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Soprano ukuleles may be a smaller type of uke, but they’re by no means for careless beginners only. You want your ukulele to be well made, give a great sound, and generally give you a great introduction to the magical world of uke playing. And if you’re just after a ukulele perfect for small hands, they’re ideal for that too!
With that in mind, here are the best soprano ukuleles you can buy right now.
The Best Soprano Ukuleles For Different Uses
For this list, we’ve chosen 7 different models of soprano ukulele. We’ve put together a quick reference chart for easy comparison.
|Model||Cordoba 15SM||Martin S1||Makala MK-S||Luna UKE VMP||Luna UKE HTS ZBR||Kala Learn to Play Kit||Lohanu LU-S|
|Material||Mahogany, Rosewood||Mahogany||Mahogany, Laurel||Mahogany, Walnut||Zebra wood, Mahogany||Mahogany, Rosewood||Sapele, Rosewood|
|Stings||Nylon||Fluorocarbon||Aquila Super Nylgut||Aquila Super Nylgut||Aquila Super Nylgut||Aquila Super Nylgut||Aquila Super Nylgut|
|Accessories||None||None||None||None||None||gig bag, clip-on tuner, Quick Start Guide, online lessons, tuning app||padded case, picks, extra strings, tuner, strap, uke hanger, online video lessons, digital songbooks|
Now, let’s look at the details of each model.
Best Overall – Cordoba 15SM
Cordoba is a string instrument company dedicated to creating high-quality instruments in the Spanish tradition. Their ukuleles are hand crafted by their experts and sold only by authorized dealers. The 15 series is designed for beginners, with a rich sound and simple construction.
The Cordoba 15SM is a mahogany and rosewood ukulele with abalone accessories. It’s 32 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 7 inches deep for solid resonance, and is strung with nylon.
Best High-End – Martin S1
If you’ve been anywhere near the music industry in the last century, you know the name Martin. Most famous for their guitars, played by the likes of Colbie Caillat, John Oates, and Weezer, it’s no wonder that, for the top-of-the-line option, we went with one of their ukes.
The Martin S1 is solid mahogany all the way around with a hand rubbed finish. It’s strung with Martin’s in-house fluorocarbon strings, which they claim hold tuning longer than other kinds. It’s got a strong dovetail neck joint for sturdy construction and a 13.6-inch scale length, making it an excellent choice for experienced players.
Best Budget – Makala MK-S
Kala is a popular ukulele brand for a reason – their instruments are just that good. Made in California, they focus on a hometown, home-grown vibe that’s made them a staple in the past 13 years.
The Makala MK-S is a member of their budget line, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on quality. It’s made of satin-finished mahogany with a laurel fingerboard. The strings are Aquila Super Nylgut, a kind of synthetic material that boasts a similar feel to traditional gut strings.
Best Pineapple – Luna UKE VMP
Luna is a company that focuses on natural and nature-inspired instruments. They were founded in 2005 and have become well-loved for their fantastical designs and creative focus. This uke has the interesting quality of being a pineapple body rather than a standard. Pineapple ukes are generally considered more mellow, but louder.
The Luna Uke VMP – which stands for Vintage Mahogany Pineapple – is designed from mahogany and walnut with Aquila Super Nylgut strings. It’s got 12 frets on a 13-inch scale, making it fairly standard in terms of range.
Best Acoustic-Electric – Luna UKE HTS ZBR
Another Luna pick, this uke is a combination acoustic-electric. This means that while it can definitely be effectively played on its own as you would with any acoustic instrument, you can also plug it into an amplifier for concerts and stage performances.
The Luna uke HTS ZBR – which means High Tide Soprano Zebra – is made of zebra wood and mahogany for a visually interesting finish, with an abalone inset around the sound hole. It’s got 12 frets on a 13.5-inch scale, making it slightly longer than standard, and uses Aquila Super Nylgut strings.
Best Beginner – Kala Learn to Play Kit
Kala makes the list again with a particularly interesting offering. Instead of having to buy the instrument and all the supplemental accessories separately, you can order them all together at a discounted rate.
