Whether your child wishes to become the next John Petrucci or otherwise, starting one’s journey into string instruments with a ukulele might not be a bad idea at all.
At an early age, it may be a lot easier to pick up a good uke instead of a guitar. Even the best ukuleles for kids are cheap enough that it probably won’t be a big deal if the kid decides against it in a week or two.
But of course, you can avoid that and enhance the youngster’s learning experience if you shop smart. In this article, you’ll find insights into this instrument, how kids respond to it, and how to pick the best uke for your money and make sure your child will be intrigued by it for a long, long time.
7 Best Ukuleles for Kids - Capable Soprano Models
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Ukuleles for Kids - Capable Soprano Models
- Why I Recommend Soprano Ukuleles for Beginners and Kids
- How Much Does Tuning Matter Really?
- How Many Frets?
The Kala LTP-S is a soprano ukulele that carries with it the reputable build quality of one of the top uke manufacturers. The uke is made of mahogany, where the back, sides, top, and everything is mahogany. Only the fingerboard is made of walnut, which is still pretty good considering how much mahogany Kala squeezed into the build for this price range.
I also like the GraphTech NuBone nut and saddle. This is a durable material that has a positive effect on the tone. The standard headstock features classic ukulele tuners. This does mean that the tuning retention is not superior, though it’s still above average.
One of the reasons for the LTP-S kid-friendliness is the short scale size. This uke comes with just 12 frets, which means that learning the instrument should go a lot smoother, especially for those who have no prior experience.
In terms of sound, the Kala LTP-S has an authentic ukulele sound that’s crisp, bright, and quite rich considering the small size of the resonator box. Also included in this kit are a tote bag and a beginner booklet.
The Donner DUS-1 is a 21” soprano ukulele. It’s a bit bigger than traditional soprano models but not by a lot. It’s friendly for kids and adults with small hands and in fact, it’s a bit easier to play on since the frets are slightly larger.
What I like even more than the extra inch is the body. The DUS-1 features a full mahogany body which offers better resonance and creates a warmer tone. Exploring the rich sound of the DUS-1 will be easy thanks to the smoothness of the rosewood fretboard.
Kids should find it easy to adapt to this uke because of the low string action. The strings will require less finger strength to get them to touch the wood. For a kids’ instrument, the DUS-1 is built to last, though this shouldn’t surprise you if you’re familiar with Donner acoustic instruments.
The 15-fret soprano uke comes with chrome-plated tuners, a solid body, and a rosewood bridge adjusted for an authentic ukulele sound. Another thing you may like is the long list of accessories that come with the purchase, which include strings, a tuner, picks, a strap, and a carry bag.
Hola! Music’s HM-121 ukuleles are very impressive in a number of areas. They come in five finishes, mahogany bodies, and some of the best machine heads you’ll find in this price range. The silver-plated geared machine heads do a great job of maintaining the tuning for long playing sessions.
Although this is a soprano uke, it has 15 frets, so a slightly longer scale. While some may see this as intimidating, I see it as an opportunity to explore more of what an authentic uke has to offer. More notes and more range.
The stock strings are also good ones. The Aquila Nylgut strings are known for their smoothness and great response. I also like the choice of bone for the saddle and nut. It’s more than just a stylistic choice, as it also helps the sound of the uke.
Another reason you might want to consider the HM-121 is the fact that it comes in a sturdy gig bag, complete with three picks and a strap.
Pomaikai is one of the top ukulele makers in the world. Unlike others, this manufacturer doesn’t have any problem with producing eye-catching ukes. This Pomaikai soprano ukulele is perhaps the brand’s most kid-friendly model.
It’s 21” tall or slightly bigger than your average soprano ukulele, but yet it has a standard 12-fret scale. This means that the frets have a more convenient spacing. Kids should have no trouble hitting the right frets every time.
The tone is pleasant. Even though the uke has a short scale, the larger body produces good volume and a richer sound. The stock strings sound good and have good tension resistance, but they won’t stay in tune for long periods of time. Of course, that isn’t so much on the strings as the regular tuning machines.
A gig bag is also included. The bag has decent padding and should serve as a good storage option for this uke too.
The ADM soprano ukulele is 21” long and around 6” wide at the body. It’s small and comfortable for young players to hold, with or without the strap. The extra inch in length allows for better fret separation. And, since the uke has a 12-fret scale, all the frets should be easy enough to hit.
I also like the lower string action, which makes it so that less finger pressure is needed to press down on the strings and get a perfect note. There’s no unwanted ringing or fret buzzing, which is a good sign when dealing with low action strings.
