In recent years, ukuleles are becoming very popular and they are also enjoying an upsurge popularity as beginner instruments for kids. Thanks to its small size the ukulele is a perfect beginner instrument for little kids. For all other guitarists it’s a great second instrument which is ideal to take outside and guarantees a high level of fun. In addition to that, a good ukulele is not that expensive.
1. Difference between Guitar and Ukulele
2. Why a Ukulele is a good choice for Kids
3. Anatomy of the Ukulele
4. Ukulele Types
5. Buying a Ukulele for Kids
6. Best Ukuleles for Kids
7. Necessary Accesoires for Beginners
Difference beteween Guitar and Ukulele
At the first glance a ukulele seems to be quite similar to a guitar. In fact, the proportions are almost the same. However, the biggest difference is that a ukulele has got only 4 strings instead of 6 strings and uses a different tuning.
A ukulele is also much lighter than a guitar. It only has the weight of three chocolate tablets which makes it very easy for kids to carry it around. Regarding size a ukulele measures only half of the height of a full size guitar.
Why a Ukulele is a good Choice for Kids
As already mentioned the small size of the ukulele is perfect for little hands. Kids can strum along to easy songs. The ukulele is in my opinion one of the easiest and best instruments to start with. I don’t want to say it’s easy to master but the progress can be made quicker on a ukulele as a child than on other instruments. Since they use only 4 strings several chords only need one finger to play them. You must however remember that the ukulele does also require practice, and I would strongly advise thinking about lessons.
The vast majority of ukulele strings are made of nylon strings which is another great advantage for beginners and especially for children. Nylon strings hurt much less the fingertips of a beginner. With a little practice and time this slight discomfort will quickly disappear. Many people are already able to play a song after practicing a day with their new small instrument. The strings of a ukulele are also under much less tension than on the guitar which makes it much easier for beginners to push them down.
Soprano Ukulele Bundle for Kids
When buying the first ukulele for a child I highly recommend getting a bundle which already comes with a set of extra string , a tuner and a gig bag. In this way you don’t have to worry about forgetting an important accessoire and a bundle is always cheaper than buying only the instrument and the accessoires separately. One ukulele bundle I can recommend is from Kala.
A ukulele is a very light instrument and therefore even suitable for the youngest. You can carry also it with you anywhere since it fits easily in most of the backpacks. They also come in a great range of bright, child friendly colors or featuring famous cartoon characters. Last but not least, a good ukulele is also quite cheaper than a good guitar and it’s a perfect introduction before the guitar. In that way your child learns already the basics of a stringed instruments and once he is ready to move on with the guitar he will progress much quicker.
Anatomy of the Ukulele
The anatomy and the parts of a ukulele are very similar to the guitar. The body and the neck represents the main parts of the instrument. The body with the soundhole is responsible for the sound production. Depending on the used woods ukulele makers can influence the sound of the instrument. The neck with the strings allow us to create notes and The image on the side illustrates the complete anatomy.
Some instruments have even a curved backside in order to increase the volume
As with guitars, ukuleles come in different sizes. There are generally four common sizes:
The soprano ukulele is the typical beginner instrument when learning the ukulele. It’s the smallest version of the ukulele and it’s the one people normally refer to when they talk or hear about ukuleles. Immediate and advanced players often choose a concert or tenor ukulele since these are louder in their sound. A baritone ukulele is the biggest model which has also a different tuning (E-A-D-G). It’s the tuning of the first four strings of a guitar. The baritone is rather an instrument for players having already a soprano or concert ukulele.
Soprano Ukulele for Kids
When buying a ukulele for kids you shold go for a soprano. It’s size and weight just suits perfectly the youngest players. There are also plenty of entry level instruments on the market for a good price.
Buying a Ukulele for Kids
With its increasing popularity there are more and more manufacturers that offer ukuleles but unfortunately some of them have a poor quality or not even playable. These manufacturers are mostly companies specialized in making toys and not musical instruments. In order to avoid a bad surprise when buying the first ukulele I would like to give you some advices.
1. Toy Ukulele or actual Instrument?
First of all, you have to know if you want to get your child a ukulele rather as a toy or as an actual instrument. Many ukulele manufacturers produce ukuleles in a variety of colors or featuring famous cartoon characters for a quite affordable price. They are often available for around $20. Whilst it can be quite tempting to buy a cheap ukulele, these ukuleles are rarely made for good musical instruments and could even hinder your child’s progress and enjoyment. After all, it can really be frustrating experience learning to play on a ukulele that doesn’t stay in tune.
