10 min. read

The Best Ukulele for Beginners for 2023

Our top picks for beginner ukuleles to get you strumming like a pro.

Ukulele for Beginners

Whether it was Train’s ukulele-based hit “Hey, Soul Sister,” or an image of Warren Buffet playing the ukulele in one of many public events that struck a chord with you — we’re glad to see you joining the ukulele craze.

The world of ukuleles is a vast and varied one, with diverse choices, styles, and tones for learners young and old. If you don’t know where to start, pick a beginner ukulele, also called a “soprano” or “concert-sized ukulele,” as your first instrument. These are smaller than other ukuleles, have only four strings, and are more budget-friendly for those just starting out in the world of ukuleles.

To make your decision easier, we researched the best beginner ukuleles to find our top pick.

How We Picked

  • Size

    Ukuleles come in sizes from small to big — soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone — and your hand sizes need to factor into your decision to buy this instrument.

  • Good sound

    Imagine strumming your ukulele peacefully when suddenly, the notes sound flat. Strings, intonation, and the ability to stay in tune are crucial when choosing your ukulele.

  • Build quality

    A stronger build is required for better sound, which is why most players prefer wood or wood-based ukuleles. Solid wood or laminated models usually last longer and play better than their plastic counterparts.

  • Price

    Ukes that don't break the bank are great for beginners, and luckily for us, there are plenty of great options — with good build, sound quality, and size — out there for the newly musically inclined.

Our Top Picks

Best Pick

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala’s beginner series creates affordable ukulele fun for players of all ages and skill levels.

Kala's brand is famously targeted toward beginner players, and their flagship series — the KA-15 series — proves why they are world-famous. The workmanship and satin finish are almost unheard of in this price range. The ukulele itself produces a mellow sound and comes with smooth frets and reliable tuning pegs. This ukulele, which comes in various sizes — soprano (the smallest), tenor (slightly bigger), and concert (the biggest size they have) is perfect for people of all ages and levels.

Buy Now for $65.00

Kala has top-notch entry-level ukuleles that don't even come with a hefty price tag.

Runner Up

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

The Alvarez Regent Series RU22C is quite loud for its size, extremely comfortable, and is neither too big nor too small.

Pick this for the sound, and stick with it because everything else about it is great too. It is easy to play, and it doesn't have any tuning problems either. Users loved the mahogany look of this ukulele, comparing it to other high-end brands that are much more expensive. It's not just the looks that are high-end; the playing feels that way too, giving off a smoother and more precise sound than others on this list.

Buy Now for $89.99

It's a little pricey, but it's well worth it.

Most Cost-Effective

Donner Duc-1

Donner Duc-1

For the same price, you get a strap, a really nice ukulele case, and a tuner too!

Not as well-known as Kala, the Donner is nevertheless very close to the more famous brand's performance level, producing clear and full sounds to rival the KA-15 series. This ukulele usually comes in a bundle, too. So, for a budget price, you get a bag, a carbon nylon string, and a strap, with other accessories thrown in too. The strings perfectly complement the sound of the ukulele too, something many users frequently remark about this model.

Buy Now

One of the least expensive models that provide true value for money.

Almost made the cut

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

A good, albeit pricey, instrument for those seeking something a little different than the standard ukulele.

On any other day, the 15-inch concert ukulele would have been one of our top picks if not for its price — slightly higher than the Kala — and ability to be restrung. Users have also rated the Alvarez RU22C as slightly better on the sound scale and reported that it is easier to restring than the 15CM ukulele. It's perfectly good, but the others are just slightly better.

Buy Now for $79.95

It is a beautiful instrument, but it is too expensive and does not have as many finishing options.

Everything We Recommend

Best Pick

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala’s beginner series creates affordable ukulele fun for players of all ages and skill levels.

$65.00

Buy Now

Runner Up

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

The Alvarez Regent Series RU22C is quite loud for its size, extremely comfortable, and is neither too big nor too small.

$89.99

Buy Now

Most Cost-Effective

Donner Duc-1

Donner Duc-1

For the same price, you get a strap, a really nice ukulele case, and a tuner too!

Buy Now

Almost made the cut

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

A good, albeit pricey, instrument for those seeking something a little different than the standard ukulele.

$79.95

Buy Now

Who This Is For

If you’ve dismissed the ukulele because you thought it was a kid’s instrument, think again. Every ukulele we’ve reviewed in this article fits the versatile bill perfectly; anyone can easily play these, from the very young to the very old, and from the non-musical to the musically trained.

