So you want to play ukulele. But how much should you spend on one? That is the question, and it all depends on how much money you have to spend of course.
As with most instruments, ukuleles can vary in cost from less than $100 to a thousand dollars or more for the most ornate instruments. If you are just starting out learning some ukulele basics, you'll want to budget for a quality instrument that offers a nice, warm sound without over or under spending. Here's some things to keep in mind as you shop around.
Ukuleles can be made from a variety of different materials. Cheap ukuleles are often made with plastic or laminate woods. These materials change the tone of the sound you get from the instrument and are also susceptible to issues long term. Laminate woods can come apart when they are exposed to changes in humidity, and plastic instruments can crack. Musicians also find that the frets and neck of cheap instruments are usually poorly aligned, catching your hand and leaving tiny cuts along your fingers as you play. Lastly problems with tuners that don't keep your instrument in tune can be a hassle with cheap instruments.
As you explore the world world of ukulele, it may be a good idea to invest a little extra money and get a real wood instrument. This will give you a better sound, and typically manufacturers spend a lot more time on the construction of these ukuleles to ensure they will live a long, healthy life. In general, you should expect to spend between $50 and $150 on your first ukulele, and take the time to look for a trusted brand. Brands like Lanikai and Cordoba are known for their relatively inexpensive instruments for those who are entering their first round of ukulele basics.
Ukuleles come in many shapes and sizes. The best instrument will not only be one that sounds great and is built with quality in mind, it will also be the one that fits the player. Different body styles can change the way the instrument feels against the body and the way you play. Some "toy" ukuleles have odd shapes to make them stand out, but most of the serious brands rely on body shapes similar to a traditional guitar. You will notice the difference as you move from the $25 price range to the $75+ price range.
The sound of your instrument is also greatly influenced by the strings. Some people recommend purchasing a set of quality strings and immediately replacing the strings that were on your instrument from the store. Fresh strings have a brighter sound and can definitely bring to life an instrument that was gathering dust in a store. Plan on including a spare of new strings in the cost of your ukulele purchase just to be safe.
One way that some lesser quality manufacturers capture the attention of new ukulele players is with extravagant decorations. While the artwork can add a special flare to the instrument's appearance, the reality is that spending more for a painted or engraved instrument rarely pays off in terms of quality or playability. If you find an instrument that sounds and plays great, we're certain you can appreciate the beautiful natural wood look, and the simple accents that come with it.
In general, beginners can get a solid ukulele for $50-150 without a problem. Just make sure you do your research, understand the different types of ukulele materials, and inspect your instrument for signs of damage to the top, bindings and neck that may indicate future problems.
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