Ukulele are wonderfully simple instruments. In fact, that’s one reason why they’re more popular than ever. They are so simple in fact that many don’t know about moisture maintenance and how important it is. I’ve heard it many times before. Testimonies of people purchasing ukulele here in Hawaii, only to find their precious instruments cracked and splitting a month after getting home. Oh no! This is due to a lack of moisture maintenance, or maintaining the proper humidity around your ukulele. As someone who plays the ukulele you should already know that your ukulele is made of wood. “Wait... what? Ukulele are made out of wood?!?” Okay, I know, so basic. I did start by saying the ukulele was a simple, right? Haha! But follow me on this, its gonna make sense when we get into the topic. So yes, ukulele are made of wood, so now lets go down the rabbit hole. This is gonna get weird! Zombie-Wood? Just because your tone-wood is cut, dried, shaped, sanded, glued, and made into a ukulele, it still thinks its a tree. Yes, your wood is ‘zombified’! The wood is technically dead, but it is still moving. Get it. Zombie-wood? So just like a tree, the wood in your ukulele will continue to try to acclimate to it’s surroundings. And if your surrounding area isn’t suitable for your ukulele, then destruction is inevitable. “Why will my ukulele fall apart?” Great question! It all comes down to humidity. For example, if the air around your ukulele is too dry, it will eventually dry out the wood causing it to shrink. When this happens, the wood in your ukulele will crack. And this humidity issue goes both ways. If the surrounding area is too humid, the wood on your ukulele will absorb the moisture making it expand. The wood will start warping, taking on new angles and shapes. Either way, having too little or too much humidity can hurt your ukulele. These negative effects can take months but I have seen things happen in days! Scary right? “So What can I do to protect my ukulele from the humidity?” Well, get a humidifier! What the heck is a ukulele humidifier? Ukulele humidifiers are small moisture-filled containers that fit inside your ukulele case or hung on the ukulele itself (while in it’s case). It works by gradually releasing moisture into the environment as needed. It does this without over-humidifying the environment. A consistent humidity level between 40 and 50 percent is ideal. In Hawaii, the birthplace of ukulele, many builders construct their ukulele in humidity controlled rooms. They lower the humidity using dehumidifiers and air conditioners in order to maintain a room humidity of 50%, though Hawaii’s normal humidity vacillates between 55-80%. This helps decrease the chances of cracking when the ukulele is sent to places that are too dry. Some ukulele humidifiers protect your instrument from over-humidification too – that’s a win-win! Particularly if you live in an area where humidity tends to rise and fall as the weather changes. Denver Colorado has the lowest humidity in the United States, as low as 12%! If you send a ukulele made in Hawaii to Denver it could crack in day! 70% down to 12%. Yikes! Does my ukulele need one? Probably! All the best ukuleles are made with wood, which is composed of cells that react to atmospheric changes. Especially if your ukulele is made using solid woods and not laminate. Sure when a ukulele splits, or the top ”bows” it can be easily seen. But like terminates eating in the walls of a house, humidity can also cause damage that’s hard to see. It can manifest as problems such as fret buzz, bad intonation, or high (or too low) action height. These can pretty much make the ukulele unplayable so it’s pretty serious. It’s also very expensive to fix and repair these issues. So it’s the humidifiers job to keep the ukulele environment at the right level of humidity so those changes, and the damage they can cause, don’t happen. If your room is at the right humidity, you can store your ukulele out of it’s humidified case. Hang it on the wall, display it on a stand. It’s all good! Nothing is going to happen to the instrument. Now when you take it from that room to somewhere else... well, now you need to keep your ukulele humidified. Every time you take your ukulele on the road, going from a cool house to a hot car or vice-versa, you want keep the humidity level around your ukulele consistent. Or else... CRAAAAACK! Your climate can help you decide if you need a ukulele humidifier or not. If you live in a warm, humid environment and you don’t use a ton of air conditioning inside your home, your instrument should be fine. If you purchased your ukulele from a local luthier then your ukulele should be fine, just watch out for the seasons! As the temperatures drop, so does moisture. So like chaining up your tires when there’s heavy snow, you need to humidify your ukulele during winter months. If you live in a hot, dry region, then you might need to use a ukulele humidifier year-round to keep your instrument from drying out. When using a ukulele humidifier you must use it in a case. This way it can regulate the humidity in a small contained area. If using a room humidifier, theres no need to worry about keeping it in a case since the room will be humidity controlled. Below are some humidifier recommendations! Best Humidifiers... Oasis Humidifier The Oasis OH-18 ukulele humidifier protects your instrument from the inside out. I really like the fact that it goes right inside your uke and stays put even when you’re traveling. If you forget to fill it up and it runs out, no worries, you can just fill it up again. It’s so user friendly! When it’s time to refill your Oasis humidifier you will notice the ‘humigel’ beads making a sound. This is because they are drying out. Just add water and the beads will swell back up with moisture, and your ready to go. These beads don’t last forever so they recommend you change them out every year. You can purchase these refill packs here. The drying out and shrinking of the humigel beads also affects the tube. The tube also shrinks, crunches up, and starts bending. This is another sign that your humidifier needs more water. We love the father and son duo (the Hepple’s) from Oasis! It’s always great to see them at the Winter NAMM every year. Mahalo for letting use your vacuum for our booth! Geniani Mist Humidifier The Geniani Top Fill Cool Mist Humidifier is a great choice to humidify your ukulele. This way you don’t have to keep your ukulele in a humidified case. You can display it for all to see (or just you...especially if you own a work of art). It is also quite affordable at around $45. It runs silent and boast a large water capacity at 4 liters! If you have multiple instruments, this is the humidifier for you. You can also use in any room of the house. Check it out here and see it’s full list of features! Last but not least........BOVEDA! I have a confession to make... please don’t judge me. I am a connoisseur of the finer things. I collect whiskey, mid century furniture, and pipes and cigars. If you know anything about pipes and cigars, you know you need to humidify your tobacco leaf. With cigars, optimally they should be kept at 69-72% humidity. Yeah, that precise! This is where Boveda Humidipaks save the day. Boveda Humidipaks use a patented, all natural salt solution to precisely protect cigars, musical instruments, and food. They are able to keep your items at precise humidity levels... like at exactly 68%. For guitars and ukulele, they have packets in the 30-50% range. Boveda Humidipaks also control humidity both ways. They can either lower humidity or raise it. Which takes the guessing out of the everything. Just throw a 49% packet in your ukulele case and you’re good! You will need to change them over time. The packet will get hard when you need to change it out. If your regulating humidity is already near 50% you may never have to change it out. If humidity is really low you may have to change it out every month. Get them here! I love these things! So are humidifiers important? Well, yeah! Now if you have a laminated ukulele humidity maintenance is not as necessary. This is actually a reason you should consider a laminated ukulele. They are not only affordable, with construction quality now matching solid body ukulele, but they are practically humidity proof. But if you want a solid body ukulele, or already own one, getting a humidifier is the cheapest insurance for your instrument! The last thing I want for your ukulele is for it to crack or warp beyond repair. So I hope this post helped you out. And if at night you hear a rattling sound coming from your ukulele case... RUN!!! Keep jamming and aloha!
