15 Best Cheap Ukuleles For Beginners 2023 For Those After An Affordable String Instrument
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Maybe you’re thinking about learning the guitar or bass, but don’t have the money necessary to purchase an instrument just yet.
Or, maybe you’ve heard that it’s easier to learn on something smaller like a ukulele, which to some extent, is true.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best cheap ukuleles, especially for those who are interested in finding an affordable instrument to start on.
Kala Learn To Play Ukulele Soprano Starter Kit
Kala is a brand with a strong reputation in the ukulele community and they offer everything from beginner to premium level instruments.
Artists like Zac Brown, twenty one pilots, Vance Joy, Dodie, EatMyUke and The Ukulele Teacher all use Kala instruments.
The Kala Learn to Play starter kit comes with a mahogany soprano ukulele, traditional Polynesian Shark Teeth laser etched rosette, Aquila strings from Italy, open gear tuners and GraphTech NuBone nut and saddle.
The starter kit comes with a Kala logo tote bag and a 20-page Quick Start Guide and free online lessons.
Most customer reviews seem positive, except for those who were expecting a better-quality instrument.
At this price point that would be asking for a lot.
For beginners and students alike, the Kala is a go-to.
Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
The Kala KA-15S is another quality entry-level option.
This uke comes with a mahogany body satin finish, mahogany neck, walnut fingerboard and bridge, GraphTech NuBone nut and saddle, Aquila Super Nylgut strings from Italy, 12 brass frets and etched Polynesian-style Shark Teeth rosette.
The soprano size and lightweight construction make it easy to take with you everywhere you go.
Reviews are mostly positive for the KA-15S but again, it comes with the disclaimer that this is not a high end (or even mid-level) instrument.
Does it sound thin?
Do you find you constantly need to tune it?
We’ll talk more about that later, but that tends to come with the territory as applied to cheaper ukes.
Donner Concert Ukulele Mahogany DUC-1
Fast becoming known for their affordable products, Donner offers a variety of instruments and parts suited to beginners and those hunting for deals.
The Donner DUC-1 comes with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, advanced carbon nylon strings, chrome-plated guitar style tuners, as well as 18 brass frets with fret position markers at fifth, seventh, 10th and 12th frets.
This bundle also comes with a ukulele bag, strap, additional carbon nylon strings and a digital clip-on tuner.
Many customers love what the Donner has to offer and even comment positively on its tone.
Some have pointed out issues with the strings and sharp hardware, however, so that’s something to remain mindful of.
Donner Soprano Ukulele Mahogany DUS-1
As you can likely guess from the name, the Donner DUS-1 is essentially the DUC-1’s cousin with a soprano (as opposed to concert) body size.
A more detailed explanation of body sizes will follow later.
Much like the DUC-1, this uke comes with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, chrome-plated guitar style tuners, advanced carbon nylon strings and 15 brass frets with fret position marks at fifth, seventh, ninth and 12th frets on the neck and top of fingerboard.
The bundle comes with a ukulele bag and strap, extra carbon nylon strings, digital clip-on tuner and ukulele picks.
Donner Tenor Ukulele Mahogany DUT-1
To round out the Donner family of beginner ukes, we have the DUT-1 tenor ukulele.
This instrument comes with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, chrome-plated guitar style tuners, advanced carbon nylon strings and 18 brass frets with fret position marks at fifth, seventh, 10th and 12th frets.
Also included is a ukulele bag and strap, carbon nylon strings and digital clip-on tuner.
The instrument sounds decent enough at the price point but it is basic, as with all others on this list.
AKLOT Soprano Ukulele Solid Mahogany
AKLOT, Inc., a young but innovative ukulele maker was established in 2012 in California.
The soprano mahogany starter kit comes with a solid mahogany body ukulele, 18:1 premium tuner machines, pure copper gears, Aquila strings, free online lessons, tuner, strap, picks, gig bag and an extra set of strings.
The instrument features a rounded edge for comfort, as well as an embedded rib to reinforce the neck to ensure good playing action.
Customers love the AKLOT though some have complained of buzz.
