This guide was first published on July 20, 2017 written by Mason Hoberg and last updated on August 14, 2018 by Alexander Briones.
More Beginner Guides
Here we look at what the market considers as the best cheap ukes you can get for under $50. We've included bundled packages that have extras like carry bags and tuners which help make them suitable for beginners.
- The Best Cheap Ukuleles Under $50
- Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Ukulele
The Best Cheap Ukuleles Under $50
The list below showcases the best choices available ukuleles in the sub $50 price range, ideal for those who are looking for a uke that won’t break the bank. Since these ukes are all aimed at beginners there may not be a high-quality video available for some of them, but we’ve included videos for ukes that have them available.
Hola! HM-21 Soprano Ukulele
The Hola! HM-21 Soprano Ukulele lets you enjoy a good sounding and playing ukulele without dropping a lot of cash.
Unlike many ukuleles in this price tier, the Hola! has hardware (tuners, nut, and saddle) of a high enough quality to allow beginners to get a feel for the instrument without getting too frustrated. The sound isn’t going to blow anyone away, which for a cheap uke isn’t surprising, but it’s capable enough.
According to user reviews, the uke has a warm tone, which many beginners like. Users also commend the many color options that are available, which makes for a more personable instrument.
The main drawback of this uke is that it doesn’t have a lot of volume, though if you’re just planning on playing on your own this probably won’t be too much of an issue. There are some who have since invested in something more expensive, but they do credit the Hola! HM-21 as the one that started their love for the ukulele.
The Hola! HM-21 is an affordable and fun ukulele for beginners.
Kmise KMU21S 21 Inch Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
This Soprano Ukulele from Kmise comes with some nice features for the price.
First off, it sports pure copper closed tuners with 18:1 tuning ratio that results in improved intonation and reliability. It also makes tuning faster and easier. Attached to these tuners are carbon nylon strings that run through its 15-fret fingerboard and complements its compact mahogany body. Finally it comes bundled with essential tools like a tuner, strap, extra strings and a gig bag, so you are getting quite a lot for its ridiculously low price tag.
Reviews are replete with satisfied users who are pleased with what they get for the money. The Kmise Soprano Ukulele's warm tone also gets a lot of thumbs up. There are also a lot of positive mentions that point to its easy playability.
There are a few users who had issues with the tuners slipping and going out of tune, while others rated it slightly lower because they are not happy with the quality of the included strings.
If you're looking for a good beginner ukulele that gives you more for your money, then check this one out.
Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele
Unlike many of the Ukes featured here, the Caramel CC102A Concert Ukulele is a concert sized uke. The concert size is a tad bit bigger than the soprano size, so ukes of this body size will be a bit louder and have a slightly warmer tone.
The Caramel CC102A also has a very distinctive patterning, which it owes to its zebra wood construction. Because this uke is made from laminated wood there isn’t going to be a huge difference in tone, but the uke definitely has an aesthetic flair which is impressive for it’s price.
Interestingly, the uke also comes with a bone nut and saddle. Bone, as opposed to plastic, helps to increase the amount of vibration transferred from the strings to the body. This gives the uke a richer and fuller tone when compared to instruments which use plastic for their nuts and saddles.
Thanks to its zebra wood pattern, many are drawn to this ukulele by its visual appeal. But what keeps the users happy is its sound and playability, which many describe in a positive light. A lot of users are also surprised by its reliability, especially when considering its price.
There are a few tuning stability issues reported, while others found that replacing the default strings helped improved its sound, intonation and playability.
The Caramel CC102A gives you good return for your money, especially when considering that it is bigger than many in this price range with its concert profile.
MAKA MK-21 Soprano Ukulele 21
The Maka MK-21 is a 21" soprano ukulele that comes packed with features that are normally reserved for more expensive instruments.
