You might decide that you (or your husband, or your child) wants to get an ukulele during your stay in Hawai’i. Great idea. While you can get a $15 souvenir that will serve as decoration, you can also find some amazing instrument-grade ukuleles during your stay. Here are some quick pointers for finding the right uke for you!
- Have a general, ballpark idea of your price range. Musicians: ukuleles run about a third to half the price of a guitar of equivalent quality. For non-musicians, ukes that are playable, tunable, and fun to learn on start at around $55-$60 in soprano, and an ideal beginner ukulele usually runs between $100-150 (depending on the size). Accessories, such as bags, tuners, and books, might run an additional $30-$50, depending on what you need. However, you can always get an ukulele a la carte.
- Attend a free ukulele lesson. With a quick google search, you can find these available on most Hawaiian islands. These lessons are usually low-key and will let you play a song (or several) on uke before you even start shopping, which can be a huge confidence boost.
- Choose a size: Soprano (small), Concert, (medium), or Tenor (large). These sizes are all tuned the same; ideally ukuleles are sized according to the size of the player. To keep it simple, men usually play tenor, women tend to play concert, and children tend to play soprano. Of course, you should always try them out and see which size feels best to you!
- Know that Hawaiian-made ukuleles are expensive. While you can find some amazing-sounding ukes in the lower price range, Hawaiian makers see ukuleles as a cultural art form, and generally ukes that are made in-state run around $1,000. Some great Hawaiian designers (who manufacture overseas or do partial manufacture overseas) include Kamoa, Keli’i, and Mele Ukuleles.
- Make sure the salesperson knows how to play the ukulele. It’s hard to know the quality of an instrument without at least hearing it be played; plus, a playing salesperson might show you a chord or two. You can always check on various music shop on Yelp and see what other people are saying.
- Try out at least two (ideally three) different ukuleles. Playing two ukuleles back and forth will give you a good idea of the quality of both. Go ahead and try a high-end ukulele next to something less expensive; a great shop will be happy to accommodate you.
- Pick the one that is fun to play! As a lifelong musician, you’ll practice on the instrument you like. If you fall in love with a smaller uke with fancy binding, you’ll play it. My acoustic guitar is blue. Ukulele is fun, so make sure that you’re having a good time when you play it.
On Maui? Be sure to check out Lahaina Music. Their staff are helpful and knowledgeable and there are lots of ukuleles to try.