You can always take the uke to a qualified tech to get the action adjusted and eliminate buzz, but at that point it might be better to put that money towards a better-quality instrument.
Ranch Concert Ukulele Instrument Kit
Ranch was established in 1993 as a guitar parts manufacturer.
They’ve since gotten into manufacturing guitars and ukuleles.
The concert ukulele comes with sapele top, back and sides and a satin finish.
The starter kit comes with the concert ukulele stringed with Aquila strings, 10mm gig bag, digital tuner with battery, extra set of Aquila strings, strap and polishing cloth.
The Ranch ukulele is sturdy and lightweight thanks to its sapele construction.
I find the instrument has a surprisingly full sound with good sustain.
A lot of people love it as a starter instrument, though reportedly the included accessories aren’t of the highest quality – it’s best to view these as bonuses.
The Ranch is another worthy contender in this category.
Kmise Beginner Soprano Ukulele Start Kit
Kmise (Miaoyin Trading Co., Ltd.) is located in Shenzhen, China.
They specialize in ukulele, banjolele and guitar parts and accessories.
The beginner soprano ukulele starter kit comes with mahogany top, back and sides, C shape neck, walnut fretboard and bridge, D’Addario nylon strings and sealed 18:1 pure copper gear tuning pegs.
It also features a lifetime warranty along with a gig bag, tuner, strap, extra strings and online lessons.
Beginners almost universally love the Kmise starter kit but some found issues with tuning, which is common with instruments at this price range.
Hola! Music HM-21BU Soprano Ukulele Bundle
The playful looking Hola! Music HM-21BU comes in several different colors, including Black, Blue, Green, Mahogany, Pink, Purple, Red, 2 Tone Natural, Light Blue and Orange.
Hola! Music, by the way, is a small family owned business that was originally established in 2011 (even though it might seem like they’ve been around for longer).
The instrument features painted maple top, back and sides, nato neck, walnut fingerboard and bridge, white nylon strings, silver geared tuner, 12 silver nickel frets with fret position marks at fifth, seventh and 10th frets.
The laminate wood soprano Hola! Music ukulele looks and sounds decent enough, though some customers say they’ve had issues with tuning and buzzing, which again, is to be expected considering the low price point.
Hricane Concert Ukulele UKS-2
The somewhat ambiguous and non-specific core value of ukulele and guitar maker Hricane is to:
…love every passion and interest on Earth because it is a reference to your Uniqueness.
I’m not entirely sure what that means but what I do know is they offer a variety of products at different price points.
The Hricane UKS-2 comes with sapele body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, chrome-plated guitar tuners and advanced carbon nylon strings.
Plenty of people speak well of the Hricane, which has nice projection and plenty of high-end cut.
The downside is that the instrument needs regular retuning.
Lohanu LU-C Concert Size Ukulele Bundle
Lohanu is a Canadian ukulele maker whose company name is a combination of three words: Love, Ohana (Community) and Unity.
The concert size Lohanu LU-C ukulele comes with a sapele/mahogany top, back, sides and neck, Super Aquila strings, handmade ABS bindings and chrome die cast tuning gears.
The instrument comes installed with two strap buttons so you can easily use it with a strap.
You also get unconditional lifetime warranty, video lessons and accessories – strap, tuner, case, two plastic picks, one leather pick, Paracord hanger and an extra set of Aquila strings.
Though it costs a little more than some of the other ukuleles on the list, the Lohanu features a quality build and nice appearance.
Less enthusiastic customers have experienced issues with the accessories, fret buzz and quality control.
We can’t confirm or deny such claims, but we always recommend doing some research before settling on an instrument.
POMAIKAI Soprano Ukulele
The POMAIKAI soprano ukulele comes with a premium basswood body and high gloss finish, maple neck, 12 frets and four nylon strings.
It also features a 12-month warranty and comes in several fun colors and builds: Black, Brown, Pink 1, Dark Blue, Blue, Bright Brown, Sapele Mahogany, Flag, Light Blue, Pink 2 and UK-Flag.
Although practically every instrument introduced here is a budget option, this uke is even cheaper than many on this list.
Again, we find a bit of a split with customer opinion, with many positive and a few negative.