3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Better at Ukulele
If your reading this, you’re probably stuck along your ukulele journey. No worries, beef curry! You’re not the only one who’s experienced this. At points in our ukulele journey we all go through this. In fact, if you take part in any of the arts you will probably get stuck in the weeds at some time. I’m sure Mozart, Van Gogh, and Alfred Hitchcock got lost in the fog as they revolutionized music, painting, and film. So you’re not alone! Haha! So to help you get out of the weeds here are three reasons why you might not be getting better as a ukulele player. After reading this, I hope you are able to find your bearings, and get back on your musical pilgrimage. Reason #1: Goals and Bullseyes In high school I was a lean 135 pounds (61 kg, and 9.64 stone if your a Brit or Irish). I could eat whatever I wanted and not lose my six-pack. Among my brothers I was the ‘skinny’ one. Then in college I ballooned up and gained a bunch of weight. Everything changed. For the first time in my life I struggled to button my pants! So let me get honest with you. I went from 135 pounds to 205 pounds. Thats 70 pounds! After seeing the shock on the faces of my long time friends, I decided to make a change. And in order to do this I needed to set goals and commit to a plan! I followed the plan and saw progress. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to drop 35 pounds. Planning, setting goals, and aiming at targets was what I needed to move forward. So now that your back from shock, where do you want to be as a ukulele player in a year, six months, one month, or even a week? What songs do you want to be able to play? What chords do want to know? What style of playing do you want to master? Are there any areas in your playing that you need to address and work on? Whenever I find myself banging my head up against a wall in frustration with my skills as a ukulele player, it’s usually because I can’t answer these questions. And this is because I didn’t take the time to set goals. I don’t have targets! Because of this, I have nothing to shoot or strive for, so I tend to stay stuck in the same old place. I’ve heard it before that sometimes it’s best to slow down. Even stop at times in order to think, re-evaluate, and reset plans. This all for progress. If we keep running forward, we may overlook areas that need attention and maintenance. Or maybe we are running in the wrong direction! Sit down and write up a plan. Set some goals and targets. Examples of this would be to learn one new chord a day, learn a new song every week, or learn how to transpose songs. Goal setting will guide your steps until your miles along in your ukulele journey. Reason #2: I Aint Got No Time To Practice! Now that I have a family, a wife and 3 kids (with one on the way), I feel like I have absolutely no time to invest in my ukulele playing. This is why it’s important that I carve out time in my day to spend towards music. For you this might mean cutting some other things out of your life. For example, how easy is it to waste an hour or two (or five) throughout the day on your phone watching YouTube or stalking... I mean checking in on Instagram? It might even mean waking up half an hour earlier to strum some chords. If I can get up at 4:30 in the morning to run (aka kill my body), I’m sure you can do it too! Though it’s not just that you find time to practice, but that you are consistent in practicing. Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes a day, it makes a world of difference. If you need some proof of this, check out this video from Elise Ecklund and her ukulele skill progression over a few years. Trust me... make the time. Do this everyday and you will get better. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once your good. It’s the thing you do to make you good.” -Malcolm Gladwell Reason #3: The Missing 3 Letter Word F-U-N! Enjoying the process means focusing on the journey instead of the destination. As cliche as it sounds this may be the most important aspect of getting out of the doldrums. If all you're focused on is playing like your favorite artist, you’re gonna be disappointed. Things can get frustrating when you feel your improvement inadequate. It’s like me looking at Cross Fitters! Its like there bodies are chiseled out of granite rock! If I strive to look like them, I could lose sight on all the progress I’ve made feeling discontent. This mentality will take the fun out of the everything. In reality there is only the continuous improvement process. And wherever you are at any given point along that process is exactly where you need to be! And maybe... just maybe you could be Matt Fraser and Tia Clair-Toomey, the fittest on earth! If the journey takes you there. Now ask yourself this question. Do you honestly ever want to get to the point where you're not improving anymore? If you want to keep improving you've just liberated yourself! You're now free from the idea of reaching that moment when you've ”made it”. Guess what? That moment doesn’t exist. Realizing this will free you up to get better, bit by bit, every time you pick up the ukulele. And really, if we're not enjoying the learning process, then why keep playing? There are two kinds of ukulele players: professionals and amateurs. Most professional musicians could earn far more financially being miserable doing something else. So if they‘re miserable as musicians what's the point? As for amateurs hobbies are supposed to be fun, right? So If you’re not having fun, why are you spending time being miserable? Let that sink in... Remember that playing the ukulele is supposed to be fun. Growing as a musician with this amazing instrument is FUN. Bringing joy to yourself and others is.... say it with me ....FUN! So today is a new day! I really want you to succeed on your ukulele journey. If I could summarize all this in a sentence it would be... Set new goals, make time for consistent practice, and above all else have FUN! Keep jamming and aloha!
Meghan Trainor was right! It really is all about that bass. Stringing a Low-G on a ukulele will give you all the bass you need! But lets get real for a minute. Low-G ukulele strings are a mystery to many players. While many artists opt for using High-G strings, Low-G strings are quickly becoming a popular option. By tuning the top G-string down an octave, you add five additional notes to the bottom of the ukulele range. This produces a deep, warm, and rich sound to the ukulele. Think Barry White! So what are the differences between Low-G and High-G strings? The High-G High-G strings are used in traditional ukulele tunings. Using this type of string makes for an odd pitch pattern that goes from high (G note) to low (C note), then back to high (E, and A note). This is actually uncommon among stringed instruments. This is why this type of pattern is called ‘re-entrant‘ tuning. So whenever you see the word ’re-entrant‘, know that its referring to traditional tuning with the High-G. Re-entrant tuning keeps the ukulele trebly and bright. It has been said before that it’s impossible to play a sad song on a ukulele when it us tuned with a High-G string. Famous players that use High-G tuning are Jake Shimabukuro, Kalei Gamiao, and Kris Fuchigami. Check out Kris play his High-G tuned ukulele here! The Low-G As High-G strings are tuned ‘re-entrant’, Low-G strings make what is called ‘linear’ tuning. This means the string pitch order goes from low (G note) to high (C,E, and A note), or bass to treble. This pitch order gives the ukulele a rounded, even sound. Having a second “bass” note can be useful for solo fingerpicking arrangements which allows you to get a fuller sound when playing. It creates a wider range of notes when you play any chord. When you strum a Low-G ukulele for the first time, chills will run down your spine. How can one string change the sound and ‘feel’ of the instrument? Believe me... it really does. It’s like comparing the mellow meow of a cat to the booming roar of a lion! Players who tune their ukulele to Low-G are Taimane Gardner (she uses two Low-G strings on her five string ukulele!), James Hill, and the ridiculously talented Feng E. Watch Feng E. masterfully play using Low-G tuning here! In the video he’s using the Low-G primarily as a bass string. Prepare to be amazed! Adding a Low-G String on Your Ukulele A Low-G string simply replaces a High-G string. You just have to swap it out. So you may being thinking, “Why can’t I just tune my High-G string down an octave?” If you try and tune a High-G string down one octave it becomes way too loose and can’t even produce a sound. So by increasing the thickness of the string, it is now able to play at a much higher tension. And most importantly at a lower note. This is why Low-G strings were created. Without them you couldn’t achieve this. Getting ’Nutty’ Ukulele are usually setup for a High-G at the factory. This is due to the fact that ’re-entrant‘ tuning is more popular. Almost all the songs in the ‘book’ employ High-G tuning so players want to play and hear those songs the same way. So if you want to restring your ukulele with a Low-G you will have to file the nut slot to accommodate a wider string. If you try to put a larger string in a normal sized nut slot, it wont fit and lay on top of the nut. This will raise the action and possibly mess up the intonation on the G string. Also be absolutely sure you want to make the modification because it’s not reversible. If you want to change it back, you‘ll have the change out the nut. Oh NUTS! “To wound, or not to wound! That is the question...” Though this is not quite what Shakespeare had in mind, its still a deep and ethical question... haha! Wound Low-G strings are made by winding a metal wrapping around a nylon core. This design allows the wound string to hold the same tension as an unwound string, with added bonus of being thinner. Though, they do have some trade offs. Low-G strings are notorious for over-powering the rest of the strings, they squeak as you slide your fingers along, and they corrode. If you live in a humid place, it can corrode in as little as a few weeks! If you’ve ever had ‘green fingertips’ you know what I’m talking about. (Pro-tip: Using a dish sponge with an abrasive side, wipe the rusted wound string. It will polish them back up in 10 seconds! They will look good as new). Thankfully progress has been made with Wound Low-G strings, how they are produced so that they are more tonally balanced. And they were able to reduce the ‘squeakiness‘ of the string as well as it’s resistance to corrosion. So what about unwound Low-G strings? Unwound Low-G strings are a ‘newer’ innovation. They are made of the same material as the other strings in the set (usually fluorocarbon), unlike their metal wound predecessors. The obvious advantage is the strings are smoother to the touch, therefore they don’t make any noise when you slide your fingers on them. They also match tonally to the rest of the set. I find sometimes that wound Low-G strings sound like they belong on classical guitars! So I personally find unwound Low-G strings more balanced in tone and clarity. Not to mention you don’t have to change them out since they don’t rust or corrode. This can save you a bunch of money! On my personal custom ukulele I use a Tenor Low-G set from Living Waters Strings. They are made with fluorocarbon. I have been using these on my ukulele for the past 9 years! Shout out to Ken Middleton for these making these amazing strings! Pick up a set here! So in the end it is totally up to you! If you are transitioning from the guitar and don’t want to miss out on the those rich bass notes, I recommend using a Low-G. And if your ‘down’ with tradition and want to play those bright and ‘happy’ notes, go re-entrant. Maybe get two ukulele and have one of each. For me though...... it’s all about DAT BASS! “Low-G bass” that is......
"Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up, it's bobsled time!“ -Sanka This quote comes from one of my favorite 90’s movies ‘Cool Runnings’! In fact I just watched it with my sons this past week on Disney+ and they loved it. They sure don’t make movies like they used to. ‘Cool Runnings’ is based off of true events when a bobsled team from Jamaica made it into the finals of 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. Throughout the movie you witness the team learning to jive together, not with just their physicality, but with their differing personalities in order to make it to the olympic finals. They must learn to meld their summer track skills with the otherworldly sport of bobsledding. This is just what one has to do in order to sing while playing the ukulele! After you read this go watch the movie..... its a classic! As a ukulele player... that sings (seriously, many of the world’s best can’t), I’ve heard it more than a few times of how difficult it is to play and sing at the same time. Many people either play or sing well but when they try to put them together they fail miserably! It’s almost as if you needed two brains to do this. Try and pat your head while rubbing your belly at the same time... pretty weird huh? The ultimate goal is to help you develop an independency between your strumming rhythm and singing rhythm. In other words, we need to be so comfortable with our strumming that we don’t even have to think about it. This will allow us to sing how we please and not have our strumming pattern dictated by the rhythm of our vocal cadence. Use the tips below to learn how to sing while playing the ukulele. 1. Musical welding! Like a pianist who uses both hands to play two different rhythms concurrently, or a drummer who uses all four limbs working independently, you need to meld your strumming and singing rhythms so that they sound seamless. If you can believe it, there are drummers that can play with all four limbs and SING the melody! Check this out. This is 18 year old Paulina from the band The Warning. Don’t get discouraged if your mind is blown. Learning to play and sing on the ukulele is a lot easier. But the first thing to learn and understand is playing and singing aren't two separate things. 2. Simple rhythms, simple rhymes... Don’t complicate the task unnecessarily by choosing songs that exceed your skill level. This will only leave you feeling frustrated and defeated. I know you want to learn the new Shawn Mendes ditty but it may be too challenging off the bat. Start off learning easy songs that you know well. Songs that only have a few chords, a simple strum pattern and lyrics you can easily remember like ’Happy Birthday’. Check out our friend Bernadette‘s lesson for ‘Happy Birthday‘ here. Keep things simple. 3. Build a strong foundation! Trying to remember how to hold the Em chord while playing is going to make singing at the same time virtually impossible. Your ukulele playing must be at a level where chord changes are effortless. You need to be so comfortable with your strumming that you don't even have to think about it. This will free you up to concentrate on singing. Its back to basics. Run through chord patterns until they are second nature. Drill scales to strengthen finger dexterity. When you can get to chords quickly without looking at your fingers, you have built a strong foundation. 4. Practice strumming with a metronome... ... ... ... ... For better timing and rhythm practice with a metronome. Although it will feel a bit restrictive at first a metronome will make help with staying on beat. If you‘ve ever played with a group you realized how important it is to stay on beat. For practice spend 5-10 minutes a day practicing a simple strumming pattern with a metronome. You will notice significant improvements in your timing within a few weeks. A pro tip is to tap your foot along with the metronome as you practice. This will help build a metronome in your mind and body. Watch professionals on stage and you can often see them tapping their foot to the beat as they play. The craziest part is they don’t know they are doing it. It becomes autonomous! 5. Master the song; the playing and singing... separately! Play the music on your ukulele until you have it memorized and can perform it fluently. One way to tell if you've mastered a song is to play it flawlessly while watching a movie or having a conversation. In addition to getting all the chord changes down you have to know the melody and lyrics. This will require putting the ukulele down in order to focus purely on the singing portion of the song. Play and replay the song in the background. Drive it into your memory and sing along to it whenever you can. Now to be completely honest, in middle school I secretly loved The Backstreet Boys. I new every song by heart (though my friends never knew, haha). Last year they came and ended their world tour in Hawaii. It amazed me that after 20 years I knew, by heart, every lyric and vocal rift. It was awesome! Get the idea? This is what I mean by mastering a song. It’s engrained in your brain foreverrrrrrrr! 6. When all else fails, hum! It is helpful to first hum the parts of the melody over your strumming pattern before actually singing them. This will allow you to get used to any chord changes without having to concern yourself with lyrics. Once you get used to humming different parts of the melodies, you'll gradually become comfortable singing it. It will flow naturally. You will start adding words while you hum. Humming through a song while playing can sound beautiful as well. Be careful as this type of training can put people within earshot into REM sleep...haha! 7. Practice... “Practice is the best of all instructors.” -Publilius Syrus No one gets anywhere without practice. You have to be patient when learning this ’skill’. It will not come over night and you will need to train diligently. Learning to incorporate vocals into your ukulele playing takes practice. Even after you have acquired the basic skill, you will be adding more songs to your repertoire, some of which may contain awkward combinations of rhythms that can trip you up (thanks James Hill, Voodo Child). When this happens, break the song down into parts and work through the problem areas. Then slowly string them back together. These tips will help you master singing and playing ukulele together. This skill is difficult to learn but most players can master it. Give the process the time it needs and don’t forget to “feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, tune your uke up, its jamming time”. Keep jamming and aloha!
