Ukuleles are often considered to be among the simplest, most straightforward instruments. As you progress and get better at it, you’ll start to notice that your first ukulele lacks something.
A ukulele for intermediates obviously sounds better, and it also feels more playable and is a bit sturdier. Generally, it’s superior when put back-to-back against any entry-level ukulele.
If you’ve spent some time with your instrument and are looking for an upgrade, allow me welcome you to my review of the best intermediate ukuleles.
What Is an Intermediate Ukulele?
The ukulele was developed during the 1880s based on smaller guitars and guitar-like instruments. It was brought by a handful of Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii, which it’s nowadays associated with.
The first uke-like instruments were fairly primitive and limited in more ways than one. Most models were handcrafted from koa wood until the 1990s, when ukuleles gained quite a bit of popularity among luthiers and guitar makers.
Intermediate ukuleles started to take shape a few decades before with Jim Beloff as the flagbearer. Jim commercialized the instrument through uke books and masterful performances, and the demand for better-sounding and sturdier ukuleles ramped up.
More advanced manufacturing techniques yielded better-quality tonewoods, while great minds of that time got together to devise brand new shapes and styles. This was when the first intermediate ukuleles came to be.
Although musicians who dream of becoming rock stars playing in huge bands normally gravitate towards guitars, hobbyists and casual players found that the newer, better ukuleles were more fun and easier to play.
The invention of intermediate-level ukuleles created a bridge between competitive musicians and players who simply wanted to strum a few chords every now and then. This was its biggest impact.
Beginner vs Intermediate vs Professional Guitars
As a seasoned guitar player, I was reluctant to pick up a ukulele at first. It seemed too small and flimsy in comparison to the axes I played. Little did I know that I was comparing a professional guitar to a cheap, beginner ukulele. Obviously, beginner ukuleles are designed for students who are not yet familiar with the instrument.
They’re typically light and tiny, and their tone is fairly poor.
On the other hand, intermediate ukuleles offer sturdier necks, more durable bodies, and substantially more sustain and presence. As a matter of fact, an intermediate-level ukulele is closer to a professional guitar than any other instrument.
Speaking of which, professional guitars sit on top of the pedestal of quality, at least tone-wise. However, a pro guitar is not the ultimate instrument. They’re more difficult to master in terms of playing, and their tonal versatility requires players to spend weeks and months figuring out how to tame it.
Types of Intermediate Ukuleles
Good ukuleles for intermediates can be found in numerous shapes and sizes. Understanding the different types of intermediate ukuleles helped me pick and choose a model that was best-suited for my particular playing style. Hopefully, it should help you in the same way.
Soprano is the smallest ukulele in the intermediate category. This type of ukulele is only bigger than pineapple and “baby ukuleles,” both of which are designed for beginners and are ukuleles for kids. Soprano ukuleles are generally 20 inches tall and are the lightest of the bunch.
The super soprano shares the same characteristics as the “normal” soprano, with the only exception being that the former has a slightly taller neck (up to two inches in most cases).
They’re great for experienced ukulele players who prefer soprano ukuleles over other types but who also want to benefit from the enhanced dynamic range the super variant offers.
Concert ukuleles are arguably the best-rounded, which makes them perfect for live performances. The body of a concert ukulele is deeper, offering better sound projection and a louder, crisper sustain.
Tenor ukuleles are best described as “big, loud, and heavy.” Their deep sound is akin to the tone of classical guitars, and they’re the ultimate tool for playing chords. Although they’re a go-to pick for professionals, intermediates also seem to love tenors due to their loudness and playability.
Baritone is the only ukulele type that is supposed to be tuned differently than other ukulele types (D-G-B-E instead of the typical G-C-E-A). Aside from the fact that it’s the heaviest and largest ukulele type, it also has the deepest sound and the widest frets.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Intermediate Ukulele
Choosing the best ukulele for intermediates involves knowing what to look for. The market for modern-day ukuleles is vast, and it’s filled with both tremendous-quality instruments and cheap, flimsy pieces of polished wood.
Some of the most important factors include the following.
Size is the factor that separates different ukulele types. Smaller ukuleles are generally lighter, characterized by a chirpy tone and a relatively low volume output. Bigger ukulele models are generally much louder, but also relatively unwieldy and a bit more difficult to use.
