Best Ukuleles of 2021 [The Entire Ukulele Handbook: How to Play, What You Need and More]

There are a ton of musical instruments out there in the world. Among them, the Ukulele is one of the most popular stringed instruments. In fact, the ukulele is the most popular four-stringed instrument amidst all the different types.

However, as there are a plethora of ukulele models and variants in the market, it can get pretty confusing for someone to choose the right or the best ukulele for them.

Especially, if you look up ‘best ukuleles’ on google, you’ll find literally a ton of results – each having a different opinion of their own. Well, if that’s the case then how can you find the best ukulele?

The answer my friends lies within the question itself. Instead of just looking for the best ukuleles, you have to be a bit more specific if you want to find the perfect one for you.

There is no universal ‘best ukulele’ that is perfectly suitable for everyone. The choice depends on a lot of factors. For instance, some are made for beginners, some for professionals. So, the best actually depends on what you’re looking for and lots of other factors such as price, tonewood etc.

If you’re someone who is really interested in the ukulele, and literally have zero knowledge regarding them – this article is just for you!

This article is basically a ukulele handbook that’s going to cover everything there is regarding ukuleles including how to play, how to choose the right one, and even which one is the best variant for an individual.

By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll possess enough knowledge that will facilitate your decision making and jump start your ukulele journey.

What Is A Ukulele?

Since we promised that we were going to cover everything there is, let’s start with what a ukulele is. A ukulele is a small string instrument that originated in Hawaii. It has similarities of a classical guitar and creates a harp-like soothing tone.

The name “ukulele” comes from the Hawaiian word, “uke,” which means to accompany oneself with a simple melody on an open-tuned guitar or Ukulele. Ukuleles are part of the lute family and usually have four strings with multiple frets.

The first thing you need to know about Ukuleles is that they come in many sizes. They can be as small as 13 inches or less or up to 36 inches long! It is possible for the Ukulele to have only four strings and no frets, but it might also have ten frets with more than four strings.

The strings on the Ukulele are typically made of nylon, but occasionally they can be made from steel or other metals. Therefore, when you buy a Ukulele, it is essential to know what size and type of string you want before picking one out!

If you end up picking the wrong one, you will face a lot of issues while playing. Eventually, that may even lead to the end of a promising musical journey. Therefore, Choosing the right ukulele is very important.

The History & Development of Ukulele

The Ukulele was first created in 1879 after some Hawaiian natives wanted a more diminutive form of guitar to play on the sugar cane plantations. It is thought that the word ‘ukulele means “jumping flea” because its small size makes it easy for someone or something to jump around while playing.

It quickly became a massive hit among locals and indigenous people.  The Ukulele became a staple in Hawaii and was embraced by the people there.

The instrument found its way to America after being introduced at World’s Fairs, where it also became popular among Americans. In 1956 The American Folk Songbook made an appearance of ukuleles with songs like “My Little Grass Shack” and some others.

The Ukulele soon became an instrument of choice for many Americans. It is still popular today, and you can find the small guitar in most Hawaii locales as well as on mainland America!

If you are interested to know more about the origin and history of ukulele in details, check out our standalone article on solely focused on the history of ukulele.

Best Ukuleles of 2021

As we’ve already mentioned this before, there’s no certified ‘best ukulele’ for everyone. It depends on a lot of factors. Therefore, we have segregated that into individual small categories for you to easily find the best ukulele for yourself. Check them out below!

Best Choice for Beginners

Ukuleles are very popular among beginner musicians looking to pick up an instrument and start their musical journey. They are easy to learn, relaxing to hear, and quite easy to carry. That’s why a lot of beginners choose ukulele as their starting instrument. If you’re a newbie and looking for the perfect ukulele, then our post on the best beginner ukuleles will definitely help you out.

The Ideal Choice for Intermediate Players

While some ukuleles are manufactured for beginners, there are some that are meant for advance players or professionals. Experts prefer a more sharp and precise tone that are suitable for recordings or live concerts. Therefore, it is really important that you pick the Best Ukulele created for the Intermediate Players if you want the optimum performance.

Best Ukuleles That Kids Will Absolutely Love

A lot of parents choose ukuleles as their child’s first instrument. The underlying cause behind this wish can be a lot of things. At the same time, children are usually very fond of ukuleles due to their size and playability.

Therefore, there are a lot of ukuleles out there specifically made for little kids so they will enjoy the mere presence of it. Kids special ukuleles usually comes in durable ABS bodies, variant colors, and with an affordable price tag.

However, if you want the best ukulele for your child, you need to be careful and pick wisely as that decision will either put your child into the path of a musician or will end up with the ukulele getting smashed to pieces!

