The music industry is one that has evolved so much over the years. From how music is written and produced to the instruments that are used during the production of music. One such evolution is that of a famous unique musical instrument, the ukulele. From a little known musical instrument in the 19th century to be one of the most used music instruments in the world, the ukulele has its story to tell.
What exactly is Ukulele and what’s its difference with a guitar?
A ukulele is a unique musical instrument that belongs to the family of stringed instruments. This four-stringed musical instrument is made from wood and has its origin in Hawaii. There are four classical kinds of ukulele; – soprano, alto, tenor and baritone, which is considered the largest ukulele. For most people, most of the knowledge they have on musical instruments begins and ends with basic instruments such as the piano, drum, and guitar. It is thus not uncommon for many to mistake the ukulele with a classical guitar. This would be understandable as they both share lots of similarities. These similarities range from shape, size, and principle of operations and general workings of the instruments.
So what differentiates a guitar from a ukulele? The ukulele is much smaller than a classical guitar and also has a different shape. This makes it easier to carry around. A standard guitar has six strings while a standard ukulele has four strings. Just letting you know this content is owned by ucharis.com. Most people find a ukulele much easier and faster to learn than a guitar. This is especially for those with large hands. Besides, on playing a ukulele produces a higher tone as compared to a guitar. In addition, it produces a limited range of styles and tones as compared to a guitar. How much does a ukulele cost? A guitar is more expensive with prices of a good quality guitar ranging from $140-$250. A ukulele cost from $20-$80, depending on the quality of the ukulele you wish to purchase.
A brief history of the Ukulele
The origin of the ukulele dates back to the 19th century in Hawaii. The parents of this unique instrument are two musical instruments from Portugal – the cavaquinho and the machete. Back in 1878, Hawaii was one of the few places in the world which still has sugar plantations. As the demand for sugar in California grew, the farmers needed to expand their farms to meet the growing demand. It was because of this that a large number of Portuguese started arriving on the island to be employed at the farms. As it is always the case, immigrants always happen to carry along part of their culture with them. One such culture was a small four stringed musical instrument known as the machete de braga. Despite its simple but unique construction, the locals fell in love with the instrument.
Human nature is known for its constant need to make and do better. This is what happened to the machete. As time went by, the immigrants started modifying the machete by introducing some of the features from similar stringed instruments that were popular back home. The result was the predecessor of the present day ukulele. The instrument immediately gained popularity among the Hawaiian culture and especially with the king who insisted on it being played during royal events. Once it was a hit with the Hawaiian nationals, it did not take long for it to gain popularity in other parts of the world including the United States.
What is the Price Range for Ukulele?
So, How Much for a Ukulele? The price of a ukulele will differ from region to region due to influence by a number of factors. It is therefore important to note that these price ranges are not set on stone. They are only a reference range for one wishing to purchase a ukulele. Top on that, this will vary depending on the type of ukulele you are purchasing. For example, the gap in the price range of acoustic ukuleles will be wider, either low or too high depending on the properties you want in the particular instrument you pick. In short, an electro-acoustic model will obviously be more expensive than ordinary ukulele brands. There are generally different price ranges of ukulele depending on the brand, size – in this case, the largest is the baritone, which tends to be more expensive in comparison to the others and more. Below are the ranges in price of ukuleles beginning from those that are considered low price due to the factors mentioned above, to the prime ones:
- Cheap/toy Ukulele
- Budget Ukulele
The next immediate category is the budget ukulele and it costs around $50. While this ukulele sounds a bit better than the toy brand, there is also a lot of clutter within this category. It is important that you check thoroughly to ensure how other people say about the particular brand you may want to order in this collection. However, if you are just starting with this musical instrument the best bet would be to go with a nice budget ukulele. These also give you that opportunity to own the instrument even if your budget is not that flexible.