Critical consumers say this uke is basically a toy and there may be some truth to that statement.
But if you don’t need anything fancier, you might like the POMAIKAI.
Kailua Soprano Ukulele
The handcrafted Kailua soprano ukulele comes with a mahogany body and headstock, pearl coated tuners, custom etching for the rosette, nylon strings and a black nylon carrying case.
We find this uke has a pleasant and plucky tone.
Again, we find mostly positive reviews with a few negative, saying the uke won’t hold tune.
Now, it should be noted that there is a difference between an instrument that requires regular tuning and constant tuning.
You should always expect the necessity of regular tuning.
Meanwhile, if you find it doesn’t hold tune for longer than a minute, then yes, you have a low-quality instrument.
This is an important distinction, so I thought I would share it sooner rather than later.
But let’s keep moving right along.
HUAWIND Concert Ukulele Mahogany
The HUAWIND concert ukulele comes with a mahogany body and neck, black walnut fingerboard and bridge, 18 frets with position marks at fifth, seventh, 10th, 12th and 17th, Aquila nylon strings and a one-year warranty.
This uke sounds reasonably nice and it has a round tone with exaggerated high end.
Many customers are happy with the HUAWIND, although some have had issues with buzzing.
Overall, it’s an affordable and attractive looking instrument with a decent sound.
Hricane Tenor Ukulele 27 Inch Cutaway Slim
Here’s another Hricane option with a cutaway and an extra slim body – and it still doesn’t cost that much!
The Hricane tenor ukulele comes with a solid spruce top, spalted maple back and sides, arched back, cutaway, walnut fingerboard and saddle, Aquila strings, ABS black and white rosette, 18 frets and a matte surface coating.
Spalted maple, by the way, does not refer to a specific species of maple but maple wood that’s been allowed to decay for a time and is then dried to prevent further decay.
Of course, you can’t help but wonder how a ukulele with a 1/3-size body would sound, and if it was any smaller, there’s a chance it wouldn’t work.
But this is honestly a nice sounding uke with plenty of body.
To me, this seems like a steal of a deal, and if you don’t mind paying a little more (and I do mean a little more), I would suggest checking out this instrument.
Are There Better Ukuleles Out There?
Generally, cheaper instruments are fine if you’re a beginner and just getting started.
But you should not expect to get a high-quality instrument, especially if you’re only paying $80 to $150 for it.
There are better quality ukuleles out there – some are especially beautifully handcrafted instruments made of rare or expensive woods and parts.
We’ll introduce a couple here in case you’re interested in finding a better-quality instrument.
Kala Elite 3KOA Ukulele – Concert, UV Gloss (Best For Intermediate And Pro Ukulele Players)
You can tell that there’s something special about the Kala Elite concert ukulele just by looking at it.
It may not have fancy fretboard inlays, but there’s something special about the wood, isn’t there?
This high-end concert ukulele is made of Hawaiian native koa wood (which you will only find on the Hawaiian Islands) and it features a fully solid body to boot.
It also comes with ivoroid binding, UV gloss and an ebony fretboard.
This gives the instrument plenty of sustain, note separation and volume along with a beautiful, warm tone.
Customers of this Kala instrument find it easy to fall in love with and that shouldn’t come as any surprise.
If you’re looking for a higher quality instrument, you’ve found one.
Best Professional Ukulele: Bruce Wei 5A Curly Hawaiian Koa Tenor Ukulele
You can tell, from the moment you set your eyes on it, that the Bruce Wei 5A tenor ukulele is something special.
This uke comes with a curly Hawaiian koa top, back and sides, solid ash sides, solid Macassar ebony fingerboard and bridge, Buffalo bone nut and saddle and a polished satin finish.
And, yes, it does come with the beautiful mermaid fretboard inlay work as well as the turtle soundhole, which offers the complete island experience.
While the Bruce Wei isn’t for everyone, its unique design makes it hard to ignore.
What Should I Look For In A Ukulele?
You would be hard pressed to find an unhappy ukulele player.
There’s just something about the ukulele – it’s such a playful instrument.
