10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Ukuleles (Before I Bought One)

Jemsite has been doing a series called 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Guitars (Before I Bought One) and I know a good idea when I steal one. The concept: if you could hop into your DeLorean, whack it up to 88 mph and visit yourself when you were buying your first instrument, what advice would you give?

In about 50 years’ time I imagine myself sitting in a comfy chair and my grandkids scurrying up to me in their space-pyjamas and asking, “Granddad, what was life like before the internet?” And I’ll say, “Put down your hoverboards, jump up on my knee and I’ll tell you.” Then I’ll twirl my mustachios wistfully and reply, “It was FUCKIN’ AWFUL!”

Back when I got my first ukulele – during my teenage guitar obsession – there were no internets, YouTubes or blogs to teach a boy anything. I didn’t know anyone who played ukulele. I’d heard George Formby and one other song with a ukulele once. I didn’t have a clue. As a result, it took me many years to see the potential of the uke. So here’s what I’d tell the fat, ugly, stupid, teenage me as he wandered into Bakewell Music Shop to buy a ukulele.

1. The strings don’t go fattest to thinnest.

Just to prove how ignorant I was, I actually tried restringing it the ‘right’ way. It didn’t occur to me that the people who made it might have had a better idea of how to string it than I did. I did have a book. But it was a very slim, old one. I either didn’t read it or it failed to mention this fairly important detail.

2. Good ukuleles exist. Your local music shop doesn’t have one.

Bakewell is famous for it’s tarts (and they are exceeding good). It’s not famous as a centre of outstanding luthiery. The uke I bought was complete junk. I didn’t even know there were better ukes. I think this is the main reason I rarely played the uke for many years.

Message to me: buy a Martin ukulele or six. They might seem expensive now but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

3. Good ukulele strings exist. Your local music shop doesn’t have them.

The same goes for the strings. In fact, I don’t remember them selling strings at all. I don’t know where I would have been able buy good strings. God, I love you, internet. I’m going to miss you come the post-apocalyptic Mad-Max world.

4. Tighten the screws. It might stay in tune.

I think I did eventually work this one out myself. But only many months after giving up on ever getting it to stay in tune.

5. Ukuleles are not little guitars.

I started figuring this one out pretty quickly. After trying to strum it with a plectrum for 3 minutes I realised that clearly wasn’t the way to go. It took me much longer to figure out that the high-G string could be a help rather than a hindrance (partly because it took me a while to figure out it was a high-G string).

6. Eventually, you won’t want to play the guitar any more.

Actually, I might gloss over this fact lest it puts me off picking it up in the first place.

7. Fewer strings means harder, not easier.

Not entirely true, I know. But it is more of challenge to play difficult pieces on the uke. And more rewarding.

8. Don’t steal plutonium from the Libyans.

9. In about 15 years time ukuleles are going to be the coolest thing in the world and you’re going to be writing about them every day. You should practice more.

There’s no getting round the fact I’m a mediocre player. It might be the fact that I’m not naturally musically talented. But more practice certainly couldn’t harm.

10. You like her. She likes you. Just ask her out you useless, spotty idiot. And sell your sister to organ harvesters and put the money into Google and Microsoft.

No, it’s nothing to do with ukuleles. But if I’m time traveling here, I’m not going to spend all ten on ukuleles.

What do you wish you’d known about ukuleles before you bought one?

View Comments


  1. Iverrrrr June 10th, 2009 6:27 pm

    Darn! I’ve stolen plutonium from the Libyans. Sorry.

    But these tips really fit my experience with the Uke, so now I’ll just show them to my guitar playing friends and turn them over!

  2. Donnie Bubbles June 10th, 2009 6:51 pm

    A good ukulele costs less than a crappy guitar- don’t cheap out! Take the leap and commit $150 – $200 for a uke that sounds good and will make you happy when you look at it. My first $50 Lanikai only made it six months before I sprung for a better model due to the lack of consistency down the fretboard.

    Add another $15 for a tuner – it’s well worth it….

  3. mictoboy June 10th, 2009 7:00 pm

    mine would be: do it sooner! that way i could be good by now

  4. Armelle June 10th, 2009 7:01 pm

    Very entertaining !!! Loved it :)
    But please don’t call yourself mediocre… It’s a bit painful for the infinitely less talented players !

  5. Iain June 10th, 2009 7:05 pm

    I’d tell myself not to say “ooh” every time I hear a ukulele on the radio. Or send a cyborg back to kill those “5 years time” people.

  6. Nick Bardy-Chivor June 10th, 2009 7:34 pm

    It’s much easier to play the dreaded “E” on my new tenor than it is on my now temporarily redundant soprano…oh and by the way they are more addictive than crack (apparently)…

  7. Woodshed June 10th, 2009 8:45 pm

    Iverrrr: Just make sure you wear a bullet proof vest.

    Donnie: Thanks for those.

    mictoboy: I’d go along with that one.

    Armelle: I definitely am mediocre.

    Iain: And the same with adverts. It seems to crop up so often it’s not worth mentioning any more.

    Nick: True fact. I’ll would rob my granny for my next ukulele.

  8. Byjimini June 10th, 2009 9:15 pm

    I often get annoyed at the fact that I only started playing the uke 18 months ago, but then I tell myself that because of work and before that, no internet, it would have been nigh-on impossible.

    Besides, I found this site when I got my first ‘proper’ ukulele – a Greg Bennett UK-60 – almost a year after learning to play. Some may scoff, as yes it was ‘only’ £50, but that thing is my old faithful, in that any song sounds like a million bucks. It was when I found this site that I felt my playing coming into its own, and it’s gone further since I bought the Lanikai LU-21 and started playing in public.

    So yeah, if I had anything to tell my past self, it would be to buy that lovely wooden GB uke you’re been staring at in the window for ages, because it’ll kick-start your dreams.

  9. cardboardfrog June 10th, 2009 10:24 pm

    i think the most important thing i could tell myself about playing music, is to be encouraged when you see players who are better than you, not consider giving up because ‘you’ll never be that good’.

  10. Alf June 10th, 2009 10:59 pm

    Don’t believe the man in the shop; ADF#B hasn’t been standard tuning for several decades. The fact that the only book you can find that backs up his position is thirty years old should be a clue. As should the fact that you can only find one. Although maybe not; I quite enjoy being a tone higher than everyone else now, awkward though it occasionally is.

    I’d definitely point out that there was useful stuff on the internet, though. It didn’t even occur to me to have a look for nearly a year after I’d bought the thing, and that was only 2 years ago.

  11. Mary S. June 10th, 2009 11:09 pm

    Yes, I wish I would’ve gotten a slightly more expensive but infinitely nicer ukulele when I asked for one last Christmas! It’s only half a year later, and I’m already planning out the next uke I’d like to buy–but maybe that’s just an addiction setting in!

  12. ronhale June 11th, 2009 12:20 am

    Many of the uke world’s fleetest flying fingers have
    produced results that could quite easily be played along
    with the best (worst?) shopping-mall music (especially those players with a distressing bent towards smooth jazz), so “mediocre”
    must mean something more than degree of technical facility (be very afraid when word spreads that Yngwie Malmsteen has taken up the ukulele, for then we’ll truly see mediocre at it’s most mediocre).

    A player with mediocre technical ability can still be a good player, of course,
    with a proper gung-ho attitude & application. A player of mediocre
    technical talents can still be a very creative player & bring more to
    the instrument than a uke world luminary who produces ( yet another) Wal-Mart ready, super-duper, Beatles cover (yawn).

    And a blogger of professed mediocre ability can still play with
    just about any of the acts he highlights & would be a worthy
    performer at any of the events/venues he writes about.

  13. Madison June 11th, 2009 1:27 am

    Don’t be too shy to sing along. Even if all you’re singing is ridiculous, improvised rants to a cycle of C/A/CM strummed arrhythmically. Especially then.

    (Haha, what am I even saying- “me before I bought a ukulele” is me of last month. But I’d also tell this to pre-guitar me, who’s at least two years ago, so there.)

  14. Tamster June 11th, 2009 1:40 am

    Ya, I don’t know what you mean by mediocre. You don’t sound mediocre to me. Your videos, tabs, mp3’s, riffs etc. sound a lot more interesting than quite a bit of the stuff coming from the “professional” uke players. Quite a bit of that music is boring or overdone. By “overdone” I mean there is sometimes so much fancy fingerwork that the original melody is completely lost and the song unrecognizable.

  15. todd June 11th, 2009 2:38 am

    let’s see now grandkids…..

    -if you’ve been a guitarist for almost 20 years….you don’t ‘have’ to get a tenor or baritone……you’ll learn to be happy with a soprano or concert uke very quickly

    -yes, save your change and spend (except in those rare cases) between a 100 and 200 bucks for something that is a solid player and that will ‘feel’ good to play

    -watch, watch, watch other players with really different styles from each other….

    -don’t think you have to play just one genre of music (be it jazzy or old timey or whatever) on the uke….her abilities reach far and wide….

    -oh….and most importantly….four strings…..it’s enough :)

  16. +one June 11th, 2009 3:21 am

    you can find many reasons to own more than one ukulele…give in to your obsession.

  17. Howlin' Hobbit June 11th, 2009 6:52 am

    Oi! #5!

    There are people on their umpty-seventh ukulele who haven’t figured that one out.

    (Don’t get me started.)

