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In the more recent years, ukuleles have become increasingly popular in the musical market, especially among people with limited musical training-which is amazing! With this massive increase in the popularity of these stringed instruments has also come to a large wave of people trying to figure out which type of ukulele would make the best model for their personal needs.
Below, we have all of the information that you need to know in order for you to make an informed purchase when shopping around for your next concert ukulele.
When shopping around for ukuleles, there are three sizes that you will have to choose from:
The soprano ukulele is the smallest uke on the market and has a 21-inch scale, a concert ukulele has a 23-inch scale, and a tenor ukulele is the largest available with a 26-inch scale.
The smaller the ukulele is, the brighter and the thinner the sound that the instrument produces is going to be. A concert ukulele is going to be a combination of soprano and tenor ukes sound, as it’s concert body size will provide you with a traditional ukulele tone and plenty of volumes to go with it.
When you’re on the hunt for a concert ukulele, you’re going to hear about acoustic-electric ukuleles in your search. In other words, an acoustic-electric instrument is an acoustic instrument that has a pickup in it, which allows the sound to be amplified.
For the times you’re not using the electric part of the instrument, you’re still going to be receiving a solid acoustic tone, but the electric part just gives you the option to easily amplify the sound your instrument is projecting.
However, this is a downfall to using an acoustic-electric instrument, so don’t click off yet! When using an instrument with a pickup in it, you will be paying more money for not only the pickup but for the instrument as well.
If you are someone who is certain that you’re never going to be playing live, you will probably want to save your money and not go with an acoustic-electric concert ukulele. However, on the other hand, if you’re looking to play a lot of live gigs, you will most definitely want to go with an acoustic-electric ukulele.
When discussing the different types of tonewoods that are used to create different types of ukuleles, there are some musicians out there that will argue the comparability of one tonewood to another. This is because of the differences between how one species of wood is grown differently to another, but no tonewood is actually superior to another wood.
Here is a list of some of the tonewoods that are most commonly used in the composition of ukuleles, but this is by no means an all-inclusive list of all of the different types of tonewoods that are used to create ukuleles:
Cedar is a wood that produces a warm sound with a very heavy bass tone. If you’re on the hunt for a ukulele that’s going to produce a softer sound without a whole lot of extra punch, you should look into getting your hands on a ukulele that features cedar tonewood.
Spruce is a wood that’s going to be most commonly found in ukuleles that are high-end and more expensive ukuleles. The biggest downfall to using spruce as a tonewood is that sometimes it can be a bit brittle sounding; however, this also depends on the size of the body of the instrument and any of tonewoods used along with spruce.
Rosewood has used mainly for the clarity that it provides users with both volume and clarity. You will find that most moderately priced ukuleles will use rosewood as their tonewood, as it does a great job of producing a unique tone without being too expensive.
Mahogany is a tonewood that produces a warm sound and is the most commonly used wood when producing ukuleles. This tonewood has a strong low end, solid middles, and bell-like highs.
Maple is easily comparable to rosewood when listening to the clarity that both tonewoods produce. While maple is similar to rosewood, it does produce a brighter tone.
If you’re new to the world of music, chances are you don’t know that the tonewoods we listed above will fall into two different categories- solid and laminate. Solid wood is just a solid piece of wood, whereas laminate wood is comprised of thin pieces of wood glued together.
Laminated wood doesn’t resonate as well as solid wood does, while also having a less volume and a lower amount of frequencies. On the other hand, solid wood produces a louder, larger, clearer sound than laminated wood.
The Oscar Schmidt OU5 Koa Concert ukulele is the only use that we have on this list that’s made of Koa, which is a wood that is traditionally used for ukuleles. However, since mass products of ukuleles became more popular, Koa is a wood that you won’t find as often in budget-friendly ukuleles.
If you’ve ever played the ukulele that was built from mahogany, you will notice that the sound and feel of Koa is very similar to the sound and feel of mahogany. However, Koa has a stronger middle presence and provides a sound that’s a bit more articulate than mahogany.
Koa is a better wood to use if you’re looking for a sound that’s slightly less mellow than mahogany but cuts through a lot more. I would personally recommend using this ukulele if you’re on the hunt for a uke that’s going to provide you with note separation for more complex songs.
This ukulele would also be a great investment if you’re looking for an instrument that will withstand some abuse a bit better, as the hardware on this instrument is a bit sturdier than the hardware on other ukes we have on this list. The difference is that the Oscar Schmidt OU5 users Grover branded tuners, whereas the majority of the other ukuleles on this list use tuners that aren’t branded.
While using Grover tuners in comparison to non-branded tuners isn’t a big deal on ukuleles, because the strings on ukuleles don’t put out the whole bunch of pressure, it still is noticeable to an experienced ukulele player.
The Luna Maluhia comes with an all laminated mahogany body which provides a warm tone. The only concern that I have in regard to this ukulele is that this instrument has a graphite nut instead of a bone nut. The overall tone of this instrument would make a great ukulele to play with on a live microphone, as long as you aren’t playing in a band or your instrument has its own mic.
While the Donner DUC-1 Mahogany concert ukulele isn’t as striking in the visual department as high-end ukuleles, it does make a great starter instrument for beginning ukulele players who are looking for a practical entry-level uke. This instrument is comprised of a laminated mahogany body and laminated mahogany neck, paired with a rosewood fingerboard and rosewood bridge.
