It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out, or are a total pro – getting the right ukulele from best ukulele brands will ensure that you learn faster, play easier and of course, sound better!
And I am sure you would agree with me when I say:
Life is boring without a ukulele… Because if everyone played the ukulele, this world would be a much happier place
But, there is only one issue.
Finding that good ukulele isn’t an easy job.
That’s why I’m here to make it easy for you.
Today you’re going to see the definitive guide from Ukulele experts.
Let’s dive right in.
I Know We Are All Busy So… Here Is The List:
|Brand||Made in||Shapes||Main feature|
|Kala Ed's choice||Petaluma, CA||8-shape and pineapple||Affordability and range.|
|Cordoba||Spain and China||8-shape and pineapple. Banjo Ukulele!||Affordability and range.|
|Luna||USA||8-shape and pineapple||Unique design (tattoo)|
|Fender||USA||Electric (classic fender shapes and headstocks)||Classic fender headstocks on most models|
|Lanikai||Hawaii||8-shape and pineapple||Wide range of models and sizes.|
|Hola!||USA||8-shape and pineapple||Beginner ukes|
|Flea||USA||Mostly pineapple||Unique Design, charitable contribution.|
|Epiphone||China/Korea||Electric shape (Les-Paul)||Electric|
Top 10 Best Ukulele Brands 2017 – In-depth Analysis & Reviews
- Best baritone ukuleles
- Best soprano ukuleles
- Best tenor ukuleles
- Best ukulele for beginners
- Best acoustic guitar under 500
Best ukulele brands #1: Kala Editor’s choice
Kala is definitely one of the most well-known names in the Ukulele world. Kala is known for both their quality and playability.
There is a good reason why most, if not all Ukulele players are very familiar with the Kala brand. They have a wide range of ukuleles. With everything from their inexpensive, durable Waterman line to their heirloom style California made Hawaiian Koa Elites. They really have a ukulele for every occasion.
I chose Kala as my editor’s pick because this is such a widely known and trusted brand. If you are looking for an entry-level instrument like the Kala KA 15S, you will have made the right choice. On the other hand, they also offer excellent top of the range models like anything from the KALA elite series.
Kala Ukuleles are highly accessible to all kinds of different players. I love the brand and would like to talk you through some of my personal favorites.
|Kala KA 15S||Soprano||Mahogany||No|
|Kala-KA-ASAC-T||Tenor||Acacia and Lancewood||No|
|Kala KA-MK-C Makala Concert Ukulele||Concert||Mahogany and Rosewood||No|
|Kala KA-MK-P Makala Pineapple-Style||Soprano||Mahogany||No|
|Kala KAA-15T Limited Edition Satin Mahogany||Tenor||Mahogany||No|
Best ukulele brands #2: Cordoba Editor’s choice brand
Cordoba is another one of those brands with an excellent, longstanding reputation.
Many musicians associate the Cordoba brand with Classical guitars, and rightly so. They make beautiful classical guitars. Their Ukuleles, however, are no exception.
I put them as my editor’s pick number 2 because I think that Cordoba, along with Kala are incredible brands for those who are just starting out, but are looking for something reliable but affordable.
Cordoba has a number of different ranges of Ukuleles. They are arranged by numbers. The entry level instruments are from the 15 series. 20 is intermediate, 22 a bit more advanced and so forth. So it is quite easy to see from the name of the model where it falls in the Cordoba range.
This is another one of those well-known, respected brands. Let’s get into some details with some of my personal favorites and recommendations.
|Cordoba 20 CM||Concert||Mahogany||Yes|
Best ukulele brands #3: Luna
The thing that I and a lot of other people love about Luna Ukuleles is their unique designs. These always stick out with their tattoo designs all over their bodies.
Apart from the aesthetic pleasure, of looking at them, they are also some of the most playable Ukuleles out there.
Their range of instruments is quite wide, but I would definitely say that they cater extra well for all you beginners out there.
If you are looking for a robust, reliable instrument to start off with, but you are looking for something that will also make you stick out from the rest of the crowd. Luna is your brand!
|Luna Tattoo Concert||Concert||Mahogany||No|
|Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Soprano Pineapple Ukulele||Soprano||Mahogany||No|
|Luna Mahogany Series Honu Soprano Ukulele||Soprano||Mahogany||No|
Best ukulele brands #4: Fender
I have always loved Fender guitars. One of the first instruments I ever owned was a Fender Stratocaster. I have been playing it for more than 15 years now. So yes, I might be biased in my assessment of their Ukulele’s, but I can’t help it.