So you want to play ukulele but don’t know how much to spend on one? How much is a decent ukulele? That is the question! It all depends on how much money you have to spend of course. As with most instruments, ukulele (or ukuleles, ‘ukulele’ can be both plural and singular) can vary in cost from less than $25 up to thousands of dollars. The latter being ornate pieces of art. Check out those beauties from Eric Devine up top, they can cost $10,000! If you are just starting out and learning some ukulele basics you'll want to budget for a quality instrument that offers a nice, warm sound. But without over or under spending! This can be a head splitting conundrum. I get it... I was there before. I once overpaid for a Martin guitar from a local shop here in Hawaii. It wasn’t until a few years later that when I searched online I found that I had over spent $500! You know who you are! They are located on ‘Island’, and sell ‘Guitars’...wink, wink. Haha! So here are some things to keep in mind and consider as you shop around. Quality Ukulele can be made from a variety of different materials. Cheap ukulele are often made with plastic and cheap plywood. These inferior materials can change the sound you get from the instrument. This can sour your ukulele experience as you hear that your playing sounds off. In this case what’s off isn’t the playing but the ukulele. Now I need to interject something very important here. For many decades the word ’laminate’ has struck fear in the hearts of guitar and ukulele enthusiasts. Since the beginning of lutherie, wood instruments were constructed out of solid woods. To cut costs companies in the 1940’s began to construct their instruments with cheap laminated woods. If you don’t know what laminated tone woods are they are thin pieces of wood that are fused together with glue, heat, and pressure. These laminated boards are then able to be cut and formed into instruments. This technique was used on cheaper model guitars and ukulele, creating a negative association with the material. But recently in the last 20 years the lamination process has gone through many changes. Manufacturers were able to make advances on this material in order to get it close to the sound of solid body instruments. If this was a race between solid body instruments and laminated ones, laminated ukulele are catching up, narrowing the gap. In fact, laminated ukulele out sell solid bodied ukulele by 50 to 1. This is due to the rise in quality and affordable prices. As you explore the world world of ukulele it may be a good idea to invest a little extra money and get a solid wood ukulele. This will give you a better sound and manufacturers spend more time on the construction process. This detail ensures that the ukulele will live a long and healthy life. Solid bodied ukulele do need more maintenance due to the nature of solid woods and the never-ending battle against humidity! This can be intimidating as your ukulele can warp or crack due to environmental conditions. In general you should expect to spend between $500 and $1200 on your first solid bodied ukulele. Take the time to look for a trusted brand. I recommend those that are ”Made in Hawaii” since they are backed by tradition and almost exclusively use Hawaiian Koa wood. The traditional tone-wood of the ukulele. Now if this sticker price shocks you, don’t worry you’re not alone! There are many wonderful laminated ukulele, some with solid wood tops that come at affordable prices. A good laminate ukulele would range from $100-$300. For a first ukulele, I recommend you look at ukulele in this price range. Ukulele priced under $100 are likely to be souvenir/child level. There are even ukulele made from Hawaiian Koa laminate! If you want to check out some Hawaiian Koa laminate ukulele you can find them here. Construction Ukulele come in many shapes and sizes. The best instrument will not only be one that sounds great and is built with quality in mind, it will also be the one that fits the player. Different body designs can change the way the instrument feels against the body and the way you play. Some "toy" ukulele have odd shapes to make them stand out, I’ve even seen ones shaped like a bean. Though serious brands rely on body shapes similar to a traditional guitar. So avoid ukulele that don’t have this traditional shape. Now when you pay for a ukulele, the bulk of that price is in the craftsmanship and labor. Shhh... don’t tell anyone but the parts of ukulele aren’t really that costly. Even the speciality woods. It all comes down to the attention of detail and quality control. Ukulele that costs $25-$50 will lack in construction tolerances. This will have a direct affect on the longevity of the ukulele. Like most cheap things, they don’t last. So be ready to pay at least $100+ to get the proper attention to detail in the construction of any ukulele. The higher the price, the higher the standards. If you want an ukulele that is an heirloom piece be prepared to pay more. If this is not an issue for you, I think you can still find those bean shaped ukulele on EBay! Haha! Thrifty Folk Now maybe you are thrifty and want to get a deal. Be sure to keep quality and construction in mind. If you are able to see and hold the ukulele in person be sure to inspect the instrument for signs of damage. Who knows, this could snag you a sweeter deal! The next thing you need to do an online search of ukulele. This will give you information on the brand, description, specs, and most importantly the original retail price. Use this retail price to give you a better indication to sound quality and level of construction. Depending on the condition you may save up to 50%! A decent second hand ukulele can be found at around $60-$200. In general, beginners can get a great ukulele for $100-$300! You can find these ukulele everywhere. Like here. Just make sure to do your research, understand the different types of ukulele materials, and inspect your instrument for signs of damage if you are buying it second hand. Happy hunting!
Ricky Somborn’s ukulele covers are blowing up the inter-webs! His laid back style, dapper vocals, and winsome smile make him an inspiring force in the online ukulele community. He’s performed at the LA International Ukulele Festival and recently at the 2020 Winter NAMM show. I was able to catch up with Ricky Somborn as he is hunkering down in Florida during this global pandemic. Today is also his 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday Ricky! Since it’s his birthday, I wanted to do a deep dive/candid interview with the man himself. So here... we... go... What is your full name? Ricky Somborn: My full name is Ricardo Somborn. When is your birthday? Ricky Somborn: My birthday is June 28, 1988. Now where were you born? Ricky Somborn: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. What are your ethnicities? Ricky Somborn: My ethnicity is Argentinian. So I consider myself Latin American. I was actually adopted. My dad is Austrian and my mom is South African. So it's interesting when people are like, what do you consider yourself? I consider myself Hispanic. Whenever somebody's like, “Where are you from?” I say Argentina, even though I grew up since I was like two in New York and then moved to Florida. Are there any hobbies or hidden talents that you have that nobody really knows about? Ricky Somborn: I think my hidden talent and hobby was music. Before that, I was strictly corporate business orientated. Wanted to climb up that corporate ladder. So I think music was my little secret. What is your morning routine? What does the average morning look like for you? Ricky Somborn: I usually try to get up by 6:30am. And then usually I play with the dogs for about half an hour, and then I go straight into either uploading to YouTube or Instagram. I try not to get those two on the same day. Otherwise, I’d be working till like four in the morning! So pretty much it's probably by 8:30am I start going through what I have to do in the day, and then I usually upload to YouTube around 11am. Then I want to make sure that the video is fully uploaded to YouTube, thumbnails done. And then I'm pretty much gonna be filming from noon to 4pm. And then it's usually hang out with family and then I go back to editing because I usually have to upload the next day. It’s a pretty full day! I don't think many people who watch YouTube realize the labor of love it is to do this kind of work. Ricky Somborn: Yeah, and if it's a day after upload, it's usually busy spending a few hours responding to comments and emails, and that kind of stuff. Then I’m also learning the next day's tutorial and how I want to structure it. Everyday it kind of varies because it's like either upload or learning day. Learning days are usually between uploads. So yeah, it's pretty interesting but I enjoy it. Keeps me busy. Now, these questions are gonna be a little more ukulele related and about your YouTube and Instagram