The ‘Harry Potter’ Approach to Ukulele Buying

Want to buy a ukulele? Not really sure what to buy? For the first ukulele, you don’t usually have a frame of reference. In the early days, I would recommend spending a small amount of money, until you know you enjoy playing and you want to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, don’t go too cheaply, so that the uke is un-tune-able. If you’re fending for yourself for your first ukulele, refer to these recommendations to help you with buying your first ukulele. Then, when you’ve been playing for a while you might want to upgrade. It’s at this point that people usually ask me ‘what is the next ukulele that I should buy’ or ‘what brand do you recommend’. I like lots of brands of ukuleles, and you’ll find plenty of reviews out there but I think it’s a bit like asking ‘what car should I buy’ or ‘what bike should I buy’. It really depends what you want to do with it – are you planning to play lots of melody? Might you need a low G string? Are you planning to play gigs with other instruments? Will you need a pick-up in it so you can be amplified or will a microphone do? Do you prefer a mellow or a bright sound? I don’t know – these are all subjective preferences, like everything in life.

For me, buying a new ukulele is a bit like that scene in Harry Potter… You know, the scene where he needs to buy his wand and he wanders (yes, pun intended) into the shop seemingly bewildered? Then, as magic happpens – the wand that’s meant for him flies at him. The wand chooses Harry:

That’s how I think about ukulele buying. I walk into a shop, play a few of them and and the ukuleles choose me. I’ve bought several instruments like that. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. Like when I go out for one drink, but that’s a different story. With ukuleles, I like to walk into a shop, feel it and hear the instrument I’m going to buy. That’s worked for me with my guitar (oo-er, the G word) and also with ukuleles. I’ve got a feel for them and have known they were ‘the one’ when I’ve played them. I’m sure the same will happen for you. Go in, play your favourite song. If you like the feel and sound of it, buy it and give yourself hours of fun. It helps when you know what you’re feeling for. I like ukes with low action, that sound good whether  you play melody or chords. But that’s just me.

It’s around this point where UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome, to the uninitiated) comes in. You may well also get bitten by the bug and buy a new uke for every day of the week. There are lots of people who have more ukuleles than they can play, some have entire walls filled with them. Not me, oh no. Obviously not me…

ukuleles on the wall

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Gift Idea… A Ukulele Taster Class!

Are you behind with your shopping? Wondering what to get your Mama, Mum, Ma for Mothers Day? Well, since a few people have booked their Mum’s onto our Ukulele Taster Class, we thought we’d throw that out there as an idea. If your Mum’s free next Thursday, the 19th March, she can come along to the Goldsmith Pub and Dining Room in SE1 and enjoy their lovely, and reasonably priced cocktails, and learn to strum at least 1 song in the hour. It’s fun, friendly and your Mum will love it!

Grab your Mum a Ukulele Taster Class Gift Voucher.

How to use an electronic ukulele tuner

Want to tune your ukulele?  Grab a clip on ukulele tuner!

Ukulele Tuner - tune to the notes G C E A

Ukulele strings are tuned to the notes (from nose to knees) G, C, E, A.  All ukuleles (except for baritones) are tuned in this way using these notes. Played ‘open’ (that means not pressing your fingers down on any strings, and just strumming), this makes the chord of C6, or Am7.

There is an alternative traditional English tuning – D6 – A, D F#, B, and other lesser known tunings. You can tune up how you like, but the chord shapes are different, and it’s tricker to find music for the D tuning, or other types of tunings.

 

Would you prefer a video to help you to do this this?  Here you go!

If you don’t (yet) have a clip on ukulele tuner as it says in the video, then grab yourself one of these:

   

Buying your first ukulele

Lorraine's ukulele

 

So… you’re thinking about buying a ukulele?  We say that you should just DO IT!  You won’t look back, as it’s a fun, sociable and portable instrument. In the first instance, we don’t recommend spending lots of money, however, do avoid really cheap ukuleles. They won’t hold their tune, so you’ll be annoyed as you’ll essentially have an unplayable instrument. Ashton’s, Spongebob’s, Makala basics, and those awful ones they sell at Argos are ones I’d generally avoid. Makala, Stagg, Lanakai are decent starter ukes. They come with good quality strings (more on this later) and they’ll hold their tune when you’ve bedded them in (tuned them consistently each day for a week).

How much should I spend?

On your first ukulele, I don’t recommend spending a lot of money.  A little bit like a car, when you’re learning you might have a few bumps. Also, until you know for sure that you love it, you don’t want to spend a fortune.  You can buy a cheap ukulele for about £30.  You can definitely spend more, and, if you have musical experience and know you’ll stick with it, then do that, but if you have no musical experience and you don’t know if you’ll play for a few years, then just get a basic ukulele that sounds good.

Here are a couple of brands that we recommend.

Makala are inexpensive, and sound good.  Here are a few links to find some Makala ukuleles:

        

Stagg are also inexpensive, and sound good.  Here are a few links to find some Stagg ukuleles:

   

  

Before you know it, you’ll have Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (UAS) and end up with a bunch of other (possibly more expensive) ukes, but for now start small until you know you’ll stick with it, and do stick with it!

ukuleles on the wall

Try to resist buying lots of brothers and sisters for the new addition to your family, though.  Ukuleles are very addictive. There’s a ‘thing’ Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. (UAS).  You have been warned!