The Kala Learn to Play kit is a full set for the absolute beginner. It includes a Kala Soprano ukulele, gig bag, clip-on tuner, Quick Start Guide, and access to online lessons and a tuning app. The uke itself is mahogany and rosewood with Aquila Super Nylgut strings, and has a 12-fret, 13.5-inch scale.
Best Rated – Lohanu LU-S
Lohanu is actually a Canadian brand, but their name comes from a combination of three words: Love, Ohana (Hawaiian for “family”), and Unity. They have the title of best rated and best-selling ukulele brand on Amazon, with this particular model set having a good rating.
The Lohanu LU-S is sold as part of a beginner’s bundle that includes a padded case, picks, an extra set of strings, tuner, strap, and uke hanger. It also comes with access to online video lessons and digital songbooks. The uke is sapele and rosewood with Aquila Super Nylgut strings.
Why Pick a Soprano Ukulele?
There are four main types of ukulele: baritone, tenor, concert, and soprano. The type is determined by the size of the instrument, which can be between 21 and 30 inches. It’s also determined by the string pattern – most ukuleles have strings tuned to G, C, E, and A, in that order, but the baritone has strings tuned to D, G, B, and E.
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest and lightest of the group. This gives them the highest sound and makes them the easiest to handle for beginners, especially children. They’re also the most widely available ukuleles alongside concert ukes, which are slightly larger. A Soprano ukulele is going to give you the most classic, recognizable sound.
A Ukulele Anatomy Crash Course
In order to understand what the specifications for ukuleles mean, it’s valuable to know what the different parts are and what they do. Here’s a quick crash course (or a refresher, if you’re a veteran player) on the anatomy of a ukulele.
- The body of a ukulele is the large, hollow central structure of the instrument. It’s the part that vibrates to create resonance and therefore sound. The size and shape of the body determine the type of ukulele you have. The two most common shapes are standard (hourglass) and pineapple (rounded).
- The soundboard is the top of the body, which vibrates on the frequency of the strings. It has a large hole in the middle of it to project sound.
- The neck is the long, thin piece that extends from the body (and is attached via a piece called the heel). It houses the fretboard and ends in the headstock.
- The fretboard (also called a fingerboard) holds strips of metal (frets) at regular intervals that the strings can be pressed down on to produce different chords.
- The headstock is the wide end of the neck opposite the body that houses the tuners.
- The tuners attach to the strings and can be tightened or loosened to adjust the tension of the strings and change their sound.
- The bridge is located on the soundboard and holds the opposite ends of the strings from the tuners.
Most ukuleles are constructed primarily from wood and small bits of bone, plastic, or metal. The strings were originally pieces of animal organs cured and dried for durability, but now are commonly made of nylon or (on larger instruments) metal. The exact materials vary from model to model, but they all focus on creating the most resonance and the purest sound.
A quality ukulele will have a soundly constructed body and soundboard with no gapping or irregular measurements. The neck will be connected firmly to the body and will have a flat, flush fretboard. It’ll also have a headstock with enough spacing between the tuners for easy adjustment and enough room for the strings to move freely between the nut and the bridge.
How We Chose the 7 Best Soprano Ukuleles
There were a few standards we looked at across all of the instruments to determine whether and where they belonged on the list. These were things that could be easily compared across brands and models, with easy-to-define and standardized qualifiers (though only two of them were actual numbers).
The qualities we chose fell into five categories:
- Material. The materials used to make the ukulele had to be high-quality, and had to produce a clear, resonant sound. Unable to test these in person, we relied on customer reviews and demonstrations. All of the ukes on the list are made of top-of-the-line woods, with the majority incorporating mahogany.
- Strings. The strings are just as important as the materials in the body in terms of sound ad resonant quality. We looked at what kind of strings each company chose to make the default, and were surprised by the number that went with Aquila Super Nylgut.
- Scale. The scale of a ukulele determines the range of notes it can produce, and therefore the range of songs you can play on it. The average range for a uke is about 13-inches with between 12 and 15 frets.
- Accessories. While not strictly necessary, it did pass into our consideration whether or not ordering the ukulele meant you got anything with it. Having a complete kit is more accessible and affordable for beginners.
- Price. Of course, price was a major consideration. We found contenders from across the entire range of pricing for ukuleles, from less than $50 to nearly $400.
