This post contains affiliate links
An update of my original post from 11/29/2016. My tuner recommendation remains the same, but I have updated the ukulele section.
So you've signed up for lessons? Yay! This is so exciting! Now let's make sure you have what you need to get started. There are really only two things you'll have to bring to the first lesson: a digital tuner and a ukulele. This post includes my recommendations for obtaining those items with only a modest initial investment.
A good digital tuner is as important as your instrument. It won't matter how great your playing is if you're out of tune! My favorite is the Snark SN5X. You can find it on Amazon Prime for about $10, and it has a big bright interface that makes it easy to tune up your uke. There are other methods for tuning instruments, like phone apps and pitch pipes, but I find the digital tuner to be the easiest, fastest, and most accurate way to tune up an instrument.
Do you already have a ukulele? Great! Make sure it's a soprano, concert, or tenor ukulele. Sopranos are also called "standard" ukuleles, and it's the small, friendly size you typically picture when you think of a ukulele. Concert and tenor ukuleles are bigger and have a slightly different sound, but sopranos, concerts, and tenors all have the same GCEA tuning, which is what we use for the course. The only ukulele that won't work for the course is the baritone ukulele, which has a different tuning.
If you don't already have a ukulele, here are a couple options to consider:
OPTION A: Best for Parents with Young Children at Home
Start with a cheap one. Diamond Head and Mahalo are brands that make entry-level ukuleles available from Amazon Prime for around $30 (the cost of a toy, essentially). If you have babies, toddlers, or young kids, this is probably your best bet (for now). Your kids are likely to be very interested in your new instrument, and your musical education will be so much more enjoyable if you're not stressing about your children damaging an expensive instrument!
If you go with this option and really enjoy playing the ukulele, you will want to eventually upgrade your instrument down the line, and think of what a treat that will be! Then, you can either use your starter uke on road trips and/or share it with your children so they can play with you!
OPTION B: Best for Everyone Else
Spend a little bit more and get an instrument with better tone. I would recommend this option to those who don't have young children living in their home and parents with kids who are school-aged or older. Kala is a respected brand with several nice-sounding models in the $50-150 range. Here are a couple of my favorites:
WHY I RECOMMEND STARTING WITH AN ENTRY-LEVEL UKULELE:
If you were just learning how to drive, you wouldn't learn on a Ferrari, would you? And it wouldn't make much sense to go car shopping if you didn't know how to drive, would it? How would you even know what to look for, or what features were important to you? If you buy an expensive ukulele, I think you're more likely to look at the instrument as a burden than a source of joy. You may feel guilty for not already knowing how to play it, or feel a responsibility to practice instead of viewing it as a source of fun. You won't feel that pressure if your start-up costs are low.