The ukulele comes in four sizes: soprano (also called standard), concert, tenor and baritone. The soprano is the smallest of the four. The smaller size of the soprano ukulele gives it a higher pitched sound and makes it the popular choice of ukulele players. Like most instruments, there are many different brands and qualities of ukulele. Fabricated ukuleles are much less expensive than handmade ukuleles, but the sound quality isn't nearly as good.
Building a Ukulele
There are books available to help an experienced woodworker to build their own ukulele. Author D. Henry Wickham's "Ukulele Design and Construction: A Comprehensive Guide to Construct a Hawaiian Ukulele for Any Woodworker" provides instructions to build any of the four different sized ukuleles. However, building a ukulele is an involved project that might not be right for a beginning woodworker or someone unfamiliar with string instruments. Whether building your own or buying a handmade ukulele, the type of wood used will affect the quality of the ukulele's sound.
Koa is a Hawaiian wood that is used to make handmade ukuleles in Hawaii. The wood is rare outside of Hawaii. Handmade ukuleles from Koa wood are generally more expensive than those made from other woods, like spruce. Koa not only produces a beautiful sound, it also has a unique and beautiful grain. Not all ukuleles that advertise Koa wood are handmade. Watch out for ukuleles made from Koa composite, which is an indication that the ukulele is fabricated and not handmade.
In the absence of Koa, ukuleles are sometimes made from mahogany. Mahogany ukuleles are usually crafted outside of Hawaii, where Koa is not easily found. While mahogany is not the traditional wood choice for ukuleles, it still provides a rich sound and a beautiful look. Highly sought-after Martin ukuleles were made in both mahogany and Koa. Generally, the mahogany Martin ukuleles are more expensive than their Koa counterparts.
Handmade ukuleles are also available in less expensive woods, such as rosewood, pine, spruce or poplar. The ukuleles made from these woods will have a lower quality sound than those made from mahogany or Koa. Ukuleles made from less expensive woods should cost less. However, many ukulele makers add inlays and other adornments to their instruments to make up for the low quality wood. These added details also add to the overall price.
- Hilo Guitars: About Ukuleles
- Elderly Instruments: Ukulele Design and Construction: A Comprehensive Guide to Construct a Hawaiian Ukulele for Any Woodworker
- Global Creations: Hawaiian Ukuleles
- Candelas Guitars: Mahogany Soprano Ukuleles
- Uke Hunt: A Quick Guide to Martin Ukulele Styles
- Big Rusty Ukuleles: Ukuleles
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