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The ukulele is one of my favorite instruments to play. It has a light, playful sound, it’s relatively simple to play, and its small size makes it easy to take with you anywhere you go.
Ukuleles come in 4 sizes:
- Soprano (20 inches) – this is probably the most commonly used ukulele thanks to its classic sound and easy portability.
- Concert (23 inches) – a step up from the soprano ukulele, concert ukuleles have a larger body, a longer neck, and more room between the frets. It still produces the classic ukulele sound, though it’s louder than the soprano version.
- Tenor (26 inches) – most professional musicians who play the ukulele choose a tenor. It retains some of the classic ukulele sound, but it produces deeper tones like an acoustic guitar.
- Baritone (30 inches) – baritone ukuleles aren’t too popular because they sound more like a classic guitar than the well-recognized ukulele sound. Due to their larger size, they’re also less portable and can be bulky to play.
The 15-inch scale length and slightly larger body of a concert ukulele delivers a deeper tone and a bit more volume, while maintaining the sweetness and instantly recognizable sound of a traditional ukulele. The concert ukulele tends to produce a warmer, richer, and more resonant sound than the smaller soprano ukuleles. Its large body, long neck, and increased space on the fretboard also makes the concert ukulele a little easier to handle and play, especially for beginners.
What to Look For in a Concert Ukulele
Thanks to its size and popularity, there are a lot of concert ukuleles on the market. While it’s nice to have so many options, it can make the search for a good one a little overwhelming. If you’re a beginner looking for your first ukulele, it’s important to purchase a quality instrument that is comfortable to play with a smooth, warm, traditional sound. If it’s hard to play and sounds cheap, chances are you’ll probably give it up in a few months.
To aid you in your search, here are a couple things to look for in a quality ukulele under $200:
- Wood – most ukuleles are made from Hawaiian Koa, mahogany, or spruce. Hawaiian Koa is the traditional choice that you’ll find on high-end ukuleles. It has a beautiful grain and a nice, warm sound. Mid-level ukuleles are usually made of mahogany wood that produces a slightly softer tone. Budget ukuleles are often made of spruce.
- Laminate – Laminate ukuleles use a cheaper wood for the body and neck, with a nicer-looking wood coating to improve the aesthetics. Solid wood ukuleles are more expensive, but they will almost always sound better than laminate ukuleles. Solid wood ukuleles are also much more durable.
- Fretboard – much like guitars, good quality ukuleles usually have a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Pay attention to how well the frets are spaced, especially if you have wide fingers.
The Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele features a Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides, with a natural gloss finish that shows off the natural beauty of the traditional wood. The abalone binding and rosette completes the look for a ukulele that looks as beautiful as it sounds.
The OU5’s Nyatoh neck has a 16-fret rosewood fretboard with Grover chrome tuning machines to ensure you’re always in tune. You can feel safe with your purchase knowing that Oscar Schmidt instruments come with a lifetime warranty. Every ukulele is inspected and adjusted in the United States by an expert technician to ensure you’ll enjoy smooth fret ends, precision low action, and resonant sound quality.
I’m partial to dark wood instruments, so this one might be my favorite one on the list. The Luna Mahogany Series Mo’o Conert Ukulele is solid mahogany with a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The body has a beautiful mo’o (lizard) tribal imprint that honors the Hawaiian symbol of spirituality and good fortune, along with pearl moon inlays and pearloid open gear tuners to complete the classy look. It also comes with a gig bag for safe storage and easy transport.
The 15CM is Cordoba’s best-selling ukulele, offering an ideal entry point for people who are learning to play the ukulele. This handmade concert ukulele has a mahogany body and neck that gives it a rich, full sound. The 15CM’s abalone-style rosette and ivoroid body and fingerboard binding set this instrument apart from other ukuleles under $100. Additional features include premium Aquila strings, a sleek satin finish, and silver tuners with pearl buttons. If you’re looking for an acoustic ukulele, the 15CM-E offers an electric hookup for just a little extra (and still well under $200).
The Hamano U-320C Deluxe Concert Ukulele has a sleek semi-gloss natural finish that beautifully displays its rich mahogany wood and exquisite workmanship. The instrument’s light and strong bracing, thin woods and arched back come together to produce a rich, full tone with excellent carrying power.
It has a slim, fast mahogany neck, a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, pearloid position dots along the fretboard, and gold-plated tuning machines for a uniquely extravagant flair. In addition to the ukulele, you’ll get a sturdy soft-shell gig bag for easy portability.
If you’re on a budget and looking for a great value, this is the one for you. The Kala KA-MK-C Makala Concert Ukulele offers great sound, easy playability, and an attractive price that makes it a great choice for beginners. It has a mahogany body with a satin finish, a rosewood fretboard, and 18 brass frets. This one may not have the flair and extra aesthetics that the other ukuleles we’ve discussed include, but you can count on its sound quality and build.
If you’re craving an authentic ukulele with traditional Hawaiin Koa wood and a warm sound, go with the Oscar Schmidt OU5 Concert Ukulele. That’s also the best choice for players with large fingers, as its 16 frets offer wider spacing that can be easier to play.
If you’ve got some wiggle room in your budget and you want an ukulele with style, the Luna Mahogany Series Mo’o Concert Ukulele and the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele are both excellent solid-mahogany ukuleles that are built to last and impress. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Hamano U-320C Deluxe Concert Ukulele Outfit and the Kala KA-MK-C Makala Concert Ukulele offer good quality sound at a great value.