Jazz, classical music, finger-style solo, pop music name them all. These kinds of music soothe the soul, even better when played on ukulele by a seasoned instrumentalist. Whether you are a beginner or have played the ukulele for years, picking the best acoustic instrument can be a tough task.
You have to consider several factors, walk around and ask a lot, even do some trial and error testing before finding the best instrument that suits your needs. If you do not know where to start or have little information about ukuleles, do not worry. Here you will find all that you need to know, including how to choose the best ukulele for you.
Size and Sound
There are four major Ukulele sizes. From the largest to smallest are baritone, tenor, concert, and soprano. Each of these sizes greatly impacts the ability to play and the kind of sound produced. Large ukuleles produce greater projections than smaller ones. Additionally, their tones are round and warm.
Being the largest, a baritone ukulele uses a different tuning from the rest. This is probably the best size for beginners. The other three sizes are tuned a fourth than the baritone ukulele. It gives the ukuleles a linear tuning since the strings are arranged from the lowest to the highest pitch.If you are going to perform solo, a loud and full sounding acoustic will do you good. If you are performing as a group, ukulele with a big fretboard will occupy more space between the frets and produce a big and deep sound. It also means you will eat up space needed by other group performers.
Stage Performance or Studio Recording?
Are you planning for a live stage performance or just a studio recording session? Either way, you need ukulele that will best suit your needs. You will most probably need an acoustic-electric ukulele with an onboard pickup system for a live concert performance. With this, you will not need a mic.
An acoustic-electric ukulele has a direct ¼ inch instrument output. You can send this to your speaker for the reproduction of live sound.
For a studio recording session, walk into ukulele shop and ask for a fully acoustic model.
Choosing the best ukulele can be tough if you have not determined your expenditure level. You need to save up enough as you do some mystery shopping to know which kinds of ukulele you can afford.
Several ukuleles in the market will have better craftsmanship and appealing cosmetic features. They feature exotic woods on the top, back, and front. Plus, they will have electronics that allow you to play through an amp. If you wish to acquire one of these, you need to dig a little deeper into your pocket.
When choosing the best ukulele for you, keep in mind that cheap instruments have issues with quality. Most are hard to play and produce poor sound.You can buy an instrument that fits into your budget without compromising on quality. Moreover, you do not want embarrassment while on stage because you wanted to save a few bucks when buying the ukulele.
Ukuleles made of different wood types produce different sounds. Ukuleles are made of woods such as Mahogany, rosewood, monkeypod, koa, acacia, and cedar. As you look around, you will notice that most ukulele bodies are made of Spruce on the soundboard and Mahogany on the sides and back. Mahogany tends to sound mellow and warm. It gives more low-end bass.Rosewood is also a common material for a fingerboard and the sides and back of a ukulele. However, most manufacturers are shifting from this to more sustainable wood sources.
The height between the strings and the top of the fret wires plays a big part in the instrument's playability. This height distance is known as action. When action is low, the instrument is easy to play since you will not need too much pressure to press the strings. On the other hand, high action makes the ukulele hard to play.
There are two tuners for ukuleles: friction pegs and geared tuners. Friction pegs, just as the name goes, tune the acoustic through friction from the pegs. You need to twist the pegs to either tighten or loosen the strings. You will try this several times to get the right tuning.
With this tuner, it is quite hard to keep the instrument in tune since the peg's slight movement greatly affects the tuning. Tightening the screws at the tip of the pegs will prevent even the slightest turning of the pegs.
As a beginner, I would recommend using a geared tuner; this allows for more custom tuning. The gear ratio determines what fraction of the gear will move when you turn on the peg.
It is safe to say that geared tuners are better than friction pegs when you are choosing ukulele.
It can be very easy to overlook the specs of ukulele strings and buy a wrong instrument. Since it is a plucked string instrument, the ukulele strings play an important role in playability. While choosing the best ukulele for you, consider the string length, string material, tuning, metal winding, and brand.
Soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles all have different string lengths. The most common ukulele string brand and arguably the best, is Aquila Nylgut. This brand provides a longer string life at a low cost. It has excellent tuning stability and is highly resistant to climate. Plus, this brand maintains consistency in manufacturing.
Depending on your preference, feel free to choose from five different Nylgut string lines: New Nylgut, Red Series, Lava Series, Super Nylgut, and Bionylon. Other brands include D'Addario, GHS, and Martin.In recent years, ukulele players have leaned towards strings made of fluorocarbon. This is because this material makes the string louder, brighter, and resistant to temperature changes. However, you can buy ukulele with strings made from gut or nylon.
The Best Ukulele for You
The best ukulele for you will depend on whether you are a beginner, advanced player, guitar player, man or woman, or music that you enjoy playing.
If you are beginning, choose a small ukulele like a soprano or concert. Tenors are the best for advanced players. Shifting away from the guitar for a while? Try the baritone; you will not regret it. A tenor is also a wise option if you need more portability.Since most men have big hands, playing the soprano or concert will prove somewhat difficult, tenor and baritone are better options. On the other hand, a woman will find it more comfortable playing a soprano or concert since there will not much need to stretch the small fingers beyond the limit.
It is important to research the size, sound, playability, and other features of ukuleles before buying. This is because you probably are going to enjoy using it for many years. You now know how to choose the best ukulele for you. If you are serious about becoming an instrumentalist, skip the cheap ones. Be patient, save enough, and buy a decent ukulele. You will enjoy the tuning, sound, and playability.