Deciding what type of ukulele to purchase can be a challenging decision. On one hand, the thought of having a high-quality, solid wood ukulele is tempting. On the other hand, saving money by purchasing a laminate ukulele may be a smarter choice depending on how much you play and how serious you are about it.
Both types of instruments have their pros and cons so it’s up to you to decide on which one will fit your needs the best. One common reason that people think they MUST have a solid wood ukulele is that it will make them a better musician.
Some people assume that once you have an expensive instrument, you will magically become better at playing it. Of course, this is not true and any instrument will suffice.
Another reason is that some people think it is better to have a solid wood instrument for showing it off. Having a solid wood, high-quality instrument means that you are serious.
Or does it?
It could mean that you just like purchasing expensive items for no reason other than showing others that you have them.
This may or may not be you but just understand that a solid wood or laminate ukulele will both get the job done and allow you to play good music.
Should I Buy A Solid Wood Or Laminate Ukulele?
This question comes down to the amount of instrument that you can comfortably afford. Even then, it doesn’t mean that you should go out and buy an expensive solid wood ukulele just because you can afford it. Having a solid wood ukulele certainly has its benefits and it can be very nice playing an instrument like this.
However, is this worth the price to you? Do you play the ukulele enough to warrant having an expensive one?
You can indeed purchase a solid wood ukulele for a decent price in some models. For example, KALA offers a solid wood option for around $300. This is not very expensive for a solid wood instrument and might make a good one for you if you are in between the type of ukulele that you should purchase.
You can also spend thousands on a handcrafted, solid wood ukulele. These are the types of ukuleles that professional musicians use. There really isn’t a need for an instrument like this unless you are a professional or have disposable cash sitting around that you can spend.
If you are stuck trying to figure out which type of ukulele that you should purchase, I have put together a few pros and cons of each. I went through this process of making a decision years ago and ended up choosing a laminate model in the end. Take a look at them below and see which one stands out to you.
Solid Wood Ukulele Pros & Cons
1) Better Tone
With a solid wood instrument, you will hear a better tone from it. The solid wood will resonate more and allow a fuller sound to come from the body. Sometimes you can hear this difference and sometimes you may not. There are some laminate ukuleles that I have played that sound just as good as a solid wood option.
However, in general, a solid wood ukulele is going to sound much better than a laminate ukulele will. If having an instrument that sounds great is your top priority, you will probably want to ensure that you have a solid wood ukulele or at least one with a solid wood top.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that you know how to play. Just because a solid wood ukulele sounds good, doesn’t mean it will sound good with anyone playing it.
2) Ages Like A Fine Wine
A solid wood ukulele will only get better with age. The tone of the wood will change over time and sound even better the older it gets. This happens because of a variety of reasons and this can be a benefit over a laminate ukulele that will pretty much always sound the same.
The process of aging is said to be increased the more the instrument is played. It seems that the vibrations in the wood over time cause things to happen in the wood that ends up making it sound better. There is some science to this and I know that I have experienced this with a solid wood guitar that I own.
3) Bragging Rights
Perhaps this doesn’t matter to you but maybe it does. Some people like to have an expensive instrument so that they can show it off. This is vain but it’s a reality and you will certainly be taken more seriously if you have a solid wood ukulele that costs over $1000.
Of course, your playing skills will need to match the price of the instrument if you intend to continue to impress others. Some people purchase expensive instruments like these just so others will be impressed. If this is you, go for it but please be sure and have some ability to play before spending this type of money on an instrument.
4) Solid Wood Instruments Look Better
Expensive, solid wood instruments are usually handmade and include details that you wouldn’t find in cheaper ones. These are crafted with care and the solid wood is unique in each ukulele. You won’t find two models alike because the wood will always have some slight differences.
Look close at a high-quality instrument like this and you will notice the craftsmanship that has gone into it. The small details matter and can make for a great looking instrument.
1) Requires More Care
It might be nicer to own a solid wood instrument but you’ll need to take better care of it. Solid wood reacts more to the environment so you’ll need to make sure that you keep it properly humidified at all times. You don’t want the wood drying out and causing cracks. You also don’t want the air to be too humid or you’ll have other issues like warpage.
You won’t have to worry about this as much with a cheaper laminate ukulele.
2) More Expensive
You’ll pay more for a solid wood ukulele. You can find models from top manufacturers starting at around $300. However, if you choose a handmade ukulele from Hawaii, you’ll pay upwards of a few thousand dollars. Owning a solid wood ukulele becomes a financial decision and you’ll need to open your wallet and pull out a big chunk of cash (or credit) to own one.
Laminate Ukulele Pros & Cons
1) More Affordable
The best part of purchasing a ukulele made from laminates is that it is much more affordable. A good one can be purchased for less than $150. For those who play occasionally, this type of ukulele will be the best option. There is no need for spending more on something that is only used occasionally.
Laminate ukuleles are a good value and offer an affordable solution for those looking to play.
2) Easier To Care For
This type of ukulele won’t require lots of care since the wood is more stable than a solid wood instrument would be. It isn’t affected as much by changing temperatures and humidity levels so you’ll have it easier maintaining one of these.
This doesn’t mean that you can just toss it around as if it doesn’t matter. You’ll still need to have some respect for it and take care of it if you want it to last.
1) Cheaper Made
Laminate ukuleles are produced in a factory using pressed woods and thus are cheaper than what handmade, solid wood ukuleles would be. They often use inferior parts as compared to a top-shelf instrument. This often shows in the small details but that is why they cost less.
When you buy a ukulele with a laminate body, you can expect it to be cheaper made and have a few details that don’t show as nicely as a more expensive one.
2) Doesn’t Sound As Good
Perhaps the biggest downside of a laminate ukulele is that is doesn’t sound as good as a solid wood ukulele. This may be hard to hear to the untrained ear but there are nuances in the solid wood version that will give it a better sound.
Solid wood instruments are more responsive to the sound waves resonating through the body. This allows for a more full-bodied sound that projects more when compared to a laminated ukulele. A laminate ukulele will sound about the same on the day you buy it as it will 10 years later.
A laminate instrument sounds fine but you will usually notice a difference when you put it up against a solid wood instrument. Whether or not the sound improvement is worth the extra price is a personal preference.
If you can’t decide, perhaps you might choose a ukulele that has a solid wood top and laminate sides and back. This is more affordable to be able to get a solid wood top that will resonate more and have a better sound.
Although it won’t be a solid wood instrument through and through, it will be more than enough for a beginner. These are even used and appreciated by seasoned players.
Laminate instruments are great for beginners or people who don’t play very often and don’t want to spend much money. If you are a seasoned player and you play often, it might be a good choice to go with a solid wood ukulele. If you have been used to playing on a laminate model, you will certainly notice a difference in a more expensive, solid wood model.