Ukulele vs. guitars

That’s the specialty of the ukulele; they only have four strings, so it is very much like learning the guitar, only way easier. Ukes look like the guitar’s younger cousin and are somewhat similar to the small classical guitar. Guitars have fewer notes and a much wider sonic range, and, of course, have two more strings than the ukulele. The strings themselves are a major point of difference, as ukuleles have softer nylon strings, which users report as being easier to play with than the harder steel or nylon strings on a guitar.

Is learning to play the ukulele easier than other instruments?

The general consensus is a resounding ‘yes,’ as most experts recommend the ukulele for its soft strings, which are usually gentler on the fingers. The smaller size of the ukulele is also better for the back and wrists, and lugging around and playing a larger instrument like a guitar or a violin might strain someone unused to their size.

Why You Should Trust Us

It’s easy to get lost among the chatter of a thousand ukulele brands and their versatile instruments, but we managed to whittle down the list to the top few picks we think offer good sound, comfortable playability, and are economical too, just like a beginner ukulele should be.

How We Picked

Size

While debating our options, we made sure to include choices that offer ukuleles in a range of sizes, from concert to tenor, to suit every hand size.

Material

We focused our research on tonewood ukuleles for their superior sound quality and suggested instruments made by companies that focused primarily on ukuleles to get the best build quality possible.

Good sound

All the ukuleles on this list scored highly in sound — our biggest consideration — and are generally rated as highly durable for their price. They all boast decent intonation and mostly stay in tune for three to four weeks on average.

Ease of use

In the world of ukuleles, too, there are plenty of sizes to choose from. The easiest playability comes from ukuleles with straight necks, smaller sizes, and no sharp frets, so that is what we based our review criteria on.

Build quality

There’s a reason our list features some of the top ukulele brands in the world — they offer the best quality ukes made of durable, high-end materials like wood or strong laminates. All the ukuleles mentioned in this article are reputed to be of the highest quality in their price range, and you can’t ask for any better than a ukulele under $100 that lasts for more than a few years, can you?

Price

Cost-effectiveness was also a major factor in our review, as many players reported wanting to graduate to a stronger ukulele once they mastered the beginner instrument. In this case, we stuck to ukuleles that wouldn’t put an undue strain on the wallet and yet had great playability.

Packaging

Since we know you’d like to look good too, our picks are also pretty awesome-looking, as far as beginner ukuleles go. Plus, there’s a bonus! Most of these ukulele brands also come in combo deals that offer various accessories like strings, tuners, and yes, a ukulele case too.

Our Picks For You

Our Top Pick - Kala KA-15 Series

Best Pick

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala KA-15 Series

Kala’s beginner series creates affordable ukulele fun for players of all ages and skill levels.

Kala's brand is famously targeted toward beginner players, and their flagship series — the KA-15 series — proves why they are world-famous. The workmanship and satin finish are almost unheard of in this price range. The ukulele itself produces a mellow sound and comes with smooth frets and reliable tuning pegs. This ukulele, which comes in various sizes — soprano (the smallest), tenor (slightly bigger), and concert (the biggest size they have) is perfect for people of all ages and levels.

Buy Now for $65.00

Who It’s For

With a good, durable build and a full-bodied sound, the KA-15 series is great for all beginners seeking a respectable ukulele to learn with.

Why It’s Great

Buying a ukulele from one of the best-known brands for beginner ukeleles is a no-brainer, really. Most of their uke series is very popular among even the most seasoned players — Vance Joy, Zac Brown, and Twenty-One Pilots among them — and they offer good music at a reasonable price.

Potential Flaw/s

With an inexpensive instrument, you'd expect some corners to be cut, and the KA-15 series cuts these corners in its finishing. Some people have reported globs of glue on the internal bracing, and visible glue inside the body too. This is the only place where they've compromised on quality, however, as the other finishings are exceptional. Plus, the glue has zero effect on the sound quality, which stays the same — exceptionally good.

Other Features

This one might be an obvious choice — most reviews put the KA-15 series on the top of their lists — but there’s a reason this instrument is an industry standard. It offers great sound and superior looks at a price that is reasonable. Look for a good combo offer, and you’d even find strings, a case, and a tuner with this uke, and you’d only be paying a fraction more.

Runner Up - Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

Runner Up

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

Alvarez Regent Series RU22C

The Alvarez Regent Series RU22C is quite loud for its size, extremely comfortable, and is neither too big nor too small.

Pick this for the sound, and stick with it because everything else about it is great too. It is easy to play, and it doesn't have any tuning problems either. Users loved the mahogany look of this ukulele, comparing it to other high-end brands that are much more expensive. It's not just the looks that are high-end; the playing feels that way too, giving off a smoother and more precise sound than others on this list.