The body is crafted from mahogany, while the neck is topped with a rosewood fingerboard - a combination that's popular with guitars. Together with its Nylgut nylon strings from Aquila, this ukulele produces a focused yet warm tone. Another stand out feature is the use of buffalo bone for the nut and saddles, which is expected to be better than the usual plastic saddles and nuts that are used on other ukuleles in this price range.
Beautiful and gorgeous are just two of the many positive remarks that users write in reviews, mostly pertaining to its earthy look, thanks to its satin finish. The Maka MK-21 also gets a lot of commendations for its sound and playability.
There are a few users who complained about fingerboard and fret quality, which to them translates to an instrument that's harder to tame. There are also some concerns over the bundled items being a bit on the cheap side, in terms of reliability.
Overall marker sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, which makes the Maka MK-21 very easy to recommend.
Kala MK-S Makala Soprano Ukulele
The Makala MK-S is a great entry-level uke with a more traditional construction.
The top, back and sides of the Makala MK-S is crafted from agathis, following conventional 21" soprano shapes. It has a mahogany neck that is topped with rosewood fingerboard. It also feature brass frets, geared tuners, and a rosewood bridge.
The intonation (how in-tune the notes are when fretted) is a main selling point of this uke, as it’s considered to be significantly more accurate than many other traditionally constructed ukes. There are also quite a lot of compliments that point to its sound quality.
There are a few reports of playability issues, along with the need for regular tuning. But some do report that the issues mellowed over time, or after replacing the strings.
It's not reasonable to expect a ukulele in this price range to sound great, but most reviewers are convinced, if not impressed with the sound of the Kala MK-S.
Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Ukulele
Buying a ukulele is a lot like buying a car. There’s a lot of terms and jargon that you’re not going to know until you’ve either immersed yourself into the community or done some independent research. To make the process of buying an instrument a bit easier on you, we’ve collected a handful of things that you’ll have to know if you want to get the best ukulele for beginners (we’ve omitted some of the more technical aspects of buying an instrument that aren't helpful for beginners).
Geared vs. Friction Tuners
While friction tuners are becoming increasingly less common as building an instrument and its hardware becomes more and more automated, there are still cheaper instruments which utilize the design. Basically, friction tuners hold a string through friction. You pull the tuning peg away from the headstock a bit, turn the tuner, and then push it back down. This design is problematic since it’s really easy for the string to lose said tension.
All of the ukes we’ve collected in our product section have geared tuners, which hold the string’s tension with a gear. Should you choose to go with a different uke, make sure that it has geared tuners before you buy it. This is a really easy thing to check for, all you have to do is look on the back of your ukes neck and check to see whether or not there’s a gear (or a little metal box near where you tune your ukulele).
We went over different ukulele sizes in depth in our article The Different Ukulele Sizes Explained, so we’re just going to briefly gloss over the subject here. Basically, the bigger a uke is the warmer (more bass and mid frequencies) it will sound and the louder it will be. The two biggest sizes (tenor and baritone) don’t sound as traditional as the three smaller sizes.
The sizes, listed from smallest to largest, are as follows:
Soprano and Pineapple (these two body sizes are essentially the same in response)
While the ukulele may be more approachable than the guitar, starting to learn any instrument can be intimidating. It’s even harder if you’re not a musician who’s buying a uke on behalf of a child, because they’re going to need to get some help to get started.
Below we’ve collected a few videos that’ll help you get started. We’d recommend bookmarking this page and then referring back to it after your uke arrives. Happy strumming!
How to String a Ukulele
How to Hold the Ukulele
How to Strum the Ukulele
Must-Know Ukulele Chords
Cheap Beginner Ukulele Selection Methodology
We looked at all the Ukuleles, including bundles with added items, available from major online American retailers. And for this update, we narrowed down our scope further to those priced below $50 to better match the budget of beginners and students. We ended up gathering over 5,000 reviews and ratings data all of which were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm. This allowed us to have a selection of the five highest rated ukuleles. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.