How much did you spend on your first ukulele?
I’m guessing that you spent under $100 (or maybe, like me, under $50!)
And while I’m sure you enjoyed using that ‘cheap’ ukulele to learn on, at this point you’re probably ready to move on to something that better suits your level.
So, out of all the ukuleles in the world, how will you choose the best one to step up your game?
Thankfully, there is an easy way to find the perfect ukulele for your advanced level of playing.
Today, we’re going to go through the different things that advanced ukulele players need to think about when buying a uke.
I’ll also introduce you to some of the top ukuleles for advanced players.
It’s time for you to have a ukulele that is just as great as your skills!
What Should Advanced Players Look for in a Ukulele?
Range of Notes
Obviously, not all ukuleles are created equal.
Because ukes come in different sizes, the neck may be shorter or longer, depending on the type of ukulele that you buy.
For beginners, the range that a ukulele has probably doesn’t make too much of a difference.
However, you as an advanced player need all the range that you can get. This will allow you to play a wider variety of music, and truly develop your talents as a ukulele player.
So, look out for the number of frets that a ukulele has. While some of the smaller ukes will only have around 15 frets, the longer ones will have up to 20 or more. These are the kinds of ukuleles that you as an advanced player should be looking for.
Space Between Frets
Referring to our previous point, some ukuleles may have smaller necks. The smaller the neck, the smaller the space between the frets.
Again, beginners probably won’t notice how tight the space is, as they’re solely focused on simple chords. However, advanced players require more space to be able to play alternate and more complicated chords.
So, once again, keep an eye out for ukuleles with a longer neck.
In our ultimate buying guide for ukuleles, we mentioned why the type of wood used in construction is so important.
Simply put, the type of wood used affects the quality of the ukulele. If the wood is low quality, it will adversely affect the sound of the ukulele, and how you sound playing it!
So, what wood types should advanced players look for?
Well, the most common wood used in good-quality ukuleles is Koa wood. This was the original material used in ukuleles, and still produces one of the best sounds.
Mahogany is another common wood for high-quality ukuleles. This tonal wood produces a sound that’s just slightly softer than the Koa wood. Ukuleles made from Mahogany are also somewhat cheaper.
Remember: Your ukulele should be solid wood, without any laminate. Solid wood is a sign of good quality manufacturing, and boasts a richer tone and better sustain.
Size and Portability
If you’re an advanced ukulele player, it’s quite possible that you’re not just playing at home. If you are playing your ukulele out, you want to make sure that it’s the right size to carry with you.
Obviously, the smaller ukuleles would be more portable. But as we’ve seen, smaller ukuleles also have their disadvantages.
Finding the middle-ground is the best option. Look for a ukulele that is of medium size and allows you to carry it around easily. However, don’t compromise on quality just for a smaller size.
There are, as you’re probably aware, 4 different types of ukuleles. From smallest to largest, these are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
Beginners are normally steered towards the soprano and concert ukuleles, as these are usually the easiest to play, as well as being the cheapest.
For advanced players, we’ve seen above how important the length of the neck and the number of frets available can be.
So, the two larger sizes, tenor and baritone, are normally recommended for advanced ukulele players.
We’ll see more below about the specific benefits of tenor and baritone ukuleles for advanced players.
That being said, advanced players with smaller hands who don’t mind the tight frets will still be able to find quality concert ukuleles that will fit their needs.
This is especially true if they are trying to adhere to that high, airy sound that we normally associate with the ukulele.
While the concert ukulele still produces the typical ukulele sound, tenors and baritones tend to produce a somewhat deeper tone.
Obviously, your choice will depend on what you personally are looking for.
The Pros and Cons of Baritone Ukuleles
The baritone is the largest of the ukulele types, and normally reaches about 30 inches in length.
So that’s 10 inches longer than your average soprano. This means a longer neck, which normally includes 20 or more frets. It's usually recommended for guitar players who are looking for a new ukulele.
Baritones are tuned differently than other ukuleles, using DGBE, like the highest four strings on the guitar, instead of the normal GCEA.
