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If you are in the market to buy a high quality ukulele, there are a number of different factors that you should be aware of that come together to make a quality instrument.
A ukulele is like buying anything else – you can spend as much or as little as you would like, but generally speaking, you get what you pay for! Ukuleles can come in mass produced $30 models, right up to those that have been hand-crafted by luthiers going for thousands of dollars.
What makes a quality ukulele?
Cost – If you are looking to purchase a ukulele, as with anything, there are cheap and expensive options. High quality ukuleles are, intuitively enough, priced at the higher end of the market. If you are a serious player and are looking for an instrument for life, you should definitely considering saving up a good amount of money to purchase a ukulele that will last you forever, instead of one that will need to be replaced because of cheap build quality in three years time.
A ukulele with good build quality means better playability, superior sound, and in general an instrument that has an all round well-made, heavy, beautiful feel. Cheap ukuleles will often fall out of tune easily, due to cheaper parts.
If you are looking for the absolute best quality ukulele, you should look to get one that is handmade. Handmade ukuleles are built with great care and every one of them is uniquely made for the customer. The woods used will be selected by hands, only the highest quality parts will be used, and the wood will not be dampened by heavy duty varnishes/processes used in mass production models. All of these factors make for a far better sounding instrument. You can read a wide range of Ukulele buying guides and reviews through this site.
Wood used – The general rule of thumb when looking for a high quality ukulele, is to make sure that it is made with solid wood. Cheaper alternatives are made from plywood, which is sheets of wood that have been compressed together. Plywood does not offer the same properties as solid wood, in that it does not resonate nearly as well, and therefore does not sound as good as solid wood. Some makers might combine solid wood and plywood, but if you are in the market for a high quality instrument, it is advisable to focus your search on those made from only solid wood.
In terms of which solid wood, this is again a choice which should be made depending on the sound that you are looking for. Koa for example is a more expensive option, and will produce a different sound from woods such as mahogany or spruce. Before buying your quality ukulele, it is important to learn about the different woods that they come in and the different properties that these woods offer, and thereby the different sounds that each of them make.
Size – Ukuleles come in four different sizes – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Baritone ukuleles are the largest of the family, and soprano the smallest and traditional size. The soprano offers the most common sound that we all associate with the ukulele. High quality ukuleles come in all sizes, and this stage of selection is down to personal preference.