Good Ukuleles For A Beginner
I recommend these 3 very good starter ukulele's for beginners; a mahogany soprano by Kala for under $60, a beautiful Oscar Schmidt spruce top tenor under $130 (as I write this), and a unique mahogany concert size by Luna with tattoo styling for under $100. I admit that I am partial to the slightly larger sizes and richer tones of the tenor and concert sizes, as well as to Oscar Schmidts line of stringed instuments overall. They have been making ukuleles for about 100 years, and really pay attention to detail, durability and customer service. But, Kala, Cordoba and even Luna have well made instuments at good prices.
Buying a well made beginner ukulele for yourself or for someone else who is just starting out should NOT mean sacrificing quality for price. If you do, you probably will not enjoy playing the instrument nor feel that you have an investment to stick with through the initial learning process. From my experience, having an instrument that is easy on the fingers to learn on, sounds good, holds it's tune (there is always an inital break in period until the strings hold tune), and looks good enough that you are proud to own it, goes a long way to being a successful player. Frustration is normal for the beginner at first, but it should be brief. The instrument itself should never be a problem due to poor quality. These 3 ukes will last a long time, and are good enough to carry the beginner on though their development...no need to buy another for a long time, yet still very affordable.
I think ukuleles are the easiest of the stringed instruments to learn to play and if you get a decent one, you will always return to it. I know of many musicians who always take theirs with them while traveling away from home to practice on or to use as an accompaniment while practicing their vocals. The ukuleles size makes it an easy travel companion!
When you get your ukulele, you want to tune it properly. Note: new stringed instruments that you buy online generally need to be set up, and tuned. This isn't difficult with a tuner. A 4 string is tuned (open) GCEA: "A" being the bottom string and G the top if you are a right hand player. A ukulele tuner is a great investment of about 10 bucks, so I recommend you get one when you buy your ukulele (some bundles come with one, so check before you buy another). You won't regret it.
Practice your chords (you can find them for free all over the internet if one wasn't included with your purchase) over and over while strumming with your index finger and thumb pinched together as if you were holding a pick. Use your index fingernail to hit the strings in the down motion and the side of your thumb on the upward motion. For best sound, strum the strings where the neck meets the body. As soon as you are comfortable strumming and sequencing the chords, you can start playing songs, and singing along. It's a lot of fun, especially when you have other people to play or sing with.
I found that by getting the chords for songs I wanted to learn, I could play along with the recorded song on my computer to help me get the right rhythm and force me to make the chord changes at the right time. It also makes learning more fun when you can play music you know. So, add a learning book/DVD or CD to your first purchase so you can learn faster and easier. You can also find tons of free song tabs with an internet search for variety, but nothing beats an instructional book that takes the beginner step by step from A to Z.