The smallest ukulele size is soprano (up to 20 inches), followed by super soprano (between 21 and 22 inches), tenor (between 24 and 26 inches), and baritone (30 inches long and beyond).
Tonewoods define how different ukuleles sound and play a big role in their durability. Traditionally, koa wood is used for most intermediate ukuleles. It’s very crisp and warm, but its tone also contains excellent presence and treble.
Mahogany and rosewood are excellent choices for fretboards. They provide excellent responsiveness and an abundance of overtones. Ebony is typically reserved for boutique and professional ukuleles, although a handful of intermediate models are built with it. Try your best to avoid ukuleles made of hardwood. Even though they look and feel sturdy, they offer next to nothing in terms of sonic quality.
A ukulele’s finish is basically the final refinement process. Some ukulele finishes are meant to make the instrument a bit better-looking, although it’s undeniable that certain types of finishes also contribute to the ukulele’s sound as well. Cheap ukuleles are either unfinished or spray-painted with a gloss finish.
Gloss adds a slick, shiny surface on top of the wood, providing minimal protection while leaving the instrument vulnerable to scratches.
Satin finishes contribute little in terms of protecting the wood from scratches or dings, but they look more organic and natural than gloss finishes. A quality paint finish is what I personally look for. Strong layers of top-tier paint offer more protection while leaving the sonic side of the instrument intact.
On the other hand, you should know that heavier coatings reduce the ukulele’s top vibration. Gloss finishes (since they’re slimmer in a sense) somewhat diminish this effect.
Most intermediate ukuleles aren’t artificially colored. The logic here is that most manufacturers aim to showcase the quality tonewoods they’ve used in the ukulele’s construction. Matte finishes (satin) are more popular than recoloring the entire instrument.
Models that are colored are often spray-painted in yellow, bright red or blue. White, black, green, and similar colors are more often used for guitars.
The Overall Tone & Sound
Everyone has a different pair of ears, so it’s only natural that we all hear things differently. However, even immediate beginners should be able to discern bad-sounding ukuleles from good-sounding ones.
Since you’re looking for the best intermediate ukuleles, solid tone should be a more important factor than if you were searching for a budget, entry-level beginner ukulele.
Sustain (how long the note lasts) and clarity should be prioritized over sonic depth and range. After all, the latter can be compensated for through different tunings and action tweaking.
The starting point for the worst-sounding toy ukulele is around $20, and the low end of the budget range of starter ukuleles is roughly $100. Intermediate ukuleles are often a bit pricier, with exceptions.
You’ll be able to find a good starter ukulele in the range of $50 to $75, while a good intermediate ukulele typically costs around $150. The higher the price, the better the features and performance level are.
Intermediate ukulele players normally have their own gig bags and tuners. That being said, if you don’t already have those, a ukulele bundle that is supplied with these items could add a bit of extra value for you.
Other ukulele accessories found in typical intermediate ukulele packs include a ukulele strap, replacement strings, and ukulele picks.
New vs Used
Intermediate ukuleles are far more expensive than beginner ukuleles. If you’re on a tighter budget, carefully consider buying a used ukulele. Banged instruments are difficult to repair, especially if the neck is damaged. However, if someone is selling a ukulele that never left the case, by all means, go for it.
Try spotting any scratch marks and if you can, check the neck level of the used ukulele you aim to buy. While poor intonation can be fixed with a new setup, damage on the fretboard is a clear indicator that such a model won’t amount to much in terms of sound.
10 Best Intermediate Ukuleles
By now you probably have a better picture of what you’re looking for, so it’s time to get down to business. I’ve personally tested hundreds of intermediate-level ukuleles and wanted to share my thoughts on the models that stood out from the rest.
The sections below are dedicated to some of the best intermediate ukuleles that the current market has to offer. They include my insight on where each model excels, its shortcomings, and its overall value for the buck.
- Type: Tenor
- Outstanding features: Unique autumn inlays, single cutaway design
- What’s included: MT-60 ukulele, hard case
- Material & finish: All koa wood construction, gloss finish
- Best for: Versatile instrument best-suited for intermediate and semi-pro ukulele players
My personal favorite intermediate-level ukulele is Mr Mai MT-60. It’s a well-built tenor uke made of premium-quality koa wood that offers a warm, vibrant tone and impeccable durability.