Best Ukuleles for Left-Handed People

I remember the time I tried to introduce my girlfriend into music world for the first time. She had gotten really frustrated as my guitar wasn’t compatible with left-handed people. Thankfully, my ukulele was a maple cut created for all types of orientation and thus saved the day.

I think a lot of left-hand oriented people struggle in this regard. Sometimes people wonder whether can you play a ukulele if you are lefty. Turns out, you most definitely can.

However, there are so many options in the market, yet not much that are suitable for lefties. Therefore, as you can already see – our guide for the best ukuleles for left-handed people is here to help all the lefties pick the right instrument.

Best Ukulele for Soprano Lovers

The first thing you learn about ukuleles is that it comes in 4 standard shapes. Among them, the soprano is the smallest in the family. Due to their compact size, soprano ukuleles are very popular among women and children. However, people with large hands struggle a bit to play them. If you are interested in the Soprano, check out our article where we have picked the best soprano ukes for you.

Best Concert Variant

After the soprano, the concert comes 2nd in terms of size. The concert ukulele is the most commonly found and popular ukulele variant out there. The size of concert ukuleles isn’t too small or too large, it’s just perfect.

Therefore, it can get pretty confusing when you’re looking for the finest concert ukulele in the market. As there is a huge number of products, it’s a safe approach to do your research and act accordingly.

For the Lovers of Tenor Ukuleles

The tenor ukulele is the 2nd largest member of the ukulele family. You might already know that, as the size gets bigger – the sounds starts to get mellower.

However, the tenor ukulele produces a soothing tune that is the fine mixture of sharpness and warmth. They provide extreme comfortability, they are easy to play for people with large hands, and they are an excellent choice for guitar players looking to switch their instrument.

Check this out if you’re looking for the perfect tenor ukulele for yourself.

Ukulele Vs Guitar: Which One to opt For

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering why there are so many similarities between a ukulele and a guitar. If that’s the case, then why not a buy a guitar? Why go for a ukulele in the first place?

In order to provide you with a clear answer and facilitate your decision-making progress, let’s look at the resemblances and differences between ukulele & guitar. That way, you can weigh your choices and make the right decision for yourself. If you’re interested in going into the depth of this matter, our article on guitar vs ukulele can definitely help you out.

Similarities between Ukulele & Guitar

The Ukulele is a member of the lute family, and it closely resembles a small guitar. This similarity can be seen in its construction as well – both instruments have six strings attached to an oval-shaped body made from wood or other material (metal for guitars). The strings are arranged in pairs on either side of the bridge.

There is also a very similar headstock, nut, saddle, and tuning pegs on ukuleles and guitars. Some say that the ukulele is a miniature version of an acoustic guitar. Therefore, it’s relatively easy for ukulele players to play the guitar.

While the Ukulele is a member of the guitar family, it’s not actually related to any other instrument in that group. There are even ukuleles that originated from Portugal, where they were called cavaquinho or little boats!

The Difference between Ukulele & Guitar

While there are a few similarities among ukuleles and guitars, there is a number of differences between ukulele and guitar that set the two instruments apart.

Generally, ukuleles have four strings whereas guitars have six strings. However, some unique ukuleles can have 6 strings similar to a guitar.

The Ukulele favors the treble strings, while guitars place more emphasis on the bass.

Ukes are tuned to GCEA (lowest string is a C), whereas guitars typically tune in EADGBE. This tuning difference means that standard guitar chord shapes don’t work as well for ukes. But if you can lower the pitch, you can tune a ukulele like a guitar.

Almost every Ukulele has fewer frets than a guitar. The most common type of Ukulele has 12-21, while the typical guitar ranges from 19 to 24.

A ukulele’s strings are usually narrower than a guitar string, which is thicker and more challenging to pluck.

Ukuleles are generally more lightweight than guitars. In addition, their compact size makes them really easy to carry around as opposed to guitars.

What Is an Electro-Acoustic Ukulele?

An electro-acoustic ukulele is a uke equipped with an electric pickup that can be plugged into an amplifier or other audio device. The most common type of electro-acoustic ukuleles is acoustic/electric models, which have electronics built into their design. In contrast, solid-body electrics need separate pickups mounted on the body to function.

When it comes to electronic ukuleles, the most common way of doing this is via a piezo pickup mounted on the bridge.

Electro-acoustic ukes are known for providing a rich and loud sound that doesn’t suffer from feedback or unwanted noise like their acoustic counterparts can.

An electro-acoustic’s piezo pickup also sounds far different than a magnetic pickup, which is what you’ll find on the vast majority of acoustic/electric ukes.

Such a ukulele also produces less feedback and unwanted noise than an acoustic uke. This is because it has a built-in piezo pickup rather than relying solely on the sound waves picking up from its body as with an acoustic ukulele.