journey. Hopefully a little more introspective. As you get closer to your birthday are you more reflective or anxious about what's to come? So do you do you look back at the last year? Are you the type of person that like looks forward into the next year? Ricky Somborn: I've been reflecting a lot on the past year because it was was probably the biggest life changing year of my life. In a really positive way. I think when I broke my ankle it was a turning point. And I didn't know what was gonna happen afterwards. That was to me a low point because I didn't know what was gonna happen. But I turned it into one of my high points because I was able to learn the ukulele and that turned into something that I thought would be impossible! And then thinking about it now, it's pretty crazy to look back at the past 365 days, and to see what has gone down and where I've been and what I've done because of this instrument is pretty amazing. So I think I'm reflective but then I'm also really excited for the next 365 days. Where do I go from here? If I've done all that in the past year and it wasn’t even a part of my plans, I can’t even fathom what the next year will lead to. And now that I'm have my goal set for the next year, obviously I want to keep doing this and I want to keep growing. I want to keep growing my skills with the instrument and with social media. Very Excited! What was the hardest song you had to learn on the ukulele for YouTube and Instagam? Ricky Somborn: Hardest song? I think for me it was a Taylor Swift song. I'm not a huge Taylor Swift fan. But I appreciate her music. It's just that I don't listen to that style of music so then it takes me forever to get the rhythm, melody, or the just the lyrics down. The hardest thing for me is not the actual chords or whatever. It's the genre that throws me off. I remember the song having a really fast part. Taylor sang the lyrics really quick. It was basically a rap. It had a minute of no breathing! It took me while to nail it down. Yeah, that was probably the hardest. Who are your musical influences? Ricky Somborn: I mean I grew up in Florida so I feel like it's a staple to love Dave Matthews Band. Yeah, as a Florida guy you have to 100%. I've been to 16 of his concerts. I count because he plays in West Palm often. He's played in West Palm every summer and does two shows Friday and Saturday. I would go to both shows. I did this for eight years in a row. I just love the way he performs and he's such a great singer and a performer in general. I’d also say Phineas, Billie Eilish‘s brother. The way he composes and the way he writes music is really awesome. He incorporates everyday sounds into his music, you'll hear this beep and it's from a random traffic light. He records it on his cell phone and then incorporates it into the music. It's unique. This uniqueness is something I look up to. What amazes you the most about the online ukulele community? Anything surprising? Ricky Somborn: I think I'm just amazed at how welcoming and supportive the community is. I've seen it firsthand myself when I first started playing, everybody was super welcoming. And there was no ego in the ukulele world, I mean, I can't speak for everybody but like from what I‘ve seen in the guitar community, I feel like there's a lot of competition there. For the ukulele community, it's just you play and whether you have 100,000 followers or 10 followers, you can feel that your on an equal playing field with everybody. You can DM anybody, and they will most likely answer. I mean, I try to answer every message. And people are always surprised when I answer a DM when they have a question. But when you have that support system of strangers who just love the instrument as much as you do, it's really cool to have that sort of community. Right! Along with that question is what is it like being a music/ukulele influencer? The good, the bad, the ugly? Ricky Somborn: I think the good is working with companies like you guys and being a part of growing the community. It is strange though I don't consider myself an influencer. I think that's a “no, no”. I don't think I would ever consider myself an influencer but to be able to grow the community and to have a voice in the community is really cool. Though sometimes comments are not so positive, like the DM’s that that say “you suck”. Which I know is just surface level stuff. So it never really gets to me. I've had conversations with followers and they shared that because of my videos they also decided to start uploading to Instagram or YouTube. Some people have 25 followers and were like, I was inspired to make this video because I saw Ricky singing a Billie Eilish song, and they upload it. One time this girl messaged me and was like, “I don't know what to do. I'm getting so much hate on my video.” I'm like, oh why? And they said, “It's these kids from school. They're making fun of me because they saw my video“. I told her to not to worry about it. Shake it off. I know it's easy for me to say because I've already gone through that and learned how to process it. I know that at the end of the day that person is saying something negative because they are probably going through something negative. And they're going to try to hang it on the other person. But to see other person hurting and they don't understand why they are getting put down... it's a frustrating for me and you know, there's only so much that I can do. That's the negative part about this social platform. There is always gonna be negative people. Following up with that question let's talk about what was maybe the worst day since becoming a ukulele player and being on YouTube and Instagram? Did you ever wrestle with the question of giving it up? Ricky Somborn: I have thought about stopping, like once a month. It usually revolves around technology. I had my external hard drive completely crash at one time, and that had everything on it. So now I have everything backed up. Now if my drives crash I still good! Too bad I had to learn this the hard way, which is I guess a good thing now that moving forward, I have backups of backups. Also issues with the microphone not working, lights breaking. Yeah for me a lot of it's technology, it can be super frustrating. And sometimes I don't have great days, sometimes I'm just not into filming. I mean, everybody has bad days. And I think what I've learned now is to just step back and if for some reason I don't upload on a day that I'm supposed to upload, I tell myself it's not the end of the world. Even though I'm the type of person that wants to get things done, that stay up all night to film it right mentality. One time I remember filming a video at night. I was done at like 12:30am. I started editing and I realized that it just didn't sound good. It was my singing. I set everything back up and literally refilmed it again at one in the morning. I just wanted this video to go out, but I was SO tired. I finished filming at like 2:30am and then had to edit the video. I think I stayed up until nine in the morning and then uploaded at 11am. And I still wasn't happy with it, but it just gonna have to do. If your interested it was Billie Eillish’s ‘Everything I Wanted”. Watch that video and look at my eyes and try and see if you can see how tired I am. Funny thing is it was actually my most viewed video on Youtube! I wasn’t planning on unloading it after that all nighter. And now it's has over 200,000 views. Crazy right?! The videos you think aren't gonna perform, they actually do better than the ones you're like, this is gonna be it. This is my big break. Yeah..... right! So you need some more three in the morning sessions! Haha! But you know Ricky, many young people reading this will definitely find hope and inspiration through that. Now we're going to move in a different direction. These questions are not ukulele related. This is just about getting to you know you better. What was your first job? Ricky Somborn: My first job was literally down the street. I could walk 30 minutes to and from my house and it was was like a deli/restaurant. It was an Italian place called Leon's. It's not open anymore but I remember that was my first job because my cousin got a job there. And then I was like, I think I want a job because my cousin got a job and I think it's time that I got a job. I was in ninth grade! So making sandwiches at Leon’s was my first job. It was interesting! That‘s great! I’m getting hungry. Leon’s was your first job... so what would you say was your worst job? Ricky Somborn: I was a dishwasher at a retirement home. I was the ‘dish washer’ guy. I actually applied for the server position and they said I got it and then on my first day, they're like, actually your a dishwasher. And then they put me as a dishwasher and I was there for a few weeks. I was like I can't do this. I'm gonna go back to my Leon's job making sandwiches. So much better! What was your favorite subject in high school? Ricky