The uke is made from basswood, which is not bad but not great either. Of course, this shouldn’t affect the value of the instrument since it’s a beginner model to begin with. The uke comes with some nice strings too, courtesy of ADM.
The only real downside is one that’s common in many beginner soprano ukuleles, and that’s the use of regular uke tuning machines. Once you learn how to tune the strings, though, doing it more often shouldn’t be a big problem.
The Hricane UKM-1 is a 21” soprano uke. It’s a small instrument that’s perfect for a younger player and has a smooth polished body that makes it more comfortable to hold and play. It’s equipped with Aquila nylon strings which are quite high-end and preferred by more advanced players.
What I also like about the UKM-1 is the arched back design. This design gives the uke more warmth and a richer sound, a lot closer to that of a concert ukulele without the drawbacks of extra weight and length.
The uke has plenty of range. It has a 15-fret scale instead of the 12 frets that are most popular with kids’ ukuleles. This also means that the frets are narrower so big fingers might struggle with them.
If you’re looking for a lightweight instrument that’s beautifully finished and comes with its own carry bag, the UKM-1 might pique your interest.
As is the case with all Ranch acoustic instruments, this 21” soprano uke has a very soothing authentic sound. Additionally, the sustain is quite impressive too.
Ranch opted for an 18-fret scale, which is not often found in soprano-size ukuleles. That said, this is still a kid-friendly instrument. It has better scalability once you kid transitions from beginner to intermediate player.
And, while it may be slightly harder to learn at first, the Ranch soprano uke at least comes with smooth edges and a very fine finish on the fingerboard. This should improve the level of comfort while playing chords.
Some even prefer the frets closer together for soloing, so you never know how this will turn out until it’s tested. With that in mind, one of the best features of the Ranch uke is the chrome die-cast tuning system. This is a guitar-like system that has superior tuning retention.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that the combination of sapele and mahogany looks very natural and feels great as well. It’s not the most durable combo, to be frank, but your child would have long outgrown it by then.
Why I Recommend Soprano Ukuleles for Beginners and Kids
A lot of people get caught up in ukulele sizes and may gloss over the fact that there’s more to this instrument than soprano, concert, baritone, and tenor sizes. Soprano ukuleles are usually the smallest. And, that’s the only reason why I recommend them for kids.
Even though these are the smallest ukes, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of variation. Soprano ukuleles come in various scale lengths and are made from different materials, depending on the manufacturer and price range.
It’s also worth mentioning that with the reduced size, a soprano uke is usually the cheapest uke you can get for a kid. Just be aware that there are generally two sizes of sopranos: the classic 20” model and the more modern 21” model.
That extra inch can make a big difference in tonality and playability, which is why I don’t recommend many 20” models, which others sometimes call toy ukuleles.
How Much Does Tuning Matter Really?
Tuning matters a lot and it’s a hot topic when it comes to ukuleles. Most of these Polynesian instruments will have a tuning system that’s unique to ukuleles. However, if you know anything about the instrument, you’ll know that this tuning system can be hit or miss most of the time.
Unless you’re shopping for a premium-quality uke, chances are you’re not going to get superior tuning retention from the classic uke tuning pegs. That said, note that there are some manufacturers that use guitar-like machine heads.
These have great tuning retention properties, at least when compared to lower-priced ukuleles. The good news is that you may even find guitar-like tuning pegs on kids’ ukuleles. They can be the difference-makers between having to retune the strings after one song and after 15 songs.
How Many Frets?
Ukuleles are just like guitars in a way. They come in various scale lengths and numbers of frets, depending on their intended use. For example, most soprano ukuleles come with 12 frets.
These are considered kid-friendly models that are quite traditional and have sufficient range for traditional ukulele songs. After that, there are the 15-frets and 18-frets models. Surprisingly enough, some manufacturers offer 15 or more frets even on the smallest ukuleles.
Aside from getting more range and being able to play more complex tunes, it’s important to understand that having more frets can also speed up the learning process. Having a few extra frets to add to practice routines can allow a child to master the instrument a lot sooner than one who only has access to 12.
As for how to make a decision, I’d suggest to just make a judgment call based on how young the kid is. For very young kids, 12 frets should do. If your child is over the age of 7 or 8, then perhaps a 15-fret ukulele would be more suitable and more entertaining.
Small Instrument, Big Sound
As you can see, my top ukulele picks for kids are soprano ukuleles. I’ve explained why and until some new size trend comes around, I probably won’t be changing my mind.
If you want your youngster to learn how to play Hawaiian songs or have an instrument more his size that can accompany your guitar in a duet, the options in this article should at least give you a good starting point going forward. The choice is yours to make.