    #7: Hmmm… I’m still convinced that there’s nothing more Zen than “4 strings, 4 fingers” but it *is* true that you have to tweak things sometimes and equally true that the rewards are greater.

    Lastly… what Tamster said.

  18. J-Hob June 11th, 2009 10:14 am

    I just wish I’d started playing in my teens or 20s and not my 30s.

  19. todd June 11th, 2009 2:11 pm

    See Al,

    Re: you accusing yourself of being ‘mediocre’

    feel all the love? feel all the appreciation for what you do?

    not mediocre man…..

    I know some aficionados may want to fling poop at me after saying this, but i especially enjoyed your rockabilly roustabout just as much as some of the other stuff from James or Jake that i’ve heard…..’gasp’ yup…i said it…so there (nothing against them either obviously)

    smiles :)

  20. Chris June 11th, 2009 2:26 pm

    If I’d only known two things… 1) that non-Hawaiian music could be played on a ukulele, and B) learning to play a uke (before a guitar) is a great way to learn about playing music (in general).

    For the record, I love Hawaiian music, just not enough to want to learn a new instrument.

    For the record part 2, I’m exceeding lame at playing both instruments, but the uke rewards where the guitar torments and teases.

  21. LonnaB June 11th, 2009 3:02 pm

    I wish someone would have put one in my hands sooner.

    Think of all the trouble I could have stayed out of.

    Then again, I’d have found a way to make trouble with the ukulele!

    Hilarious post, Al. Especially that joke about you being a mediocre player. Good one :)

  22. Connor June 11th, 2009 3:43 pm

    I’d Have to say:

    The Ukulele, however poorly played, has the capability of cheering up everyone around.

  23. Ukulele Bartt June 11th, 2009 4:47 pm

    I wish I’d known that nobody ever spells “ukulele” correctly, except for other ukulele players.

    Advice to self: don’t get a website called “UkuleleBartt.” Just get one called “Bartt.net.”

  24. Armelle June 11th, 2009 5:09 pm

    Thanks Todd for helping me tell Al he is far from mediocre !

  25. Mary-Anne June 11th, 2009 7:56 pm

    My one regret is that I didn’t buy a proper uke sooner. I stuck with my crap ukulele for 13 years before I finally got something that looked, sounded, and felt good. I had it in my mind that I didn’t deserve a nicer instrument until I had more skillz, and it wasn’t until I had mastered the fairly quick [Em][Cdim][G7][A7] in “Tiptoe through the Tulips” that I would let myself upgrade. Silly, silly girl.

  26. David Newland June 11th, 2009 8:01 pm

    -You’ll get more attention for playing uke than for having written 200 songs or for having put out three independent albums.

    -You’ll also get more bookings and be more appreciated and have more fun.

    -Attractive women flock to places where people are charming and genteel and silly in an “I-can’t-help-it” kind of way.

    -The answer to “should I bring my uke” is always “yes.”

  27. Virginia Creeper & April June 11th, 2009 8:16 pm

    Let’s praise the internet again while I give a razzzzberry to my local music store who overcharged me (it was even “on sale”) for mine….BUT it does stay tuned. Should I replace the strings on my Mahalo? How often?……LOVE playing I’m Yours.
    Hope you are healed from your fall…be more careful…or blame the dog!

  28. Anne June 11th, 2009 8:27 pm

    I wish I knew that I would like my ukulele too much to leave it in the car before I bought a ukulele specifically for the purpose of leaving it in my car.

    Also I think you maybe spelled “super completely excellent” wrong when describing yourself/your mad fantastic ukulele skills.

  29. Woodshed June 11th, 2009 9:19 pm

    Byjimini and Mary-Anne: I still make the mistake of not buying a nice enough uke. It’s not like I can’t justify buying a top quality one. I just feel guilty for doing so.

    cbf: Good one. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything other than inspired by talented musicians. Talented songwriters on the other hand…

    Alf: I’m not quite sure why D-tuning is dying out. It makes more sense if you’re going to be playing songs written for guitar and therefore in guitar-friendly keys.

    Mary S.: Trust me, you never stop wanting a slightly better uke!

    ronhale: You’re bang on about why I think of myself as mediocre. I’ve never felt I have the ease of expression that the best musicians have. Some people seem to have less distance between their heart and their instrument.

    Madison: I wish I could take that advice to heart. I just can’t stand my singing voice – I can’t even stand my talking voice. I shouldn’t let that stop me, but I do.

    Tamster: Thanks. I do like to keep my stuff as direct as possible.

    todd: And also watch players of different instruments. There’s a lot than can be transferred. And thanks for the kind words (but I think you’re insane).

    +one: Don’t mind if I do!

    Hobbit: Yeah, I could certainly rant for a while on #5 as well.

    Chris: As you might have noticed, I stay away from the Hawaiian side of things. Also, not because I dislike it. More because other people do it better than I can.

    Lonna: You’re obviously a natural-born trouble-maker.

    Connor: True that.

    Bartt: But you must still have the problem of explaining that it’s Bartt with two t’s.

    David: I do wonder why so many people make obvious instrument choices: guitar, bass and drums. There are a whole world of instruments around that would instantly make their music more interesting and original.

    VC&A: I’m with you on the rip-off thing. Sometimes when I hear local shops complaining about losing business I do think, “Serves you right for taking advantage when we didn’t have a choice.”

    Anne: There’s only one solution to that: buy another ukulele. Thanks for the kind words.

  30. BoomerZoomer June 11th, 2009 10:05 pm

    No matter how much you spend on a ukulele, it will not be long before you are temped to buy, or start dreaming up your next one. Luckily they are small and easy to find room for. Remember that the law of diminishing returns applies to ukuleles. i.e. The difference between a $500 instrument and a $1000 is easily quantified. The differences between a $1000 and $2000 ukulele will not provide a doubling of quality or benefits. Above $2000 you’re buying something you want vs. something that will provide playability or tonal benefits over a less expensive instrument.

  31. Franny June 12th, 2009 12:18 am

    I wish I knew that playing an instrument as fun as the ukulele would motivate me to learn more in one year than in ten years of getting nowhere on a guitar.

    PS. I agree with Todd–I would listen to your Rockabilly Roustabout over stuff by Jake and James!

  32. Woodshed June 12th, 2009 4:59 pm

    BoomerZoomer: Thanks for the advice. I’ve never had a chance to test out a +$2000 uke, so I’ll take your word for it.

    Franny: Glad you’ve found your instrument. And thanks for the kind words.

  33. Marcy June 13th, 2009 4:15 am

    8. Don’t steal plutonium from the Libyans.


    Well, I’m just a couple years new to the uke, and I don’t think I made many mistakes. My first uke was a flea, which is a great sounding uke, and even sounds better than some more expensive ukes. And my local music shop does carry good strings (aquilas).

    The best thing I would tell myself would be to pick up the uke sooner. Although, I kinda think that things happen at certain times for a reason. I might not have appreciated how great the uke was in my teens or twenties.

  34. Woodshed June 13th, 2009 9:17 pm

    Marcy: Looks like you got off to a good start. It’s turned out to be a common theme that people wish they’d started the uke earlier (or, in my case, took it seriously earlier).

  35. Sterf September 3rd, 2009 12:46 am

    I wish I’d known I’d be getting my third of them a few months in.

    And I wish I’d known sooner that they were so much fun.

  36. Woodshed September 3rd, 2009 6:15 pm

    Sterf: The fact you end up buying so many ukes does go against the idea that ukuleles are cheap.

  37. Steve February 24th, 2010 11:39 pm

    also, dont give yourself a sports almanac from the future. an old man might steal it and screw up the future!

  38. Nesta Finch February 25th, 2010 7:57 am

    you don’t have to be able to read music to learn the ukulele! In fact, it’s a great instrument to learn because it teaches you to listen instead of read.

    Yes, i’m 8 months late, but i’ve only just found you.

  39. Woodshed February 25th, 2010 6:40 pm

    Steve: Or make out with your mom.

    Nesta: It’s never too late to join in.

  40. Tattler2 July 18th, 2010 9:31 am

    I started playing a ukulele when I was a teenager and really loved it. I played using a guitar book, but the chording with the four highest strings of the guitar chords. That had worked for me forever! I had a really cheap ukulele and eventually it would not hold a tune and just was not worth a thing. I used it for years as I taught school and that always impressed the kids more than my violin ever did. But I have wanted a higher quality instrument. I ordered one on E-Bay and I just got it in yesterday. Oh my goodness – I just love it! I have looked at all the website to help me with more difficult methods of playing as I only used chords way back when. I am amazed at what I have learned in just a few hours time. I am so excited about this website and I sure am glad that you worked through Christmas to put this together.
    I have also purchased ukuleles to teach my grandchildren to play and sing together – I may have a family band – the kids are 0, 2, 5, & 8. The two oldest are ready to learn some basic chords and they will not give up because the strings cut their fingers like a guitar or violin. Thanks for all of your hard work!

