I bought a ukulele!

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As the title says, I bought a (cheap, beginner's) ukulele, which just arrived. I played flute a long time ago, percussion in college, and lately keyboards, so this is my first stringed instrument. I'm hoping to record some primitive demos with it by the end of 50/90. I'm so excited!

It's also pissing me off. Did you know that with stringed instruments, if you don't tune it just right, it sounds absolutely awful? Who knew?!? It's hard enough getting used to a whole new method of music-making without that additional concern. What a pain in my butt. I never had this problem with my synths! Wink

Hey congrats! What kind?
I bought one a couple months ago - a Luna - not too expensive and good for someone with stubs for fingers like me lol
Sounds really good to me, but I only learned four chords so far, and its been so long since I picked it up, that I've forgotten how to play them!
The salesman sold me a tuner to go with it...and I feel you 100% on the tuning thing.
Welp, here's to a fellow new uke player!

Welcome to the club. Learning to tune is your initiation. If you don't have one, get one of those clip on tuners. Life will improve.

It’s an Aklot concert ukulele that I got on Amazon. Quite cheap, especially considering it comes with a case, electronic tuner, strap, etc, but it gets pretty good reviews, especially for its price. I wanted something cheap that I wouldn’t hate myself for quitting (or smashing into a wall in frustration) if I decide I don’t like it. I can always upgrade later if I actually stick with it.

Just my second night of practice tonight, and I’m already doing OK on C, F and G chords. But the C string seems to go out of tune constantly. I need to figure out if I’m doing something to cause that somehow.

The new cheap uke will go out of tune constantly for a few weeks, then settle down. I have one from Amazon too, that's how it was, but oh joy, the day I tuned it and had it last overnight!

@OdilonGreen welcome to the world of strings. Nylon strings sometimes take a little while to settle in and the short scale (length from bridge to nut) on a ukelele makes the string pitch more sensitive to adjustments.

Good for you!
Ukuleles are the best!

Aklots are pretty reasonable for cheap ukes. All Ukulele strings take a while to settle. Longer in my experience than guitar strings. A way to speed up the process is when you put it away tune it one half step up it stretches quicker that way. So if its tuned GCEA tune it G#C#FA#. I run ukulele groups and teach it so i am forever changing strings for people. To save you hours putting on strings at about $3 on eBay get a string winder. If you want any more help feel free to message me

Congrats on your uke! If you think tuning is a pain wait until you have to change the strings! Just kidding, "real" players don't change their strings!

Really Mr Staples! Smile i know you are half joking. Im a shocker for changing guitar strings or in fact banjo or mando. Ukes go through strings much much quicker than guitars. Its to do with fretboard length which means much more pressure on frets. After a while you can hear the difference and if you run your finger on the back of the string you can feel the fraying. Plus cheaper ukes often have frets that are a touch rougher. Remember though when you buy uke strings, halve them. There is enough on each for 2 sets! Bargain!

Yay, welcome to the uke club! It'll be the first of many I'm sure Wink No one ever just has one uke.

On the tuning issue, you can help the settling process by trying to stretch the strings out a bit. I just pull them perpendicularly to the body, not sure if this is kosher but works for me.

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Last weekend I also bought a ukulele. Having too much fun with it. The little bit of time I have for 5090 is cut down to nearly nothing Sad

Thanks everyone for your encouragement and advice - very helpful as I navigate my first uke!

(Except @johnstaples, who is obviously trying to make me cower in fear at my new instrument! Wink )


All our strings have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the 'lele
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are

Come on OG, don't fear the 'lele
OG take my hand, don't fear the 'lele
We'll be able to FAWM, don't fear the 'lele
Ukulele Man

Now, where's my cowbell?

@johnstaples - I remember those Blue Ukulele Cult guys from the 70s and 80s!
My daughter recently took up the uke. My cheap one does us both just fine. I've done a few songs this 50/90 on it, and I taught my daughter two Irish folk songs.
Never changed the strings (had it for almost two years) nor do I feel the need to. I'll just buy another uke.

Another instrument you may try at some time, Bass-guitar... in my life, I've never changed a set (wiped them down good with alcohol but never changed). Smile

Yes, that wood box instrument sat in a warehouse with dry AC and etc. and gets to your nice home with normal air and absorbs water it's first day home. Then, the strings since not "pre-stretched", well, tug on'em lightly and will allow for more "toe room" like new shoes.

And then, like happened to me the other day went from 100F to 3inches of rain in an hour, down to 80F... so was a tuning fest (on a solid body guitar(s)).

Also, as most like "this", there's no Neck adjustment, so if the strings are high off the neck, the farther you press, stretch the string to the Fret, the #'er it may be... so that's when, if you have a removable "Saddle" that sits on the "Bridge" (wonderful new language aye Smile ) ... one may then remove it and file the back of it slightly and straigtly and "lower" the strings to the neck (known as "string action").