The people at Fender just know how to make good quality instruments. They have been doing it for so many years!
When it comes to Ukulele’s specifically, I love the way the classic Fender headstocks look on the Ukulele.
In general, because Fender is such a reputable brand, you will be guaranteed a certain level of excellence even though they are not primarily a ukulele brand.
|Fender Concert Ukulele "Mino'Aka"||Concert||Mahogany||No|
|Fender Ukulele ’52 – Sunburst||Soprano||Mahogany||No|
Best ukulele brands #5: Oscar Schmidt
Oscar Schmidt is actually a division of Washburn, so they have been making guitars for a really long time.
It is not surprising that their Ukuleles are of a very high standard. What I really like about them is that that offer a pretty wide range of instruments, with most of their Ukuleles being of very high quality.
They are definitely one of the strongest competitors out there, especially for the beginner to intermediate market. That’s not to say they don’t have some expensive instruments as well, though.
|Oscar Schmidt OU5||Concert||Koa (laminate)||No|
|Oscar Schmidt OU2 Concert Ukulele||Concert||Mahogany||No|
|Oscar Schmidt Spalted Mango TENOR Acoustic/Electric Ukulele||Tenor||Spalted Mango||Yes|
Best ukulele brands #6: Lanikai
Lanikai is generally geared towards manufacturing Ukuleles for beginners. They have some low-budget options that you can explore if you are just starting out.
Lanikai has a very impressive array of Ukuleles and I often feel that they don’t get the kind of exposure they deserve. If you have a look on their website you will find all shapes and sizes of Ukulele, all for a very affordable price. There is really an incredible amount of variety that anyone could choose from.
My favorite has to be the LU-21CEK All Mahogany Ac/Elec Concert Ukulele. I just really like a Ukulele with a pickup.
The most popular one, however (by far) would be the Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele. It’s just one of those great entry level instruments that’s popular because it’s affordable and it sounds good!
The thing with the LU-21 is that it is without a doubt an entry-level instrument. So if you have a feeling that you might get more serious about playing Ukulele, you might want to consider buying something a little bit more high end.
The white binding around the edges of the instrument looks magnificent and gives the instrument a kind of high-quality respectability regarding finishing and attention to detail. This is very rare in entry level instruments,
The Nato wood grain looks splendid and gives the instrument a rustic, natural look.
It probably has a lot to do with the fact that it is a soprano sized ukulele with a laminated top, but the LU-21 is incredibly light. It hardly feels like you have anything in your hands! This actually helps with the playing, especially if you are a beginner. The Ukulele is not intimidating at all and it is really easy to get your hands around.
One of the downsides is that the bridge works like a classical guitar bridge. So you have to tie the end of the strings to the bridge by looping them through. For beginners, this might be very tricky to learn. In this regard, the Les Paul Ukulele is much easier to restring.
The action ( the is especially true distance of the strings from the fretboard) is alright. It is not as high as some other budget models.
Sometimes when I strum a little bit harder than usual, there is a slight buzz of the strings is mainly the case when playing barre chords.
The intonation is alright in the low register (where you will mostly be playing as a beginner) but it starts to go flat as you go up the fretboard.
The ukulele tends to stay in tune, even after quite some time of playing. This might, however, be due to the type of strings. Cheap strings will always go out quickly, so it is a good idea to invest in a decent set of strings for your new ukulele. Even if the ukulele was cheap. Good strings can make a big difference.
The sound of the LU-21 is definitely on the bright side. Not quite twangy, but definitely bright. You hear a lot of the high frequencies while the lower and mid frequencies tend to fall a bit flat. Nothing major, but it is definitely noticeable.
Best ukulele brands #7: Martin
For those looking to spend a bit extra, but who are of very high quality, Martin is your brand. The Martin company makes state of the art acoustic guitars, and their Ukuleles seem to be no exception.
Martin makes high-end acoustic instruments. They really understand wood, and are true luthiers. The level of excellence is transferred to their Ukuleles as well.
The first thing that you will notice when you look at one of their models, like the C1K, is the beautiful natural look of it. But it’s not just the look.
The C1K, which is my favorite Martin ukulele has a solid Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides. The instrument feels thick and stable.
Martin acoustic instruments always have impressive resonance and the C1K is no exception. It totally lives up to all of my high expectations for the Martin brand. Rich warm sounds that fills a room surprisingly well for such a small instrument.