Somborn: My favorite subject in high school was oddly enough government. Because of my teacher Mr. O'Neill, he was really awesome. And then US history was also really awesome. My teacher for that class was Mr. Adams. They were cool with me being a couple minutes late because that's usually my style. I'm always a couple minutes late. So Government and US History were my favorites, even though I was never into politics, or whatever. These two teachers really wanted to make it fun to learn topics that weren't necessarily the most fun. You know, for the average 11th grader. Are you watching any Netflix? Streaming? I know your time is tight with editing and uploading but do you watch streaming shows? Ricky Somborn: Truthfully I don't. I literally don't watch anything. I think the last thing I watched was LOST on Netflix. This was a year ago. As soon as I started creating content I stopped consuming content. But yeah, LOST was the last TV show that I actually binge watched. I want to watch more so I am up for recommendations or suggestions. And then its the same with music. The only music I listen to is for my content. I don't really listen leisurely anymore which is kind of a bummer. What is your earliest childhood memory? Ricky Somborn: My earliest childhood memory? For some reason I remember when my family first moved to New York when I was like, two, two and a half years old. But I remember sort of doing like a walkthrough of the house that we lived in. It still is my favorite that we've been in. Because it was so old, and it was I think 100 years old at that point. I just remember it being super bright when we did the walkthrough. I don't know why I always think of that. Whenever somebody is like, what's your earliest memory, that's it. It's literally just walking through a house. But that's what I remember and it was impactful! I remember after we moved I always told my parents I'm was gonna buy that house. I don't know how much that house costs but I am gonna buy it one day. It's gonna be mine! Did you ever go back later when you went back to the New York? Ever go to the street and see the house afterwards? Ricky Somborn: I mean I grew up in Tarrytown, which is right on the border of Sleepy Hollow. So the Headless Horseman tale. I used to love thinking our backyard was Sleepy Hollow. It was in the woods and was really secluded. It was cool but terrifying at the same time. Especially at night. I remember when I was in New York for six years, I think I went back there, maybe three times because it's literally like 30-40 minute train ride out of Manhattan. I remember going there and I walking on the same route that I used to walk. It was up all uphill. We lived on the steepest hill ever! And I definitely feel like it got steeper.... as I got older. Haha! What are the movies that define your childhood? You are a 90’s kid. Ricky Somborn: My favorite that I could still watch today is ‘Space Jam’. I grew up loving basketball and Michael Jordan. ‘Liar Liar’ was like one of my favorites as well. I used to love Jim Carrey. So do you have any siblings? Ricky Somborn: Yeah, I have an older brother and an older sister. So if I were to call them, okay, what would they tell me about you? Ricky Somborn: They would say that I am definitely the ‘youngest’. You know of the “youngest child syndrome”? I'm the baby in the family. I feel like I probably get away with more than they ever did when they were younger. So that's probably what they would say. And that music is super unexpected. That they never thought that I'd be doing this. So that's probably what they would say. So when you grew up, were you singing around the house? Did your siblings know you could sing? Ricky Somborn: No! Haha! I could have just been not talking the entire time. I never really showed any interest in singing. My grandmother was opera singer so I would hear her, but I would never, you know, join in. I was more into basketball and that kind of stuff growing up. Then I was in the corporate world, and not really being creative at all. I think that's when I was just like I need to do something. Be more creative. Whether that be taking up pottery or drawing. But in the end I got into music. I just wanted to do something that wasn't analyzing numbers. So what was the craziest thing you've ever done? Ricky Somborn: I don't really do that many crazy things. My brother was always the person that would always push the limits. For me I was mostly hanging out friends. I was part of the student government. I would just stay in my lane in terms of like not getting in trouble with the parents, but I would also have fun with my friends. Very low key. But YouTube is pretty crazy, right? Ricky Somborn: Well yeah! I mean this now my whole career. I think my family's still doesn't truly understand that you can make a little bit of income and make a living off of the internet. I try to explain it to them the best I can. You know, it's like when your parents are trying to figure out what an iPhone is, there's only so much you can do before you get frustrated. So for me we have these conversations and we have them quite often. I'm like, you know there's people that watch the content and there's people that you know, that watch the content. And that's how I grow! And then it goes over their heads and I'm just like, you know what, just know that I'm making an income. Haha! So I have some really funny closing questions. So you have two teleportation devices. Ricky, do you walk through this door and you can exit to the other door? Okay, where would you place these two teleportation devices? Ricky Somborn: Um, I think one would be where I am now. I always want to come back to family. A second one would probably go to Switzerland. I really I love Switzerland, and then my other side of the family's there as well. So I'd probably go back and forth between Switzerland and Florida. If your house was burning and you could only save one thing, what would that one thing be? Ricky Somborn: Probably save my Kumu ukulele. It’s one of my favorite ukuleles. I'd probably take that but if I had that on me already, I would say my laptop or camera. If you had a ‘do over’ button, and you could press it. And you would be transported and go back in time. What would you change? Ricky Somborn: I would probably start getting more interested in music earlier on. I was thinking about this earlier, where would I have been if I started playing music 5 or 10 years ago. But I mean, obviously I can't really think about that too much. But I'm always thinking about what could have happened. Where would I be today if I had made that change. I’m sure this is same with many people and their passions. But you know what, your never too late to start. If today is that day, then today is that day. What is something that you used to believe that you no longer believe? Ricky Somborn: One of them is that perfection doesn't exist. And for me striving for perfection was hindering my productivity. I was the type of person that wanted everything to be perfect and clearly when I stayed up until nine in the morning filming and editing that Billie Eilish video I was like I don't even think I want to post it because I didn't like it. But I posted it anyways and it was one of my most successful videos! That taught me that you're never going to be perfect. I let that go and adopted a new mentality of just do the work and if it's good just post it. Nobody expects everything to be 100% all the time. Even the people that do this, artists on billboard or hot 100 or whatever it's called are taking multiple takes and getting produced to sound the way that they do. How can you compete against that. Literally it's just me recording this entire song in one take. If I screw up, have to do everything over again. If I knew I could just take like every slice, every perfect piece of the song and merge them into the perfect version, then of coure it's going to sound amazing! So I had to get my mind over that and realize that getting something done is better than striving for perfection but not finishing. Ricky, great answer! Before we sign off I have a 5 question lightning round. You have a few seconds to answer. Got it? Here we go... Favorite ice cream flavor? Ahhh, chocolate. Coffee or tea? Coffee. Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter. Christmas or Halloween? Oooooh.... Christmas. Last question, tacos or sushi? Tacos! Ricky Somborn is a 32 year old self taught ukulele player and singer from Florida who started playing the ukulele in the summer of 2018. Since uploading his first covers on Instagram in March of last year, his social media following has grown to 55,000+ followers on Instagram and 30,000+ subscribers on YouTube. Check out his videos on YouTube here. And follow him on Instagram at @rickysomborn. I want to personally give a huge mahalo to Ricky for agreeing to do this interview and for sending these personal photos. Mahalo nui loa!