  41. Sam July 25th, 2010 11:41 pm

    I’m twenty and only started playing a week or so ago cos my dad borrowed one from a friend and I (kind of) stole it… has certainly given me something to do during the holidays (in fact i’m pretty addicted to it). Have only been playing with a fairly cheap one so far and think i’m gonna get the Lanikai U21; would love something more but can’t really justify it whilst being but a poor university student.
    I’m a trumpeter of ~12 years so know #7 only too well! What I’ve learnt so far; the uke is certainly a lot more parent/neighbour friendly than the trumpet…

  42. Catie July 26th, 2010 5:18 pm

    Hah. Not only does my local music store have both good ukes and good strings, they are walking distance from my house, and have offered quite a few beginning ukulele classes. Guess I’m just lucky that way.
    My 8 year old begged for weeks and weeks for a kala kiwi, and I finally gave in, now we’re on to uke #2 and loving playing together.
    As a girl with no musical talent, I’m becoming completely obsessed with learning how to play. (I’ve even set down my knitting needles a time or two…)

  43. Woodshed July 28th, 2010 9:03 pm

    Tattler2: That’s great! Enjoy the family band.

    Sam: Hope you manage to scrape together the cash. The Lanikai is well worth it.

    Catie: That’s good news! It’s definitely true that ukes have got a lot easier to come by since I wrote this post.

  44. Howlin' Hobbit July 28th, 2010 9:25 pm

    @Sam: Woodshed is bang on. I’m a well known “solid wood snob” but Lanikai *consistently* makes inexpensive, laminate ukes that are surprisingly good. You won’t regret it.

    (But I also urge you to check out Ohana ukuleles (www.ohana-music.com). You can get one with a solid top, for *very* little money, that will please you immeasurably.)

  45. Sam August 7th, 2010 1:52 am

    Cheers for the info Woodshed and Howlin’ Hobbit! Ordered the Lanikai in the end…getting an Ohano in/to England was just a bit too much over budget.

  46. Beginner Ukulele Lessons | Ukulele Hunt August 15th, 2010 6:47 pm

    […] essential links, first chords, tips and links to suggestions for the first songs to learn. – 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Ukuleles (Before I Bought One) – Don’t make the same mistakes I did. – 10 Tips for Ukulele Beginners – 10 things I […]

  47. Pete Leonard August 16th, 2010 2:00 pm

    I’ve owned a tenor guitar for 45 years, and never really mastered playing it. I am now wanting a UKE , and am really confused about which type to buy…standard ?…tenor.?…soprano ?…concert ?….etc….I just want a good tropical sound and really don’t know what I’m looking for. HELP ! And , thanks for this great website.

  48. Ronnie O August 16th, 2010 7:58 pm

    I’m nearly 62 and I just started learning….getting the left hand fingers to do what they’re supposed to do is the frustrating thing… damn arthritis… but I can’t stop myself from trying, this instrument is certainly infectious

  49. M C August 19th, 2010 10:54 pm

    I just got started with a baritone uke (like the deeper sound) a month ago,..I am in my 60’s. I attend a free class at a senior center and then do my best to stay up with the group for the next two hours. I am having a great time!
    I strongly suggest playing with a group like this,..they welcome everybody,..they have a good time,..you pick up good pointers from experienced players,..this group plays “gigs” for community events (for free),..all of this pushes me to learn the basic chords and change between them in a timely manner,..MUCH BETTER than sitting at home trying to peck out a piece. Whatever your age,..I really suggest locking into a group like this!!!

  50. Ronnie O August 22nd, 2010 8:40 pm

    M C, Thanks for your comments, I’m enjoying my uke too, I’ve got to agree with you about playing with others, I;m currently trying to set up group where I live in England, I know there are plenty of ukeleles out there but I guess they’re shy ! I’ll keep on tho and keep you in touch

  51. camille C September 22nd, 2010 4:31 pm

    HA! My dad bought a uke for my little sister (she was like… five), and thought it was a mini toy guitar, partly because it was really cheap. I didn’t know there was sth call ukulele and I thought the string was in the wrong place too… hehe. good thing I am lazy and wouldn’t restring them, and two years later when i want to learn guitar by myself (again) and pick up the ‘mini guitar’ and finally realise the mini guitar was a crappy ukulele. but i don’t care. i am having fun =D

  52. Woodshed September 22nd, 2010 7:06 pm

    camille C: Glad you’re enjoying it.

  53. rackfocus September 30th, 2010 6:37 pm

    I definitely wished I had gotten into it sooner. I just didn’t know about it, really. I’ve played drums for 15 years throughout high school and college, but I never really tried to pick up another instrument. Then I saw everyone and their moms with ukuleles like Charlie McDonnell, and Julia Nunes, and Train with Hey Soul Sister. I just recently gave my drumset to my 10 year old nephew since I never play it anymore, but I missed having an instrument. So I bought a $50 Mahalo about a week ago for my birthday. I can only play three chords, and probably spend more time tuning it and stretching the chords than actually playing, but I frakking love it.

    And this place is totally amazing. I referenced it when trying to figure out which uke to buy, and now I’m going to it for all my chords and tabs. Thank you so very much for existing.

    I went to my local uke store and the only one they had was $115. I forgot the brand, but I looked it up on my phone in the store and it was going for about 48$ online. So I bought a felt pick and went on my merry way to buy one online.

    It is addicting. I’m already trying to figure out which one I’m going to buy next and I’m only a week into playing.

  54. Woodshed October 2nd, 2010 10:52 pm

    rackfocus: Thanks, glad to hear you’re enjoying getting to grips with the uke.

  55. sydney October 28th, 2010 8:42 am

    i wish i had gotten into it earlier too!
    and im only 16. i’ve literally had my soprano for four days and i cannot stop playing. its ridiculous how much i am in love with this. its really exciting for me too because i sing, and ive always wanted to be able to play an instrument in addition to the singing.
    i tried guitar and was not a fan.

    but i’m pretty sure i’ve found my instrument. =)

    this website is amazing by the way. its pretty much the only ukulele website i plan on using for chords and whatnot.

  56. Jane November 6th, 2010 2:20 am

    What Sydney said. Except I’m 42! I bought my uke on Thursday (today is Saturday) and I can’t stop playing it. My life is on hold, and my left hand fingertips are purple and tender and hardening.

    I love this site almost (but not quite, you’ll understand) as much as my new uke.

  57. Woodshed November 6th, 2010 3:58 pm

    sydney: Glad you’re enjoying your ukeing and thanks for the kind words.

    Jane: I completely understand.

  58. Moriah November 16th, 2010 8:44 pm

    My parents are going to Hawaii and they’re gonna bring me back one. Are ukes from Hawaii good?? Or bad?

  59. Woodshed November 17th, 2010 12:04 am

    Moriah: They vary just like any ukes. Most of the best ukes in the world are made in Hawaii. But there are also a lot of tourist-trash ones. You get what you pay for.

  60. Sandy November 20th, 2010 1:29 am

    Ahoy! I really really want a uke for Christmas or my birthday (they’re both pretty close) and I am completely confuzzled on which one to get. I was thinking a Lanikai LU-21 concert one would be good. I dunno though. And I’m only 12 years old if that makes a difference. And this site is unbelievable stuffs, with all of the awesomeness going around and whatnot. I’m digging it.

  61. Ray Miller November 25th, 2010 6:05 am

    What kind of uke should a musically untrained person purchase — soprano, concert, etc.? When I was 12 years old, I used to play, “my, dog, has fleas” and two chords. Now sixty years later, my niece says she remembers, fondly, my “playing the ukulele for her. Now I want to entertain my grand children (and a few older and single women) by actually playing a uke which stays in tune. Ray

  62. B-Bone November 25th, 2010 9:46 pm

    I just recently bought a ukuele from Bangkok… BEST IDEA EVER!!
    I don’t know a great deal about ukulele’s as this is my first but I think it makes a great sound and only cost me the equivalant of 40 aussie dollers. I think it may be a Century if thats a brand, it’s the only name I can fing on it :)
    Either way I’m only 20 but I’d still tell myself to pick it up sooner… And for now just be patient. Thanks heaps Al your making my life so much easier :)

  63. Carlu November 26th, 2010 6:03 am

    I’m really happy that I stumbled upon this before I got my uke. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the instrument, so hopefully when I get it I can just jump right on it. I’m 14, so I’m also glad that I started early. What kind of ukulele would you suggest for a beginner?

  64. Woodshed November 27th, 2010 1:45 pm

    Sandy: Yep, the Lanikai LU-21 is an excellent place to start.

    Ray: It doesn’t make too much difference. Most people go with a soprano for their first uke.

    B-Bone: Thanks and congrats on your uke.

    Carlu: There are a few suggestions in this post.

  65. irish January 26th, 2011 7:00 pm

    My dad has been trying to get me to learn guitar since I was ten years old, but practically everyone plays guitar, so I started pestering them for a uke. I’ve been playing for all of three weeks and I love it!

  66. Woodshed January 28th, 2011 10:09 am

    irish: Glad to hear it.

  67. Greg February 3rd, 2011 7:36 pm

    I just bought a sopran “lanikai” ukulele ! What do you think guys ? is it a good uke?

  68. Luiz February 8th, 2011 7:38 am

    Really good and funny site! Thank you from Brazil!

  69. Oldmick February 25th, 2011 4:18 am

    Yeah, well, I just picked up a ukulele from a local music store. It is a very very cheap one. I am sure most that know anything about them would likely tell me that I wasted my money (a huge 35 bucks) – But I will say I am having fun with it as I have never played one. The price would not change my experience until I actually have a clue what I am doing, this is awesome…so yeah, I had no idea what I was doing but for 35 bucks I can learn a ton of stuff and then if I decide its as awesome as I think it is now, I’ll start shoppin…by the way it actually holds a tune pretty good…it is a “Makela ukulele” model 1012″ – for noobs…

  70. ramblingfriar April 14th, 2011 6:25 pm

    Any banjolele players out here? I’m about ready to sell one of my kidneys and get one.