And, coming from that space, truly there’s nothing wrong with any instrument you can buy.
Obviously, some sound better and look nicer than others.
Some are easier to play than others.
Some keep better tune.
And, we’ll be looking at all those things in the subsections that follow.
But with more affordable ukuleles like the ones on this list, there isn’t too much to obsess over.
For the most part, “good enough” is the best you can hope for.
More expensive ukuleles will often come with unique and rare tonewoods.
Other features that can increase the cost of a uke include better hardware, unique inlays, binding and so on.
If you’re only spending $80 to $150, you’re not going to get anything fancy in this regard.
So, at the beginner level, what you get is what you get.
But when shopping for a ukulele, there are a few important criteria to keep in mind – especially if you end up deciding to upgrade one day.
Let’s look at these factors in depth.
An Instrument With A Pleasant Tone
Why buy an instrument that sounds good?
While you’re not going to pay much attention to your instrument’s tonal qualities at first, as you continue to play, you’ll notice it more.
Let’s say, for instance, you buy a cheap uke and practice with it steadily for a year or so.
Then, a friend of yours visits your home with their brand new $1,500 uke and lets you have a go with it.
Suddenly, you realize how different it is from the beginner instrument.
It sounds amazing and plays like butter to boot.
At some point, you will begin paying more attention to tone and it will start to matter to you more.
At the beginner level, there isn’t going to be a huge difference in tone across the options available.
If you want an instrument that’s going to sound better and improve with age, I just have one suggestion – buy one that’s made of solid wood (or at least one that has a solid top).
An Instrument That Keeps Tune
We find this to be a bit of an issue with cheaper instruments, so it’s worth mentioning.
Inexpensive ukuleles can easily fall out of tune (at least you’ll get lots of practice tuning).
As with guitars, ukes have strings, bridges, nuts and tuners.
All these components can affect your tuning.
And, a poorly put together instrument, unfortunately, simply won’t keep tune.
If you’re playing casually this is not a big deal.
But if you plan to play the uke a lot and improve as a player, an instrument that keeps tune is essential.
So, check the reviews and demos to ensure the uke you’re thinking about buying won’t fall out of tune too easily.
An Instrument That’s Nice To Play
It’s always tempting to spend less, especially as a beginner.
But one factor that’s not worth compromising on to a great extent is playability.
As with any stringed instrument, you can get a ukulele set up by a tech.
But that is going to drive up the cost of the instrument overall.
You could buy a uke that plays nice out of the box, or you could pay more to have a cheaper instrument set up by a pro.
It’s not the end of the world if you end up with an instrument that doesn’t play great – it doesn’t mean the ukulele doesn’t work.
But it always feels better to play a uke that has proper action.
An Instrument That’s Within Your Budget
We can’t imagine you’ll break the bank buying any of the instruments mentioned here.
But we always like to caution our readers just in case.
It’s usually not worth it to go into debt to buy an instrument you may not even like.
And, if you want to buy something of greater quality, we suggest saving up for best results.
What Types Of Ukuleles Are There?
You may have noticed terms like “concert” and “tenor” and wondered what they meant.
The most common types of ukuleles include soprano, concert, tenor (not to be mistaken for a tenor saxophone ) and baritone.
A soprano ukulele is considered a “standard” uke.
Lesser common types (not mentioned here) include sopranino (or piccolo), bambino, bass and contrabass ukuleles.
The range for each instrument varies and so does their size and the way they are tuned.
Beginners should consider starting off on a soprano or concert ukulele but generally, no uke is harder to play than the other.
You want to more make sure you have easy songs to learn.
So, there’s a basic overview of the different types of ukes available.
Top Cheap Ukuleles For Beginners Compared, Final Thoughts
The ukulele is a whimsical instrument.
It’s relatively easy to pick up compared to guitar.
But as with any other instrument, mastery can take considerable time and effort.
Virtuoso ukulele players do exist (e.g. Jake Shimabukuro), and you could easily spend the rest of your life improving and getting better at playing.
But it’s okay to enjoy the instrument at any level you like.
So, have fun shopping for, and ultimately playing, your new ukulele.
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