What makes this ukulele so different than other budget-friendly ukuleles on the market is the geared tuners that come installed in this instrument, whereas cheaper ukuleles just have cheap tuners installed on them. Geared tuners help to constantly keep your strings in tune, which is very important if you plan on playing live or practicing regularly. With your purchase of this ukulele, you also get a few accessories that will really help you out as a beginner, which include: an extra set of strings, a strap, a bag, and a digital clip-on tuner.
The Donner DUC-3 offers a different flare than the DUC-1 concert ukulele by offering users a different sound than the DUC-1 at a bit of a cheaper price tag. The DUC-1 is comprised of a laminated spruce top, laminated sides and back, rosewood bridge, rosewood fingerboard, and geared tuners.
While this ukulele was built for beginning ukulele players in mind, as an advanced musician, I found that it was very interesting to play this instrument because of the unique musical tone that it fed back to me. I found that the tone itself was warm and very focused, which is most likely because of the unique combination of the laminated spruce top and the laminated mahogany back and sides.
As I was playing this instrument, I did realize that this concert ukulele would be loud enough to play any sort of live venues without an amplifier. However, I think this would be a great ukulele to record with because the laminated spruce top provides the instrument with a brighter tone, which will help it cut through guitars that focus more in the middle and low ranges.
The Hola! Music HM-124MG+ Deluxe Mahogany Concert Ukulele (try saying that five times fast) separates itself from its competition by using a bone saddle and a bone nut, which helps to increase the volume and resonance of the ukulele. Most companies that produce affordable ukuleles use plastic nuts and plastic saddles, but plastic isn’t as dense as bone is, which causes a decreased sound resonation.
This concert ukulele sports a mahogany body while producing a warm sound, but is unfocused when comparing the sound that mahogany produces to the sound that spruce produces. I found that the Hola! Music HM-124MG+ Deluxe Mahogany Concert Ukulele would be great for someone who is looking to find a ukulele to accompany their voice, as the warm tones that this instrument produces would pair exceptionally well with a voice.
The Cordoba 15CM Concert ukulele is an upgrade from your very basic and extremely affordable ukulele. While there aren’t huge differences between this ukulele and your super-budget options, the Cordoba 15CM uke is produced by a well-established company; as a general rule of thumb, instruments that you buy from companies that offer instruments for all levels of musicianship tend to perform better than instruments that are produced by companies that just offer instruments exclusively for beginners. This is because well-established companies gain a better understanding of what makes an instrument sound good by playing around with different quality woods, materials, and building guitars for different types of buyers.
After playing around with this uke for a bit, I wouldn’t really recommend this instrument if you are a musician that is looking to play in a group or in live performances without having to use an amplifier. Due to the laminate that’s used to create this guitar, you’re really just not going to be getting a whole lot of the volume or tone you’d want to have in those types of situations. However, if you’re looking for a concert ukulele to start out on to learn the instrument, record covers on YouTube, or begin learning how to play a stringed instrument, the Cordoba 15CM would be a great option for you.
If you glanced over the specs of the Lohanu LU-C, you may have noticed that the entire body of this ukulele is comprised of laminated sapele instead using the typically laminated mahogany to build the body of the instrument. Sapele isn’t used very often as a tonewood, but it does produce a very similar sound to mahogany. If you happen to be someone who has refined listening skills, you will probably notice the subtle difference between mahogany and sapele.
The biggest difference between mahogany and sapele is that sapele provides a higher-end response than mahogany does. You may not notice a huge difference in sound quality if sapele is just used on the back and sides of the instrument, but when using sapele for the top of a guitar, you will notice a very large difference in the sound produced. Through the use of sapele in the Lohanu LU-C, this ukulele has a very bright sound; it isn’t as bright sounding as spruce, but the sound is more robust than what a spruce produces.
Lohanu also produced the LU-C with a slightly arched back, which helps the instrument to direct sound outwards, helping to produce a louder sound that will project further. The hardware that comes installed with LU-C isn’t anything fancy, but it is nice that the instrument comes pre-installed with strap buttons.
The Cordoba 15CM-E has practically the same build as the Cordoba 15CM with the only big differences being the finish and the pickup in the 15CM-E. The entire body is comprised of laminated mahogany and produces a warm tone that’s rather impressive for the instrument, especially considering the price tag that’s attached with this ukulele.
Keep in mind that this is an acoustic-electric instrument, which would be great to have in hand if you ever plan on playing any live gigs where you would need some sort of amplification to project your sound. However, if you know that there is absolutely no way that you’re ever going to play any live performances, the 15CM would be the better purchase for you to make.
The electronics that come with the Cordoba 15-CME are passive but come with a volume control option. Cordoba doesn’t specify where they placed the pickup, but it’s most likely inside of the sound hole.
While you’re in the market for a concert ukulele, make sure you do research on the instrument that you’re interested in to see if it will truly make the best fit for your personal needs. If you have the option to, head over to your local music shop or guitar store to see if they have any ukuleles for you to physically play with and test out. Always remember that music is a personal experience and what works for your friend may not be something that works for you! Have fun shopping for and buying your next concert ukulele!