Which ukulele should I buy?
As a beginner, you will most likely choose an inexpensive instrument to start your ukulele journey. That’s fine! However, you will also have to decide which size is right for you. Flight offers great ukuleles for beginners in all four main sizes (or “scales”):
- Soprano: With only 53 cm from head to tail and 12–15 frets, sopranos are the smallest (and most portable!) members of the ukulele family. Often called “standard” in the Hawaiian motherland, sopranos have that classic sound immediately associated with the ukulele, making them the most popular among beginners.
- Concert: They might be only 10% larger than sopranos, but concert ukuleles are louder, warmer in tone, and definitely easier to play if you have large hands. Plus, the larger neck (typically with 15–18 frets) allows concerts to reach higher notes than sopranos. Weird, we know.
- Tenor: Larger still in size and volume, tenors are arguably the most versatile member of the ukulele family. Sporting up to 19 frets, a tenor can do everything a concert can, and then some. Tenors are especially well-suited for trying alternate tunings, making them especially attractive for solo playing.
- Baritone: The largest members of the ukulele family, baritones are usually tuned like the four top strings of a guitar, making them perfect for guitar players who wish to step into the ukulele world without having to relearn all the chords. Due to its size (74 cm), baris have a very warm sound that reminds you of a classical guitar.
How do I tune the ukulele?
The most popular tuning for the soprano and concert ukuleles is G-C-E-A, known as “reentrant C tuning” because the G string is tuned one octave higher than what you would expect. Many players prefer the “Low G” tuning (also called “linear C”) with the G string below the C, because of the extended range you get, especially when playing longer-necked ukes such as concerts, tenors, and baritones. Speaking of baritones, those are usually tuned to DGBE, exactly like the four top strings of a guitar.
But that is not all, oh no it isn’t. There are many alternative tunings you can try, such as Hawaiian slack key (GCEG), viola (CGDA), open G (GBDG), or pipa (ADEA). Why not develop your own?
Which wood has the best sound?
The best ukulele is the one you have with you.
Having said that, certain woods have tonal personalities that, when combined with build craftsmanship, playing technique, and room acoustics, can dramatically affect the overall sound of the instrument. And it’s not just tone, though – some woods are beautiful to look at, and it’s a well-known fact that good-looking ukuleles are harder to put down than average-looking ones. Fact!
- Amara: A species of evergreen tree native to the rainforests of South America which lends gives ukuleles a unique warm-yet-clear tone. Every amara instrument looks different, sporting different variations of stripes, patterns, or even pitch black. We have a few all-amara ukuleles in our catalogue, including the DUC460 CEQ and DUS460.
- Koa: A type of acacia tree that grows only in Hawaii, the native home of the ukulele. Koa is the traditional choice of wood for making ukuleles, and it looks simply stunning. We have a few all-koa ukuleles in our catalogue, such as the DUS440, the DUC440, and the DUC445
- Mahogany: A hardwood which has been used to make quality musical instruments for centuries. Its colour can vary a fair amount, from a pale pinkish brown to a darker reddish brown, and it tends to darken with age. Do not let the “sober” look of mahogany fool you, though–mahogany ukuleles pack quite a punch! We have a few all-mahogany ukuleles in our catalogue, such as the DUC523CEQ MAH/MAH, the DUC323 MAH/MAH, and the DU-BASS.
- Mango: Usually golden brown in colour, Mango’s heartwood often is streaked with yellow, pink and/or black. Mango is considered to be more sustainable wood, and it provides a warm and bright tone reminiscent of walnut. We currently have two all-mango ukuleles in our catalogue, the DUC450 MAN/MAN and DUS450 MAN/MAN.
- Sapele is a light hardwood from tropical Africa with a golden to dark reddish brown colour. A close relative of mahogany, its grain is interlocked, and has a uniform texture and good natural lustre. Its natural resonance is boosted and concentrated by the arched back of all our instruments (such as the NUS310, the NUC310, and the NUS350, yielding a clear and bright tone.
- Spruce: A soft tonewood used since time immemorial to make musical instrument soundboards. Its colour is typically creamy white with hints of yellow and red, and instruments made from spruce typically have a bright and clear tone. We have a few spruce/zebrawood ukuleles in our catalogue, such as the DUC525 SP/ZEB and DUC325 SP/ZEB.
- Zebrawood: A hardwood from West Africa that is light brown or cream in colour, with dark brown streaks resembling a zebra’s stripes. Thanks to its lovely coarse texture, open pores, and wavy grain, instruments made from zebrawood look very special. We have a few Spruce/Zebrawood ukuleles in our catalogue, such as the DUC525 SP/ZEB and DUC325 SP/ZEB.
How to hold ukulele?
Note that the ukulele is cradled by the right arm, between your wrist/forearm and body. The index finger of the right hand is extended and is used to strum the strings, right at the place where the neck of the ukulele meets the body. Don’t strum near the hole. The fingernail of the index finger faces the ground, so that the back of the nail strums the strings on the way down, then the tip of the finger and nail strum on the way back up. The ukulele is held high on your body. This position allows you to partly hold the ukulele up in the crook of your elbow. It also helps you to hear the ukulele while you are singing, when it is closer to your head. Your right forearm should point right up the ukulele’s neck.
If you are holding the uke properly, you should be able to take either hand away and have the instrument stay where it is. That’s easy enough for the left hand – grab the neck between the heel of your hand and your fingers, as though you’re making a chord. It’s a little trickier for the right hand – you have to keep the whole hand free for strumming, so you have to get used to sort of cradling/squishing it in there.
Just try it! It’s worth getting used to hanging on with just the right arm and not the hand, otherwise when you are playing songs, the ukulele will keep catching you off guard by slipping.
Where can I find good ukulele tutorials?
It is no secret that every virtuoso ukulele player starts as an absolute beginner, and we work hard to cater to the needs of first-time learners everywhere, aiming to bring as many ukuleles to as many homes as possible. We have been actively collaborating with YouTubers and Instagramers, focusing on those bringing ukulele tutorials to a wide international audience‚—and gosh what a nice feeling it is to know that thousands of people have learned their first chords from a tutorial featuring a Flight ukulele! Please check them out here.
What else do I need for practice?
You can download our chord sheet here. The beauty of it is that you can print it or just save it in your phone and practice anywhere you go!
We have also designed a cute 8-page guide to help you on the road to future ukulele fame. It is packed with all the necessary information needed for a quick start including chord charts, strumming patterns and chord progressions for your first drills.