- Beginner Ukuleles
For beginner ukuleles, the cost ranges from $50 to $150. In terms of affordability and quality, most people think the beginner ukulele combines them both. In fact, most folks prefer this category of ukuleles and the reason for that is that they are of reasonably of good quality. Besides beginners, advanced ukulele players recommend it saying the organ is great in delivering good music. They are also durable and handle able so they are a good suit for the cash. Check Some Best Beginner Ukulele
- Mid-level Ukulele
These costs between $150 to $500 and the reason is obviously link to several things. In fact and in particular, mid-level ukuleles are further categorized into different versions. There’s the fancy ukulele, electronic ukuleles, which most have the cutaway body, and lastly the solid wood ukuleles, which tell you the reason they are highly prices is the material used. If your budget is not so flexible to get you a high-end ukulele yet you really want a prime instrument, then the ukulele in the mid-level category is a perfect fit.
- High-end Ukulele
The costs for high-end ukulele start from $500 going up. In other words, these make the topping on the ice when it comes to the functionality, quality and everything in a ukulele. From the wood grade, the body shape and size, to the finish and style, this category of the ukulele has it all combined. Besides that, most high-end ukuleles cost so high because they come from prime companies; some of which are US-based. So if you are considering top-notch playability, durability sound authority and prime quality in general this makes the best pick of a ukulele.
The price range of ukuleles also changes due to:
The Fees involved in Shipping – If you live in a country that has a factory that produces ukuleles or you have a builder right down the street, then consider yourself lucky. Lucky in the sense that you are saved from the cost of shipping a ukulele. This means you will purchase your ukulele at a much lower price than one who has to incur the cost of shipping. Shipping costs differ from country to country depending on the distance to your country from the manufacturer. The retailer of musical instruments down the street has to include the cost of shipping, rising the final price of the ukulele a little higher. Because of bulk orders, they probably don’t pay as much as a person shipping one good at a time.
Whether it is new or used – With some goods, the ukulele included, as you use them, they tend to degrade with time and their value decreases. This means a used ukulele will be cheaper as compared to a new ukulele. On the same breath, there will be some ukuleles whose value increases with time. These are referred to as vintages. They tend to be old ukuleles, over 25 years, which were used by some prominent people in the past. After their death, they were set aside as monuments and are only show cased during important events. These ukuleles, though old and used tend to be much expensive than even a new ukulele.
How it was built – This is simply the how a ukulele is put together. A number of factors including construction material costs, labor wages costs, inflation in the market and quality of materials used, in turn influences this. The higher the construction costs of a ukulele, the higher the pricing and vice versa.
The part of the world you are ordering it from. From India, China, and Europe to the United States, these locations will have a variation in the price of the ukulele you want. Talking of things like shipping costs, taxes imposed on the good and cost of labor incurred during the selling process. This means that the price of a ukulele is not constant all over the world despite being from the same manufacturer.
What is the price difference between the Electro and Acoustic Ukulele?
You can set up a decent electric ukulele from as low as $100 with mid-range ones not costing more than $200. On the other hand, an acoustic ukulele price range from $300 and above.
Factors that affect the cost of a Ukulele
This comes down to where and how the ukulele is made. Craftsmanship has the greatest influence on the price of the ukulele. During production, the workforce involved as well as the number of ukuleles that are being produced at the same time has a great influence on the price of the ukulele. Take, for example, a factory that has a huge cheap workforce. In such a scenario, when one person is making nuts, another is making saddles while yet another is making thickness-sanding soundboards. There is also a final person who is assembling the parts. Here the production rate is faster and more cost-effective as compared to another production unit where its only one person doing all the work, which is done upon demand. Of course, the one person production unit will produce more expensive ukulele.
The cost of materials used is included in the final price of the ukulele. Losing money by selling the final product at a lower price than the cost incurred during manufacture, does not make sense even to the most amateur builder. This means that an increase in the price of the materials while meaning a consequential rise in the price of the ukulele. The major material that greatly influences how much this popular musical instrument will cost, is wood. Other materials that influence the cost of ukulele include tuning machines, saddle, nut, frets, and carbon fiber for the truss rod and inlay materials.
There are different types of woods that are used in the manufacture of ukulele and they all differ in terms of the quality of the final product. How much does a ukulele cost? Koa wood is the gold standard for building ukuleles, but it comes with one disadvantage, it is quite expensive. A uke set costs approximately $300 (as of January 2022). Most manufacturers chose to save on wood by using cheaper alternatives. However, these alternatives do not have the same exquisite appearance as the koa wood. Bulk production also saves on the cost of input materials as it means you will get discounts with the more materials you buy.