  71. Grajeus April 28th, 2011 11:54 pm

    I want to play a Ukulele, but I have never played any musical instrument, so I don’t know if I have any musical talent. I’m afraid to buy an ukelele and then give up after discovering I have no talent. How easy is for a beginner to start from 0?

  72. Woodshed April 30th, 2011 9:24 am

    Grajeus: I don’t have any musical talent. If you’re worried about your musical abilities, the ukulele is pretty easy on beginners. But, really, if you enjoy making music it doesn’t matter if you’re not talented.

  73. Claude May 17th, 2011 3:01 pm

    It sounds like ukulele players are subject to Banjo Buyer’s Syndrome (the correct number of banjos to own is one more than you have now).
    I’m a big believer in the idea that your first instrument should be good enough to be fun to play but cheap enough that it doesn’t hurt much if you don’t keep playing. These days an entry level uke can be had under $100 with geared tuners and decent frets.
    And when you upgrade, the first ukulele can be dragged around on trips where you would be afraid to damage the good instrument.

  74. Woodshed May 18th, 2011 9:41 am

    Claude: Thanks. That’s a good way of looking at it.

  75. Lauren June 27th, 2011 12:05 am

    Hi guys,

    Useful tips so far.

    On Tuesday I will get my first ever uke off a friend who bought it for the novelty value (I think compared to some of yours [$2000 PAFF] it could be considered naff). It’s probably worth pointing out I have NO musical experience and NO musical ear. (I’m very willing learn.)

    So, Id like some advice on what to learn to play first and how to go about it?

    Please :)

  76. :) July 7th, 2011 6:09 pm

    I fell in love with ukulele when I heard it at a Taylor swift concert. It is just the most happy, entertaining, unique instrument! I haven’t gotten one yet :( but I will be going to the local music shop, they actually have a lot of ukes. If I can’t find a good one, I’ll just get one online. I have my eyes set on a kala or lanikai. Is amazon a good place to get them? I have bought several items from them, and have never heard of/ had any problems with Amazon.

  77. Mike July 10th, 2011 4:15 am

    I just purchased a Kala Tenor K-T ukelele. I have never played a stringed instrument before (i am a drummer) but it is such a great instrument.The ukelele cost $130.00 with a carrying case. I purchased a Kala chromatic tuner that clips on the top of the peghead and lights up when the strings are in tune. It cost $19.00. I anticipate keeping this one for a couple of years until I learn how to play well on it then upgrading to a solid mahogany or a koa material with electric capabilities added to it. It really is a decent quality ukelele to start off with. I prefer buying instruments from music stores as they will provide all sorts of information regarding accessories, etc. and will guarantee the equipment as well.

  78. Woodshed July 11th, 2011 12:40 am

    Lauren: Best place to start is with the beginner ukulele lessons section.

    :): Glad to hear. Amazon should be fine. Worst comes to the worst, they’re very fair with returns in my experience.

    Mike: Thanks very much for the write-up.

  79. Mike July 11th, 2011 2:44 am

    Is the Ukeleles for Dummies book available anywhere for sale yet?

  80. Mike July 11th, 2011 3:12 am

    By the way, Al, this is a great website. I just purchased my Kala tenor ukelele a week ago and it is awesome. I can’t put it down and I’m very happy to have found this website. Looking forward to buying your book.

  81. Woodshed July 14th, 2011 7:05 am

    Mike: It’s available in the UK, should be out in the US in August. More infor here. And thanks for the kind words.

  82. Patrick July 16th, 2011 11:46 am

    Well, I’ve had a $20 soprano uke for 10 years and finally un boxed it and I love playing it. So I purchased a couple more, concert sized and tenor sized (I’m old and need the bigger ones). I’m learning to play and your site is great. I hope to learn a lot here. I actually took a lesson and looking forward to more. My wife is so tired of scales, twinkle twinkle, amazing grace and others that I may have to move outside. Of course I practice while watching tv, reading, picking nose, etc. Only place sacred is the loo and that’s because I have to read sometime.

    Anyhow, you’re un-assuming method of writing and teaching is great and I’m lookinf forward to Ukes for Dummies.

    Quinton, VA.

  83. Woodshed July 18th, 2011 3:18 pm

    Patrick: Happy loo playing! It’s actually a good place to practice – good acoustics. Hope you enjoy the book.

  84. shane irish July 27th, 2011 2:47 am

    im in my late teens and im looking for a uke.. id love to be able play it (the guitar wasnt a success) i found one on amazon for 20pounds is this a waste of time and money? should i spend more? i just want to play it for fun!
    help please!

  85. Peter Coen August 17th, 2011 9:33 am

    Buying a Uke in Belgium/ Europe was hell in 2003. It seem that this instrument was impossible to find. Although we had the ukulelemuseum, Jan Smet who is our gothfather of the ukes, and Ukulelezaza, Frederick who was playing with his Wining Brothers.
    My first one I found was made of plywood, worst ever €25. I still use it in school for drawing (I’m a teacher. My second was a Richwood, with aquilastrings it sounded better. Somebody in the family uses it as his learning instrument. My thirth one was a handmade instrument from a student from luthiers-school, not really a ukebuilder. Very nice instrument, nice sound but The spruce solidtop is broken and it needs repair.
    My working-uke now is a Stagg US50-S in solid mahagony. Not super, but I went to the luthier to fix everything and it became better.
    In our musicstore they start to sell ukes that are more or less ok. Oscar Schmidt, Lag. But no Bruko wich is strange, they are good, cheap and European.

  86. Beth August 17th, 2011 4:47 pm

    If you position it JUST right behind your backpack you don’t have to pay a stonking amount of cash on ‘special luggage’ on a flight. TAKE THAT RYANAIR!

  87. Woodshed August 18th, 2011 7:22 am

    Peter: Thanks very much. I think you’re the first European uker I know who doesn’t have a Bruko!

    Beth: I take a different approach: I refuse to use Ryanair!

  88. sha August 28th, 2011 11:59 pm

    Playing the uke is so much fun. Numb fingers, howling dogs and no rythm can’t stop me.
    Right now my finger is hovering over the ‘pay now’ button for a gorgeous Ohana CKP70R Vita concert….somebody stop me please!

  89. Woodshed August 30th, 2011 11:46 am

    sha: Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I won’t be stopping you!

  90. William B August 31st, 2011 1:59 pm

    wonder why you felt it necessary to use profanity language? You seem like an intelligent person? Maybe I was or am wrong?

  91. Woodshed August 31st, 2011 10:34 pm

    William: Because the joke doesn’t work with anything else.

  92. Marc October 5th, 2011 10:21 pm

    Profanity makes things funny.

    Also, the fact that I watched Back to the Future JUST LAST NIGHT makes this article really very funny…

  93. Z October 9th, 2011 10:12 am

    I’d have to say, if you really want to invest in this instrument, do not buy a ukulele that comes in a box. I took it up a couple of monthes ago on a whim, (realizing that ANYTHING that comes out of a Uke makes you feel good), and went to my local music store and bought a Uke off the shelf that came in a box…now it got me started, no doubt…but the sound quality and tuning is just aweful. I am looking to soon upgrade from this tiny Soprano to a $300 Tenor and hopefully jump into some SUPER commitment. Also, if the Ukulele was crack, your site is like a subliminal advertisement for crack…I cant get enough.

  94. jon December 22nd, 2011 1:04 am

    I am 58 and have been an avoid guitar hack for many years. I played in three bands back in the 1970s, playing stuff like Allman Bros, Stones, Jethro Tull, and some original stuff. I just moved to the island of Hawaii in September and decided to order my first ukulele a few days ago. Lately I have been playing about half slide guitar (but in standard tuning) and still enjoy that.
    The research I did led me to order a Cordoba CM15 concert ukulele, as it is supposed to have a sold top (which will be a step up from the laminated top acoustic guitars I have owned), bone nut and bridge, Aquilia strings, and decent tuners. This should keep me from being discouraged with a unit that goes out of tune even after the break in period is over. The reviews of this ukulele were all 5 stars from several different websites I checked at (Amazon.com and musiciansfriend.com plus others).
    I am looking forward to playing this 4 stringer very much.

    Jon in Keaau, Hawaii

  95. Christina December 26th, 2011 1:34 pm

    Just because it looks like a pineapple uke, it may not be… especially if it is smack in the middle of the three stringed Japanese sanshin instrument section. Had two met strings and two nylon, and turned out to be something between a guitar and a ukulele, of Asian inception… no way to even purchase the G string I popped on Christmas Eve, before I was even s’posed to open the present. Sheesh. It was a lovely instrument, but not one I could pronounce the name of, tune, learn chords to or purchase replacement strings. So… we took it back and searched the island until we found a cute little “aNueNue” piece. Played it on the way home in the car. :)

  96. Chelsea, aka Guitareste January 25th, 2012 7:25 pm

    I’m looking at two similarly priced Lanikais as my first uke. (Really my second, but the first is a cheapy Mahalo.) Any opinions on the Lanikai LU-21CE (that’s the concert acoustic-electric) versus the Lanikai Concert Koa pack (which is prettier, but I would have to install a pickup myself later).

  97. Woodshed January 26th, 2012 12:40 pm

    Chelsea: If it were me, I’d go for the LU-21. But it really depends on how much you value the koa look and your confidence installing a pickup.

