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There's no way around it. Concert ukuleles are fun to play. But how do you know if you haven't got your own? It's a simple matter of looking, choosing, and of course, making that leap to buy one.
Concert ukuleles have a reputation for being a child or beginner's instrument, but just because they're easy to play doesn't mean you have to choose something low quality. Below are some of the best (and affordable) concert ukes around to help you decide the right one for you.
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1. Luna Tattoo – Best Overall
Not only is the Luna Tattoo stylish and beautifully crafted, but it also has a full, rich sound. Made from mahogany wood with a fixed bridge system, the Tattoo can create a wondrous melody soothing to the ear. The open-gear tune pegs make it easy for beginners to tune and get more control for the sound.
With a walnut fingerboard, the Tattoo is easy to play for professionals and beginners alike. The bridge is nice and stable, so you can get the optimal sound and play with confidence. The brass-encased nylon strings provide a uniquely deeper sound than most other ukuleles without the plinking.
This instrument has a beautiful construction with tasteful decorations tying it back to its native Hawaii. The patterned ‘tattoo' over the ukulele body is symbolic of traditional Hawaiian tattoos. Even the fret markers underwent a specific redesign, their triangular shape reminiscent of shark teeth.
The open-pore finish leaves the texture of the design so that you can feel the grooves.
This ukulele is a mid-range, relatively affordable model. Though neither the cheapest nor the most expensive concert ukulele out there, the Luna Tattoo offers excellent sound and a spectacular aesthetic for any level of player.
- Warm, melodic sound
- Beautiful Hawaiian decorations
- Easy to play
- Comes with a gig bag
- Factory strings aren't the best with the tuners
- Strings will buzz against the instrument
2. Cordoba Concert 20CM – Premium Option
Made from solid mahogany wood, this ukulele has a beautiful tone and warm resonance. The satin finish is luxurious and silky, making for an attractive appearance and comfortable feel.
The rosewood bridge and fingerboard are sturdy and smooth, allowing for a fuller transmission of sound. The fingerboard, in particular, is soft to the touch and easy to use for players of any level. It's wide and full to fit in your hand and makes complicated chords effortless. The frets themselves are smooth to avoid slicing skin or catching fabric.
With Aquila Nylgut strings, playing is more comfortable and less likely to hurt the pads of your fingers. The tuners have mother-of-pearl fobs for ultimate decoration, and the strong gears keep the instrument in tune no matter the state of the strings themselves. This Cordoba also boasts a compensated bridge, keeping the strings strongly tethered and offering a whole new level of solid sound.
Both the bridge and the soundhole host decorative patterns to add uniqueness and charm to the instrument. Overall, the Cordoba Concert 20CM is an aesthetically pleasing instrument that's a delight to behold and to play.
- Solid top
- Compensated bridge
- Smooth fretwork
- Softer sound than other ukuleles
- Pricier with zero accessories
3. Strong Wind SWM-G10 – Best Budget Option
Crafted from high-quality mahogany, this ukulele provides the ultimate warmth and resonation through its sound. The lower density of this instrument gives it clear notes for a brighter tone. Both the fretboard and the bridge are scientific wood. Spaced nice and wide, the frets are easy for any player to handle.
The nylon Aquila strings are durable and strong, able to withstand lengthy concerts while also providing quality sound. Tuning is easy with large, open-gear tune pegs.
This Strong Wind product also has a lovely design around the soundhole for a unique and pleasant aesthetic. Reminiscent of Celtic designs, the pattern offers a unique style but doesn't disrupt your playing.
On the more affordable side, the SWM-G10 provides excellent sound and quality for the price. It's easily one of the top choices for the best concert ukulele on a budget.
- Easy to play or to learn
- Comes with a gig bag
- More of a beginner ukulele than anything else
- Not as high quality as more expensive brands
4. Kmise UK-24F – Best for Aesthetic
Made from Sapele wood, the UK-24F has a similar sound and warmth to a mahogany ukulele, with a slightly heavier undertone. The wood's sturdiness also allows for a stronger, more durable instrument that can withstand travel and light mishaps.
