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Tips On Purchasing Your First Ukulele
There are four primary sizes of Ukuleles, the smallest is the Soprano, the next size is the Concert, up from that is the Tenor and finally the Baritone.
If you have smaller hands and fingers, the Soprano and Concert are good choices for women and children. The strings also have less tension than a Tenor in the traditional "C" tuning and therefore are easier to press down, which is easier on new players tender fingers.
Most guys like the Tenor because the larger fret size makes more complex chords easier to play cleanly, but the concert is also a good choice for guys, it just requires a bit more attention to proper fingering.
The Baritone is tuned just like a guitar, has the most room on the fret board and is a good choice for anyone wanting to play a much easier version of guitar.
As far as types of woods, solids, laminates, construction techniques, cosmetic adornments, friction tuners vs. geared tuners and many more issues related to "what constitutes the best ukulele design", has stirred more than one heated debate. Like everything else in life there are many opinions on these subjects and again like any other subject, two well respected "experts" can have totally opposite positions on some aspect of what makes a great ukulele.
I like to break it down this way when a customer asks, " what would you recommend?." I reply, "do you want a beautiful or cute uke or do you want the best sound for the money." If they want both they should expect to invest more, but there are many great playing and sounding ukes for under $500.00. I am by no means an expert on all things uke, but I have played guitar for over 40 years, worked for various musical instrument manufacturers and through study and osmosis, I feel I have a pretty good eye and ear for what is a well built and good sounding instrument. I have played some $5000.00 instruments that I wouldn't give $50.00 for, yet some $400.00 instruments sounded like a million bucks.
I can assure you that if I get an instrument in and there's something that isn't right, relative to it's cost, it goes back. If it's something minor like string height, I just make the adjustment here. In fact, I personally inspect each instrument before it goes out. I oil the fret board, polish the frets, clean up any manufacturing residue, apply light polish to the instrument, tune, check intonation and play it to check for any issues. It takes more time, but I send them out the way I would want to receive them.