Buy Now for $89.99

Who It’s For

The RU22C is a well-made ukulele that is suitable for both beginners and more experienced players. Even though this is an entry-level ukulele, it sports some premium features only found in pro-level Alvarez models.

Why It’s Great

This series of ukuleles has frequently been described as 'warm looking' and 'open sounding,' and the makers themselves claim avid attention to detail when crafting this uke. The finished instrument certainly shows the effects of such TLC and is a fan favorite for those with a slightly higher budget.

Potential Flaw/s

Unlike the other products we've listed, this one does not come with accessories. While you won't be spending much on straps, tuners, etc., you'd be paying more to get these. If the beginner is a kid, the size might be a little too large to handle, which means you'd have to switch over to the smaller RU22S from the same brand or go with the sopranos from other brands.

Other Features

More than the others on our list, the Alvarez Regent Series RU22C concert ukulele looked and sounded the most like a high-end instrument. It's also very easy to play because of its wider fingerboard and is well worth the extra money, even without the accessories.

Most Cost-Effective - Donner Duc-1

Most Cost-Effective

Donner Duc-1

Donner Duc-1

For the same price, you get a strap, a really nice ukulele case, and a tuner too!

Not as well-known as Kala, the Donner is nevertheless very close to the more famous brand's performance level, producing clear and full sounds to rival the KA-15 series. This ukulele usually comes in a bundle, too. So, for a budget price, you get a bag, a carbon nylon string, and a strap, with other accessories thrown in too. The strings perfectly complement the sound of the ukulele too, something many users frequently remark about this model.

Buy Now

Who It’s For

This budget buy is surprisingly well built. It’s a great buy for anyone shopping on a budget but not willing to compromise on quality.

Why It’s Great

The Donner DUC-1 series is arguably the best value at this price, offering a whole range of accessories along with a decent instrument that looks pretty good too. Some reviews even compare this instrument to the Kala KA-15 series in terms of music quality and tone, so you know this model is a good buy.

Potential Flaw/s

The bridge on the DUC-1 series is quite large, which makes it easy for those with larger hands to play. This same feature, consequently, could make it harder to play for those with small hands, especially for kids. The frets can sometimes be too sharp in some models, and users have reported a bit of buzzing despite the good sound quality.

Other Features

A gig bag, a clip-on electric tuner, an extra set of strings, and strap-on buttons on the bottom and the neck of the ukulele — this model has multiple unique features that add to the playability. It’s one of the least expensive beginner concert ukuleles too, and it has as good a build and look as the others. It’s a great choice for those looking for minimal investment and good sound.

Almost made the cut - Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Almost made the cut

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele

A good, albeit pricey, instrument for those seeking something a little different than the standard ukulele.

On any other day, the 15-inch concert ukulele would have been one of our top picks if not for its price — slightly higher than the Kala — and ability to be restrung. Users have also rated the Alvarez RU22C as slightly better on the sound scale and reported that it is easier to restring than the 15CM ukulele. It's perfectly good, but the others are just slightly better.

Buy Now for $79.95

Who It’s For

This ukelele comes in concert or tenor sizes and has an electric version too, which is great for beginners of all ages and comfort levels.

Why It’s Great

Another good-looking ukulele with a satin finish, Cordoba's incredible attention to detail and fantastic playability makes it almost perfect for our list. It's even got a hand-inlaid abalone rosette, a design normally only found on other, much more expensive ukuleles.

Potential Flaw/s

Despite its balanced sound and strong performance, the Cordoba 15CM concert ukulele just missed out on a spot on our list. While it is similar in look and sound to the others we've reviewed — indeed, this uke can afford beginners hours of serious enjoyment — its price is not justified, especially when you can get a Kala at a much lower price. The Cordoba usually only provides extra strings, and this lack of accessories is disappointing too.

Other Features

The brand is renowned for its high-quality nylon-string guitars, and its ukuleles are just as good an instrument for beginner players. On average, however, these ukuleles are at the higher end of the pricing scale and are Chinese-made of composite wood. These make a great option for those looking to explore alternative styles of playing; however, the 15 cm larger, more rounded body shape and larger scale length suit different playing techniques very well.

Care and Maintenance

Ukuleles might be hardy, but they need cleaning just like every other instrument. Using the case will prevent dust buildup and keep your uke safe when not in use, and a microfiber cloth will remove anything that manages to settle on the surface. Remember not to be too harsh with your pick, or avoid one entirely, and restring your ukulele regularly for better sound quality.