Why You Should Learn to Play the Ukulele

There’s no denying the fact that ukuleles have a certain charm. And whenever you start playing it, the soothing sound calms your mind. Here’s some of the salient reasons why you should play or learn this amazing four string instrument.

Easy to Learn

Among all the stringed instruments out there, ukulele is pretty easy to learn. As we’ve already mentioned this, ukuleles come with soft nylon strings that won’t hurt or put marks on your fingers.

Therefore, ukuleles are pretty easy to learn – even for complete beginners. In addition, people really enjoy casually playing the ukulele due to the ease of playability. You can even learn to play ukulele by yourself!

Lightweight and Easy to Carry

One of my most favorite features of a ukulele is that it’s really travel-friendly. Ukuleles usually weigh around 1-2 pounds and the compact size make them really easy to be your travel companion.

Very Friendly

Ukulele is one of the friendliest instruments in the world. The ease of playing, the size, the price range, and even the soft nylon strings make it really easy for people to play and pick up.

Therefore, these four stringed instruments are very popular among all types of people – from kids to adults. The friendliness of ukes is another reason why they are so popular in the world.

Comes in a Large Price Range

Another amazing factor about ukuleles is that they come in a huge price range. As a result, no matter how big or tight your budget is, you won’t face any problem finding a quality ukulele within it.

Around $100, you can buy a solid wood ukulele that will not only sound great but last a long time. So, buying a ukulele won’t make you break the bank or take up half a month’s salary!

Fun to play

As opposed to the other musical instruments, ukuleles are of a simple nature – making them really easy and fun to play. Almost everyone can pick up this magical instrument and enjoy its heart melting tunes.

Easy to play Chords

I’ve seen a lot of people struggling to play even the basic chords in a guitar. That mostly happens due to the size of the neck and finger position.

However, as the ukulele only comes with four strings, the basic chords are a piece of cake. The chords that require at least 2/3 fingers or more in a guitar can be made perfectly with just one finger. ( yes, we’re talking about the C major)

Soothing Tone

As a fellow musician myself, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with ukuleles. Trust me on this, the tone of a ukulele is just really unique and beyond comparison to other instruments.

The sound of a guitar or piano are pretty common nowadays. In fact, it has been like that for a lot of time. However, the sound created by ukuleles still have a unique punch and smoothness. Therefore, the soothing tone of a ukulele is enough for someone to pick and learn the ukulele.

Great at Songwriting

Another great use of ukulele is when you’re willing to create a song. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or just wish to do something creative – you can easily do it with a ukulele.

The basic chords and the strumming pattern of ukuleles are so simplified that musicians find it really convenient to compose. In this era of techno and so many other complexities, ukulele provides a simple yet beautiful alternate solution. You can even play any guitar songs on your ukulele and give it a smooth revival.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a uke player

This probably might sound a bit silly, but come on! It’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Any movie he starts in instantly gets good. So, it’s only natural that if he has decided to play the ukulele, it’s undoubtedly one of the coolest instruments out there.

Easier for Guitar Players to Switch

This reason is specifically applicable to guitar players. If you know your way around a guitar, playing the ukulele will get significantly easier for you.

The structure, the strumming pattern, even the chords of ukulele are somewhat similar to guitars. Therefore, it’s really convenient for guitar players to learn the uke. You can even tune your ukulele with a clip-on guitar tuner as well. There is a common notion that, to some extent- playing the ukulele can even make you a better guitarist!

Health Benefits of Playing the ukulele

Now that we’ve covered the reasons behind picking up a ukulele as a learning instrument or switching to one, let’s discuss some of the health benefits of playing ukulele.

Yes, you heard that right! There are many physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from playing the ukulele including better focus, mental peace, and many more.

Playing the ukulele can boost both your mental and physical health significantly. In fact, music overall can be very beneficial to your health. Find out the health benefits of music here.

Some Famous Ukulele Players

The Ukulele is popular in Hawaii and has been played by many famous musicians, including George Harrison, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Roy Smeck. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam also plays the uke on most of his solo songs, as well as having a ukulele track for every other song he’s known to be famous for. Let’s check out some of most popular ukulele players out there.

Ukulele Ike

Ukulele Ike is a nickname for the ukulele virtuoso Edward Kealoha Kalahui. Kalehua was born in 1931 and died on October 19th, 2005, at the age of 74. He became known as Ukulele Ike when he began playing his uke at various Hollywood nightclubs during the tenure of his fame.

