We Found the Best Ukulele for Beginners

Don’t have time to read this whole article? If you want to know which ukulele is our choice as the very best ukulele for beginners, I recommend the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. The build quality and beautiful design, paired with its great overall sound and super-competitive price, make it a no brainer for beginner ukulele players.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, something special happened: Those in quarantine discovered the ukulele.

With nowhere to go, Americans and people around the world found happiness in that tiny, four-stringed guitar synonymous with Hawaiian music. In fact, nearly one million people contributed to the increased demand for ukuleles.

And that number includes me, a longtime guitar player of 20 years. While in quarantine, I ordered a ukulele by D’Angelico that I immediately fell in love with. Why? Because ukes are fun and they simply sound happy.

Also, they’re light, easy to hold, and whether or not you have some general guitar skills, you can easily figure out the basic chords on a ukulele and start playing songs immediately.

Of course, before any of this happens, you need to buy a ukulele! Luckily, there are plenty of great — and affordable — options for beginners.

Here Are Seven Ukuleles for Beginners

Kala KA-15S Soprano Ukulele

Kala KA-15S Soprano Ukulele

Pros:

  • Super affordable. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, this is the ukulele for you.
  • Great sustain for a soprano. Smaller ukuleles struggle to project and sustain, but that’s not the case on this model thanks to its all-mahogany body.
  • Decent build quality. The neck feels smooth and the body feels solid.

Cons:

  • Potentially too small. But that’s not the fault of Kala. Soprano ukes are small and difficult for some people to play, especially if they have larger hands.

The standard-sized Kala KA-15S Soprano Ukulele has been a favorite among beginner uke players because of its price and surprisingly high build quality.

Kala has established itself as a leader in today’s ukulele market. The KA-15S stands out for a few good reasons:

  • The sound is great. When shopping for a uke, you want the strings to project loudly, in addition to that percussive sound of your strumming on muted strings — and this model delivers on that.
  • I really like the look and feel of the satin finish.
  • And, of course, the price. You can afford to buy one for yourself and one for your significant other if you really wanted to.

I also appreciate the GraphTech NuBone nut, which adds to the high-quality build factors of this ukulele.

No case is included with this model, but that’s pretty typical for a ukulele.

• • •

Luna Henna Dragon Mahogany Tenor Ukulele

Luna Henna Dragon Mahogany Tenor Ukulele

Pros:

  • Fun henna design. This will especially be popular among aspiring female uke players.
  • Pickups included. That’s right! If you plan to gig with your ukulele, you can plug in this model.
  • Pau ferro fingerboard. When buying a uke, you need one with a fingerboard that allows you to move quickly, and pau ferro is a tonewood that allows just that.

Cons:

  • Not everyone needs pickups. You may love the way this sounds unplugged and the design, but you don’t need the pickups, which bring the price up.

If you’re looking to buy a tenor ukulele, which is slightly larger in size and deeper in sound, you can’t go wrong with the Luna Henna Dragon Mahogany Tenor Ukulele.

Its all-mahogany body produces super rich tones, especially in the midrange and bass, which is what you want on a tenor uke.

The biggest hangup potential buyers of this uke will have is the pickup system. Most people know going into purchasing their instrument if they’re going to gig with it or not. If there’s a chance that you might, you’ll definitely appreciate having the on-board pickup, which does a great job at amplifying the uke’s true acoustic tone.

But even if you know that you won’t play live in front of an audience with this uke, there may be a reason to still go with it: The pickup system features an on-board tuner. A lot of ukuleles struggle to stay in tune after an extended period of playing, so having the on-board tuner is a huge convenience factor. You’ll need to decide if it’s worth paying the extra money for it, though, as similar quality ukuleles without pickups cost $50 to $100 less.

• • •

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Pros:

  • Big, full sound. The quartersawn mahogany top, back and sides brings out the best possible tone in this uke.
  • Beautiful design. The ivoroid binding and hand-inlaid abalone rosette, in addition to the satin finish, really makes this ukulele stand out.
  • True uke tone. It helps that this is a larger, concert model ukulele, but if you’re looking for a true-sounding ukulele, this is the one for you.

