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Ukulele Faqs

What type of ukulele should I buy?

Ukuleles come in four common sizes which can be a little confusing if you are a newcomer to the instrument. You want to learn the uke but are not sure which size ukulele is best for you.

Don’t worry! This is totally understandable and is why we have created our handy Barnes & Mullins guide to explain ukulele sizes - Check it out HERE

Is the ukulele easy to play?

Yes! The ukulele is one of the easier instruments to play, for sure. It’s also one of the most fun. Their four, low tension nylon strings are not too taxing on your strumming hand so you will master the rhythmic aspects quickly. Chord shapes are pretty simple compared to other stringed instruments and therefore generally easier to transition from chord one to another.

The ukulele is taught to young pupils in schools as it is easy to hold, sounds great and fun to play.

Although varying in size, all ukuleles are relatively small, compact, light and portable. You can easily take them anywhere and they make for excellent musical companions on camping holidays and around beach campfires.

What is more, most popular songs are easy to learn and sound great played on the ukulele – so it won’t be long before you are busting out some classics on your new uke.

How should I tune my ukulele?

Of the four common types of ukulele, soprano, concert and tenor models are all tuned the same way – to G, C, E, A. This is known as standard ‘reentrant’ ukulele tuning.

The top G string is tuned higher than the middle two strings (C and E strings). This is one factor that plays a role in giving ukes their distinctive bright and ‘happy’ sound. However, there are other ways to tune your ukulele, and baritone and bass ukuleles are tuned differently to soprano, concert and tenor models. 

Find out everything you need to know about ukulele tuning HERE.

How do I strum the ukulele – with a pick or my fingers?

The most common way of playing the ukulele is with your fingers. Ukuleles are strung with nylon strings – like classical guitars - rather than steel strings, so they are easy going on your fingers. Playing this way also means you can easily switch between strumming and plucking.

However, if you prefer to use a pick, you can buy special felt picks that are designed to make playing ukuleles comfortable, plus they sound great.

Why doesn’t my ukulele sound very good?

  • As with all stringed instruments, it is important to make sure your ukulele is properly tuned. Just one string ever so slightly out of tune can make your chords sound noticeably nasty. It is always best to tune your ukulele with a chromatic tuner like this TGI Clip-On Ukulele Tuner before playing.

 

  • It is important to change your ukulele strings regularly. Old and worn strings will have a detrimental effect on the way your uke sounds by deadening its overall tone and volume. Dirty strings also won’t allow your fingers to glide over them easily, so your ukulele will also feel bad to play. We generally recommend changing your strings around every two months if you’re someone who spends an average amount of time practicing. It is also worth considering that new strings take a while to settle in – especially ukulele nylon strings. You may find you need to tune your uke more frequently after restringing as new strings take a little while to properly stretch and settle in. This is normal, but something to be mindful of.

 

  • Remember to wind your strings the correct way. It sounds simple but you will be amazed at how easy it is to make this mistake as a beginner. Make sure that you wind your strings around the tuning pegs at the headstock from the inside to the outside – so that the top two strings are wound anti-clockwise, and the bottom two strings are wound clockwise.

 

  • As with all wooden instruments, changes in temperature and humidity can affect the moisture content in the tonewoods and therefore affect how your ukulele sounds and plays. Although not such an issue in temperate climates, it is something to pay special attention to if you live somewhere with a particularly hot or cold climate. It is always a good idea to store your ukulele in its case or gigbag with a humidifier when not being played, no matter where in the world you live. Make sure not to leave it too close to something hot like a radiator or outside in the cold. Humidifiers slowly release moisture to ensure your ukulele does not become too dry and start to crack.

 

  • Check your intonation. Without getting into the extensive specifics of what exactly intonation is (we could be here a long time!), poor intonation is a common cause of why your ukulele can suddenly not sound great. Essentially, intonation refers to the relationship between the bridge in relation to the overall length of the string (scale length). A good way to test whether your intonation is correct is to play chord shapes higher up the neck. If they don’t sound as they should, this is an indicator that your intonation is out, and that your ukulele isn’t ‘in tune with itself’. Unfortunately, fixing intonation is one of the more technical jobs on a ukulele. Adjustments to the nut and/or bridge may need to be made, or some frets may need to be filed.

 

It’s important to consider that adjusting any instrument without suitable knowledge and experience can cause permanent damage and we therefore always advise you to take your ukulele to a trained luthier for any extensive set-up work.

 

To ensure your ukulele reaches you in its optimal playing condition, each instrument is inspected and set up by our expert technical team in the United Kingdom before making its way to our retail partners.

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Do you have a question we have not answered here? Please get in touch with us HERE