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Want To Learn How To Play Ukulele? Here Are Some Useful Tips

September 13, 2021

Ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn, especially for children. If you’re eager to learn how to play the ukulele, there are plenty of things you should know before picking up this instrument. From the right size to the best strings, here are some useful tips for any aspiring ukulele player!

Understand The Ukulele

The ukulele is a small, four-stringed instrument that is often associated with Hawaii. It was originally introduced to the Hawaiian islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 1800s, but its popularity has spread throughout many cultures around the world since then. Ukuleles are traditionally used in music featuring vocals, singing, and dancing. Going to Ukulele learning classes would be a great start for beginners to first learn about the instrument and start playing. The ukulele has 4 nylon or gut strings (the latter being more expensive), which are tuned to G-C-E-A. Be careful how you hold your ukulele – if you’re not careful it may slip out of your hands due to its tiny size!

The Size of The Ukulele

A full-sized ukulele has a scale length between 21” and 23” that’s equal to about 40 cm or 15.5 inches in Western measurement. It’s also bigger than the soprano with only a 13” scale length, which measures about 33 cm or 13 inches in Western measurement. The best ukulele for children is a soprano, which has a scale length of about 20”. For men who are over 5ft 10in tall, a concert size with 21” to 23” scale length is suitable. Tenor ukuleles are great for those between 5ft 7in and 6ft 2in, while baritone measures 27” or 68 cm in Western measurement.

Fingerboard Situation

All four fingers of your left hand should be curved slightly over the different strings of the fretboard so that you can reach out to them easily. You may need to file down some sharp edges on the neck if they’re too high – this will ensure that it doesn’t dig into your hands while you’re playing. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to hold your ukulele. If it’s too big, this could lead to shoulder and back problems!

Warming Up

You must be always warm before playing an instrument. Even if you feel fine on the outside of the body, there are times where your hands might be cold or stiff – which can affect your guitar playing skills later on in life if not taken care of properly. Be sure that before starting practice for the day, your fingers have had some time to “wake up”. Warming up will ensure that your hands are more flexible, so they won’t hurt while you play. We hope these tips were helpful for beginners who want to learn how to play Ukulele! 

Use of Picks

Plucking each string with your fingers can make the sound slightly more subtle and lyrical, but using picks (which are small pieces of plastic-like plectrums) can give your ukulele a brighter, louder tone. There are various types of picks available – ones that are thicker or thinner; some people even use flexible plastic credit cards! Just experiment to see what works best for you.

String Tension and Action

Tuning the ukulele is simple enough, although you’ll need to tune all four strings to standard pitch. Be careful about tightening up guitar strings on ukuleles – it’ll be too taut on the neck of the instrument, making it hard to play.

To make the strings easier to press down, you can tighten (or lower) their action and string tension with a screwdriver. If it’s too loose, however, the neck of your ukulele will be bent! You’ll need to know about String Tension – it refers to how much force is pulling on each unit of length as it tries to shrink the neck of the ukulele!

The Best Ukulele Strings

First, decide between nylon or gut strings for your ukulele. Nylon strings are more durable and cheaper than those made from animal intestines – but they sound less warm and unique than real gut strings do. Gut sounds mellower and softer than nylon, but they’re also more expensive.

Some ukuleles will come with D’Addario Pro-Arte nylon strings, which are known to be great for soprano ukuleles. They’re not the cheapest option available, but many people like their bright tone (which is crisp and loud) for playing well-known songs in styles like jazz or pop! 

What You Can Play on The Ukulele

While a beginner’s ukulele might only play the four main chords that you learned, there’s a lot more to learn as your knowledge grows. Strumming strums with your right hand is one way of playing songs on the ukulele – but there are various techniques and sounds involved too! You can also hold down two or three notes at once on different strings for accompaniment.

The best instrument for starting is a soprano ukulele because it has a smaller size and range, which means it will be easier to find songs to play from sheet music and tab. Sopranos also tend to have a higher pitch than other ukuleles do – this makes the sound bright and loud in comparison. There’s no shortage of music to play on the ukulele! Many people love strumming along to popular songs with friends – but if you’re struggling to find any sheet music online, there are also lots of videos that’ll show you how to play specific songs too. Some artists write specifically for this instrument – so it might be worth looking up which ones they are! 

A Ukulele Is Not A Small Guitar

Contrary to popular belief, the ukulele is not a “small guitar”. People often mistake it for a smaller version of a standard six-stringed guitar – which would be called a guitar if that were true! Although they both have four strings and are both played with fingers instead of a plectrum, there’s no way you’ll be able to play an entire song from sheet music on one ukulele.

Although making changes to your ukulele can make it easier to play songs on, this could hinder the quality of sound produced too. Many famous pieces for this instrument tend to be simple in structure, so beginners can focus on playing correctly without worrying about tricky techniques or notes. Ukes made in Hawaii are especially famous for their bright, mellow tone.

What You Can Expect To Spend On A Ukulele

A cheap ukulele can be bought for under $60, but they’re not that durable. If you’re on a budget and would like to buy an affordable ukulele, consider buying one made of plywood (that’s multiple thin sheets glued together) with plastic parts where it matters most. It won’t last forever – but if you don’t play often or take your instrument places, this might do the trick!

If you plan to use your ukulele more regularly and need something better quality, go for solid wood (which is hardwood). The best option in terms of durability is Koa wood – which used to be reserved only for high-end instruments because the tree only grows in Hawaii.

An expensive ukulele can be bought for around $500 or more – if you plan to buy one of these, look out for an instrument with a solid wood top with high-quality binding along the edge. These are usually made by professional luthiers who have years of experience!

The most important thing to consider is whether you’re buying an electric or acoustic ukulele. The former will sound better when plugged into an amp – but they’re also more expensive and need batteries at times too! While most manufacturers equip their acoustics with pickups, keep in mind that these aren’t as good as dedicated electric ones are.

How To Make Your Ukulele Last Longer

The ukulele’s body is made of wood, which means it can dry out over time if you don’t take care of it. This causes the top to warp (which throws off intonation), and the neck to be bent (so it’ll need constant truss rod adjustments). It’s best not to keep your ukulele in an environment that’s too hot, humid, or dusty – because these conditions will cause the instrument to lose its tone faster than usual!

However, you should also avoid keeping your ukulele strapped onto a stand for long periods at a time – this might cause intense pressure on certain parts of the body, so too much force could damage it internally. When playing songs for a long time, ensure that you tune your ukulele once every hour or so to be on the safe side.

Lastly, make sure you clean your instrument from time to time – advanced players often use lemon-based cleaners because it also moisturizes wood! However, if you’re not confident with using DIY chemicals yet, simply buy some ukulele polish and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. These are easy to find in music stores everywhere.

Image courtesy Pixabay

That’s all there is for now! Whether you only play the four chords of G-C-D-A or already know how to play complicated pieces like “Stairway To Heaven”, remember that it will take time for things to click into place when learning an instrument. Set reasonable goals and enjoy the journey!

About the author

Jamie Moses

Jamie Moses founded Artvoice in 1990

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