  98. Chelsea January 27th, 2012 1:03 am

    That’s pretty much what I thought. But the abalone trim was calling to me. Thanks for talking sense into me. I’ll go with the pickup.

  99. Krener January 30th, 2012 4:56 pm

    I’m still very much a beginner at 60 years old. Started with a cheapie $30 Uke from a music store, then upgraded to a Lanikai LU21 which was infinitely better–easier to keep in tune, better tone, etc. Recently bought a Cordoba 15CM concert ukulele, and was astonished at the difference. Chords I was struggling with were much easier to make, and the tone was amazing. Is this because of the brand or the size of the instrument? Amazing difference and ease in playing!

  100. EMILIO! January 30th, 2012 10:50 pm

    Hi! I’m here to leave a few advises. I wanna start by pointing out that I’m really amateur when it comes to ukuleles but I’ve been messing around with a guitar for years now.

    My fist advise is: if you have kids that want to play (with) your uku don’t push them away. Be patient and explain to them what a sensitive instrument a ukulele is. After a few minutes you’ll find them enjoying it as a ukulele and not as a ‘small guitar’.

    My second advice: be sure to put it away in a visible clear place and tell people where you have it. You don’t want anyone to put and old T.V. on top of your precious instrument. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.


  101. Woodshed January 31st, 2012 9:12 am

    Krener: Might be a bit of both. Some brands definitely make easier to play ukuleles.

    Emilio: Thanks for the advice!

  102. Jack February 13th, 2012 3:24 pm

    I bought a Ukulele thinking “4 strings, 4 fingers; this is going to be better than the guitar”, which I had tried and hated as a kid. If I had been told it was harder I may have been put off.

    A tuner was a great investment. After weeks of trying to tune by ear, being able to clip on it on and check easily really improved my relationship with the Ukulele.

  103. Woodshed February 13th, 2012 9:59 pm

    Jack: Yeah, definitely worth getting a tuner with your first ukulele.

  104. Brittany February 27th, 2012 6:44 am

    I’m very, very new to the ukulele(I haven’t even gotten one yet), and I wanted to know something.
    I have my eye on a soprano Kala from eBay, and I was wondering if it’s a good start for a beginner, like me.
    It’s $50 some, and the seller has an excellent history with selling ukes.
    Is it a good decision?

  105. Brittany February 27th, 2012 6:55 am

    Another thing, the ukulele I have my eye on is strung with Aquila strings, and, according to this site, they’re pretty good, right?

  106. Woodshed February 27th, 2012 1:47 pm

    Brittany: Yeah, Kala is a great choice for a first uke. I have two Kalas and they’re great.

    And, yes, Aquila are great. The most popular strings around.

  107. Jeff L March 23rd, 2012 5:45 am


    I have a little Sunlite soprano ukulele that I really like! I have big hands, though, and fingers that are so FAT that it is hard not to touch adjoining strings when making chords. I’d like to get a ukulele that gives me enough space for my fat fingers. Suggestions? (If I buy sight-unseen online, I really don’t want to get something that won’t give me a wider finger board than I have now.)


  108. mr regni April 3rd, 2012 9:08 pm

    bought a kala exotic tenor about month ago, im 65 years old wished i had got one years ago! still noodling with the chords g f a am g7 , feel if i can loop about with these without looking down it would be a big step, also im trying to do that in the dark to get a better flow, anybody tried that? Who knows it might help! anyway i find it great fun and dont find it frustrating i go at it little and often.

  109. Niya April 6th, 2012 5:46 pm

    Thank you SOOOOOO MUCH for this page of tips. Currently, I’m saving my money to buy a Lanikai LU-21 Soprano. I’ve heard great things about it from people who own it and from this site. Thanks again! Love you guys!

  110. Woodshed April 7th, 2012 2:49 pm

    mr regni: I do sometimes challenge myself to play with my eyes shut.

    Niya: Thanks very much!

  111. Andrew Robertson May 1st, 2012 4:01 pm

    Great thread run! I have found that there are vast differences in sound between same models of lower value ukes. For example I have a spruce top maple lanikai that I bought several years ago. I played it back to back with three other of the exact same ukes and they all sounded different. Sometimes a cheap one will sound better than an expensive one. Also “better ” is what feels and sounds best to you.
    Having a couple beaters is essential to me as well. My dad gave me an old kamaka that is amazing sounding but it does not ride with me all day in my work truck like my 80$ ohana.
    I always try to go to music stores and find the one that bonds with me. Like picking a puppy.
    I really enjoyed reading all the comments everyone. Cheers and uke on!

  112. jazz May 5th, 2012 2:14 am


    1. Keep your left thumb low in the back of the neck.
    2. Strum over the fingerboard, not over the sound hole.
    3. Keep the fingernails of your left hand short.
    4. Hold the ukulele so that the right end hits your inner biceps muscle and your forearm crosses the uke’s lower right.
    5. Practice your strumming away from the ukulele when you can. For example, in the car, on your seat belt.
    6. Practice chord changes when you can. For example, during a television program, or at least during the commercials.

  113. Woodshed May 16th, 2012 11:16 am

    Andrew: Absolutely! A beater or two is essential.

    jazz: Thanks very much for the list.

  114. Noodles May 23rd, 2012 11:58 pm

    I wish I had have known that it would get crushed if I dropped a window on it o.O

  115. Joannn July 5th, 2012 4:40 am

    I’ve been stalking this website since Monday!!! I finally bought a ukulele on Sunday because I’ve wanted to learn to play one for ages (Yes, ages and I’ve been SLACK).

    My electric guitarist husband was looking at some 8-string electric guitar and I wandered off to the ukulele section. Saw the cutest Stagg Turtle uke for AUD$40 but it is absolute crap that my husband can’t even tune it and keep the tune. Ended up returning it the next day and got a refund. Did some more research, couldn’t decide whether I’d like a Kala KA-C or a Lanikai LU-21C. Somehow I stumbled across a brand called aNueNue on a online guitar shop (because I love the look and quality of it), did more research, called up music shops (tried eBay but they want AUD$299 for it!!) and ended up buying the beautifully made aNueNue PaPa II Concert uke at AUD$219 and it comes with a sturdy bag. I looked through this superbly fun website for tips and tricks last night. Played C, D and G (Happy Birthday chords). Can’t change chords as fast as I like so practice practice practice!!!

    Then today at work, I ended up here again…. And spent my refund $$ on the beginner e-books pack. FUN TIMES AT HOME LATER!!! MUAHAHAHA!!!!

    Love, Jo

    ps: I absolutely love the fun and positive attitude of everyone who commented here, and yes, creator of this fun uke website, you are AWESOME!!!

    pps: aNueNue U900 Rabbit & Bear ukes are so damn cute!!! WHY!!!! My next investments me thinks. :D

  116. Woodshed July 9th, 2012 10:49 pm

    Joannn: Thanks very much for the kind words! I’m glad you’re enjoying your new uke.

  117. Beetroot August 4th, 2012 2:37 pm

    this is so insightful, but hey i bought one long before i stumbled upon this list. The one i got has nylon strings, do all ukes have nylon strings?

    To whoevers behind this site please continue what youre doing, keep up the good work of pulling uke beginners out of oblivion :-)

  118. Woodshed August 4th, 2012 6:27 pm

    Beetroot: Thanks very much.

    Almost all ukuleles have nylon strings (or something like nylon). There are a few electric ukes that are made for steel strings.

  119. Springtime December 11th, 2012 4:19 pm

    About a year ago my husband took up guitar playing. After a visit to the local bookshop he came home with a course in guitar playing written by Mr Ukulele. Or so he thought…
    I asked him if he hadn’t noticed that Mr Ukulele on the front page had huge hands, and that his tiny guitar was missing two strings. (my husband is from Morocco and had never heard of the ukulele).
    Two weeks ago our local supermarket sold ukulele’s (soprano) for 19 Euro’s. I bought one for my husband but now I end up hooked. Just love it, even if it takes tuning about every ten minutes! I ordered aguila strings and hope I will be able to change them the right way. If I’m still playing same time next year, I’ll buy me a quality ukulele.
    Ukulelehuntcom is very, very helpful, thank you!!!

  120. Woodshed December 12th, 2012 11:00 am

    Springtime: Thanks. Glad you found it helpful.

  121. John January 16th, 2013 4:43 pm

    Not even sure this will be answered. However, I mentioned to a friend of mine I want to start learning to play the Ukulele. They suggested I should learn to play the guitar first.

    I imagine being able to play guitar and then learning ukulele would be easier…However my fascination is with the ukulele, not with the guitar.

    Should I just go for it, or would it be much easier learning guitar first?

    Cheers for all the help.

  122. Woodshed January 16th, 2013 10:12 pm

    John: Whichever actually is easier doesn’t really matter. If you’re excited about playing the ukulele it’ll be easier to learn than an instrument you’re not excited about.

  123. Jenny April 11th, 2013 6:48 pm

    Wow. That’s a lot I just read.
    well, I’m 12 and my mom said I could choose any instrument so I could learn how to play it, and I was thinking on choosing a ukulele but I’m not so sure. Any advice?

  124. Woodshed April 11th, 2013 10:43 pm

    Jenny: I think go whichever instrument you’re most excited to play.

  125. Kelly April 29th, 2013 4:39 pm

    I have my grandmother’s old Marathon baritone uke. I was at a concert with David Fertello (awesome violinist) who is Hawaiian. He played my uke after the concert (after tuning it to soprano), and Mark Lynch (father of R5) said it had great sound quality. Is Marathon a good brand? I believe it was in existence in the 1950s & 1960s.