The sanded frets ensure you won't hurt your fingers while you're playing, so you can have the most comfortable experience possible. The fretboard itself is silky smooth rosewood, and the shapely neck fits well in most people's hands for extra relief.
The design of the tuning stops specifically helps prevent gathering dust or rusting. Made from chrome and sealed tight, they provide better stability for both the ukulele and strings. This stability, in turn, increases the sound quality for a stronger, fuller sound.
Aquila strings from Italy provide this instrument with less plinking and more tonally pleasing notes. Held by the sealed tuners at one end and an authentic bone saddle at the other, these strings allow for effortless tuning, always ready to hold their pitch.
Another aesthetically pleasing ukulele, Kmise's concert uke, has a laser-engraved snail pattern for extra uniqueness and charm. It also has two silver buttons to hold a ukulele strap, one at the bottom of the body, the other at the neck.
- Great sound quality for the price
- Unique design
- Comes with a strap, tuner, and protective bag
- This model has some quality assurance issues
- Strings occasionally buzz
5. AKLOT AKC23 – Best for Sound
If you want to start learning to play the ukulele, this instrument comes with a kit, including everything you need. From a gig bag to picks, a ukulele strap, and online lessons, you're getting more for the price than any other model.
Completely made from mahogany, the AKC23 has a warmer, richer sound than comparative brands. For added comfort, the ukulele sports rounded edges on all sides. Rounded mahogany not only looks stunning and smooth, but its velvety texture also makes it a dream to hold as you play.
The pure copper tuners and Aquila strings help keep this ukulele in tune, so your songs will never go flat unexpectedly. The strings also have a lower action to help with easier playability and tune control.
An embedded rib at the base of the neck supports the connection to the body, so there's less chance of damage. The frets are also further from the edge of the fretboard to reduce catching on clothing or skin and carefully sanded to keep them from hurting your fingers.
The AKLOT website provides free lessons for anyone wishing to play the ukulele. Not only do you receive this information with your purchase, but the nine available episodes are open for anyone with an instrument, no matter if you have an AKLOT uke or not.
- Innovative additions like rounded edges and lowered strings
- Lovely warm sound
- Free lessons explaining the basics and more
- Extra strings aren't labeled
- Frets are sharper than expected at the ends
6. Kala Satin – Best Quality
This mahogany treasure is both super smooth to the touch and has a warm, resonate sound. The cream binding brings another level of flair to this simplistic yet beautiful instrument.
Though less expensive than a high-end ukulele, the Kala Satin has a comparable sound and durable composition. The fullness of the tone is thanks to the mahogany quality and Kala's construction methods.
For fuller sound and sturdy string attachment, both the nut and saddle are Graphtec NuBone. Less wobbly than plastic and able to conduct tone without adding a tinny pitch, Graphtec NuBone acts in the same way cow bone does, without being actual bone. The strings are Aquila Super Nylgut from Italy and soft enough to keep your fingers intact.
The silver nickel frets give the whole instrument a professional look and feel, while the chrome tuners repel rust and dust. Using a sealed process, the tuners skillfully keep the strings at the correct pitch and don't allow them to stretch, sag, or slip.
The Kala brand has an extensive ukulele app to help you out no matter where you are. It can provide accurate tuning, ukulele lessons, or easy-to-play songs. With its help, you can learn the ukulele faster and with more confidence.
- Looks and sounds high-end
- Kala App with resources
- Closed gears for tuners
- High string action
- No strap availability
7. Enya Nova Carbon Fiber – Best Innovative Option
If you like the sound of a ukulele but want a more rockstar look, this Enya Nova is the one for you. Made from innovative carbon fiber instead of wood, it's lightweight, tough, and has a sound that can rival any conventional uke.
