Articles & Information
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Choosing an Ukulele, especially for a classroom set, can be a daunting challenge. (Please note: I say "an" ukulele, because it is technically pronounced ookoo-laylee, and therefore gets "an" instead of "a") We always want to chose an instrument that has vibrant sound, acurate intonation, and is easy to play. However, the word "inexpensive" is almost always synonomous with the words, "classroom set". In other words, budget, is often a concern.
Like most instruments, with ukuleles, you ususally get what you pay for. In general, the highest price Ukuleles ranging from over $500.00 to into the $1,000.00 plus range will not be found in the catalog of a company catering to schools and music educators. But many excellent choices can be found in the price range a company like Peripole does cover, so lets proceed.
The main choice to be made is in what model to buy: soprano, concert, or tenor. What are the differences? Body and neck size, and the scale for the fretboard, are the main differences. In fact, all three models are tuned identially (GCEA) and have the exact same pitches. The larger body size gives the larger instrument a "fuller" sound than the small one. However, some players prefer the sound of the smaller soprano ukulele over the larger concert or tenor models. Usually, however, any sound differences are small, if detectable.
Baritone and bass ukuleles are tuned entirely differently from the other three models, and therefore are not usually part of the same buying decision. The baritone is tuned to the same notes as the highest-pitched four strings of a guitar (DGBE) for four string models, and identically to a guitar for six string models. The bass ukulele is tuned identically to a bass guitar (EADG), but one octave higher. These latter two models are usually reserved for higher level ensembles and groups.
Perhaps the most important distinction to be made in purchasing an ukulele is whether to buy a soprano or a concert model. Sopranos typically have only 12 frets, whereas concerts and tenors have 18 frets. This means that sopranos are best for chording instruments where it is not necessary to access the upper range of the instrument. Concerts and tenors are best for more advanced skills where the player will use the upper range. Usually, in beginner class sets, sopranos are very sufficient, but if you plan on expanding later to use the upper range, you should buy a concert model.
One other factor to consider is hand size. Most adults can play all three, but are ideally suited to either a concert (smaller hands) or a tenor (larger hands). Likewise, most children can play all sizes, but are ideally suited to either a soprano (smaller hands and younger grades) or a concert (larger hands and older grades).
Having covered the basics, I will now make some concrete suggestions. All of the ukuleles offered by Peripole are very good instruments. We have carefully screened out inferior products from our offering. Still, there are some decisions to be made.
If you have decided that a soprano is best, the Diamond Head 7054 Maho is an excellent and economical choice, being our lowest priced instrument. The P7055 and P7056, a little higher quality Diamond Head model is also a good choice. All Diamond Head ukuleles come with a thin gig bag. However, the newly arrived Dean Mahogany Soprano, P7311, is another step up in quality, but an excellent value. Although it does not come with a gig bag, one can be added, and you will still come up with a price tag lower than a similar quality Luna. Lastly, the Luna tattloo models, P7070 and P7071 are top quality ukuleles that come with a gig bag and classy etched wood designs on the top piece of the sound box.
If you have decided that a concert model is best, then consider the Diamond Head Concert Model, P7057, the Luna P7072, or the Dean Concert Spruce, P7310 (listed in order of ascending price tag). The Luna and the Dean are both top quality, but again the Dean, although it comes with a quality spruce top, does not have a gig bag. Again, a gig bag can be easily added to the purchase.
Other more exotic concert models to consider (usually, with a higher price tag) are the Luna Tattoo Concert Electric (P7073 - our lowest priced model with electronics and gig bag), Dean Koa (P7312 - currently on special that includes deluxe hard case for free with purchase), and the Luna High Tide Koa (P7076 - includes gig bag).
Remember, if you need any further advice or discussion, we are only a phone call or email away!
Presented at Maryland Music Educators Conference
February 18-20, 2016
Dr. Robert Amchin
Presented at the Oregon Music Educators Conference
Eugene, Oregon - January 14-17, 2016
Dr. Darva D. Campbell
Presented at Virginia Music Educators Annual State Convention
November 19-21, 2015 - Norfolk, VA
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