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Ukulele Rule #2: No more than $75 for your first ukulele

This may not be a very popular rule, but in general, I don’t think you should spend more than $75 (US) on your first ukulele. If you have been borrowing someone else’s ukulele this rule does not apply to you; and if you played ukulele some years ago and want to come back to it, it also does not apply to you.

However, to the many people who decide to buy a ukulele and learn it for the first time, in my opinion, you shouldn’t spend more than $75 on your ukulele. Now, if you have the money to spend, and want to spend more…go ahead. That said, the ukulele is like any other instrument, and it is not uncommon for a person to try an instrument for a while and just decide that it isn’t for them.

As a music educator, I taught all of my middle school students, and now my fifth grade students, ukulele. I didn’t (don’t) expect every student to love playing the instrument, but I want them to have the experience of learning how to play the ukulele, and to learn some basic chords and techniques. But I always tell them that it is possible that if don’t play ukulele after my class, someday they may be at a music store or garage sale, see a ukulele, and decide to come back to the instrument.

One of the things I have seen is individuals who tell people to buy the most expensive ukulele they can afford. That’s ridiculous, because instruments depreciate (figure 30% immediately) and not everyone falls in love with the instrument. If you buy a $1300 Kamaka, and don’t love it, you’re guaranteed to lose a minimum of $300 if you decide to sell it. I think the people that tell people to buy the most expensive instrument they can are really hoping that they’ll quit so that they can buy the instrument from the new player at a massive discount.

Some people will dislike this “rule” because they fear that people will buy their ukulele from Amazon, taking business away from local music stores and ukulele internet dealers–and end up with a ukulele that isn’t set-up and hard to play. As for the issue with where you buy it, as you learn ukulele on a less-than-$75 instrument, you’ll learn more about it, so that you know what your next ukulele will be (after 30 days…see rule #1). And that next instrument will be more than $75, and you can order it from your local music store or use one of the specialist ukulele shops. And to be honest, those internet stores all set up ukuleles, and lose money (when time is factored in) on entry-level ukuleles. Saving those vendors for your second (and beyond) ukulele purchase is actually better for their bottom line, too.

There are a number of instruments in the sub $75 range that are great instruments (not just for starters) that come well set-up, straight from Amazon. As of March 2020, these are the models that I can recommend based on personal experience:

  • Flight TUS or TUSL travel ukulele (The TUSL has a longer neck)
  • Enya KUC-20 Concert Ukulele Kit (the 20 series may be discontinued in the future, but Enya will continue to offer a series in this price point)
  • Aklot AKC-23 Kit

There are other brands that I have seen or have heard about, but have not seen enough examples to be able to recommend them with confidence. I have seen multiples of the instruments above. Please note: these instruments are mentioned without affiliate links.

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