One thing since "here" and may record... - one can pick up these very cheep, by the bag, stick-on contact pickups for a few dollars and do a direct into mixer recording. There are some "clip on" violin/cello ones, but if you search on cigar-box-kit, I think I got a lifetime supply Smile for $10's... (tape one to the bottom of a (empty Wink ) soup can and make a 1920's AM-radio mic... etc.)... but, I digress.

-- I never bonded to my Uke... and have carefully shelved it for some guest down the road.

@OdilonGreen I bought a uke this year too. Having a lot of fun with. I had a uke several years ago that I almost never played because of the high A would slip out of tune no matter what I did. The tuner must have just been jacked up. But now I have this new, yet still cheap uke, that stays in tune and it's tons of fun to play. But as with any stringed instrument, you do have to stretch the strings. I go for the string tug that @ustaknow mentions, but the tuning half a step up thing is a great idea. Thanks for that @coolparadiso

Yeah, I have one uke where the tuning heads themselves are crap so it will never stay in tune but it was a cheap uke my in-laws found as a steal of a deal. The other uke is pretty good at holding tune. I should uke more. Congrats on joining the club, Odilon!

I'm glad to hear it's probably not my fault that my uke isn't holding its tuning (yet). I'll definitely be trying some of the advice above re: stretching the strings, and look forward to the day I don't have to stop every 10 minutes to retune!

Also, @coolparadiso (or anyone else who wants to weigh in): given that you're a uke instructor, give it to me straight. Assume that I'm vaguely grounded in basic music theory and concepts, and have played non-stringed instruments in the past, but that this uke is my first stringed instrument. Is it pointless to try to teach myself using just YouTube videos? Part of the reason I picked ukulele is because I understand it's comparatively easy to play, but I kind of already feel I don't know how to strum "right," no matter how many videos I watch.

Can I do this on my own? Is there any point to paying a local teacher for just a few lessons, to get good basic form down? Or should I really be having at least semi-regular lessons for the foreseeable future if I eventually want to get to a point of basic, simple proficiency?

I got one for Christmas and I am still struggling, although less than I did.

Hey @OdilonGreen, there is no "right" way to strum; strum whatever way works best for you.
I'm sure you already know the drill when it comes to learning a new instrument; the first while is just perseverance and force of will. After a time it all becomes second nature.

Welcome to the club and videos aren’t terrible. I might suggest getting a book. I’ve never found a book that I love, but it will give you a bit more of a logical progression to start. Then supplement with videos. And the tuning thing is a pain in the ass. I changed my strings a couple of weeks ago and they’ve just now really settled in.

In my opinion if i have a choice i play with others i always learn much quicker playing along. I think ‘hoping the wrath doesnt come down on me’ that most uke utube and teaching is very poor and all over the place. We all have different baselines and learn different ways so teaching should be aimed at a specific person. I think teaching is a waste of time if you dont know what someone's current skill set is at what their goals are. Thats a long winded way of saying. I would have maybe 1 lesson at least up to 3 but no need for more. Discuss basics and put together a learning plan. Be clear what you want. I think you just need pointing in the right direction. I would do it for you for nought if we can find a way. Alternatively i have worldwide contacts. I also run a free closed ukulele FB group mainly for people who do not have access to local teachers.

For now Its all about practice and muscle memory but you will get there, its not hard to get to be an ok player.

If you really want to use the internet the only thing i would recommend is James Hills teaching stuff. $9 Canadian per month and you would only need a month. Thats a bargain.

Oh and yes there is no right way to strum (just do what comes naturally) but it pays to know various styles. Watch Tina D she puts up videos here and you will see she uses many styles of strumming (darn good songs as well).

*curtsy Biggrin thanks @coolparadiso Tina D is me btw, for those who don't know Smile

I've never had a uke lesson, but have a guitar background (largely self taught). I think online lessons aren't too bad though as John says they can be a bit all over the place. This site is good: https://ukuleleunderground.com/ Definitely joining a group is useful once you've got a few chords and basic strumming under your belt - some will even take complete beginners. The Ukulele for dummies book by Alistair Wood is quite good, btw.

Agree that there may not be right ways to strum, but there are wrong ways. Having taught some friends, the most common things beginners have trouble with are keeping a relaxed, loose hand (it should feel similar to shaking water off your hand, mostly driven by a wrist motion), and keeping the motion continuous. For these basics, might be worth getting some intro lessons so the teacher can check your form. I reckon within a few hours of lessons + more of practice, you could get the necessary skills to join a uke club. The left hand technique is hard to begin with - memorising chord shapes and making fluid changes between them, but that's just a matter of practice.