Along with the edgy soundhole, the Nova has a secondary side hole to help regulate the melody. This side hole helps with resonance to give you the best and most piercing ukulele music possible. Integrated casting turns this instrument into a more connected system, where every movement and sound is more cohesive than other designs.
The fret markers are in the shape of stars for added austerity. The fretboard itself is wide and easy to play. The complete design of this ukulele, from the curved back to the shaped sides, is beginner-friendly.
Because of the material, the normal concerns for ukulele care are less applicable with the Nova. Temperature and humidity won't affect this uke, and any bumps or scrapes you get into while traveling won't leave a dent. No matter where your adventures take you, this instrument can handle it and still come out pretty.
- Innovative material and design
- Powerful sound
- Comes with extras like a strap and case
- Can't use with wound/metal compound strings
- Hard to see the black frets
8. VANPHY Yukalalee – Best Fashionable Option
Constructed from Sapele wood, this ukulele has a fashionable, more ergonomic shape for a more comfortable feel and better sound. The soundhole is larger than average, allowing the melody to reverberate and gain a richer tone. The body undergoes 30 total processes to achieve the smoothest feel available in a ukulele instrument.
This ukulele has a jazz-style head with tuners all on the same side. This style prevents unwanted buzzing that sometimes occurs with other models. It also makes the uke easy to tune and helps keep it in tune, too.
With an eco-friendlier design, this VANPHY model uses cow bone in place of plastics. Both the pillow and bridge saddle are cow bone, giving the strings a sturdy place to rest and allowing for better sound transmission.
The curved back and Aquila strings both work to make the uke easier to play. The back brings the instrument closer to your body, while the strings are smooth and pain-free.
VANPHY also provides several accessories to get you started, like a gig bag, spare strings, a tuner, and picks.
- Ten-year warranty
- Redesigned headstock
- Quality accessories
- Difficult to attach the strap
- String action is relatively high
9. Best Choice Products Ukulele Starter Kit – Best for Beginners
Sapele wood and a lovely cream binding bring this uke into the realm of best-dressed instruments. The Sapele body is long-lasting and resistant to warping or water damage, meaning it can travel and withstand years of adventurous playing.
No fingerprints will show up on the surface with a smudge-resistant finish, leaving it glossy and smooth no matter how much action it sees.
The solid wood body brings a high sound quality reinforced by the strings and tuning pegs. The pegs are chrome and withstand rust and dirt, so they can perform the best for years to come. The bridge is sturdy and helps resonate the sound into a fuller, brighter tone.
The fretboard is substantial and secure, making it easy for your fingers to find the correct strings. Embedded support keeps the neck tight to the body and helps prevent damage in the event of accidents.
A burnished nub at the bottom of the ukulele holds your strap secure, so you can play without gripping too tightly. For further pleasant aesthetics, the pattern around the soundhole makes for a distinctive instrument.
This uke comes with many accessories to help get you started if you're a beginner ukulele player. Not only do you get the instrument itself, but a gig bag, tuner, picks, and strap are all part of the package.
- Aesthetically pleasing with smudge-resistance
- Easy to learn how to play
- Accessories kit
- More of a beginner ukulele
- Strap is not as sturdy as one would like
What to Look for in a Concert Ukulele
A concert ukulele is a fun instrument to play, no matter your skill level. But whether you're searching for the perfect fit for you or someone else, there are three main things for you to consider. Price, quality of craftsmanship, and materials used.
If you're on a budget, you don't need to worry about overextending yourself. Unlike other instruments, there are plenty of good quality concert ukuleles that you can find for under 100 dollars.
Concert ukuleles, in particular, are usually a good size to learn to play, so they often get dumped in the category of a “beginner” instrument. But if the sound's good and it stays in tune, there's usually no reason to “upgrade” to a pricier model.
