Knowing how to choose your first left handed ukulele can be quite a daunting task. But it needn’t be! I’ve put together this quick guide which explains the various different sizes of ukes available, and lists a few affordable choices for new players. You can be playing your new left handed ukulele tomorrow!
If ukulele is going to be your very first stringed instrument, and you’ve landed on this page wondering if you should be playing right or left handed ukulele – read this article first.
If at the end you still have questions, leave a comment at the bottom of the page!
Do I Need a Left Handed Ukulele?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to southpaw ukuleles:
1. Get a right handed uke and flip it over – but don’t restring!
The big advantage to this is that you will be able to play any uke, wherever you are. The downside is that you’ll need to learn the chords upside down. However, as there are fewer strings, this isn’t a hugely daunting task.
Another problem here is that if you flip a righty, (in most cases) you’ll have no side dots on the fretboard to help guide you. The dots which should be helping you navigate the fretboard are now facing the floor. It doesn’t sound that troublesome, but trust me, you’ll miss those little dots!
2. String a righty for left handed play, or just get a lefty.
Ukes are fairly simple instruments that are more often than not pretty much symmetrical in design. This means that unlike with a 6-string guitar, flipping a ukulele generally will only involve reversing the strings. In some cases, if the strings aren’t sitting snuggly, you may need to also flip the nut. On most ukes, the nut is held in place by string tension, so you should be able to remove it simply by loosening the strings.
The benefit here is that learning chords will be easier. Watching ukulele lesson videos is made simple by the fact that the instructor will mirror you on-screen. However, you won’t be able to walk into a store and test out other ukuleles without a quick restring.
If possible, it would definitely be preferable to get a lefty (or ambidextrous!) design just to ensure that you can utilise the side position markers. However, if you have to flip a righty you can always add your own dots with a permanent marker, or some small round stickers.
What Size of Ukulele Do I Need?
There are four main sizes to choose from. In order from smallest to largest you have:
Soprano > Concert > Tenor > Baritone
The Soprano is the smallest instrument at around 21 inches in total length. This is the size that most people will associate the ukulele with, as it makes that typical classic ukulele sound. Because of its smaller size, it is perfect for travelling with.
The Concert is a little bit bigger at 23 inches, which makes it a little less cramped than the Soprano above. It also produces that classic ukulele sound, but is a bit louder than the smaller Soprano.
Even bigger again is the Tenor at 26 inches. At this size, the Tenor begins to sound a little less Uke-like and a little deeper, like a classical guitar. It is generally favored by professional players.
Lastly, we have the Baritone at 30 inches. Its larger size and different tuning makes it sound closer to a classical guitar than a ukulele.
Best Beginner Left Handed Ukulele
When starting out with ukulele you are probably going to want to opt for one of the two smallest sizes – Soprano or Concert. I’ve listed a few great, affordable choices below which you can pick up today using the links supplied. Any of these instruments will make for a great introduction to ukulele.
These first 7 Ukes listed below are made specifically for left handed players.
- Oscar Schmidt Mahogany OU2LH Concert
- Oscar Schmidt Koa OU5LH Concert
- Oscar Schmidt OU7TLH Tenor
- Luna Tattoo Concert Electro
- Caramel CS303 & CS403 Soprano Electros (Spruce or Mahogany top options)
- Ortega Concert RU11L
- Martin S1 Soprano
The most popular traditional uke on this list is the Oscar Schmidt OU2. It’s priced very competitively, and features a high quality all-mahogany construction with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. For those not in the know, Oscar Schmidt is produced by Washburn Guitars, so you can be assured that these are quality instruments. The OU5 is a more expensive option, but features fancy upgrades such as an all-koa construction and abalone binding. Finally, the OU7 provides a tenor option for those of you who would rather a slightly larger instrument.
For those who are looking for a ukulele equipped with electronics, my picks are the Luna Tattoo or the Caramel CS303 (available with spruce or mahogany tops). The more expensive Luna has an all-mahogany construction, a cutaway for improved upper fret access, and has some super fancy laser-etched wave patterns in the body. The newly released Caramel is an absolute bargain at just $60 (it comes direct from the manufacturer, saving a ton of money), and is a real eye-catcher with its beautiful exotic zebrawood body. It also features a handy built-in tuner. And believe it or not, $60 gets you a solid wood top!
Finally, numbers 6 and 7 are options for those of you with a little more cash to splash. The Ortega and Martin are both constructed entirely of solid mahogany for a sweet, warm and beautiful tone. Both come with high quality gigbags.
The models below have dot inlays on both sides of the fingerboard to allow them to be played left, or right handed. A nice bonus here is that if you ever decide to upgrade, you can always donate these to friends or family – regardless of their dexterity. These are a great option for players on a tight budget.
If you’d like to purchase a separate tuner, I recommend the Snark SN-6 for Ukulele clip-on headstock tuner.
How To Tune Your Left Handed Ukulele
Standard tuning on a ukulele is G-C-E-A (from top to bottom). For extra clarity, check out the image below which shows tuning on a lefty uke.
Left Handed Ukulele Lessons
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the site, lefties generally have an easier time learning from right handed teachers. For this reason there is nothing stopping you from using one of the many free lessons on sites such as Youtube.
However, if you want to make sure you are starting off on the right path, there is a great book from Hal Leonard for beginner lefty players which you can check out here.
More Expensive Options
If you’re looking to spend a little more cash, here are a few brands which will happily supply a southpaw uke. Leave a comment below if I have missed anyone.
Hopefully if you’ve made it this far you’ve managed to find your perfect left handed ukulele. Good luck, and have fun!