The hardware is also remarkable. The MT-60 features robust machine pegs and a sturdy saddle, plus it comes pre-strung with D’Addario strings. Additionally, the package includes a neat little hard case, which I keep as a reserve as it seems a bit heavier than mine.
Mr. Mai’s MT-60 ukulele rocks the single-cutaway design, which makes the higher frets more accessible while slightly reducing the overall weight of its body. Although it’s expensive, MT-60 is a great-sounding, highly playable ukulele that excels in virtually all aspects of performance.
Why I Recommend It
First and foremost, I recommend MT-60 for its sound. This may be a bit subjective since I absolutely love how D’Addario strings sound on it, but it’s more likely that Mr. Mai’s refined koa simply sounds better than most. Moreover, I like how well-rounded it is.
MT-60 is lighter than most tenors, yet it still has both the depth and clarity of its traditional counterparts. If you’re prepared to pay top dollar, by all means go for the MT-60.
- Type: Concert
- Outstanding features: Extra-wide fret spacing, see-through headstock
- What’s included: MM80 concert ukulele, hard case
- Material & finish: Koa wood on top, back, and sides, abalone rosette, gloss finish
- Best for: Superb choice for skilled players, live performers, and students. Tremendous sound quality and intonation allows it to be played in any setting.
Whenever I’m not playing the MT-60, I turn to the MM80. Even though they’re made by the same brand, they share very few similarities aside from the fact that they both sound, look, and feel great.
Just like my previous pick, the Mr Mai MM80 Concert Ukulele is an all-koa uke. However, it sports ebony binding and abalone rosette. These additions heavily influence its sound, and I daresay this model may sound even better than the MT-60.
The traditional Hawaiian-style inlays are also much easier to handle than autumn leaves. Lastly, it’s comes with a rugged carry case, just like its tenor-style counterpart.
Why I Recommend It
The MM80 is a textbook example of a quality intermediate ukulele. Its fretboard is sturdy, but it feels remarkably gentle and offers a unique feel in terms of playability. I’m still on the fence regarding its headstock, though. On one hand, it’s completely unique and it looks pretty cool.
However, its design makes it so flimsy, especially if you happen to leave your ukulele lying on the floor. Nevertheless, this is an ukulele of exceptional quality and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great-sounding model.
- Type: Tenor
- Outstanding features: Lightning inlays, authentic bone nut, partial cutaway
- What’s included: Flight Victoria Tenor, padded gig bag
- Material & finish: Spruce top, acacia back, African mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, natural finish
- Best for: Perfect instrument for intermediate ukulele students, versatile enough to fit in most music genres and playing styles
The Flight Victoria Tenor EQ is among the best-sounding mid-range intermediate ukuleles I’ve had the pleasure of playing. The combination of tonewoods it’s composed of is unique, and all of them contribute differently to how Victoria sonically performs.
One of its most peculiar features is the semi-cutaway. Prior to playing it, I’d never seen anything similar – it’s as if its left wing was sliced with a laser. I later figured out that it was Flight’s way of keeping the balance of weight and size intact while allowing the player to reach higher notes more easily.
Why I Recommend It
Nearly everything about Victoria is special – its tonewoods, its bone nut & saddle, and the awkward cutaway on its left wing. It sounds and plays great, but more importantly, it’s as playable and durable as boutique ukuleles while being available at a decently approachable price.
- Type: Tenor
- Outstanding features: Semi-acoustic ukulele, single cutaway design, acacia construction
- What’s included: Cordoba 25T-CE Tenor, Aquila Nylgut strings
- Material & finish: Acacia top, back, and sides, natural finish
- Best for: Better-suited for live performances and concerts than most ukuleles in its price range
The Cordoba 25T-CE Exotic Acacia features acacia construction, which is basically a type of wood that belongs to the same family as koa. It offers a distinctly clear, controllable sound with a decent volume output. It also comes supplied with Cordoba’s active pickup setup, allowing you to use it for live gigs.
