The ukulele is a wonderful, and often overlooked, little instrument! With only four strings, the chords are simple enough for the smallest hands to master, and the softer material of the strings make it a great choice for seniors who want something easy on aching joints or hands. In addition, the uke's small size makes it a breeze to take absolutely everywhere! Once you learn a few basic chords, you’ll be thrilled at the musical library already at your fingertips.
Even good ukuleles aren’t terribly expensive, but don’t go for the absolute cheapest thing you can find. A $20 uke probably won't stay in tune well, so we recommend being prepared to spend at least $50 on an instrument that’ll be fun and rewarding to play. (Some good brands include Kala, Lanikai, Mahalo, Luna, and Oscar Schmidt, but there are plenty of other good options!)
The ukulele can be a great intro to other stringed instruments, like guitar or bass, but if you already know that you plan to transition to guitar, we actually recommend just starting with a small guitar rather than the uke, because the chords on ukulele are different, and when you add those extra guitar strings later, you’ll have a few things to learn all over again.
What size to choose?
Ukuleles come in different sizes: soprano (smallest), concert (standard size), tenor (larger), and baritone (largest). The baritone ukulele is actually tuned differently, in that it’s tuned like a guitar without the two bottom strings.
The smaller the ukulele, the higher pitched it will sound, so those wanting a warmer sound might lean towards a tenor ukulele. The soprano ukulele is cute, but super small, so we don’t actually recommend it for most players. Even players with tiny hands can handle a concert-sized ukulele, and that’s the sound most commonly associated with a uke.
Like acoustic guitars, there’s also such a thing as an acoustic-electric ukulele, which is a uke that can be played on its own without an amp, or be plugged in when amplification is needed. We recommend this for anyone who plans to use their uke in a band or talent show setting, so it doesn’t get drowned out by other instruments.
The ukulele bass
Did you know there’s such a thing as a ukulele bass (known as a U-bass)? It’s a little bigger than a tenor ukulele, with thick rubber strings, and it actually sounds a little like a giant stand-up bass when plugged into an amp. If this interests you, be sure to check one out at a local music shop to see how it feels!