I have a question for you. Have you ever felt stuck while learning to play the ukulele? Then this is the perfect time we go over the ultimate guide to learning how to play the ukulele faster. Take it from me and from personal experience the most difficult part is getting stuck and showing little to no signs of progress. If you’ve ever felt like there is a stumbling block in your way or a barrier holding you back then this guide is for you! In this guide I’m going to show you 5 tips to help you get over these blocks and barriers. These blocks and barriers are in the form of bad habits and incorrect routines. Once these are out the way, just imagine how fast you will see progress and breakthrough in your ukulele adventure. This is like someone learning how to run. They lace up and start running and before they hit a quarter mile they are already gasping for air with their leg muscles tightening. They give up and start walking. “I’m done”, they say to themselves, heart pounding in their chest. Its over before it even began! What that person needed was a guide in helping them start their running journey correctly. Down to the picking out the right shoes, to engaging in proper stretching. Learning proper running form, and setting a reasonable pace. This would have greatly helped that poor soul, doomed to a life of couch potatoey, decaying into an atrophy of poor health. I know sooooo dark! Haha! This takes us to our first tip that you absolutely do not want to miss if you want to make effective and quick progress. Tip #1 Always Tune Your Ukulele Playing a ukulele that is out of tune is a frustrating experience! Especially when your just starting out and attempting to learn new chords and songs. You’ll find the notes you strum don’t quite match what you’re listening to. Learning the chords to a song while your ukulele is out of tune will put a stop to your progress. In the end you may know where to place your fingers on the fingerboard but without hearing the correct chord, you will not make the connection. This is like watching a foreign movie without subtitles! You’ll be lost. For this reason, before you start playing, make sure the first thing you do is tune up your ukulele. Do this every time! To learn the new and easiest methods on how to tune your ukulele check them out here! Tip #2 Keep Proper Form (even when it hurts) Holding the ukulele correctly is one of the most important things to get right out the gate. It’s hard to unlearn bad habits so its important to not create them in the first place. Practicing in uncomfortable positions will hinder the learning process, putting unnecessary strain on certain parts of your body. Since you want to have fun while learning the ukulele, it would be no fun to feel strain in your muscles and joints. If you’re sitting down while playing the uke, make sure to sit upright with your shoulders pulled back. This will allow the body to fall into proper ukulele form. The ukulele body will cradle gently in the bend of your elbow, with your strumming finger landing above the soundhole. Educating your body to hold this position will allow you to play at ease for many years! If you play standing up the same things apply. Stand with your back straight and your shoulders pulled back. This may be uncomfortable at first and even hurt. Don’t give in and don’t give up! Having proper form will benefit your health and aid in playing the ukulele properly. Tip #3 Learn the Right Chords First There are many chords you can learn to play on the ukulele. Not only that, but every chord can be played in multiple different ways. This complicates things as you can lose your way down the “Chord Black Hoooooooooooole”. But have no fear! Most songs can be played using simple chords. And these chords are popular and found in many of your favorite songs! These chords are C, G, A, F, D, E, B, Am, Em, Dm, Gm, and Bm. If your counting there are 12 chords. 12! That’s it! If you want to learn how to play these chords check them out here. I recommend that you learn these chords first. Practice them over and over again until you play them from memory. After you’ve mastered these popular chords, then you can move on and learn the rest. Learning these chords have the added benefit of building finger dexterity. So win, win! Tip #4 The Air Strumming Technique If learning chords for you is easy then perhaps strumming will be your kryptonite! Who would have thought that strumming can be HARD! Like chord complexity there is also strum complexity. For example Hawaiians have a particular style of strumming that in my humble opinion is almost an illusion. Its beautiful to listen to and is hard to figure out. It took me months to get it down... and I’m Hawaiian. Iv’e heard this strumming pattern my whole life! If you are curious to hear what it sounds like check out this video. And here’s another video with intermediate techniques on how to strum it. There is also the ‘Triple Strum’ and ‘Fan Strum’ that take their cues from flamenco style guitar. To practice strum patterns I recommend practicing without the ukulele. This simplifies things helping you focus on just the strum. This is what I call the “Air Strumming Technique”. First, search YouTube for ukulele strumming videos. Follow along with these online instructors playing the patterns in the air, or better yet, on your knee. Then when your confident in the strum pattern get your ukulele and practice them with chords. Tip #5 Don’t Sing-A-Long, but Hum-A-Long One of the most enjoyable things to do while playing the ukulele is singing your favorite songs. If you tried this, you may have found it challenging. It can feel as though you would need two brains in order to sing and play the ukulele simultaneously. Plus you will gain huge respect for John Mayer for playing lead guitar while singing deep lyrics into your soul. If you find singing and playing ukulele at the same time to be challenging then here is my tip: don’t sing-a-long, but hum-a-long Singing lyrics and doing vocal acrobatics can derail your focus while playing the ukulele. This is why I recommend you hum while you play instead of singing the words. This will give your brain time to meld these two facets together. This melding process can take a while so be patient and continue humming along. As confidence in your playing grows, adding the lyrics and vocal melody should feel more natural. Like learning to ride a bike on two wheels, once you get it, you keep it for life! So this is worth mastering. Stay Calm and Hum Along! This sums up the best learning tips that will help you learn to play the ukulele faster. Here is a recap starting from the top: Always Tune Your Ukulele Keep Proper Form (even when it hurts) Learn the Right Chords First The Air Strumming Technique (strum pattern hack) Don’t Sing-A-Long, but Hum-A-Long (melding your voice and ukulele) Hopefully these tips help you out on your ukulele journey. Be sure to share this post with your friends if they are new to the ukulele. Godspeed!
Being in the ukulele business for over a decade has taught me many things. Many of them amazing, like learning that the first ukulele was made in 1879 and that George Harrison, the guitarist for The Beatles was an avid fan and player. And in this time I’ve also learned many not so good things. That the E chord is infamously difficult to play (from experience) and that there are many more challenges that new ukulele players face. It always bring me joy guiding the curious to their first ukulele. To see their faces light up when they play their first C chord. The idea of playing the ukulele... on the beach... the trade winds wafting the scents of coconut and pineapple into the air... as the sun sets in the distance, setting the sky on fire in highlighter colors! AHHHHH!!! Then it comes. Reality smacks them awake! Doubt begins to rise. “Can I really do this?” The messages and emails of disillusionment follow. They tell me, ”Keli’i, I thought you said this was going to be easy!” Your right! I did......here. But I never said that there wouldn’t be any challenges to overcome. And these challenges can be discouraging. It’s OKAY! It’s normal to feel discouraged when you’re just starting out. Just find comfort knowing that your not alone! To prove that you are not alone, see if you’re experiencing these 3 common challenges. Sore Hands Chances are playing the simplest chords is a struggle for you. You swear you have a grand command over you hands, you’ve used them you whole life, but now they seem that they are working against you. You practice chord formations and your fingers resemble tree branches in winter. Don’t ‘fret’ (see what I did there), everyone who’s ever played a stringed instrument has dealt with sore hands. Learning chords requires a whole new set of muscles which are underutilized. They lack in strength and dexterity. Just as an athletes train their bodies in the gym, so ukulele players must train their hands. This makes sense right? The best thing you can do when first learning to play ukulele is to commit to repetition, drills and regular practice. Over time your hands will adapt to holding complex chord formations with ease. With consistent practice, as little as half an hour a day, you can achieve this! If you want to know which chords to learn first, and see their chord formations click here. And for those of you with arthritis be sure to check with your doctor first before playing. Be encouraged to know that many with arthritis are able to play the ukulele. It may take more time and practice, even modifying your playing style, but it is highly achievable. Don‘t give up! And don’t forget to have fun! Burning Fingertips If you don’t know what burning fingertips are, you haven’t played long enough. When you do, you will have burning fingertips (unless you work in construction, arts and crafts, or live in the bush). Burning fingertips are caused by the constant pressure of the ukulele strings against the virgin skin on the pads of your fingertips. This pain is completely normal and will go away with continued practice. Why does it go away? One word... calluses! It takes the pads of your fingers a couple weeks of consistent, regular practice to build calluses up. But here is a warning, if you stop playing you will lose your calluses and will have to regrow them back. Rhythm Issues The ability to play your ukulele in time will make or break your playing. It is one of the most common frustrations for ukulele players of all styles, especially beginners. When you are just starting out, it will come as a surprise to learn that you may have an issue with tempo and timing. This can be a huge challenge to overcome when you sadly discover this! Far too often the focus is on what notes to play, rather than WHEN to play these notes. I equate it to a singer having a beautiful voice but not being able to stay in tune. We’ve all heard this and cringed! Playing the right notes and playing them at the right time are synergistic and of equal importance. In order to overcome this challenge you need to invest time practicing on your rhythm. To do this you wont actually need your ukulele. Check out this YouTube video and absorb this lesson! It’s less than 10 minutes long but will be clapping and singing your way to mastering rhythm. Check out Saher’s lesson here. There you have it! 3 challenges new ukulele players face. Personally for me I struggled with all 3. But no cliff hanger here I overcame them. With consistent practice and training you too can overcome these challenges as well. Now go grab your ukulele and...