As unfair as it may be, the wages one receives at the end of the end reflect their skill. This does not change even it comes to the production of ukuleles. An employee at a factory producing ukuleles is trained to turn on and off the machines making and assembling the instrument. Their wages cannot compare to a skilled luthier who has made the ukulele from scratch. Their difference is in the many years of experience and skill between them. Besides, with repeated action comes perfection. Also as you make that one product, you are more concerned with the final product, than just finishing the task at hand. This will make the luthier with one ukulele to concentrate so much on the finer details, to ensure that the final product is impeccable. With this in mind, it is therefore unfair to compare the quality of a ukulele produced by workers at the machine pressing the on and off button, with that made by that one skilled luthier.
The larger the more expensive it is likely to be. Same model but different sizes, it is likely the larger one is more expensive. This is simply because of the number of materials used in its construction. The larger the instrument, the more wood, strings, frets and glue you will need during the assembly of the instrument.
Demand and supply is another important aspect that influences the price of a ukulele. In certain parts of the world, ukuleles are usually on high demand with stocks ending as soon as they are replenished. In cases where the supply does not meet the demand, meaning that there is a shortage of availability of ukuleles, the retailers have a huge influence on the market prices of the ukuleles. You want to know How Much for a Ukulele. They tend to increase the prices and since the consumers are in desperate need, they have no option but to comply. On the contrary, in areas where the ukulele is not as important nor as in demand, the prices remain quite fair and could even go lower in a bid to encourage the customers to buy. Huge tempting discounts are offered to try and move the good off the shelf.
Tips on how choose a Ukulele
With hundreds of different models out there offering endless combinations of wood/finishes, you may spoilt of choice. As a pro or as beginner it is always a hard task when choosing the best ukulele to suit all your needs while still fitting within your budget. Below are a few tips to help you on your journey to choose the ukulele best suited for you.
The size of a ukulele equates to the sound it produces. Generally, there are four sizes; – soprano (smallest), concert, tenor and baritone (largest). The size not only determines the proximity of the frets but also the sound it produces. Soprano produces a higher sweeter voice while tenor produces a fuller sound with better resonance and projection. The baritone on the other hand sounds more like a guitar as it tuned like the first four strings of a guitar. This makes it easier to use for those transitioning from using a guitar.
As you set out to purchase a ukulele, you already have in mind how much you are willing to spend. You have therefore set out to purchase the highest quality your money can buy. As a beginner, you could go for the cheapest available ukulele. However, cheap ukuleles are made of poor quality materials, wear out quickly and produce poor sound. Therefore, you will quickly outgrow it or worse still get frustrated by the poor sound it produces and give up altogether. It is therefore advisable you go for the highest available quality, even if it leaves your pocket with a dent.
Different woods not only differ in quality and appearance but also produce different sounds. Mahogany ukuleles produce mellow sounds while spruce and cedar top ukuleles are bright and loud. Some manufacturers use a combination of different woods to achieve the desired sound. As you choose your ukulele, have some background information on the type of wood used by the manufacturer.
This refers to how well one is able to play the instrument. It is determined by the distance between the top of the fret wire and the strings, also known as action. The lower the action, the easier it is to play as not much strength is needed to press down on the strings. When the action is too low, the strings go buzzing helping achieve a fine balance. Poorly made ukuleles have very high action, resulting in poor playability.
There are many different brands of strings for ukulele in the market. Strings play a crucial role in the sound of the ukulele. Good quality string will give good tension and hence a good tone and easy playability. Some of the good quality commonly used strings include Aquila strings made of nylgut and in recent time’s fluorocarbon.
It is evident the ukulele is an excellent and sort after a musical instrument. This could be due to its uniqueness or simplicity to use. Well at least you can say that boldly when someone asks you. What is clear, is that everyone wants to own a ukulele and learn how to play it. How much does a ukulele cost? Its price varies depending on the quality of the instrument and the level of expertise you have in handling the ukulele. Before purchasing a ukulele, it is always advisable you do an extensive research before settling for one. Always remember, what works for another may not work for you.