Some more expensive ukuleles don't have that much more to offer. Cheaper models often go for laminate wood over solid wood, affecting the tone, but this isn't always the case. A “beginner” ukulele will likely get the name because of its lower cost. This lower cost is usually a result of cheaper materials. But more inexpensive materials don't always reflect the quality of the instrument itself.
More expensive ukuleles will usually be solid wood, have fancy strings, and maybe a cool decoration. They'll use materials like cow bone or mother-of-pearl. But the sound that comes from the ukulele might not be all that different from one with less impressive materials.
So, if you want a super fancy ukulele and have the funds, there's no reason not to splurge if that's what makes you happy. But if you're on the fence between getting a cheaper model and a pricier one because you don't want a “beginner” instrument, there's no need to worry. A well-made uke, regardless of the price, will last you a long time, far longer than the transition between beginner, intermediate, and expert ukulele player.
Quality of Craftsmanship
Something less easy to look for online is the quality of the ukulele craftsmanship. But, it's a vital part of owning an instrument. If it's well-made, it'll be worth the price. If it's not, you could easily crack the body, bend the tuners, or even cut yourself on sharp frets.
Sometimes a poorly-made ukulele is easy to spot. Check the neck to make sure it's not crooked. Examine the frets to see if they are sharp or smooth or if they stick out too far past the neck itself. Ensure the soundhole is smooth and the contours level.
There are four main areas to pay attention to when looking at craftsmanship:
- Tuning pegs
Some strings that come with a ukulele are just not up to par. Usually, you'll need time after you've bought your instrument to let your strings stretch. Stretching is a natural process for ukulele strings, and after it's done, you will have an easier time tuning your uke.
However, some strings don't stretch or will stretch too much and seemingly never keep your ukulele in tune. If you can't get your ukulele tuned, buying a new set of strings can solve the problem for you.
Similarly, some strings won't match your tuning pegs. Strings that don't fit well with your tuners can refuse to tune, or stretch, or turn at all. Or, they might be too brittle. Brittle strings can snap very easily. When your strings show these signs, it's best to buy a whole new set of strings.
Your ukulele tuning pegs should be hardy and durable. If they wobble or aren't secure enough, they won't be able to keep your instrument in tune. Poorly fastened or cheap pegs can loosen and revert tuned strings to their former untuned state.
Sometimes the problem comes from the screws that attach the pegs to the ukulele. If this is the case, usually, you can tighten them to fix the issue. If the problem isn't the screws themselves, you should look to the tuning pegs. Faulty pegs should tell you to avoid that particular instrument or to replace them if you've already bought it.
Like any stringed instrument, concert ukuleles should have sturdy bridges. If your bridge wobbles or looks crooked, it won't be able to hold your strings properly. Firm attachment of a bridge to a soundboard is vital for proper sound.
The glue that holds a bridge to the rest of the ukulele should be firm, strong, and unnoticeable. If you see remnants of the glue used, the quality of craftsmanship isn't very good. The same is true for rough edges. If your bridge isn't smooth and has sharp corners, it's not a well-crafted aspect of your instrument.
Bindings help protect the corners of your instrument from getting dented or chipped. Most of the time, you won't even notice them when you're playing, and that's a good thing. A binding that's lifting can catch sleeves or your skin while you play, making for an unpleasant experience.
The binding of your ukulele shouldn't be peeling off before you take it out of the store. Make sure it lays evenly along the contours without any bumps or ridges.
If you can see the glue that holds the binding in place, you'll know it wasn't put on very well. The same goes for seeing any messy areas of the ukulele finish. If it looks like the glue from the binding is affecting the finish on the body of the ukulele itself, it hasn't undergone quality work.
The materials will give you a better idea of how the ukulele will sound and whether or not it will stay in tune. The type of wood and how the strings affect the sound are top areas for materials.
Testing the strings can tell you a lot about how pitchy your ukulele will be. Keep in mind the action and intonation before you make a decision.
