What to start with when learning to play the ukulele?
To start off, you need to invest in a quality instrument. Ukulele prices can vary substantially, starting around the $20-$30 and going up to a couple of hundred dollars. As a general rule, anything less than $50 could prove questionable in terms of durability and performance, even for beginners.
Once you have your instrument of choice in hand, you need to learn how to hold it right before you can start strumming. It’s recommended to take a few minutes to try some different positions to see which you’re most comfortable at. You can either sit or stand holding the uke and see how you feel.
Start off slow with the majors and minors before moving on to other chords. And once you’ve got the chords nailed, you can add in some slapping and palm muting to add to your groove.
Features to consider before buying a ukulele
At a quick glance, all ukes may seem the same, but it helps to get to know their essential features. This will help you figure out your playing technique and what kind of results to expect when you play.
Some people, often new to playing the ukulele find it easier to play the concert or tenor ukuleles. This is mainly given the scale length of the instrument.
The scale length refers to the distance from the nut to the saddle on the unit. In other words, this distance between the nut and the saddle is the length of the string that vibrates when you play.
The scale length also determines how far apart the frets are on the uke’s fingerboard. Frets are the thin metal bars positioned in the fingerboard. Since sopranos have a very short scale, the frets are also significantly close together. Concerts and tenors have longer scales, so the frets are also spaced further apart.
The quality and price of the ukulele are determined by the type of wood used in its construction.
Among these, koa is the most common type used for ukes made in Hawaii. It has a beautiful grain and yields a very warm sound. Koa wood is used for models with an expensive price tag.
Mahogany yields a softer sound than Koa and is considered a suitable type of wood for ukuleles that fall in the middle end of the price range. Most of the models featured here today have mahogany in their construction and will give you the result you desire.
Another popular option is spruce which is used on lower end ukuleles.
Not all ukuleles, however, are constructed entirely out of solid wood. Models that are made of solid wood use it not only on the outside but the inside as well which yield a very well-sounding instrument.
The laminated versions, on the other hand, use the less expensive types of wood on the inside with a thin layer of better wood on the outside. While this does have the effect of improving the instrument’s aesthetics, it does little to improve the sound when compared to their solid wood counterparts.
To enjoy the full acoustic potential of your instrument, you need to have good strings. Once, again there is an extensive array of string materials available ranging from nylon and fluorocarbon to titanium and even steel strings.
Among these options, nylon is the most common material used for ukulele strings. Since nylon is a stretchable material, you will need to retune your uke over time.
While humidity may not affect nylon so much, temperature changes can cause the strings to stretch more or less.
Traditionally used as a fishing line, fluorocarbon is another type you could consider. This type of string provides a brighter sound than nylon and may be better suited for someone who plays their instrument outdoors a lot. Fluorocarbon is not as affected by temperature changes as nylon.
For a stronger, more durable, and brighter tone than nylon you can look for titanium strings. The sound produced by this type of string also comes with more volume and projection.
Steel strings are rather uncommon, and unless the instrument is specifically constructed for this type, such as a banjolele, it isn’t recommended to use these. This is because steel exerts tension on the top, bridge, and neck of the instrument and may cause it to damage.
The type that you choose for your instrument should match your playing style. Luckily, the strings are not too expensive, including the high-quality ones, so there is wiggle room for experimentation. You can try different types and different brands until you find one that complements your style.
Ukuleles are very lightweight compared to their larger stringed counterparts, with many weighing less than three pounds. This makes a uke easy to hold and play, even without a strap. The overall weight of the ukulele is also subject to features like add-on strap buttons, electronic components, the finish of the unit and whether the tuners are open or closed.
To make sure that you get the best concert ukulele for the money, look for something that comes with a warranty. Warranties may start off with something as little as a 30-day money back guarantee such as those offered by the Ranch Concert Ukulele and the Donner Concert Ukulele DUC-1. If you’re looking for a longer warranty period than consider the Ohuhu Concert Ukulele which comes with a two-year limited warranty that needs to be purchased separately. That said, the lifetime warranty offered by the Lohanu Concert Ukulele speaks volumes for its durability and performance. No wonder it’s our Editor’s Pick.
In addition to the standard features, you can also look for some extra ones. If you find it easier to carry, attach a strap to your instrument. For cleanup and care, some models will throw in cleaning or polishing cloths with your new uke. Others will even offer online lessons, booklets, and instructional videos just to get you started on your ukulele playing journey.