Why I Recommend It
Although this uke is slightly harder to play due to big, firm fret bars, this actually may help you develop a stronger grip on your chords over time. Generally, the 25T-CE sounds wonderful and offers much in terms of durability, so anyone looking for a solid mid-range uke may want to check it out.
- Type: Concert
- Outstanding features: Colorful hardware, pre-strung with fluorocarbon strings
- What’s included: Enya Cherry Blossom Concert uke, carry case, tuner, strap, strings, capo, picks, polish cloth
- Material & finish: Mahogany construction, gloss finish
- Best for: Great for players who want to save some cash on uke accessories
The first bundle on the list is the Enya Cherry Blossom pack. The uke itself is made of high-quality mahogany. It’s sturdy and offers a warm tone with plenty of overtones. It’s not particularly loud, and its durability leaves some room for improvement. Nevertheless, it’s also cheap and remarkably playable.
Why I Recommend It
Quieter instruments really came in handy during my college days, so I wish I’d had something as cool as Enya’s Cherry Blossom back then. It’s much cheaper than the models I’ve reviewed so far, and it sounds pretty great for the buck. On top of that, it comes with all the important ukulele accessories.
- Type: Concert
- Outstanding features: Nu Bone nut, built-in pickup system
- What’s included: Lanikai MACEC concert ukulele, Lanikai 3-band magnet
- Material & finish: All-mahogany construction, high gloss finish
- Best for: Best-suited for intermediate students and skilled hobbyists
When I was a beginner, I often neglected the hardware supplied with my guitars and ukuleles. Lanikai’s MACEC was one of the first instruments that helped me realize how important of a feature it was.
The Nu Bone nut and chromed tuning pegs outfitted to this uke offer excellent intonation, while its mahogany construction provides a familiar warm tone. Just like Cherry Blossom, Lanikai MACEC is relatively quiet, but it packs a built-in pickup system that easily takes care of that issue.
Why I Recommend It
While I typically rely on Mr. Mai ukuleles as my go-to instruments for the road, I always keep Lanikai’s MACEC as a backup. It resembles some of the finest ukes on the market, and even though it’s not quite there in terms of sonic performance, it’s pretty close while being substantially more affordable.
- Type: Baritone
- Outstanding feature: Lightweight
- What’s included: Oscar Schmidt OU53S Baritone Ukulele
- Material & finish: Spruce top, rosewood back and sides, natural finish
- Best for: Players in bands and music groups & live performers
The first baritone on my list is Oscar Schmidt OU53S Baritone Ukulele. It’s easily one of the most straightforward ukes I’ve ever held in my hands, and its simplicity is precisely what I like most about it.
This uke sports a spruce top and rosewood back & sides, as well as a set of excellent-quality hardware. It boasts superb intonation and low initial action, making it remarkably playable straight out of the box.
Why I Recommend It
OU53S’s appearance can deceive you. It looks big and plain, but it’s actually among the loudest and lightest baritones in the price range. There’s something to be said about its straightforwardness too – it’s easy to play, easy to maintain, and it doesn’t really require you to spend weeks getting accustomed to how it feels.
- Type: Tenor
- Outstanding feature: Cool look
- What’s included: Kala KA-BMB-T Tenor Ukulele
- Material & finish: Bamboo construction, no finish
- Best for: Intermediate players on a tighter budget
Kala’s ukuleles are well-renowned for their impeccable sound quality, and the Kala KA-BMB-T Bamboo Tenor Ukulele is a true representative of that. While bamboo-made ukuleles aren’t everyone’s favorites, I’m sure everyone who’s tried this model agrees that it sounds absolutely magnificent, especially for a low-cost uke.
Why I Recommend It
A good-sounding ukulele is a rare catch, especially if it’s as cheap as the KA-BMB-T. I mainly recommend it for its affordability, and it will certainly be a decent upgrade for players who are stuck with beginner models.
- Type: Concert
- Outstanding features: Tattoo graphic, versatile bundle
- What’s included: Luna Tattoo Concert Ukulele, gig bag, clip-on tuner, polishing cloth, uke strap, picks
- Material & finish: All-mahogany construction
- Best for: Intermediate students who are looking for a good-sounding, highly playable ukulele
The Luna Tattoo Concert Ukulele is often mistaken for a beginner ukulele. I assumed as much until I strummed a few notes on it for the first time. Its warm-sounding mahogany construction offers a rich tonal spectrum, and it’s sufficiently durable considering its price. Again, it’s a relatively cheap uke compared to the heavy-hitters on the list.