  126. Araxi June 23rd, 2013 6:51 pm

    Mahalo for this resource! I’d appreciate your advice. Researching ukes as a gift for my husband…am ready to invest at least $200-300+ – he’s a strings guy, guitar, stand up bass.. Questions:
    1) for big hands: should I go tenor or baritone?
    2) recommendations on a brand? i know he’ll want something that holds tuning well and is a quality instrument vs. the starter lanikai uke.
    thanks so much! have been researching and reading for a month and need to place my order. too bad no trips to hawaii in the future!

  127. Kyle June 23rd, 2013 7:47 pm

    Hi Araxi,

    I’ve got big hands and have tenor ukes, Baritones are tuned differently (though I suppose you’d use the same chord shapes).

    For that price I’d recommend Kala, I’ve got a few of their ukes and think they’re great value. Of course, there’s also Mainland, Ohana etc.

  128. Ray Miller June 23rd, 2013 8:08 pm

    I’m new at this, but the only advice I can give you after one year of playing around is that holding/playing a uke with a mat or textured/flat finish is easier for me than one with a glossy finish which is more visually attractive. A glossy uke slips out of my grasp easier, much like a beautiful lady, but is more of a pleasure to hold.

  129. Bens July 13th, 2013 5:59 pm

    Can I, as a person who doesn’t know how to play a guitar, really learn how to play ukulele through internet?

  130. Woodshed July 14th, 2013 8:35 am

    Bens: You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to succeed.

  131. Kenneth July 17th, 2013 9:04 pm

    Here’s more than you’ll want to know, and this thread is probably not the best place to post, but anyway… I’m a keyboard player since age 5. In my early teens, I didn’t have success with guitar because my grip wasn’t strong enough, my hands got tired and I got discouraged about it (my bad). Also, I had other musical interests and outlets. In the past couple of years, I saw Jake S perform up close in a small intimate venue and became interested in the uke. I’ll probably buy one soon, even though I consistently start projects but don’t devote the necessary time to them (I’ve become okay with that, though). Yet, entirely as a result of happening upon this website and reading the encouraging words and finding this positive community and knowing that the resources you have created are available for “dummies” like me, I’m intent on adding this to my list of things-I-started-once-upon-a-time. I’m sure it will be fun no matter where it takes me.
    This is a wonderful website. If I could make one suggestion to benefit newbies, I would suggest you run a poll and let your experienced members “vote” or post for their best choice of beginning brand and/or size. I’ve tried to glean something like that from the comments here. Everyone will have different reasons for their choices, but nevertheless I think it would be interesting to see which make the list and which don’t appear at all; both perspectives would be equally helpful. If that’s already posted somewhere, then I’m sorry I overlooked it.
    And I do have a question. Strings. Why does Jake use guitar strings (if it’s true that he does)? What’s the advantage or difference in sound or playing?
    Thanks again.

  132. Keith Mc October 15th, 2013 6:12 pm

    Found this interesting website while looking for some humour to torture some new folk in my musical life.
    Guess the jokes on me, but as a bass guitarist with 53 years on four strings one eventually looks for a bit of a change and I found it by joining a uke band(as their bassman).Dammit, now an interest in uke’s is rearing it’s ugly head. Blame goes to The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, a great evenings entertainment and, yes,I have jokes but for the dedicated or sensitive players of this chosen instrument I usually convert them to banjo and mandolin stories, like “What do you say to a banjo player in a suit?…Will the defendant please rise” or ” A definition of optimism is a folk singer with a mortgage”.
    Finally,I am about to calculate how many good uke’s I could buy from the sale of any of my collection of Fender basses, they take up too much space and the strings can cost up to $100 a set (of four) here in New Zealand. Happy strumming,, Haggis

  133. Woodshed October 16th, 2013 7:20 am

    Keith Mc: Glad to hear you’re infected!

  134. Kay October 29th, 2013 5:05 pm

    So glad to have found your site. Okay, here goes. My 6 yeah old granddaughter wants a ukelele for Christmas. Granddaddy says “whatever you want, you get”. So we go to Guitar Center in Houston, TX and buy an Ibanez UEW10QM for $100. Not bad. Really pretty ukelele. I show it to a friend who plays many stringed instruments. She says “that is way to much uke for a 6 year old who has shown no interest in actually playing a musical instrument.” I have always wanted to learn the mandolin and tried but didn’t do very good at all. My friend suggests I try the uke instead. So I began piddling around and love it. But I have a hard time holding it because of the glossy finish. So, is the Ibanez a good starter uke? (Also, I went online and bought my granddaughter a bright pink Makala Dolphin. It arrived yesterday and I can actually image my granddaughter wanting to play that. So really she still gets what she wants and at less than half the price.) Thanks in advance for your advice.

  135. Kay October 29th, 2013 5:21 pm

    Hey. Wonderful website. Thank you.
    My story/question: My 6 year old granddaughter asked Granddaddy for a pink ukelele for Christmas. Granddaddy says “whatever you want, you get.” We go to Guitar Center in Houston, TX where we find a beautiful Ibanez UEW10QM for $100. We buy. I get home and show to a friend who plays multiple stringed instruments. She says, “you can’t give an Ibanez uke to a 6 year old who has not shown any actual interest in learning to play; get something less expensive and smaller.” I have always wanted to learn the mandolin but didn’t have much success. My friend says play the uke. I start piddling around with the Ibanez and love it. However, it is difficult to hold because of the super glossy finish. So, question: Is the Ibanez a good beginner uke? (Also, I went online and ordered my granddaughter a bright pink Makala Dolphin bridge uke. It came in yesterday and I can actually see her wanting to learn on that. It is smaller, cute and strings are easier to push down on.) I want to learn and perhaps play with my granddaughter.

  136. Kyle October 29th, 2013 5:31 pm

    Hi Kay, glad you like the site, we do too!

    Makala Dolphin’s are popular ukes, not just for starters but for people travelling too. It’s a great choice!

    If the Ibanez (didn’t know they did ukes, but go for what you like) is hard to hold, try watching a few Youtube videos for tips on holding it better, or start looking at videos with straps. I drill strap buttons into my ukes (like a guitar) but there’s plenty of other options available, it’s all down to personal preference.

  137. Kay October 29th, 2013 5:41 pm

    Thanks so much. I wondered about straps but no holes or connectors on the Ibanez. Nice to know I might find someone to help me with that. I do think that would help. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

  138. Kyle October 29th, 2013 5:54 pm

    Yeah you have to screw the strap buttons onto the uke, or do what I did and get a luthier to do it for you. There’s uke leashes etc that can be used to, probably best to search on Google images for a look.

  139. norman November 20th, 2013 4:54 am

    Hi, for all of those people trying to find out which uke too buy….. listen to the sound of as many as you can find , live or on internet…. one day a sound will grab you … the price will not matter… you’ll be hooked and you will not be one of ” those ” who buy a uke and put it in the cupboard. I bought a ” Mele ” over the net from Hawaii and been very happily hooked on uke for nearly three years. I found the only concern is when strings are eventually changed on a quality uke then the sound may change if a different brand is used…. won’t hurt to listen to a ” Mele ” ………

  140. Ken June 1st, 2014 11:29 am

    Ukes are simple instruments but some are certainly much better than others. It takes about three days to build a decent instrument from scratch by hand. Things to look for are solid woods in the build of the body and good quality wood for the neck and fretboard. Cedar, Spruce or Koa are excellent woods for the belly, and Mahogany, Walnut, Rosewood, Maple and Koa are great back and sides material. Maple is by far the best neck wood and good quality Ebony is just perfect for the fretboard. My personal preference is for nickel silver ‘Mandolin’ fretwire and I also like to have a zero fret after the nut, essential for a good action on a short neck. Decoration is unimportant but can affect the tone and playability. If just starting out on uke, do yourself a favour and buy either a Concert size or a Tenor ~ much easier to come to terms with than the Soprano. I bought my first uke when I was 12 years old, I am now 66. If you can get your hands on a genuine Kumalae from the 1915 to 1924 period which is still in good untouched condition, you will have a friend for life, there are few better sounding ukes. Next to this a vintage 1920’s Gibson is fabulous and all Martins are good although somewhat ‘workmanlike’ and variable rather than stunning. Most of the recent Ukes are made in China and the far east, the better solid wood ukes are generally excellent, and often much better made and finished than vintage 1920’s to 50’s ukes from the America and the west. Just my opinion I know, but I do have over 50 years of experience, playing, collecting and making ukeleles.

  141. Woodshed June 1st, 2014 8:41 pm

    Ken: Thanks very much! That was a very interesting read.

  142. Michael June 7th, 2014 8:42 pm

    This is what I would have liked to have known before I started making ukuleles. Buy a bandsaw. They are the best — just keep your fingers away from the fast pointy thing. With this advice, I can make uke necks faster and better, and I still have all my fingers. Tune the blade to play a C note.

  143. Mickelangelo June 8th, 2014 1:42 am

    Great stuff to know. I have recently purchased a Maton.
    Australian made using Australian timbers and I am in love with her, I have called her Minnie. She’s a Concert size. Beautiful sound. Maton are generally known for Guitars.Just adding my two bobs worth.