We also considered the body shape and whether or not the instrument was acoustic or acoustic-electric, but since those only affect two models on the list, we aren’t considering them main criteria. Additionally, rather than using a numbered system that wouldn’t properly reflect their individual advantages, each ukulele was assigned a “Best” category.
How to Spot a Bad Ukulele Brand
If you find that none of the ukes on this list match your needs, you’re probably going to end up doing a bit of research on your own to find a model and brand for your play style and budget. But be careful – there are many uke makers that you should avoid at all costs if you want to have a quality sound and a long-lasting instrument.
Here are some red flags to look out for.
- Their ukes are incredibly cheap. This may look like a good thing if you can’t afford an extremely high-end instrument, but most brands that charge less than $40 an instrument use low-quality materials or questionable production processes. It’s not always the case, but a surprisingly low price should be a sign to look a little deeper before buying.
- All of their listings look the same. If you stumble across a site where all of the listings have similar names and pictures, even to the degree of using the same picture across multiple listings as the “model picture,” consider shopping on a different site.
- No details. Another major flag is if the listings are extremely sparse. A good ukulele listing will tell you what kind of uke it is, the dimensions of it, what it’s made of, and, ideally, where it’s made. If the listing is nothing more than a name or a flowery description that give no technical specifications, you shouldn’t trust it.
- Low or no customer reviews. A reputable brand will have positive testimonials that they’re happy to display on the “About Us” section, or even the home page, of their website. If you can’t find any reviews at all, consider looking the company up through something like the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any negative reviews or complaints registered there.
When in doubt, try to go for brands that are well known and respected. Ask other musicians what they play and what they recommend. If you can’t find anything in your price range, consider putting off the purchase until you can budget for a slightly more expensive but more reliable model.
How to Care for a Soprano Ukulele
Getting a ukulele is all well and good, but if you don’t take care of it, even the finest ukulele will degrade quickly. There are a few things you need to remember as a responsible ukulele owner.
Mind the Humidity
Humidity can have a profound effect on the sound of your ukulele, on both ends of the spectrum. Storing your instrument in too humid an environment can cause warping. Storing it in too dry an environment, however, can cause cracking.
You’ll want a solid middle ground, which might mean investing in a humidifier if you live in a particularly dry place. A humidifier will cost you between $10 and $20, depending on its size and complexity. You should consider using silica packets during storage if you live in a wet place. It’s good to have both on hand for changing conditions.
Keep It Clean
Dust and debris buildup can also affect your instrument’s sound, so be sure to clean your ukulele off after each session playing. You don’t need anything particularly fancy or specially-made for this; a quick wipe down with a soft cotton cloth after practice and play can keep sweat, oil, and dust off of your instrument.
You can use different products depending on the finish of the instrument. For satin finishes (finishes without much gloss), you can use a mineral or lemon oil to remove buildup on the fret board, but you really shouldn’t use anything on the actual body itself. For glossy finishes, you can use a standard (but quality) guitar polish according to the instructions on the packaging.
Displaying Your Uke
You’re more likely to practice with your ukulele often if you can see it, so it’s a good idea to display your ukulele. You can do this either with a stand or a hook. A stand supports the uke from under the body, while a hook suspends it by the neck on a wall. Neither option is better overall, but they do have their individual benefits. Stands are more stable while hooks are more space-efficient.
As an aside, avoid displaying your ukulele in direct sunlight. This can cause fading in the wood and warping over time which can’t be reversed. If you’re storing your uke on a hook, make sure that it isn’t up too high, as you don’t want to damage it if it falls. If you’re storing it on a stand, make sure the stand is on a stable surface that’s unlikely to be bumped or knocked over.
Storing Your Uke
Inevitably, you’ll want to store your uke for some time, whether that’s just between gigs or while transporting it during a move. Make sure that you have a proper case for it that will protect it from crushing, and keep it in a relatively cool place to avoid warping.
If you’re traveling significant distances, try to keep your ukulele with you rather than in deeper storage. In a car, you’ll want to keep it in the back seat rather than the trunk. If you’re flying, most airlines will let you bring it with you into the cabin as a carryon item. Checking it in the cargo hold or putting it in the trunk means it’s more likely to be damaged in transit.
