 14th fret
  • Less expensive
  • More expensive
What is the difference between plastic and wooden ukulele?

Plastic Ukulele

Wooden Ukulele

  • Simpler ukes with less maintenance
  • Mostly available in Soprano size
  • Complex design and higher maintenance
  • Available in all sizes
  • Wears out over time
  • Solid wood’s ukes improve with age
  • Unaffected by water, heat or cold
  • Cheaper
  • Negatively affected by water, heat, cold and humidity
  • Expensive
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FAQs

1. Should I buy an Electro-Acoustic Ukulele?

Electro-acoustic ukuleles are similar to acoustic-electric guitars. Theses ukes have nylon strings and can be played either plugged or unplugged into an amplifier. Most electro-acoustic ukes are designed to be plugged to emit an amplified sound which deters the acoustic side. So if you’re a player who is looking for a rock n’ roll loud vibe from your uke instead of a traditional tropical sound, choose an electro-acoustic uke.

2. What type of Ukulele is best for beginners?

Being a beginner, there a two things that you should look for in a uke. First is the price and whether it fits in your budget or not. Choose a moderately priced uke to get the hang of playing and then switch to a higher-end uke once you’ve mastered the art. Second is the ease of playing. This involves the comfort level you’re at with your instrument and if the fret spacing is good enough for you to play. Opt for a uke that has a well-spaced fretboard so that you can learn easily without getting confused. We recommend you to also consider Ukulele starter kits by Kala and Bondi that come packed with accessories and a priced moderately. These kits will guide your learning sessions in the right direction.

3. What  are  the  4  strings  on  a  ukulele?

There are 4 strings on a ukulele namely- A, E, C, G.

5. Can  you  play  a  ukulele  like  a  guitar?

While playing a guitar is more complex, ukes are easier to strum on because of lesser string and smaller size. You will need a pick to play the guy most of the times but you can play ukes with bare fingers. All the chords that work on the guitar also work on the uke. A, D chord on a guitar is similar to a G on the uke. If you’ve played the guitar before, you can imagine your uke to be a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret without the low E and A strings. Baritone ukes closely resemble guitars and are tuned like the top 4 strings on a guitar.

6. Can  you  strum  a  ukulele  with  a  pick?

Traditionally, in the Hawaiian Islands, ukes were played with fingers using the index finger and the thumb. As ukes became popular globally, people started using picks to experiment with different kinds of sound emitted from the uke. So it is perfectly okay to use a pick for strumming ukes if the song or tune demands it. You need not use a heavy pick to strum the nylon strings of a uke. A medium or thin pick will be suitable. Always hold the pick with a standard grip and avoid clenching it too tight. Keep your wrists and arm relaxed as you strum.  

7. How  many  frets  does  a  ukulele  have?

Different types of ukes have varied number of frets. Soprano ukes have 12-15 frets depending on the model. Concert ukes have 15-20 frets. Tenor ukes, which are bigger in size have 15-25 frets. Baritone ukes have 18 frets.  

8.  How  many  octaves  does  a  ukulele have?

Standard ukes have two octaves from C4 to A5 at the 12th fret to C6 at the 15th fret if available.

Conclusion-

Ukuleles are versatile instruments that cater to kids as well as adults. They are comparatively cheaper to purchase than guitars and easier to play. Our list of 10 ukes has been crafted in a way that it gives options to both entry-level and professional players. If you want to take up playing a uke as a hobby, opt for the ones that are acoustic and economical like Donner’s DUC-1 and Cordoba’s 15CM. But if you aspire to become a pro at playing the uke, choose an instrument that will help you grow as a musician. Investing in ukes that are a little expensive will definitely fetch you a higher quality product that will last for a long time.

When it comes to design and tonewood, decide on the kind of sound you want from your uke. Acoustic ukes with mahogany tonewood like the ones from Kala will emit a rich, deep sound. Electric ukes like Fender will give a modern touch to your tone. Quilted and textured bodies with attractive colours will add that wow factor to your uke while you perform on stage. For beginners, we recommend Kala’s Learn to Play kit as an efficient and economical choice to guide your learning sessions. For professionals, we recommend Kala KA-15S and Luna High Tide Series ukes to take your performance a notch higher. So whichever uke you decide to buy, make sure you choose one from a trusted brand that will provide value for your money. We wish you good luck and endless strumming!

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