  144. Linda Swanson June 17th, 2014 11:01 pm

    I’m a 78 year old lady, not too arthritic, and just heard a banjolele for the first time and fell in love.
    I played the uke when I was 19, then put it way when I went on to college.
    I’d like to have the challenge now of a banjolele. Are there any manufacturers whose frets are easier to reach for the ‘older’ less nimble fingers?
    I’d be OK with a used one ‘cause maybe it’s too late to start this challenge after ’60’ OMG years. I saw a Gold Tone Banjolele Dlx
    on a website, & thought “If only”.

  145. Page July 16th, 2014 6:23 am

    Don’t let your husband pick one up for you b/c he’ll miss the flaws – separated binding, cracked fretboard…

    Wish I’d tried different sizes b/c I prefer concerts.

  146. Luke August 19th, 2014 8:59 pm

    Your local music shop sucks mine has great quality strings ukes and every other instrument

  147. Scott August 28th, 2014 12:00 am

    What would I tell the me of four weeks ago?

    Buy a Makala Dolphin FIRST, not second.

  148. Alex October 8th, 2014 8:20 pm

    that last one got me to think that i should ask the girl i like out

  149. Woodshed October 9th, 2014 11:21 am

    Alex: Go for it! Also, harvest your sister’s organs.

  150. norman johnson October 9th, 2014 9:59 pm

    I listened on the net, as well as listening to many ukulele at the local group before settling on a solid koa ” Mele ” from Hawaii . i bought and learnt ,4 years ago, a tenor and a concert, over the phone. I live in australia, and a lot of people comment on the sound. I play it quite a lot as I am 74, retired and enjoy the benefits that come with an instrument that satisfies with sound. just a basic player ( none of these hard to do chords ). ADVICE = find the sound you like, ( regardless of make or maker ) and buy that one . ( but check out MELE from Hawaii.)

  151. Brian January 11th, 2015 2:29 am

    If possible, buy in person, at a reliable store, because then you can return it or have it adjusted if there’s a problem.

    I had to return two ukuleles in a week.

    I got a Gretch with an all-wood bridge, and had to return it because the first string buzzed above the 5th fret, because the groove was cut too deep in the bridge. I couldn’t play it when I bought it, so just went by the tone (which was beautiful) and ease of play. They offered to fix it, but I was annoyed that they’d sold it to me like that. so traded for a Kala.

    So, now realizing I had to play every fret to make sure there was no buzz, I checked the Kala. However, because I was in a hurry to get out of the store, I overlooked tuning problems. I thought it was just because the strings took time to settle. Then, after a couple of days playing it, I realized the tuning was uneven.

    A bit of research and I found out it was an intonation problem. The open strings were all in tune, but as I went up the strings, each fret got excessively higher (except the third string, which got lower!). I checked with an electronic tuner. The 12th fret (octave) on the 3rd (E) string was actually an F (a semi-tome higher than it should have been). Back to the store. They offered to adjust it, send it to the shop (another location). Again, I didn’t like the prospect of waiting and then still being unsatisfied, it not being properly fixed, and I was annoyed that they hadn’t fixed i before selling it. It cost about $400 with taxes, so I really felt ripped off.

    Besides that, I welcomed the excuse to trade it in, because of other problems. It was a traveline thin-body uke, which sounded okay in the fancy all wood acoustic testing room at the store, but sounded dull and sort of with no character when I got it home. Some research… I’m not putting it down, but the thing is I think it’s designed to be played outside, maybe good for buskers? or if you’re trying to play with other people and want to be heard? so it doesn’t have a lot of subtlety. (I’m not trashing Kala, because later I got a great Kala soprano, which sounds great and is easy to play, and had no intonation problem.) Also, it was a tenor, and I realized it didn’t suit me. If you want to travel with a uke, a soprano is smaller than a thin tenor. And the frets were too wide. I mean it didn’t really feel or sound like what I expected in a ukulele.

    So I got a Luna tenor, which I love. (I don’t work for Luna!) And it was $100 cheaper than the Kala.

    So, if you do get a uke online: If it doesn’t stay in tune, trying stretching the strings (by hand, just pulling on them a bit, but repeatedly — not by winding them too tight!). If you have good ears or an electronic tuner, and the intonation is bad (again: bad intonation is when the open strings are in tune, but then the frets are too high or too low), the bridge will have to be adjusted. If it’s a cheap uke then it wouldn’t be worth paying to have it adjusted. Another thing to check out is the frets, the metal bars — often they stick out. That was on the Gretsch I got, the frets slightly stuck out, and would have needed fine filing.

    With the Luna I settled on, I checked the intonation, with an electronic tuner (idiots were playing really loud and really bad rawk/metttahl riffs in the store), on every fret; and checked the frets. If the store is a proper musical instrument place (I mean staffed by competent people, and not some place run by a non-musician just as a business, then they shouldn’t rush you, and should be able to ask your questions and “set up” the instrument before you leave the store.

    So, I’m saying, if you have the opportunity to buy in person, in store or via some online ad, etc, then I’d advise it, even if costs a bit more than something you see on Amazon or Ebay.

    If you have no choice, and have to order online, don’t get an expensive uke if you’re a beginner. I spent a few hundred because I’d been living very cheaply for the past year, and wanted something special, that sounds really good. But there are cheaper and reliable ukes. I know because I later bought some as gifts. I can’t even remember the brand. They were $30 each, sounded like ‘plink plink plink’ and were a bit hard to play because of cheap strings and slightly high action. But the most important thing is they had proper intonation in the first 5 frets, and tuning pegs that didn’t slip. I saw other, more expensive ukes, with lousy tuning pegs. (I guess the ones other people here have said they screwed tighter.) They were good enough (and all I could afford) as gifts, and I figured if the kids I gave them to played them then their parents could get a better one next holiday or birthday.

    What else?

    Oh, yes, don’t be a snob.

    Brand names should be a safe bet, since they do have reputations. But you might just be paying more for the name brand. And most are Made in China anyway. My Luna sounds better than that Kala tenor I got. The Gretch sounded great, but shoddy workmanship. They were all made in China. The Luna has a “hand-crafted in China” label… Who knows if that’s true?

    Also, they all have a different character. That Kala tenor sounded a bit harsh and plain, to me. The Kala soprano sounds sweet and fun. The Gretsch sounded melancholy and bittersweet. The Luna has a sort of silky smooth sound. So I’d advise you to take advantage of all the youtube videos people have posted of cheap and expensive ukes, how they sound, problems they’ve had, plastic and wooded ones, etc

    On the other hand, don’t get bogged down and indecisive – that’s not why I wrote this, to discourage — but just to let people know what to look out for.

    I’d advise every beginner to avoid tenors and baritones. Just get a soprano or concert.

    And about the woods – again, don’t be a snob. Sometmes a “good wood” might be a lousy source anyway. I mean, just because it’s koa or spruce or whatever, doesn’t mean that they used good quality lumber.

    The Luna neck I have is nato wood, which is denigrated on sites I went to as a “poor man’s mahogany”, or “furniture wood”. It does look plain, but it’s the neck! so what!? It’s tough, and I’m happy the neck was made cheaply but strongly, since necks are often broken. So they saved money in manufacturing, and were able to make the fingerboard rosewood and the entire body maple.

    Don’t get caught up in people saying it has to be koa, or maple, or spruce, etc. That’s often a matter of taste anyway. Some people just prefer the sounds of certain woods. If you’re a beginner, just get a reliable uke to find out if you can play and like to play.

    I guess that’s all. I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone. :(

    Even though I was annoyed that the store sold me two ukes that needed adjusting, at least they didn’t give me any hassle about exchanges, and in the end I got a really good uke. I would have been really annoyed if I’d gotten something by mail that then had to be fixed.

    So: Make sure to ask them to set the instrument up properly before leaving the store.

    Another thing is the price “deal” stickers. Every uke I saw had a price tag making it look like there was a sale. (e,g, Manufacturer’s price: $500, Our Price: $390!) But I checked online and saw that the standard sale price for each instrument I bought, on various websites, was exactly what I paid. So, do not buy something thinking, “Hmmm, I’d better get this great deal while I have the chance!” Just try and figure out if the price suits you.

    And as for getting a uke from Hawaii: It’s probably made in China anyway…

    Also, the uke is a European instrument, a variation of a little guitar brought to Hawaii from Madeira, and first made in Hawaii by three Madeiran immigrants (who also made furniture). The Madeiran instrument is called a machete (alternate names: machete do braga, machete braguinha, braguinha de madeira, etc).

    I’d really like to know if anyone here has played a machete, or a similar instrument, or a ukulele made in Madeira (or made anywhere in Portugal).

  152. Brian January 12th, 2015 8:37 pm

    Re: “So I got a Luna tenor”

    SORRY. I meant a Luna Concert.

    I know, didn’t make sense, since I’d just finished saying that I returned the Kala tenor partly because I felt like it was a bit more like playing a mini-guitar than my idea of a ukulele.

  153. Woodshed January 13th, 2015 10:48 am

    Brian: Thanks, some excellent points. One thing, there definitely are ukes made in Hawaii. Just expect to pay through the nose for them.

