Ukuleles for the First Time Musician
by Justin Boden
When you think about Hawaii, a few things instantly come to mind: surfing, tropical beaches, luaus, a love for SPAM cuisine and in the music world, the ukulele. The ukulele was invented in Hawaii during the 19th century, loosely translates to “jumping flea’, and generally comes in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The ukulele didn’t make its way to the mainland United States until around 1915, but became an instant hit and swelled in popularity all the way through the 1960’s before demand began to wane as electric instruments became the newest hot instruments and music trends changed.
In recent years, however, the popularity of the ukulele has again skyrocketed as a new generation of musicians gravitates toward its smaller size, great for younger players and travel, lower price point, and the recent success of popular new artists as uke players.
Long gone are the days of tiptoeing through the tulips ala Tiny Tim or Eddie Kamae’s traditional Hawaiian style. Today’s players like Grace Vanderwaal, and Jake Shimabukuro take the ukulele to an entirely new level with fantastic songwriting and in Jake’s case, the ability to outright shred the uke remixing classic like Bohemian Rhapsody and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Ukuleles make the perfect first stringed instrument, especially for youth to begin learning about music theory, and the why and how of chords, setting them up for eventual progression to the guitar. The ukulele also only has four strings lending less intimidation and simpler conceptual understanding to theory, while allowing for an easier physical grasp on chord shapes as well.
With the eventual progression towards guitar in mind, ukes are even often, though not always, tuned very similarly to guitars with the last four high strings of the guitar matching that of the ukulele. This means that when one is ready to move to a guitar, the basis will remain the same and the transition quite easy as a result.
Understanding that getting children into music as early as possible, Arizona Music Pro extends that idea directly towards the ukulele, offering over forty different types in all of the 5 different sizes, an array of price points to meet every budget, and materials ranging from hard durable plastic to rich mahogany or koa woods meaning that there isn’t an inappropriate age to begin learning and experiencing music!
Best Ukulele 3-7 Years Old:
The Waterman by Kala probably makes the best first-time instrument for those on the younger side of the spectrum. It’s made from plastic meaning its tangibly more durable and stronger than its wooden brothers and sisters. As every parent knows, attention and care aren’t generally the strongest points for the 3 - 7 years old range, making plastic the best solution for the youngest of musicians extending its life well into their older years when a wooden ukulele may be more suitable.
Best Ukulele 8-12 Years Old:
The Kala KA-15S is hands down one of the most popular entry-level ukuleles made and for good reason. Made from mahogany with a satin finish this uke turns heads looking more like those in the $100 plus range without sacrificing good tone, meaning that its fun to play and will keep your budding musician interested in continuing to learn while still staying wallet friendly. While not quite as durable as the plastic Waterman, the added tonal qualities make it probably the best overall uke within the price range.
Best Ukulele 12 - 112 Years Old:
Similar to the Satin Mahogany Ukulele, the Islands version of the KA-15S Islands adds a little more flavor and style for anyone looking to get into something a little more unique with its the Hawaiian Islands laser etched into the top. The tonality of these Mahogany bodied ukes stands well above the price as Kala continues to offer unsurpassed value out of San Francisco.