Ukuleles are finally getting the respect they deserve. For some time, the uke was
being treated as a toy or a novelty, not as real tool for making music. Today, the sweet mellow
sound of the ukulele shows up in all kinds of music from pop hits, to folk, to rock and the
instrument is in high demand.
You’ll find that the ukulele is the easiest fretted instrument to learn. You can learn to
strum three basic chords in less than an hour’s time and be playing your favorite songs right away.
The Uke’s four nylon strings and small neck are easy on the fingers, so you won’t need to develop
calluses and worry too much about difficult fingerings to get going. Of course, as with any musical
instrument investing more time and effort can have a big musical payoff.
What to look for in a Ukulele
At Sam Ash Direct, we have a very wide range of ukes, from very inexpensive basic models to high
end acoustic electric models that you can plug into an amplifier. We even have a
Paul ukulele if you want to be really cool. Here are the basic features to look for:
Hardware – Geared or machined tuners. Although the traditional ukulele had
friction tuning pegs like a violin, these tend to slip (unless very well made and higher priced)
and put the instrument out of tune. Machine tuners make the process of tuning much easier and keep
your instrument in tune longer.
Woods - Ukuleles are made of many different materials. The best sound usually
comes from the same woods used in making guitars, like mahogany, maple and rosewood. Higher end
models may feature spruce tops or more exotic woods such as Koa or Mango. All have their own
resonance characteristics, but all will sound sweet.
Sizes – One of the biggest questions first time buyers have is which size uke is
right for me? Ukuleles come in 4 primary sizes, soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. In the
beginning the choice is a matter of taste and convenience.
Sopranos are the smallest and highest in pitch (and easiest to carry) this size is usually
associated with the classic original ukulele. The Concert is a little bigger and typically has more
natural acoustic volume, and a lower range than a soprano. Tenors have a deeper richer sound and
are sometimes easier to play for beginners because the longer scale of the instrument makes
fingering chords for the first time much easier. The Baritone is the biggest and produces the
lowest range. It should also be noted that it is tuned differently than its smaller siblings.
“Which one is right for me?” Most teachers recommend that beginners start with a
Concert or Tenor. These sizes tend to be easier to learn the initial chords on because of the
longer scale (spacing between the frets is wider). The exception would be the younger beginners
with smaller hands.The tenor ukulele is what you hear on recordings from ukulele greats James Hill
and Jake Shimabukuro. Almost inevitably once you get hooked on this wonderful instrument you are
going to end up with more than one!
We recommend that you get the ukulele, a gig bag to put it in (if it doesn’t already come with
one), a tuner, a stand, and a basic method book with some songs you can learn fast. Sam Ash Direct
library of both song and instructional books to get you on your way to having a blast and
strumming with your friends.