Cons:

  • No case. But there are a bevy of third-party case options to choose from.

After I got done playing this ukulele at my local guitar shop, I couldn’t believe the low price tag. The Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele sounds way more expensive than it really is, which is a good thing for beginners who may or may not continue with the instrument.

Besides the price, though, there’s plenty of features that beginners will love from the ukulele.

First, the larger concert-sized model is going to be comfortable for players with larger hands. The wider neck and fingerboard makes shaping chords significantly easier, in addition to fingerpicking scales and song melodies.

If aesthetics are a driving factor in your purchasing decision, then I recommend buying the Cordoba today. From the inlays around the sound hole to the beautiful binding, this is probably the best looking ukulele on this list.

Now, a concert-sized ukulele isn’t for everyone. Some prefer the smaller sound of a soprano, or standard-sized uke, but those with some guitar background will appreciate the larger size of a conert model.

• • •

Fender Fullerton Jazzmaster Uke

Fender Fullerton Jazzmaster Uke

Pros:

  • Fun design. Who doesn’t love a Jazzmaster? And it comes in two great colors.
  • Impressive neck and fingerboard. You’ll be surprised how smoothly the maple neck and walnut fingerboard play.
  • Solid pickup system. When plugged in, you get a great amplified ukulele sound.

Cons:

  • A little expensive. The onboard electronics and unique Fender design brings the price up on this uke.

To take advantage of the increased demand for ukuleles, Fender recently unveiled its Fullerton ukulele series, named after longtime associate of Leo Fender, George Fullerton. And in typical Fender fashion, the guitar maker went outside the norm for ukuleles.

And while you can buy a uke that mimics a Fender Strat and Telecaster, my favorite is the Fender Fullerton Jazzmaster.

This uke is packed with a variety of woods, including a spruce top and mahogany body. The maple neck and walnut fingerboard help give this uke a warm sound with plenty of response.

As a larger, tenor-sized ukulele, the tone doesn’t exactly sound like a traditional ukulele, but it’s certainly close enough.

I think this is a great uke to play around the campfire, but if you ever play live or want to do some recording, the onboard electronics will be helpful. Even if you don’t need the pickup, the onboard EQ includes a tuner, which is extremely convenient.

If you’re a fan of Fender guitars and want a solid-sounding ukulele, you can’t go wrong with the Fullerton series — it’ll certainly turn some heads and spark a conversation!

• • •

Kala Learn to Play Color Chord Soprano Ukulele

Kala Learn to Play Color Chord Soprano Ukulele

Pros:

  • Super affordable. You can buy one for each member of your family at this price.
  • Perfect for younger children. This ukulele comes as a kit, complete with free online lessons.
  • Bright markings help you shape chords and play songs.

Cons:

  • Only one color. And it’s black, which isn’t a very traditional ukulele color.

Pegged as the ultimate beginner’s ukulele for people with next to no musical knowledge, the Kala Learn to Play Color Chord Soprano Ukulele is a great option for not only younger children, but also adults and more elderly people who want to give the ukulele a shot.

The investment into this ukulele is so minimal, that even if you’re slightly interested in learning how to play the uke, I would recommend buying it. As a bonus, you also receive access to the Kala Ukulele app and online lessons, which are great for helping you on your ukulele journey.

The lessons are more geared toward children, but I could definitely see it be used as a perfect activity for mom and dad  to play along with their children. My toddler son is only three right now, but I’m definitely considering working with him through lessons like this when he’s a little older.

In terms of sound, I would describe this ukulele as “good enough.” It’s made of composite woods, which, as you know, isn’t real tonewood, so it’s not going to sound amazing. But for beginners who want to learn how to play, it’s perfect.

• • •

Martin T1K Tenor Ukulele

Martin T1K Tenor Ukulele

Pros:

  • Extremely high quality. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Martin.
  • Great warm sound. You can thank the Hawaiian koa wood for that authentic ukulele wound.
  • Stunning design. You’ll love the exposed grain on this natural body.