Congrats on your first string instrument! Ukulele is what sparked my songwriting "career", and has opened more doors for me than any of my other instruments. The recommendations for a clip-on tuner are 100%. There are plenty of beautiful "chords" that are super, super simple. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Another good thing about playing the ukulele; if you show up with a guitar people expect you to play like Jimi Hendrix.
You show up with a ukulele and people don't know what to expect.

Plus you can fit 'em in your suitcase when going on holiday with a minimum of trouble cos they're so small.

Hey @OdilonGreen -- per your question about self-teach, -- yes it's worth it, and can teach yourself. I assume you have on other?

Pedagogy is a "weird" thing... some HAVE to be shown, so, there you go, -- get shown, notta problem.

Me, I "work" evolving not yet known "stuff", -- so "music" was a part of it.

For me, if you "show" me but can't explain it, "WHY IS THAT A TRIAD AND NAMED THAT WAY?" -- any diagram with text will do for "me". I was told "learn the circle of 5ths"... my question, -- why? No answer, -- done. Smile hahhh.

Also, functionally, you got any tracks, demos, bounce tracks up? If you do, I don't need to hear them, -- "you're good"! Prima facie! How else could you have done that? There's no course on how to use 5090, record, then load and then link here.

I think one has to LOVE the sound, LOVE the feel of the instrument. Me, love the violin, hate the feel. Did LOVE the feel of the Cello and how it's tuned (made me REALLY learn to Sight Read too, Bass Clef).

Drums, -- feel; guitar, -- feel. The Uke... if you love the sound, and the feel and the feeling you get, -- you'll be talking about it like your first born. Like when a few months back got my Guild T-bird, -- posted it on FAWM FB group... pure joy... wanted to tell everyone.

I love a well played Uke, like actually the cool-one... he knows how to play a nice crisp clear well done Uke. I thought I could "easily" DO THAT TOO --- uhhhh no... it's a "feel", he has it, I don't so keep mine for guests.

There is NO "easy" instrument to play... it's all tough... if you want to make "music" with it. Even my NAF's (native american flutes... ) geese only 5 notes, can't be played out of tune... -- but you can sound "bad" if don't have the feel, the emotional connection.

-- Or, other "hippy stuff" like that Smile Wink

Thank you to everyone for your comments and advice, and please know I'm reading and absorbing it all! I only wish that actually learning to play and getting my fingers to move right were as easy as getting helpful feedback from this community! Biggrin

@OdilonGreen if you have any experience with guitar chords you will find that the basic ukulele chord forms are the same but without the top two guitar strings!

Wanna play a Dm on ukulele? Play it like an Am on guitar. Wanna play a G on ukulele? Play it like a D on guitar!

If you are not familiar with guitar chords...ignore this post and it will self-destruct in 3...2...1

Oh and here is a nice interactive chord shart...


And one more thought...I know you already bought a concert but personally I find the larger instruments to have better sound and are easier to play if you have medium to large hands (my hands are soooo huge!) So, sometime when you are in a music store, try out a tenor ukulele. I found they are more to my liking.

And you are prolly thinking, "hey, I already have a ukulele!" but just like heroin, one ukulele is not enough!

Yup there is a disease called UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome) and a large facebook page on it, there is debate everywhere on the net on what size uke is best, how you tune it, what strings to use whether you use high or low G etc, but first just use one and learn. One warning (and i have and play just about every stringed instrument, including bazouki, balalaikas, sitar as well as the usual suspects), ukulele is easy to play averagely but no less easier than any other to play really well..

+1 for larger scale ukes. Tenor is my preference in GCEA ukes and the one in my videos is a baritone, tuned DGBE like the top 4 strings of a guitar.

Forgot to recommend @rorowe's stuff, he also does video demos here and shows some of the rhythmic and harmonic experiments you can do on the uke. What I love about uke is that despite its limitations, it still has worlds of possibilities.

One more tip- practice skills separately. Strum on dead strings (mute them with your left hand) or even without a uke, to get the motion steady. Practice the left hand chord changes on simple single strums before trying them out with different rhythms.

@3tdoan I bought my daughter a cuatro tuned like a uke and I love it!

@3tdoan I bought my daughter a cuatro tuned like a uke and I love it!

@3tdoan - Interesting strumming tip. I'll pass that one along to my daughter, who is interested in the strum patterns. As for me, I play it pickless with a combined strum-pick like I do guitar. Maybe I'll see if I can dig out the soft uke pick that a friend gave me.
Earlier this week, I struggled with playing uke along to an acoustic backing track. Which surprised me, because I can play banjo/mandolin/cigar box slide/piano to guitar tracks. The uke rhythm was always just a bit off.

@Chip Withrow oh I did mean strumming with fingers. I only ever use fingers, no picks - never really got the hang of them.