The ukulele is quickly becoming one of the most accessible instruments for musicians of today. Originating in Hawaii somewhere around the 1880’s, the ukulele has gone through plenty of changes throughout the years, being available for many different prices and variance of styles. When looking to purchase a ukulele, all the factors you need to determine can seem like quite a lot of research. So with that in mind, we’re going to go over the basics of the ukulele in terms of the sizing, construction, and pricing to give you a better idea of what you need.
Ukuleles typically come in four main sizes: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. The soprano is probably the most common and traditional size, running at about 51 cm (20 inches). Definitely the most readily available, this size is very accessible for beginners and seasoned musicians alike.
The next size up is the concert ukulele, with a length around 58 cm (23 inches). The slightly larger body size gives you a bit more sound projection without being too different from the soprano, and the longer neck gives you a bit more room and range on the frets.
A recent rising favorite is the tenor ukulele, running about 66cm (26 inches). This begins to sound very similar to the upper range of a classical guitar, and with increased room for playing, it is the uke of choice for many professional musicians.
The last main size of the ukulele is the baritone, with the deepest sound and a length of about 76cm (30 inches). This uke is very popular with guitar players because of the easy transition between the two instruments, due to the change in the way the strings are set up. The baritone uses the same tuning as the highest four strings of the guitar.
Koa is the most traditional wood used in ukuleles because it is the main tone wood of Hawaii. Koa-made ukuleles tend to run in the upper range of pricing because they have the purest sound, as well having an attractive appearance due to the exotic colourful grain. Koa, as well as some of the other exotic tone woods will definitely have a higher price.
Another popular tone wood used is mahogany. Since it grows in many different regions around the world, and because of its popularity with guitars, mahogany is a great mid-range option for ukuleles. Typically this indicates a deeper and warmer tonality.
The next most popular tone wood is spruce. Spruce is regularly used for guitar tops because of its light, bell-like tone. Naturally this makes it pair well with a lighter sounding instrument like the ukulele. Since spruce is so readily available, a spruce-made ukulele will be more affordable.
How This Affects Price
In terms of how sizing and tone woods can figure into the price, a beginner’s ukulele in the soprano size can start as low as 30 euros, with the better quality ones for 50 to 100, and go up to our most expensive soprano with exotic tone woods at 325 euros. Generally, the larger the body size will mean an increase in price, but most of the quality concerts, tenors, and baritones will start around 100 euros and go up from there. Of course, prices can change over time, so please check our website for the most up to date prices.
Some good accessories to get for your ukulele would include tuners, travel bags, quality strings, and picks.
You can get a good electronic tuner to clip on to the headstock for as little as 15 euros, and getting your instrument in tune is one of the most important upkeep tasks you can do to have the instrument sounding its best. A ukulele with fresh strings can tend to fall out of tune until the strings stretch out, and a tuner will make this process easier to deal with.
A good case or bag for travel and storage is a must to protect your uke from getting dinged up or damaged. You can a good travel bag for around 25 euros and nice hard case for around 40 euros.
Good quality strings are only about 5 to 10 euros per pack, and changing your strings every few months will keep your ukulele sounding great. We carry quality strings from D’addario, Martin, and Aquila.
In the shop we also have a good range of song books and chord diagrams for learning the basics.
If you’re interested in buying a ukulele, it’s always recommended to do a bit of research and shop around before you get something. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, feel free to stop by the shop and get a feel for what you like!