The action of the strings refers to how high they are above the fretboard. A higher action is typically more challenging to play because you have to be conscious of how much to lift your fingers. A lower action is easier to handle and can also provide a better sound with less plinking.
Intonation will tell you if the ukulele notes are where they should be. You can test intonation by plucking the strings to test out the notes. The frets should also have the correct notes. If they don't, even after tuning, the ukulele might never reach an accurate pitch.
Mid-range concert ukuleles usually use Sapele or mahogany to get a full, rich sound.
More expensive ukuleles use Koa wood, which is traditional for Hawaiian ukuleles. However, it's possible to find a great-sounding ukulele that isn't Koa, so you don't need to break your bank account to make up the difference.
Cheaper ukes often use laminate, plastic, or even spruce or cedar. Sometimes these materials can give the instrument a weedier sound that isn't very impressive. However, there are other instances where these materials still hold up and can give the same level of richness as a solid mahogany instrument.
Laminate vs. Solid
A laminate body will feature several different kinds of wood pressed into one. The advantage of this material is it makes the ukulele less expensive and also more durable. However, they can affect the fullness of the sound, so many people prefer solid wood ukuleles.
A solid body will have only one kind of wood as the material. Though this makes the instrument pricier, many people believe it contributes to a richer sound. Of course, having only one wood as the main material will make your ukulele vulnerable to dings and scratches or even temperature changes. It's essential to look after your ukulele if it's solid wood and take care if you want to travel with it.
Some ukulele brands are getting into alternative materials, like carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is more durable than wood and easier to take care of, so if you travel a lot or like to play outdoors in the rain, a carbon fiber uke can withstand your lifestyle. They're also easier to clean and less likely to get banged up due to accidents or mishaps.
The trade-off for alternative materials is that you likely won't get the same kind of sound. So, if you're set on buying a traditional ukulele, you might want to give these a pass. However, if you're feeling adventurous or find an alternative that sounds precisely like a traditional uke, feel free to give one a try.
Best Concert Ukulele Brands
There are hundreds of concert ukulele brands out there, and many are great at what they do. Below are three of the best brands that consistently make high-quality instruments no matter what.
One of the more durable ukulele brands out there, Luna creates lovely pieces of art that will last for years to come. Started in 2005, Luna quickly became one of the most trusted ukulele brands for quality. They continue to provide stellar instruments that promote artistry and creativity.
Their instruments have a range of prices to cater to any financial situation, so you don't have to sacrifice quality over the cost. However, some players find that Luna's focus on the look of their ukuleles can take away from the overall sound.
Begun in 1833, Martin has some knowledge about stringed instruments. They first started producing ukuleles in 1916 and are now the oldest manufacturer of ukuleles on the market. Because of their long-standing experience, not only are Martins exceptionally high-quality, they're also costly.
A top-shelf Martin concert ukulele can cost as much as five thousand dollars, a far cry from the affordable selection of this list. All Martin ukuleles use solid tonewood for their structure, adding to their full, rich sound that lasts for years. The company uses a selection of wood, including the traditional Koa, for a well-balanced, warm sound.
Kala is another top ukulele brand that consistently provides affordability along with its quality. Kala specializes in ukuleles that last and uses the best materials and craftsmanship to create durable and well-made instruments.
Similar to the Luna brand, Kala offers a range of costs for their ukes, focusing on the less expensive side. This practice allows more average folks to afford a quality ukulele without breaking their budget. Plus, a Kala ukulele is certain to last for years, meaning you won't need to find a replacement anytime soon.
Top Concert Ukuleles, Final Thoughts
Of nine top concert ukuleles, the Luna Tattoo is one of the best to choose from. Finding your favorite ukulele doesn't have to be hard, although there are plenty of brands to choose from, and quality isn't always obvious.
Keep in mind that affordable ukuleles can be of great quality if they have good craftsmanship and quality materials. Though many reputable brand names are out there, Luna, Martin, and Kala all make fantastic instruments and are worth checking out.