April 02, 2018

You’ve seen all the cool videos, and your bestie has been talking about how much fun they have every Wednesday at the uke jam. But how the heck does one go about picking out their very own first ukulele? Stephanie Snell rings in with a few ukulele purchasing tips for beginners from her years on the Ohana front line:  

Consider your budget, and aesthetic preferences

The first consideration is likely budget—part of the ukulele’s popularity has arisen from being travel-friendly and affordable. True instruments are available at approachable prices, which can make Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (UAS) a real problem once you get started! With a budget settled, decide what’s important to you aesthetically—if you want to pick up and play your ukulele, you’ll become a proficient ukulele player in no time!

Ohana SK-15BWE

Try out a few sizes to find your perfect fit

For most adults, a concert or tenor scale ukulele is more comfortable to play than a soprano—but the best way to find your new ukulele is to try holding a few and see what feels right. Ukulele necks come in a variety of widths and finishes, and everyone has a unique feel for what suits them best. 

 

Take a strum and stroll around the store

Even if you only know a ‘C’ chord (like me!) it is a good idea to strum or pluck the ukulele to see if you care for the tone. Even within Ohana’s starter line, individual ukuleles have their own voice and qualities of tone. These qualities can be changed somewhat with good setup and string choice, but the bones of the tone are in the build and source materials.


Ohana CK-450SMP

Feel the neck for prickly frets

A properly set-up ukulele should not have fret ends extending beyond the neck of the instrument.  It should be smooth and pleasurable to slide your fingers up and down the side of the fretboard. If this isn’t the case, and you know that particular ukulele has received a proper setup, then it has likely undergone a change in climate, especially humidity. 

Sharp Frets
Sanded Frets

 


Sharp Frets Sticking Out


No Sharp Frets

Since Ohana ukuleles are set up prior to shipping to our Authorized Dealers, this should not be an issue for any of our instruments.

 

Where to start:

SK-10 Colors The Soprano Color Series features hues from yellow, to neon blue, to lavender. These ukuleles are soprano size, better suited for those with smaller hands.

sk-10 colors 

SK/CK/TK/BK-10 Our standard student model is an affordable way to get started playing, regardless of which scale length best suits your playing style. Geared tuners make getting in tune an easy fix, and Aquila strings keep the pitch true.

 

SK/CK/TK/BK-14/14E This is my top pick for a beginner’s ukulele!  The laminate build allows it to be sturdy enough for a classroom setting, but the finish and binding make for a sharper-looking uke. I especially like the darker, more saturated finish on the 14 series, and love that they are available with a passive pickup, too.

 

CK-14CL I would also highly recommend the Cynthia Lin signature beginner uke, modeled after our CK-14. These ukuleles are packed with valuable added features like upgraded strings and fret position markers. Each CK-14CL purchased directly benefits the artist herself, Cynthia Lin.

ohana cynthia lin cl ukulele

SK/CK/TK/BK-20 Maybe you’ve played other stringed instruments before. Maybe you just like the tone of a solid top, and have it within your budget.  Ohana’s -20 series is a budget friendly way to get a bit more tone and sustain from your ukulele.      

SK-20

SK/CK-25 This will be as high as I dip for suggestions for beginners!Ohana’s -25 series is an all-solid mahogany model with a satin finish. The solid build will become more resonant as you play the instrument and ‘loosen up’ the soundboard.Because of their all-solid build, the -25 series ukuleles are best kept in a case with a humidifier if you live in a changing climate. They are a real steal for an all-solid-build ukulele, especially as they’ve been set up and quality inspected in Long Beach!

 

Final Thoughts

Really, I think the most important thing is to play regularly, and have a good time playing. The whole idea and feeling behind the ukulele is community and joy. Pick a ukulele that feels right in your hands and makes you want to play.  Pick an instrument that brings you joy to hold and hear, and your investment will return exponentially. - Steph

"Stephanie Snell has worked at Ohana HQ since 2010. You'll find her preparing shipments, answering customer questions, and convincing Lola, the office dog, to do most of her work. Being asked "Which ukulele sounds the best?" on multiple occasions inspired this post."

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