During my vacation in Hawaii and falling in love with a new passion of mine, I did some research on what makes a ukulele good. I came across some good information and had the opportunity to compare quality ukuleles against the lower rated quality ones.
Before you pick out a good ukulele, you should realize the use for it first. If you are just a beginner and are going to just be learning on the uke, a top notch uke probably wouldn’t be the best to start off with. If you are seasoned, whether or not you will be using the ukulele to perform may contribute to what type of uke you would go with. Also, playing style should also be considered when choosing your ukulele. If you are going to be singing with your uke, that should be considered as well.
In other words, what makes a good ukulele is subjective to the person who is going to be using it. What may be a good ukulele for one person may be not so good for another. That’s because there are different aspects on the uke that should be considered and can be a load of difference to the player.
Here are some aspects to consider when picking out a uke:
- Size – Ukuleles are made in various sizes for the purposes of sound, tone, and playing style. There are standard ukuleles or the sopranos, the concert, tenor, and baritone variations. The size of the sizes are larger respectively as mentioned. Standard and concert ukes are pretty much well rounded for any playing style. These sizes are preferred by picking style players as the size is beneficial for the fast pace fret work and light weight for mobility. The larger tenor and baritones have lower tones and provide a louder sound.
- Wood Types – The type of wood makes the world of difference in the ukulele’s sound. Koa wood, spruce, and cedar tops are well regarding in woods that make for good sounding ukuleles. Also, the way the wood ages may be another determining factor when picking out a uke. Different woods age differently and some age better resulting in a more richer and fuller sound over time.
- Intonation – If you play an open note and compare it to a note higher on the fret board and is in tune, that means the uke is in tuned and built properly. If not and if it’s a little flat or sharp, there may be something wrong with the saddle and/or the nut parts of the uke.
- Fret Build – A way to check the fret board is to check for buzzes when the string are played on different frets. If there is buzzing going on in the sound there may be a problem with the fret board build or the nut or saddle.
- Level Of The Frets – If you need to press down on the frets harder in order to play a clean note, that would be regarded as a “high action” playability. If not much pressure is needed, that’s regarded as a low action. The pros for a high action uke is that it is louder. The level of the frets should be considered with the player’s playing style. Depending on whether the player will be using the uke to mainly pick or strum, or even sing along to, should determine the level of the frets desired. If anything, I recommend getting a good balance in the level of the frets.
Other than those aspects, test the sound of the ukulele. When testing the sound, try to listen to it by playing the sound backwards rather than playing it normal. Face the sound hole toward you as you strum to hear the definitive sound that your audience will be hearing. The exact sound the ukulele produces is difficult to hear when playing it normally and trying to listen to it.
Again, what makes a good uke depends on the ukulele player. Keep these components in mind and find the perfect ukulele for you!