- 20+ frets for a wider range
- Plenty of space between frets for advanced chords
- Features a deeper, warmer tone
- Fantastic sustain
- The least portable of the ukulele types
- Sound quality strays from the typical ukulele sound
- Different tuning, which means chords positions will be different for those already accustomed to the ukulele
For someone with larger hands, or who is more comfortable playing a larger instrument, the baritone is a great option.
However, if you are reluctant to learn new chord positions, or prefer to stick with the more typical ukulele sound, the baritone probably isn’t for you.
The Advantages of Tenors for Advanced Ukulele Players
The tenor is the next step down in size from the baritone, and is a few inches smaller.
This type of ukulele will normally have between 15 to 20 frets, depending on the individual instrument.
Advanced players love tenors because they feature:
- Good amount of range
- Plenty of space between frets
- A full, loud sound
- Typical ukulele tones
- Very good sustain
These are just some of the many reasons why advanced players choose the tenor over any other type of ukulele.
If you are a true ukulele lover who enjoys that typical Hawaiian sound, the tenor will satisfy your needs. It allows advanced players to step up their game by providing them everything they need to advance.
How Much do You Really Need to Pay for an Advanced Ukulele?
This is a question that has been highly debated both online and offline.
Most ukuleles available online have price tags of under $100, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that cheaper is better.
To buy a quality ukulele that will suit you as an advanced player, you will need to expand your budget. For a quality ukulele, you will probably be spending upwards of $200.
But you might wonder, why should I spend that much money, when I can get a decent ukulele for $100 or less?
Of course, the choice is up to you. But the difference in the sound and quality of the instrument will change completely when you splurge on a more expensive item.
You’ll find that, once you expand your budget beyond $200, the ukuleles that become available to you produce a sound that is completely different from cheaper ukes.
If you are serious about the ukulele, spending that amount of money will absolutely be worth it. You’ll have a quality instrument with a beautiful sound that will last you for many years to come.
The Best Ukulele Brands for Advance Players
The brand of ukulele that you choose will greatly affect the quality of the product.
Here are some of the top brands that advanced ukulele players should look into:
This brand was one of the first ukulele brands, and still holds its title as one of the best. They produce ukes for beginners and advanced players, all with truly great quality.
The ukuleles that Luna produces include fantastic quality with unforgettable style.
3. Oscar Schmidt
This instrument company produces some excellent-quality ukuleles. Although somewhat simple in style, these ukes will produce a great sound.
More well-known for their classical guitars, Cordoba also produces high-end ukuleles that are great for advanced players.
3 of the Best Ukuleles for Advanced Players
So, now that you know what you’re looking for, I’d like to introduce you to three of the top ukuleles for advanced players.
Kala KA-MHT Tenor
This beautiful tenor-sized ukulele is absolutely one of the best choices for advanced ukulele players.
It comes from the top brand of ukulele makers, and features quality materials for that perfect sound.
Pros and Cons:
- Solid Mahogany used for the entire body
- Excellent tone quality
- Chrome Die-Cast Tuners
- Loud and full sound
- May need a string update for a better sound
Oscar Schmidt OU57
This unique baritone is actually made from the wood of a mango tree, another island wood that is ideal for ukuleles.
Again, it comes from a trusted brand that has proved its worth in the making of ukuleles.
Pros and Cons:
- Spalted mango wood used on the body
- Excellent resonance
- Beautiful gloss finish
- Sturdy materials built to last
- Minor buzzing on strings may require a string upgrade
Adding another level to your playing abilities, this impressive tenor is actually acoustic/electric, meaning you can plug it into an amp and turn up the sound!
Another fantastic item from Kala, this uke is built to impress.
Pros and Cons:
- 18 frets for a wide range of playing
- Solid spruce and mahogany construction
- Ultra thin body for advanced portability
- Preamp with B-Band pickups
- Bright, full sound
- No strap button
What’s the Bottom Line?
So which advanced ukulele will be your next best friend?
The three options that we’ve discussed are some of the top ukuleles available for advanced players, and any of them would be an excellent choice.
That being said, I have to admit that I’m partial to our first option, the Kala KA-MHT Tenor.
With solid mahogany through its whole body, a stunning tone quality, and the perfect amount of frets, this tenor is a match made in heaven for advanced ukulele players.
It comes from a highly respected brand, and will last you for years to come.
So what are you waiting for?
It’s time to take your ukulele playing to the next level!