  154. Keith Mc January 14th, 2015 8:08 pm

    Hi Woodshed and all other likeminded uke enthusiasts, just a followup on my comment from October 2013.Bit of a gap since my last(first) comment 15 months ago but Iv’e been reading everyone elses contributions since then.The uke class I still happily play bass with is progressing with a few public appearances and a steady improvement in musical capabilities while my approach has taken a bit of a twist. Didn’t mention this first time but I’d inherited a strange looking uke via a rubbish bin and a ” oh, do you want this thing then”?
    Turns out the uke is a (ssshh) chinese made baritone and after a cleanup and learning what pitch to tune to I bang away on an instrument I’ve not touched since I was a 13yo.Warning!Too many instruments of this origin have stink intonation,not very stable necks and this one sports a “zero fret”, a really good idea on fretted instruments as it means that the nut no longer has to have accurate depth to the string slots.
    Problem here was this zero fret is the same gauge as the rest of the fretboard meaning that the intonation length is still controlled by the nut which is now a full 3mm too far up the fingerboard. All this is really just a ‘heads up’ for uke buyers to watch out for. Last thing I find about the uke culture in general is the really neat folk you will continually find in your travels thru the world of “little instruments strung with fishing line”It’s had enough effect on me to get my hands on a new shiny “Greg Bennett” baritone,love it, especially around 2:00 am. Happy Plunking people…Haggis

  155. Thabanana January 28th, 2015 7:09 pm

    At my school I tried for fun the ukulele, and I really liked it!(I’m not much of a music-player because it’s so hard). I’ve been trying to learn guitar, but it just doesn’t work D:

    But the ukulele really speaks to me, but what size and brand would you recommend? I’ve really tiny hands (but I’m not short myself, which is weird), I just want to learn first but I also want quality. I don’t want to get disappointed after one month or so..
    I will get my ukulele soon!! :D

  156. Woodshed January 29th, 2015 2:44 pm

    Thabanana: Kala and Lanikai both make really good beginner ukes. Size is a bit more of a personal choice. But soprano is a good bet if you’re not sure.

  157. bob March 29th, 2015 12:19 pm

    well this is gonna be fun. i started the ukulele a month ago. never played anything but clarinet, and that 20 years ago. i’m 58.

  158. Woodshed March 29th, 2015 1:54 pm

    bob: Hope you enjoy it!

  159. norman March 29th, 2015 10:37 pm

    I bought a very expensive ($600 ) tenor uke 4 yrs ago because it was the sound that attracted me and I play it all the time and have had many comment on the nice sound… Then I bought a $75 makala tenor for fun. it has a different but just as nice sound. I use it when I record as the other uke records as too loud. so whatever suits your ear could be your answer , not what suits your pocket….Tuners = I bought over ebay 3 for the price of one …. plectrums = I make my own , large enough to fit my fingers , undropable, cheap and increase the volume while playing.( I should patent them )… good luck

  160. Sonja May 6th, 2015 3:09 pm

    I am 18 years old and have a Mahalo 12-fret soprano. I’d been playing since July of 2014. I had to go through two ukes because the first one I got had loose tuning pegs. Then I’d gotten this new Mahalo in November and I still own it. The only problem is the frets stick out. I’m not an expert on this, but my dad said I’d have to have it sent away for any type of repair. Is that true for my frets? I love my uke and I gave her a name. Her name is Maka. She loves being played and I love playing her. Tuning is great so I don’t really need or want a new uke. The message I’m receiving from this though is that Mahalo should not be well trusted. My dad also pointed out that if I keep taking my uke in they’d start believing I’m the one responsible for the problems.

  161. Sonja May 6th, 2015 4:41 pm

    I should also point out I do have a humidifier for it but it’s one where you put it in the case but no inside the instrument. It does not help much.

  162. Woodshed May 6th, 2015 10:58 pm

    Sonja: The frets stick out of the side of the uke? They shouldn’t be like that. You can file them down yourself.

    Mahalo aren’t the most consistent of ukes. Some of them are decent, some of them aren’t.

  163. Sonja May 7th, 2015 1:36 am

    “Mahalo” for telling me.
    How do I file down the frets?
    Other than this problem though, it’s a very decent uke. Until I get a job and get enough money to buy a better one, I wouldn’t give her up for anything else.

  164. Shannon May 7th, 2015 10:31 pm

    The Bb chord is a fucking nightmare for my short fingers…

  165. Sonja May 8th, 2015 6:38 pm

    It sure is, but you do get used to it after playing it often. I found it hard at first. Try barring all of the strings with your first finger, you might be able to do it better. You may need to add more pressure, but you don’t feel the need to reach with your other fingers so far.

  166. SonjaSonja May 8th, 2015 6:42 pm

    Regarding my last comment about my uke, I may even keep my Mahalo after I get a better one. I don’t want to regret selling it later.

  167. norman May 11th, 2015 7:04 am

    about your Bb chord…. I can’t play it either so I cheat and play Bbma7… sounds O K to me…

  168. Roz June 3rd, 2015 10:53 pm

    I love playing my ukes however I think I may be addicted (I’ve got 3 now plus a banjolele and mandolin)! Treated myself last month to a mini uke or sopranino as they’re also known and have had so much fun playing it in the different groups I go to. Every time I take it out people grin and want to have a go! it adds another dimension to the music as its sits an octave higher. Ukes are so versatile and bring so much pleasure :0)

  169. Woodshed June 4th, 2015 10:33 am

    Roz: Glad to hear you’re enjoying it!

  170. Davo August 3rd, 2015 10:04 am

    Only just found this site. Loving it ! Got my first uke as a gift, when I was about 12 or 13. It got played a lot back then, until I discovered guitar. Cut a long story short… I just turned 60, all my family are now playing ukuleles (my sister, brother in law, my son, my ex, my niece), so I dug out old faithful and set about tuning it. The increased string tension was too much for the old girl, and the bridge tore clean off the body ! I bought a new one (a Makala) and I’m loving it ! Oh, and the old one ? Well I’m currently rebuilding it. Who knows, could end up being a good retirement income/hobby :)

  171. Woodshed August 4th, 2015 12:21 pm

    Davo: Thanks very much! Congratulations on converting your family!

  172. tooney October 12th, 2015 12:43 pm

    I wish I’d known that eventually the entire universe would be playing the ukulele by now, but sometimes it feels like I’m the only person I know who plays it.

    Do you still consider yourself a mediocre player? I had the same reaction as Armelle. You can’t still feel that way, all these years after your original post.

  173. Woodshed October 12th, 2015 6:27 pm

    tooney: I think I’m a better player. I still think I’m a mediocre musician though. Being able to pull some fancy tricks doesn’t make you a good musician.

  174. CPG3 November 30th, 2015 2:25 am

    I bought my first uke just after buying my first car. I wanted to play and sing to the girls I dated. That was 1959, the uke was a harmony baritone, and I still have it and play it today. I must admit to playing it infrequently after marrying and raising a family. However, about a year ago I moved to a new house and my neighbor is really into playing and collecting ukes. He invited me to join a ukulele club in my new town. So, I picked up my old baritone, and went with him to try my hand at playing with a group. Not as easy as I thought, but twice as much fun. One of the other things I love doing is traveling, so I bought a Soprano Uke, and a good travel bag, and began taking a uke with me. I worried about offending the people aroundf me, but they seem to enjoy listening. Some comment, others just move closer because I try not to play loudly in public places. My neighbor encouraged me to do this, as he has done it for some time. He also has a large collection of ukuleles, even has had some made from koa wood that he brought home with him when he vacationed in Hawaii. At first I thought he was a bit excentric, but now that I have been playing for a while I realize how adicting it is. Now I can’t wait to buy my next uke. I may never be great, but I love playing the uke. Oh, one more thing, our club plays for retirement homes, hospitals, and nursing homes, and we always, always, see smiles on the faces of the folks we are playing for. I think my next uke project might just be buying some inexpensive ukes and teaching some children how to play at one of the local schools or churches. We old guys have an obligation to pass along the good stuff to the next generation.

  175. Woodshed November 30th, 2015 9:16 am

    CPG3: That’s fantastic! Glad you’re having a blast with it.

  176. Nick MacDonald White December 1st, 2015 10:49 pm

    I love your movie references— you and I could be best friends

  177. Woodshed December 2nd, 2015 11:10 am

    Nick: Thanks!

  178. John Lawton January 7th, 2016 9:14 am

    After trying–on average–one guitar a decade, which I’d work at playing for a year or two, for four decades from 17 to 57, I had an epiphany. I’m right-handed (well, that’s what I was always told, and–in general–my right hand and eyes are more coordinate than my left and my eyes are). But, I was thinking one day: just because I’m right-handed, just because society expects right-handed people to play right-handed instruments, why do I have to try to play right handed? You see, my problem always was that I could not learn more than about 5 chords on guitar, using my left hand and fingers to fret. Almost losing my left index finger has left it a bit stiff, permanently. But, that wasn’t the problem. I could strum with my right hand, with a bit of practice, but, I just couldn’t learn any chords with my left-hand. So, ’cause guitars are more expensive than ukes, I ‘talked’ someone into buying me the cheapest uke I could find on the Internet. After 2 months of conscientiously attempting to play it right-handed, I reversed the middle two strings, the C and E strings, and just retuned the A string down to G and the G string up to A. Within 5 minutes–literally–I was playing songs out of Jim Beloff’s “The Daily Ukulele” with up to 4-5 chords and singing along. To me, after 1-2 years of frustration a decade for 4 decades. That was a miracle. I did so well that I was given a $250 (USD) tenor uke the next year. Now, I can sit and literally play songs from “The Daily Ukulele” for more than 2 hours, non-stop. The moral of the story: don’t ever give up, think outside of the box (which you–like me–probably put yourself in to begin with), and be creative! :D

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