George Harrison

George Harrison of the Beatles was said to be one of the world’s most famous ukulele players. George, who had received lessons from his mother as a child in England, played an acoustic ukulele for two songs on The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, in 1963.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley played Ukulele on a few of his early records, including the original version of “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky.” Howard Hughes may have given Elvis one as a gift.  In his 1968 comeback TV special, he also used it by playing some of Jo Stafford’s famous tracks.

Eddie Vedder

As one of the most influential musicians in his time and songwriter, Eddie Vedder has been a ukulele player since early childhood. He used to say that the Ukulele was like an extension of himself. Eddie Vedder says that when he first started playing ukuleles, they were just so easy to learn songs on.

He owns a few ukuleles. One of them is the signature “ukulele” made by Ko’olau Guitar Company for him. It was released in 2007 and became one of the most prominent iconic instruments.

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake is an American songwriter and ukulele player from Denver, Colorado that has been influenced by the folk music of Hawaii and Ireland. His most recognizable ukuleles are decorated with shark teeth or colorful stickers, making them unique to his style.

In 2010 he started a new project on his Ukulele called “The Kinks’ Greatest Hits.” He completely rewrote the songs to sound like they were initially written for ukuleles.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Last but not least, we have to mention the Hawaiian legend – the one and only Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Israel was a songwriter as well as an Hawaiian Sovereignty activist, also titled as the ‘voice of Hawaii’.

Born in Honolulu in, 1951 – Israel was raised in the Kaimuki community. He started impressing people with his ethereal voice as early as the age of 11, starting with his brother and cousin.

One of his most notable works is revamping the popular classic by Judy Garland, and turning it completely into a masterpiece. Nowadays, the song is heard so often that people only know one version of it – the one where we hear the beautiful strumming accompanied by his heartwarming voice.

Unfortunately, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was identified as a hyper-obese and suffered a lot of health issues due to his high BMI. He passed away at an early age of 38, in the year of 1997.

Best Ukulele Brands (sv-3600)

You probably know that there is an ocean full of ukulele manufacturers and models in the market. While all of them promise quality, very few of them succeed in delivering.

Through a number of high-quality products that create beautiful tone and has good longevity, some of the manufactures has earned their title of being the ‘best ukulele brands’ in the market. When you’re thinking about purchasing the best ukulele, choosing one of their models will definitely be wise.

Types of Ukulele (sv-3600)

Generally, it is a known fact that the ukulele comes in four different types. They are Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Soprano ukulele is the smallest and the baritone is the largest member of the uke family tree.

However, it’s not confined within this only. There are so many different types of ukulele – each created for a specific purpose. These various types of ukes come in different sizes, shapes, and even sounds quite different as well.

Shapes of Ukulele (to be included in types)

How to Take Care of a Ukulele?

Keeping It Neat and Clean

It is kind of a general knowledge that you should keep your precious instruments tidy and clean them properly. In case of ukuleles, this is a very important factor if you want to maintain the quality for a long time.

If not, dust and sweat combined can badly harm the wood. So, it is advised to clean your ukulele after you’re done playing for the day. For best results, you need to learn how to clean a ukulele the right way as well.

Proper Storage

Restring on a regular basis

Consider Humidity Effects

Be cautious with Capos

Ukulele Build Materials (Not sure if this should be separate or under the anatomy)

Plastic

Laminated Wood

Solid Wood

Mahagony

Rosewood

Cedar

Ukulele Anatomy: Exploring all parts of a ukulele (sv-1900)

Body

Head

Tuner

Neck

Fretboard

Bridge

Soundhole

Body

Strings

Ukulele Accessories

Carry Case

Tuners

Picks

If you have nimble hands, there’s always an option to play ukulele with a pick.

Strings

Usually, ukuleles come with nylon strings. But in some cases, you can string a ukulele with metal strings if you want. Be cautious as they metal wound strings have more tension than regular strings.

If you’re a beginner musician, it’s wise to have an extra set of strings as ukulele strings can easily break if you’re not careful.

Capos

Buying Guide (simple yet informative)

Secondhand Ukulele Buying Tips

FAQs (Include response post qs)

How Much Should I Spend on A Ukulele?

How to play a ukulele if you have long nails?

You can play a ukulele with longs nails, but the nails of your chord hand must be short. Not everyone’s Dolly Parton you know!

What Should Advanced Players Look For In A Ukulele? ( Include in the Buying Guide Section )

Note Range

Fret Spacing

Wood Type

Portability

Bottom Line

First of all, congratulations on becoming an expert on ukuleles! If you’ve read through, you already know that the world of ukulele is vast.

Therefore, it can get pretty confusing to find the ‘best ukulele’. It’s kind of similar to looking for the perfect fish in an ocean. Thankfully, you’ll find it a bit easier to find the right pick with our help. Feel free to comment below if there’s any queries that we didn’t cover.