Why I Recommend It
The fact that a good-sounding ukulele equipped with all the essential accessories is available at a dirt-cheap price speaks for itself. Luna’s famous for offering superior value for the money, and that’s precisely what you should expect from the Tattoo Concert Ukulele.
- Type: Tenor
- Outstanding features: Robust strap, beautiful finish
- What’s included: Kala KA-15T Tenor Ukulele, gig bag, Aquila Nylgut strings, uke strap, clip-on tuner
- Material & finish: Mahogany construction, satin finish
- Best for: Ideal for intermediately skilled hobbyists and enthusiasts
Let’s wrap it up with a Kala KA-15T Tenor Ukulele. Basically, this is a lightweight ukulele made of mahogany that rocks a gorgeous matte finish.
The package includes high-quality accessories, such as Kala’s strap, a tuner, and Aquila’s sturdy strings. The instrument itself is formidable in terms of sound and playability. It’s not overly durable, but it should survive for years given proper use and maintenance.
Why I Recommend It
Kala’s KA-15T is just a couple of bucks more expensive than most entry-level ukes. Its sound is superior in comparison to beginner models, and the plethora of accessories included in the package raise its value considerably. It’s a good catch if you ask me, although it pales in comparison to pricier Kala models.
Best Intermediate Ukulele Brands
After listing some of the best intermediate ukuleles, now it’s time to get acquainted with the brands that made them.
You may notice that some of the brands I’ve listed below are actually more famous for their guitar-crafting skills. This should not come as a surprise since ukuleles have been as popular as their six-stringed counterparts for quite some time now.
Some of these brands took part in the ukulele revolution. Others picked up where their predecessors left off. What all these companies share is the fact that they’ve improved the design of intermediate ukuleles by adding signature features and using superior technologies.
Kala is the undisputed leader in the ukulele industry. They’re based in Sonoma County in San Francisco, USA, and what makes them special is the diversity of their products.
From the beginner-friendly Learn to Play series to the acclaimed Makala generation and the exquisite Waterman, Kala’s ukuleles are, to say the very least, exceptionally versatile.
Aside from offering something for everyone, they also specialize in producing custom ukuleles and offer a broad range of boutique models.
Mr. Mai is one of the youngest ukulele brands on the market, as they were founded in 2015 in China. The reason why they deserve one of the prime slots on the list is that they brought a myriad of unique creations to the global ukulele scene.
Aside from traditional ukulele models, such as the AA-2S Soprano and MA-30 Concert, they’ve also designed the multi-soundhole ML-T Tenor and the wide-neck MA-60 series.
Their ukuleles are durable and generally sound great, but what I like most about them is the affordability of the instruments they offer.
As of this year, Oscar Schmidt Company has been in operation for 100 years and is one of the most popular MNCs in the music business. Even though their ukuleles are among the sturdiest and most durable models in the industry, what sets them apart from other brands is the exceptional sonic performance of the models they manufacture.
Just like Mr. Mai, Lanikai is a Chinese brand that’s relatively fresh to the ukulele scene. While they specialize in manufacturing budget-friendly starter ukulele models, their selection of intermediate ukes is beyond formidable.
Excellent sound and sturdy tonewoods are the least you should expect from a Lanikai ukulele. They’re easily one of the best intermediate ukulele brands as far as affordability and value are concerned.
Cordoba is the former Guild Company, a USA-based brand of acoustic and electric instruments founded in 1952. Even though they’re more popular for their top-grade guitars and basses, their catalog of intermediate-level ukuleles is exceptional.
Some of the most notable features of Cordoba ukuleles are remarkably robust necks and outstanding hardware. Sound-wise, Cordoba-made ukulele stand among the finest, although they’re also fairly pricey.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.
How Much Do Intermediate Ukuleles Cost?
Here are some average costs for intermediate and pro-intermediate ukuleles. There are many available for all budgets, and it’s important to choose the right one for your abilities. There’s definitely an intermediate ukulele out there for you.
What Are the Best Intermediate Ukuleles?
