Ukuleles have different price ranges depending on many factors including the material they are made of, the manufacturer or their purpose. An electric ukulele may cost you more but it does offer many more features. The same can be said about top-end acoustic ukuleles. To find out how much you have to pay for the uke you want, let’s see some details.
Really cheap models
There are some ukuleles that won’t cost you more than $30 or so, but their quality, as you might expect, isn’t that good. Most of the time these instruments are made of really cheap wood, laminated wood or plastic. Their build quality is poor as well and they are made for those children that want them as toys.
Because they’re made as toys, these ukes are nearly unplayable right out of the box. Their tuners are low grade, they have a very rough finish, the strings are cheap and couldn’t be considered strings and the tone is weak and inconsistent.
Furthermore, although they are made for small children, their necks are too wide for the kids to play them. However, they look decent, and most of the times have some nice paintings of funny, cute characters, from the most popular animated series or movies.
Parents are tempted to buy these ukuleles for their children when trying to test the water, but that isn’t a smart choice. And that is because of the poor tone and quality. Even if your child may be interested in playing such an instrument, if the sound is bad, the results will be bad too. Your kid might get discouraged and frustrated.
The $50 threshold
Most ukes that are under this price should be classified as toys. When going over $50 however, you can find ukuleles that can be played and some of them sound good. Choosing between the junk and the precious instruments is a tough job in this category.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the price, the better the uke, but sometimes there are exceptions. There are ukes that are mass-produced in this price range and they can deliver good sounds and a consistent tone. But sometimes even mass-producers get poor ukes on the market, so before purchasing one, test it. Or at least be sure that you can send it back.
These ukes are good as a stepping stone and if you’re just starting, they’re a good investment. But you have to ask yourself if you’re going to be playing such a uke intensely, and if that’s the case, if you progress fast, you’ll need to buy a better uke fast. So instead of buying 2 ukes in 6 months or so, you can just buy the better one from the beginning.
Getting a cheap ukulele around $50 is worth it if you’re on a tight budget and you don’t know whether you’re going to play the instrument too much, or, of course, if you’re giving it as a gift. But if you’re serious and dedicated to learning the instrument, and you have enough money to spend on a good model, don’t waste your time with a cheap uke.
Where beginners thrive on
Between $50 and $150, you can find some ukes that are of good quality and are excellent for those beginners that really want to play the instrument. They’re affordable enough, yet they offer what a player needs when she or he starts. Some intermediate players are happy with what they can find in this range as well.
Most of the ukuleles you see are in this category and choosing one specific model is a hard task. That’s why you will need to search the market really well. You should know that most ukuleles above $50 offer a decent sound, but as the price rises, you also get some added features.
These added benefits are in the form of a more pleasant design, fancier inlays, better tonewoods, but you can also get some ukes with great electronics for higher prices. As you see, these improvements don’t necessarily make the tone better, and they don’t affect the playability of the instrument either, but they make the instrument more appealing to the player.
Although you can find many models in this group of ukuleles, most of them share some common features. They have a nice finish and you can see the quality of the craftsmanship, they offer good playability, the tone is better and the materials are of great quality. If you choose to buy online, you can safely get a good uke in this category.
Here you can find some really fancy models, with some great designs, or some ukuleles that shine in terms of sound or electronics. You can still find some beginner ukuleles that offer a decent tone and good craftsmanship, but they are really just upgraded models in terms of looks.
They’re a great choice for those beginners that like to impress, but they should keep in mind that although the uke looks better, the sound that comes out of it is still similar to the one produced by a cheaper model. The wood is the same, only the looks change.
Up until this threshold in terms of price, ukes are mainly made of plywood. Things change when going over $150 and you will see that you can find ukes made entirely out of solid wood. Of course, their tone and volume are a lot better, because solid wood resonates freely and the wood helps amplify the sound.
Due to that you also get a warmer, mellower sound with more bass. But you shouldn’t be deceived – a solid-wood ukulele can sound the same as a plywood one, and the only thing that sets them apart is the quality of the craftsmanship put into them.
When going over $150 you also find ukes that use electronic components that transform them into electro-acoustic instruments. These are great to have if you want to record yourself playing on a computer, or if you will be taking part in live shows and you need some amplification.
Also, in terms of shape, things can get interesting. Cutaway models start to appear in this price range, and more experienced players can make use of cutaway bodies to reach the higher frets with ease. Beginners might not need that at first, but at least it looks cool for them.
These are the high-end models, where you can find quality and reliable instruments. Prices may reach $900 for great-quality builds and awesome finishes. What sets these instruments apart from the cheaper ones is the wood used, the ornamentation, the attention to detail and of course, the sound.
For prices of $2000 or so, you can get your own custom-made uke, from a specialized maker. The difference in terms of sound isn’t great comparing such a uke with a cheaper one, but the fact that you can make it look exactly as you wish is a big plus.
Many professionals have their own custom-made models. Furthermore, some even have more of them, each for a certain occasion. So if you’re on your way to becoming a professional, you should be spending at least $500 on a high-end model that can make you sound great time and time again.