Best ukulele brands #8: Hola!
Hola! Is another one of those brands that make life really easy for beginners. They have some of the nicest Ukuleles to start out on.
I once tried their HM-124MG at a music store, and I have to admit I was impressed.
The sound was pretty typical for an entry level instrument, the thing that took me by surprise was how easily it played. It is a surprisingly well-built instrument that felt really sturdy in my hands and had an excellent resonance as well!
There are not a lot of extras and the instruments are usually not solid tops. But when it comes to a beginner instrument, that really does not matter at all.
Best ukulele brands #9: Flea
What a cool brand!
Flea makes some of the most unique, but still very reliably pineapple shaped Ukuleles you can find.
Most brands focus on the classic 8 shaped ukuleles, but not Flea. No, they are well-known for their line of pineapple shaped instruments.
I say pineapple, because that is the closest I can come to describing it. But really, it looks almost like a lute.
The company started making Ukuleles in 2002. They immediately started making their instruments with the new and unique design.
The materials of their instruments are also not like other Ukuleles. They use a combination of wood and injection molded thermoplastic. The combination of wood soundboard and acoustically resonant thermoplastic body, gives their instruments an edge over the traditional standard ukes.
They almost always have a very rich and bright sound. The shape makes them very comfortable to hold and it can even stand up on its one end by itself. So no need for a stand!
Flea ukuleles are available in Soprano or Concert sizes. They come in either solid maple or walnut neck necks, laminate top of hoop pine or walnut bodies and solid tops of either spruce or koa wood.
My personal favorite is their natural concert sized Flea Ukulele. It is an amazing instrument. It might be a bit more expensive than many of the other instruments I have talked about, but it looks and sounds like a professional Ukulele.
It is absolutely beautiful with its one of a kind headstock and natural wood color.
Speaking about the headstock: Flea Ukuleles all have a characteristic hollow headstock that looks really good. The headstock, combined with the pineapple shape form the basis of their signature instrument design.
Flea also has a series of Ukuleles with very unique designs on the bodies. Like this one, that is painted to look like an actual pineapple. It is part of the Flea designer series that feature some beautiful colorful renditions original artwork on the bodies.
There is also a red and blue version available of the Standard Flea Ukulele.
Another good thing about this company…They donate part of their proceeds towards providing children’s hospitals with musical instruments. So, if you can afford these (all around the $200 mark) you will get a beautiful instrument and also contribute to a good cause!
One of my favorite brands by far
Best ukulele brands #10: Epiphone (electric) – Best electric ukulele brands
If you are a fan of the Les Paul guitar shape and design, you will love the look of the Epiphone Ukulele. It is basically a miniature version of the classic Gibson design, complete with the sunburst maple top.
Epiphone, which is a division of the Gibson guitar company, is not exactly known for their Ukuleles. Thanks to rock stars like Slash and Jimmy Page, the Les-Pau shape has become iconic. We can all recognize it. It’s guitars, though…Not Ukuleles.
But the little soprano Epiphone Les-Paul ukulele is incredibly popular!
It is also my favorite electric ukulele.
It is really cheap, has a good acoustic sound and a pretty decent electric sound as well. Especially if you take the price into consideration.
The Ukulele comes with a very good quality piezo film under-saddle pick up, so you can plug in and play through an amplifier.
Despite the unique design and added pickup, this is still an entry level instrument. It is very affordable and is definitely a strong contender for a good beginner Ukulele, especially if the electric quality (pickup) is important to you.
Things to consider when buying a ukulele
When picking an instrument, you need to pick what’s right for you. Here are a few points to consider:
There are four different sizes of ukulele. From smallest to biggest they are: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. it is not a one size fits all, each one has pros and cons depending what you’re looking for. The size you choose will also depend on your level of competence. The bigger the size, the more complicated the instrument gets but also, the more versatility in sound. Personally, I recommend the concert for beginners. This is because it is slightly bigger than the soprano, giving it a fuller sound and accommodating to bigger hands. The choice is yours! Here are some brief points to think about when choosing which size is best for your needs:
Once you’ve picked the type, it’s time to consider the shape. Pick a ukulele that you love to look at. One that motivates you to practice and make it sound as good as it looks! There are three different shapes that the ukulele comes in.
The guitar/ figure-8 shape is the most commonly known. It looks like a miniature guitar which some people don’t like. For this reason, some people prefer the pineapple shape.