Cons:

  • Expensive. The Martin name — and the brand’s high quality construction — is going to cost you more than the typical beginner’s ukulele.

For the beginner ukulele player with a higher budget, the Martin T1K Tenor Ukulele is a model that’s not only great to learn how to play the instrument on, but also one that’s going to last a lifetime, like most guitars Martin makes.

After the first strum of this ukulele, you can immediately experience the sound of the high quality Hawaiian koa wood, which produces a very warm, traditional ukulele tone.

More importantly, this uke feels super solid. It’s braced with sitka spruce wood, which is strong, but also flexible.

This may seem minor, but the T1K includes a hand-rubbed satin finish makes this uke look extra nice.

Of course, the one downside to this ukulele is its price. Martins aren’t cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for. If you’re a beginner and are OK investing a little more money into your first ukulele, you certainly won’t be disappointed. But I tend to recommend spending less on your first instrument and upgrading to something nicer at a later time.

There are some advantages to going with a tenor ukulele. The fingerboard is a little bigger, which makes shaping chords easier. And, as is the case with this Martin ukulele, tenor ukes are louder.

This ukulele includes a gig bag. 

• • •

Gretsch G9126 Ukulele

Gretsch G9126 Ukulele

Pros:

  • Easy transition from guitar. If you’re concerned about learning all new chord shapes on an ukulele, this might be for you.
  • Warm tones. The all mahogany body guarantees the warmest of tones.
  • Longer scale opens up higher frets that are typically not found on more traditional ukes.

Cons:

  • Not a real ukulele. While Gretsch calls this a ukulele, it’s not a genuine ukulele. Still, you can mimic a good ukulele sound.

If you’re a guitar player who wants to buy a ukulele, but doesn’t want to learn the subtle differences of dropping from six strings to four, you should check out the Gretsch G9126 Ukulele.

Gretsch Guitars is known for its high-quality craftsmanship and this ukulele certainly delivers on that legacy. The all-mahogany body feels sturdy and sounds super warm, which is what you want from a ukulele.

Of course, this ukulele isn’t like the others on this list because it’s a six-string ukulele that’s tuned like a traditional guitar. The advantage, of course, is that if you know the basic chords of a guitar, you can apply them directly to this ukulele.

The one downside is that it won’t sound like a traditional ukulele, especially if you’re strumming all six at once, like you would on a traditional acoustic guitar. This does, however, allow you to develop your own unique sound.

As a bonus, Gretsch includes an on-board pickup system by Fishman, that sounds great when amplified for a live crowd or when recording.

The price on this Gretsch ukulele is affordable enough that I suspect many guitar players will want to make this their first ukulele.

• • •

Ready to Strum Your Ukulele?

I’m hoping your first ukulele is on its way to your home so you can start learning chord shapes and all of these great ukulele songs for beginners. And if you want to learn more about who makes the best exemplars of this little instrument, check out my article on the best ukulele brands out there

Remember, while you can spend a lot of money on any instrument, including ukuleles, beginners shouldn’t spend a ton of money on their first instrument. You need time to practice and figure out if this is a lifelong hobby. If it is, then you can upgrade to a nicer ukulele at a later time. The good news about nicer ukuleles is that they’re really not that expensive, compared to standard guitars.

The Best Ukulele for Beginners — My Choice

The Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. In my opinion, the very best ukulele for beginners.

If you’re a beginner and want the best ukulele for your money today, I’m a big fan of the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele. It looks great and sounds even better. The price is ridiculously low, meaning it fits any beginner’s budget.

All of that being said, if you have the budget for a more expensive ukulele, like this Martin model, don’t let the fact that you’re a beginner discourage from buying something nice. If you don’t like playing it after a while, you can always sell the instrument through a site like Reverb or eBay.

While this article is geared toward buying guitars, it has some tips that can apply to purchasing a ukulele.

Once you have your uke, feel free to sign up for online lessons that can take your playing to the next level.

Happy strumming!

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