I personally consider those ukuleles as toy ukuleles for kids than actual musical instruments. They are poorly built which means that they have uneven frets, a bad neck, low quality strings and so on. Finally, they are pretty unplayable since they don’t stay in tune. I wouldn’t recommend to get these ukuleles for kids if you want to get your child an actual instrument. If you want just a toy ukulele for making some noises they might be alright. But if your child has got the intention to learn the ukulele properly, you should spend around $10-$20 dollars more and you will get already a much better ukulele.
For about $40 you can get a ukulele that’s much better and playable. These aren’t the best ukuleles either but they are quite good for the money and for young kids fully sufficient. The strings that come on these ukuleles have usually a quite bad quality and are definitely the weak point on these ukuleles. Changing the original strings with a set of Aquilas strings will improve the sound of a cheap ukulele tremendously.
2. Choose a Soprano Ukulele for Kids
When buying a ukulele for kids there are a few things you should consider before making a decision. First of all, you already know that you should get a soprano ukulele. The type is normally mentioned in the product description. I have seen many cheap ukuleles on the internet where this information is missing. In this case you can take it for granted that it’s a soprano ukulele. All the cheap ukes are soprano ukes.
3. Don’t buy a cheap Ukulele in Supermarkets
There are some big chaines that are selling from time to time cheap ukuleles and especially around Christmas. Most of these instruments aren’t actual instruments but only toys. Typically the tuners don’t hold properly the tuning which means that playing music on the instruments is impossible since it won’t be in tune.
4. There is not need to get the most expensive and best ukulele
For more serious and confident young players, it may be worth considering expanding your search above the $40 mark. A higher quality ukulele can prove to be a good investment for kids who tend to progress quickly. But that is only a recommendation for older kids or for kids who are already playing the ukulele and wish to move on with a better instrument.
If you get a ukulele for a very young child, don’t buy the most expensive or best ukulele you can find. Kids are kids and anything placed in their possession will likely suffer all sorts of training knock and mishaps through their trial-and-error discoveries. Make sure to get a playable instrument that stays in tune. Once your child has reached a certain level you can think about getting a better one and sellling the old one.
5. Signs for a quality Ukulele
Try to find a ukulele with good tuning pegs. For cheaper models ‘geared tuners’ are preferable as they tend to stay in tune for longer. Also make sure to check the action of the ukulele (the distance between the strings and the neck). A bad action can make an instrument hard to play, but should be easily adjustable. The gloss is also a good quality indicator. The thinner, the better. Cheap ukuleles have a very thick gloss. It’s impossible to see the wood structure on the surface of these instruments. For a better ukuleles manufacturers are using much less gloss.
Best Ukuleles for Kids
Since soprano ukuleles are the best choice for kids I want to recommend you in the following a few models that are worth taking a closer look.
A really well-known manufacturer for quality ukuleles is Kala. They offer expensive high-level instruments as well as affordable entry level models. The Kala KA-15S is one of the most popular soprano ukulele for complete beginners. For the price you don’t get only a really nice looking ukulele but also an instrument which well playable.
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Buy on Amazon
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Another good soprano ukulele comes from the guitar manufacturer Cordoba. They build first of all quality classical nylon string guitars but also a small range of ukuleles. The Cordoba 15SM is a bit more expensive than the one from Kala. It’s equiped with Aquila Nylgut strings which ensures a nice sound.
Necessary Accessoires for Beginners
In general there are three things that you shouldn’t forget to buy for a child when getting an ukulele : a tuner for tuning the instrument, a couple of strings Aquila to increase the sound quality or just to have one in case a string breaks and a gigbag to protect the instrument from damages.
I recommend you getting a clip-on tuner which you can easily put on the headstock. They are easy to use and quite cheap. The Snark SN6X is one example for a good ukulele tuner.
If the ukulele you are buying is not already equiped with strings from Aquila but only noname strings from the manufacturer you are better off getting some from Aquila. These are one of the best strings you can find on the market which are also not expensive. If the ukulele comes with Aquila strings get some strings anyway because they can break and need to get changed from time to time.
A ukulele is a small instrument and one of the biggest is that it is easy to transport anywhere you want. In the past I used a quite thin bag for transporting my ukulele but I regretted this decision. In order to protect the instrument make sure to get a good padded gigbag. The brand Music First for example offers some really nice padded gigbags.
Last but not least let me remind you on some other accessoires for the ukulele that are not a must and not necessary needed for a beginner. Some people prefer picking the strings with a pick instead of their fingers. As a beginner you should always start learning picking with your fingers to get the feeling.
Once you have go a ukulele, check out our overview with easy ukulele songs for kids.