If you’re looking for the best beginner ukuleles that are playable, affordable and tons of fun, look no further. These instruments are ideal for anyone who wants to learn but doesn’t have the budget for one of the very best ukuleles. They’re also perfect for anyone who wants to learn but doesn't know where to start, and wants a fun instrument to explore on.
Beginner ukuleles are perfect because they are small, only have four strings, and even the most sausage-fingered among us can learn a tune within minutes of picking one up. But what is the best beginner’s ukulele, and how much do they cost?
In our roundup of the top beginner ukes we’ll run you through the inexpensive models designed to be taken anywhere, to the more serious models for the committed learner. Whatever your playing level and budget, you’ll find something for you in our guide to the best beginner ukuleles.
If you want to read more in-depth buying advice, click the 'buying advice' button above. If you'd rather get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.
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Best beginner ukuleles: MusicRadar's choice
Deciding on the best beginner’s ukulele comes with a couple of caveats. Put simply, different learners will have different requirements and will be better suited to different variations. For total beginners, kids and those with smaller hands, the Kala KA15S is a great choice. Its construction and tone put it above the ‘novelty’ bracket, yet its still keenly priced and will provide a solid entry point to learning the ukulele.
Older learners may benefit from the increased size and scale of a tenor or baritone, so the best beginner ukulele for such players is the Kala MK-B Baritone. It looks and sounds incredible, especially at the price you can pick it up for now.
Best beginner ukuleles: Product guide
Chances are, if you’ve seen a cheap and cheerful ukulele out in the wild, it’s a Mahalo. The ubiquitous little instruments are, for many, the easiest and quickest way into learning the ukulele. The Mahalo Kahiko Series MK1 is cheap enough to be accessible for most people, yet it offers the same playing experience as instruments costing far more.
As your playing progresses, you’ll likely want to upgrade to something that offers a touch more finesse and class. But, as a starter for ten, you can’t go far wrong with the basic Mahalo model, our top pick for the best beginner’s ukulele.
A step above the bargain entry-level models sits the Kala KA-15S. This one takes the basic outline of those cheaper beginner ukuleles and improves on them in every way. We loved the mahogany body which, with its satin-smooth finish, was a joy to handle.
The choice of mahogany is a sound one, as it balances out the high end of the tone nicely, making for a more rounded, mellow voice ideal for strumming. For us, this is the best beginner’s ukulele for anyone looking to commit to learning all the intricacies of these fun little instruments.
Read the full Kala KA-15S review
For something slightly different, the Cordoba 15CM Concert is well worth considering. It differs from a standard soprano in a couple of ways, notably in larger, more rounded body shape and in the slightly larger scale length. This enables it to deliver a larger, richer tonality that suits alternative playing techniques without losing that inherent playability of a ukulele.
The Cordoba 15CM Concert beginner’s ukulele is constructed from mahogany and with a rosewood fingerboard, elevating above the cheaper models. This makes it a decidedly grown-up instrument you’ll get years of enjoyment from.
As the largest of the ukulele family, the baritone models deliver a deeper, richer tonality and, as such, as well-suited to playing in conjunction with others as part of a ukulele band. In this situation, the increased low-end complements the higher-pitched soprano models to create a wonderful balance.
The Kala MK-B is an ideal first baritone model. For under $/£100 you get a mahogany body and walnut fingerboard which work together to deliver great tones and reliability build quality. We’d have liked something other than plastic at the bridge, but for the money this is one of the best beginner ukuleles around.
While it’s easy to equate ‘beginner’ with ‘cheap’, it doesn’t have to be the case. Not everyone learning the ukulele is a kid, and sometimes adults want nice things, right? The Fender Fullerton Stratocaster uke is a frankly gorgeous instrument which brings a smile to the face. It takes inspiration from Fender’s most famous guitar line, and transposes everything down into an attractive, concert-voiced ukulele with style.
The Fullerton Strat features a built-in pre-amp so you can plug it into a guitar amp for extra versatility, while its mahogany and spruce body ensures great projection when playing acoustically. It’s not cheap, sure, but there’s a lot to be said for your first uke being one you can’t keep your eyes off.
The Ibanez UEW5 is a neat concert-voiced ukulele designed to encourage you away from simple chord work. The body features a cutaway segment which opens up the higher frets for access, meaning you can comfortably navigate your way around the fretboard with ease.
This makes the UEW5 a great first ukulele for guitar players, who can translate and transpose licks they know onto the uke, but the general high levels of build and tonality make this a great option for any beginner.
As the slightly larger brother of the other Cordoba in the list, we wanted to highlight some of the benefits of choosing a tenor uke over a smaller concert or soprano model. The Cordoba 15TM is the respected ukulele brand’s entry-level tenor model, and delivers high levels of build quality and a tone that far exceeds what you’d expect at this price point.
Tenor ukes are ideal for older learners (with larger hands) as they can be more forgiving, especially when you’re learning. You’ll find chords easier to fret and the larger body projects a warmer, richer tone which is great for learning simple patterns before you progress to more intricate techniques. In the Cordoba 15TM, there exists a highly playable, great sounding alternative to the smaller soprano models.
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Who’s to say a ukulele can’t be as attractive as a high-end acoustic guitar? The Kala Teak Tri-Top is, as far as ukuleles go, quite the picture. The combination of teak, a grainy dark wood from Southeast Asia, with lesser-known woods for the neck and fingerboard make for a visually stunning uke, make no mistake.
The Tri-Top also boasts onboard electronics, so you can amplify the sound for performances, making this an all-round package which – for the price – is pretty hard to beat. We’ve highlighted the tenor version here but there’s also a smaller concert version for those who prefer something dinkier.
Best beginner ukuleles: Buying advice
The joy of the beginner ukulele comes in its near-instant gratification. With such a short scale length and four easy-to-fret strings, anyone can pick up a beginner’s ukulele and knock out a tune with very little practice. It’s said that if you can count to four, you can play one of these instruments. But what sort of things should you be looking for when choosing from among the best beginner ukuleles?
Overwhelmingly, beginner ukuleles tend to come equipped with four strings. The main differences will come in the size, known as its voicing; from the teeny-tiny soprano models which are most common up to larger-bodied baritone models which resemble a half-size guitar, especially when they’re equipped with steel strings. Mostly, however, beginner ukuleles tend to favour nylon strings which offer a warm, mellow sound and are easier on the fingertips when fretting.
The materials used when making the best beginner ukuleles also differ; as you travel up the price spectrum, you’ll see higher quality woods used which have an effect on the instrument’s tone and durability.
At the beginner end, however, there won’t be too much difference in tonality. The focus is more on providing an instrument which is simple to use, rewarding and makes the process of learning it as inviting as possible.
As you progress in your playing you may gravitate towards a specific body shape or voicing, but for now the goal is simply to find a beginner ukulele that is well made and, most of all, fun to play.