Essential Ukulele Accessories
If you’re investing in a quality ukulele, you’ll want to get the appropriate accessories you’ll need to play it. While there are hundreds of accessory kinds available, you really only need a few things to get you started.
These accessories can be picked up at almost any local music store. It’s a great idea to try and find them in person rather than online if you can, not only because you’ll be able to see and test them before you buy them, but because you’ll be able to get professional advice and recommendations from the people working there. Local music stores are also an amazing way to find and book lessons and gigs!
Here are the absolute basics you’ll want to pick up with your new instrument.
There are two main kinds of cases for ukuleles – hard and soft. Hard cases are good for long-term storage, as they are better at protecting your ukulele from damage. Soft cases, also called gig cases, are good for short-term storage, as they’re lighter and easier to bring with you to events and lessons.
A quality ukulele case will cost you between $15 and $60, depending on the kind. Soft cases will almost always be cheaper than hard cases. It’s a good idea to have one of each if you’re serious about playing. If you do have to pick just one, though, a hard case is probably the better investment.
Straps make it easier to play a ukulele standing up, as they hold the instrument in place while you play. They make it so that you don’t have to balance the ukulele or press it against yourself to keep it in place, which means you’re less likely to drop it. They’re not strictly necessary, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of standing gigs or practicing, you might consider investing in one for comfort’s sake.
You can pick up an extremely basic strap for around $5, while more comfortable, versatile, and decorative options are available for between $8 and $20.
Your tuner helps you to keep your strings in tune by indicating the correct tone they should be set to, and by how much they’re currently flat or sharp. You’ll want to tune your ukulele every time you play to make sure that your instrument sounds exactly the way you want it to.
Most tuners are simple, vibration-reading electronics. There are a few more complicated tuner designs like rack and pedal tuners, but those are often better suited for larger instruments. Some of the most convenient vibration-reading tuners are clip-on, and attach directly to the headstock of the instrument.
You can get a quality tuner for around $10-12. There’s really not much reason to spend more than that, unless you’re looking for a novelty design or particularly precise tuning.
A capo is a padded clip that holds the strings against the neck to bring the sound of the ukulele up. It makes playing higher songs significantly easier, as it takes away the constant holding of a bar chord. Capos aren’t strictly necessary, but they do make playing many songs much easier and more accurate.
A basic capo will cost between $8 and $15, though more high-quality and better-padded versions can cost upwards of $20. Consider testing a capo in person before purchasing it, though, as you don’t want one that’s going to clamp too hard and damage your instrument.
It’s always a good idea to have a replacement set of strings available in case the ones you have break or wear down. Try to match the strings your instrument comes preinstalled with if you want to match the original sound, or you can try a different material to get a different sound or playing feel. Strings are mercifully cheap, considering how easy it is to break them. They cost about $5-6 for a pack of four.
To replace the strings for your ukulele, you’ll want to carefully remove one string at a time by releasing the tension and clipping or unwinding it. Take the appropriate new string and tie it carefully onto the bridge using an appropriate knot (there are lots of tutorials for this, have a look around). Then, string it through the tuner and nut, tighten it up, and tune it.
Remember to stretch your strings slightly when they’re first installed to prevent snapping.
Top Soprano Ukuleles, Final Thoughts
Soprano ukuleles are a beautiful instrument. Their light, mellow sound makes them perfect for traditional Hawaiian music as well as a wide variety of modern songs. They’re a popular choice for self-taught musicians because of their easy-to-pick-up play style. If you’re looking to pick up a new musical skill, or sharpen the skills you already have, then a Soprano uke is the instrument for you.
If you’re considering getting a new ukulele, then we hope that this list has been helpful, and has made the decision for which model to go with, as well as what else you’ll need to play, a little easier.
Ukuleles are a classic Hawaiian instrument that have become increasingly popular recently because of their relative beginner-friendliness. Easier to play than their larger stringed cousins like the guitar, ukuleles have a unique, mellow sound that anyone can enjoy.
If you’re looking to get started playing the ukulele, or if you’re just looking to flex your skills on a new instrument, you’ll want to consider all of your options carefully.