The pineapple shape gives the instrument a fuller and richer sound because it is rounded at the back. This design makes the instrument look different from the guitar which some people prefer. However, it can be an uncomfortable design, so think wisely about what you want.
Last and least, the V-shape. Although these may look cool and are often very affable, they are affordable for a reason! They are very uncomfortable to play and make a bad sound. Stay away from the v-shape.
Materials can be tricky. Solid wood ukuleles are beautiful to look at and produce richer sounds as they age. Different types of woods are priced differently and produce different sounds. The Koa is native to Hawaii and is the original wood of the ukulele. However, this can be very expensive. If you’re on a budget, go for Mahogany. this is usually reasonably priced and produces warm tones. Spruce is a good alternative if you don’t have a lot to spend but want a solid wood ukulele. The sound is bright and happy, making it a personal favourite.
Ukuleles are great around a fire with friends and wooden instruments are easier to crack and break. In this case, consider going for a plastic or a laminate wood. Although the sound may not be as rich, it is a great alternative if you are on a budget, a beginner or if you like to travel with your instrument!
- For the advanced:
Consider experimenting with six and eight string ukuleles. The extra strings give the instrument a fuller sound that can be fun to explore. Stay clear if you are a beginner as this is very challenging to play.
At the end of the day, it all really comes down to the sound that you make when you play the instrument. That’s the only thing other people hear, and that should be a massive consideration when you pick your brand.
Look for the instrument that has the sound that you like. Try to identify the characteristic Ukulele sound that appeals to you. What do your favorite players sound like? Do they have a warm thick tone, or a more honkey-tonk high treble kind of sound?
Pay attention to how warm or bright the sound is that you are looking for, it is the most basic measurement of tone. Ukuleles generally tend to have quite flat, high end tones, so if you find something that has a rich, warm tone you know you found something special.
Your budget will help you determine your instrument. Expensive ukuleles do not necessarily mean better ukuleles. If you’re on a tight budget and a beginner, start off with an entry level ukulele to learn the basics. The kala KA15s is a great starting choice!
How we picked
As you can see, there are lots of things to consider! This list is a balanced combination of some of my personal favourite ukuleles as well as some that have been highly recommended by friends and musicians.
When picking a ukulele, I ask myself a few questions. These are the same questions I asked myself when coming up with a list of top 10 Ukulele brands: Does it make a good sound? Is it affordable? Is it durable? Is it beautiful to look at? Is it comfortable to play?
Every person has different taste and may answer those questions differently. Irrespective of what you need and want out of your ukulele, these are all great quality! Here is how I answer the questions:
- Does it make a good sound?
These are instruments, instruments make music. The most important thing is the sound they make! For a more traditional sound, I selected sopranos with a happy tone. Bigger ukuleles were chosen based on the richness and roundness of their sound.
I love solid wood ukuleles as they mature with age, and make richer sounds. All my options are wooden but the type of wood is personal preference. For this reason, I have included different types for you to explore.
I’ve also looked at sizes to accommodate for personal sound. Some people are looking for the traditional ukulele sound and would prefer a soprano. The more advanced player may want something bigger.
- Is it affordable?
This always depends on the budget! For this reason, I have included a broad price range to suit everyone’s wallet. If you’re a beginner, I’ve included cheaper options so that you may learn the instrument before you make a big decision.
There are also great options for those who have a high budget and want to spend a little more on their instrument. If you’re advanced and want to take your love for the instrument further, I’ve included something for you too!
- Is it durable?
Wood, wood, wood! You can’t go wrong with wooden ukuleles. They will age with you and grow into their own sound.
- Is it beautiful? Is it comfortable?
You need something that is both! I love the guitar shaped ukuleles. These are elegant and comfortable to play with. Pineapple shapes are stunning and unique, they set themselves apart from guitars. For this reason, I’ve included one too.
For the sake of good taste, I haven’t included v-shaped ukuleles. These are uncomfortable and silly to look at.
I really hope that this was a helpful and informative guide to help you understand what some of the different Ukulele brands have to offer. I tried to include everything. From my personal favorites and recommendations to what I know is popular or reputable.
My hope is that reading this article gave you some useful information that you can use to go out there and get the right ukulele brand for you.
Music is a lifelong journey, and you will probably still play on many different brands and models as you progress on your musical path. I just hope this is a good start.
If you like this article, please like and share this page. Also please let us know what your favorite ukulele is. Did we leave it out? Why do you like it? Let us know!
Till next time.
Keep practicing, and keep loving the Ukulele and keep reading our top 10 Ukulele reviews