In a nutshell, the price range for intermediate ukuleles is vast. Cool models can be found for under $200, although you may need a couple of hours sifting through the hundreds of poorly-built ukuleles before you bump into a good one.
Skilled ukulele players who are slowly progressing towards the pro scene should expect to pay a few bucks more. The pro-intermediate range spans from $500 to $1,000.
I strongly suggest you take as much time as you need to think about your options. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you’ll only get so many opportunities to buy a quality instrument. Going for cheaper ukuleles while hoping that they’ll significantly improve your game isn’t wise.
In my humble opinion, two of the best intermediate ukuleles are Mr. Mai MT-60 Tenor and Flight Victoria Tenor EQ. Personally, I find Mr. Mai MM80 to be the best concert ukulele for intermediate players.
Mr. Mai MT-60 Tenor: Most Versatile Ukulele for Intermediates
The Mr. Mai MT-60 Tenor is an all-around ukulele that excels in pretty much every field of performance. It rocks a lightweight body and an all-koa construction. Its sonic performance is staggering.
Flight Victoria Tenor EQ: Best Sound Quality
The spruce-made Victoria from Flight features a neck made of African mahogany and a body made of top-shelf acacia. The Flight Victoria Tenor EQ is a unique blend of tonewoods that offer unprecedented tonal capabilities.
Mr. Mai MM80: Best Playability
The Mr. Mai MM80 features an incredible koa fretboard with ebony binding. It’s arguably the easiest to play ukulele, especially when put in a pair of skilled hands.
Where Are the Best Intermediate Ukuleles Made?
The ukulele originated in the USA, so obviously that’s where some of the best intermediate ukuleles are made. More precisely speaking, California and San Francisco are areas where the leaders in this particular industry are located. China and Germany are close contenders for the prime spot.
What Is the Best Sounding Intermediate Ukulele?
From a subjective point of view, my go-to is Flight’s Victoria. However, the award for the best-sounding ukulele overall goes to Oscar Schmidt’s OU53S Baritone. Its spruce top and rosewood back work in perfect synergy while its massive body offers incredibly solid volume and presence.
Where to Buy Intermediate Ukuleles
Shopping for any instrument is the same – you can either order it online or visit a music store in person. Online shopping offers a myriad of benefits. You’ll normally have a wider selection of ukulele models to choose from, and if you’re lucky, you may even score a neat discount.
Furthermore, reputable online marketplaces offer free returns in case you don’t like your model as much as you hoped. Another huge benefit is that you can do it all from the comfort of your home.
The drawback to online ordering is that you won’t get the opportunity to check the ukulele out. This happens to be the most notable advantage of in-store shopping.
Amazon is the best place to start your search for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the reviews of people who’ve already bought the ukulele can give you an excellent insight into its quality. Their money-back policy guarantees that your investment is safe. As far as prices are concerned, you’ll find that multiple sellers offer the same (or similar) models, which I personally like the most about it.
Online Music Retailers
If Amazon isn’t your cup of tea, Guitar Center is an excellent alternative. Their catalog of intermediate ukuleles is vast, and their prices are more than fair. Another place you may want to check out is Fiddlershop.com – although they may not offer as many ukulele models, they’re slightly more affordable.
Your Local Music Store
Ordering instruments online, despite the awesome benefits it offers, still has a few drawbacks. Aside from not being able to personally test out and inspect the instrument, you need to provide personal information, something not everyone feels too comfortable about.
Paying a visit to your local music store is another great way to find a quality intermediate ukulele. Smaller, relatively obscure shops have a fairly limited catalog, but most of the time they have a few instruments that are much cheaper than those exact same models if purchased online.
Review This Post
Table of Contents
Quality ukuleles for intermediate players are a rare catch. Some models are overpriced simply because they sport a famous brand tag. Others look cool, but perform quite poorly in turn.
I’ve had the pleasure to get my hands on both cheaply-built and exquisitely well-crafted models. These experiences are what ultimately made me understand the fine line that separate them.
That’s why I felt inclined to share my thoughts on what makes the best ukulele for skilled musicians stand out. I certainly hope you’ve liked my selection of the best intermediate ukuleles. Feel free to give your opinion in the comments below.