You have a ukulele. You were given one as a birthday gift, or found one at a thrift store. Maybe you inherited one from a relative or just plain bought one for yourself online or at your neighborhood music store. Awesome! Welcome to the world of the ukulele! But now what?! You stare at your ukulele in the corner not knowing what to do. Better yet, where do I even start. Here we are at an ukulele stand off. This could last minutes... hours... days... and even years! That feeling of learning an instrument for the first time is pure excitement. There’s nothing quite like it. However, that excitement can be met with the sinking feeling of being overwhelmed. “Where do I even begin?“ First, pick up your ukulele. Take a deep breath in... hold... and let it out. Good! You just completed the first step...hehe! Next tune it up. To find out about the new tuning methods check them out here. This may take a little while but when your ukulele is tuned up your ready to learn. Now here are 3 ways to learn to play ukulele. Method #1: Being Self Taught So you‘ve heard it a million times before. People who tell you that they were self taught. “Wow you can really play the piano, did you take lessons?” “Nope, I‘m self taught!” ”Your voice is amazing, did you have a vocal coach growing up?” ”No, just a natural!” If they can do it, could you teach yourself the ukulele? Of course you can! Taking the self-learning route consists primarily of reading books and searching online for free lessons. Google and YouTube searches are a great place to start. Even checking out ukulele blogs. Like this one where you can learn the 10 ukulele chords everyone should know (shameless plug). The biggest benefit to the self-teaching method is that you set the pace and best of all it’s FREE! This takes off the pressure of instructors and saves you money as classes can be expensive. But being self taught comes with an investment of time and the added energy of sifting and sorting through the information yourself. Also the lack of accountability can cause you to lax in the practice department. Keeping yourself motivated to learn is critical in being self taught. Being self taught will encourage the development of your own playing style. You will have complete control of what and how you are learning. This is so liberating! Though if this is too intimidating and you don’t have the free time to teach yourself, method #2 may be right for you. Method #2 Classes and Private Lessons Attending classes and taking private lessons are some of the best ways to improve your skills in the shortest amount of time. It’s like having your own personal trainer or coach at the gym showing you exactly what to do. An ukulele coach! The best classes and private coaches/teachers will help in identifying specific learning goals and set sign posts for you to get there. For starters, many beginning ukulele players have the goal of fingerpicking a few simple solo pieces within a year. But a ukulele teacher will most likely say, “No, fingerpicking is too advanced. You should master strumming first.” The student may resist this musical wisdom at first, but its usually right. Pushing too fast is like building on a concrete foundation before it has had the proper time to set. Everything you build later will not be plum. So having teachers and private instructors will guide you on the right paths on your ukulele journey. Although the cost of private lessons can add up, taking classes or hiring a private teacher is worth it! You may not like being corrected or told to practice more but in the end this accountability will help with your ukulele proficiency. Be sure to search for the right teacher. Get references and check reviews when possible to find the right fit. A great teacher can bring greatness out of you. The opposite sadly is true as well. So search wisely for your Jedi.... I mean Ukulele master. But what if there are no ukulele masters near you? Lets check out method #3. Method #3 Online Ukulele Courses Nowadays, for many, online ukulele lesson courses make a lot of sense. There are many great ukulele teachers on the web. They bring the budding ukulele player these amazing benefits: -Go at your own pace in your own home (this alone is worth it) -Access archived lessons anytime, anywhere -Follow step-by-step, easy-to-follow practice plans -Watch the online teacher demonstrate a technique multiple times -Save time searching for free lessons and accurate chord charts -Pay less than the price of a single private lesson -Connect with a worldwide community of likeminded ukulele enthusiasts Not to mention, you have the support of an online teacher to help answer your questions and provide encouragement incase you get stuck along the way. Another bonus of taking online courses is that everything is flexible since you don’t have to set up appointments where you need to plan commuting to and fro. You can log on whenever to see archived classes, or check in at scheduled times for live classes. A seeming downside to taking online ukulele classes is you don’t have an in person teacher sitting in the room identifying your mistakes as you play. However, uploading online video has never been easier! Online teachers would love to seeing you play, offering their feedback and guidance. With online lessons, you have a dedicated space to improve your skills. If your interested in this approach, check out this amazing online resource here. I‘ve been a huge proponent of Ukulele Underground! They’ve been offering up great online resources for over a decade. So which way and method are you gonna choose? Can you combine methods together? Of course you can! In the end it’s your journey. Now stop reading this and get started! May the choice be with you!
Niche, mischievous, LaCroix, nuptial, caramel and poke (as in the raw fish dish). Stop and say these words out loud. Now think. What do these words have in common? If you said these words out loud you probably mispronounced 4 out of the 6 words. And if your from Hawaii and got the last one wrong, I’m gonna have to ‘poke‘ you in the eye! Hehe! Now here are the proper pronunciations of the words above. Niche: “neesh” not “nitch”, mischievous: “MIS-chiv-us,” not “mis-CHEEV-ee-us”, LaCroix: “La-CROY” not “La-CWAH” (simmer down my French speaking friends, this is how they say it in Wisconsin). Nuptial: is actually only two syllables, caramel: “CARA-mel” not ”carmel“, and poke: see below... There is another word that people all over the world mispronounce. It’s ukulele! When I think about it people mispronounce ukulele 90% of the time. Like my name Keli’i: “KAY-Lee-Ee” it seems hard to figure out. So here is how not to pronounce ukulele. This is easily the number one way people mispronounce ukulele. In the Hawaiian language vowels can be long or short. Long vowels are usually written with a macron or in Hawaiian a kahako, (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū). But the word ukulele does not have this macron so the vowel is short. In Hawaiian the letter ’u’ is prounouced ’ooh’. Another mispronunciation is “ooh-coo-lei-lei”. Pronouncing lei as in flower lei. This is much closer but still not correct. The proper way to pronounce ukulele is “ooh-coo-leh-leh”, where ‘leh’ is pronounced like ‘re’ in Do Re Mi. There are two stories on how the ukulele got it’s name. The first is famous and if you ever visited Hawaii you probably heard it. Ukulele is made up of two Hawaiian words, uku and lele. Uku meaning flea, and uku meaning to jump or fly. Put them together and you get ‘the jumping flea’. The story goes that when the Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde traveled to Hawaii they delighted the locals with their native instrument the cavaquinho. They preformed nightly after working longs days on the sugar plantations. The Hawaiians watched in amazement as these amazing cavaquinho players quickly picked notes up and down the fingerboard. To these locals their fingers jumped around like fleas, hence the name ukulele, ’jumping flea’. The other origin story is less known. According to historian Jim Beloff, the last Hawaiian monarch Queen Liliuokalani has been recorded as explaining that the term ukulele in fact means 'the gift that came'. She explained that a deep and poetic translation of the word uku is ‘gift’. She briefly ruled Hawaii in the early 1890’s after the death of her brother King Kalakaua. During his reign he opened Hawaii up to the world as the islands tropical climate had it’s agricultural advantages. This open door swung both ways introducing Hawaii to the ways of foreign merchants. Waves of immigrants voyaged on ships to Hawaii’s shore to work at the many plantations around the islands. This led to the arrival of Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, the first ukulele builders in Hawaii. Before their arrival, Hawaiian music was played primarily with percussion instruments such as pohaku (drums), shells, puili (bamboo sticks), and the ipu (gourd). So adding the ukulele to the mix was ”a gift that came” from the Portuguese immigrants. What started out humbly on the plantations caught the ear of the royal family. Even the members of King Kalakaua’s royal service could play with exceptional skill! And by the time Queen Liliuokalani took the throne, the ukulele was already weaving its way into the culture. I agree with the Queen, the ukulele is the ‘gift that came’. Now say it with me, OOH-COO-LEH-LEH! Got it? Now whenever your out and about and hear someone say ‘yukaleilei’, kindly stop them and show them the light. And why we are at it, @google and have them change it on their search engine as well. With this tactic I feel we can all get it right by the year 2800! Now if we could just figure out how to pronounce GIF... Is it Giff? Jiff? Oh no!!!
I’m just gonna keep this short and sweet... there are 10 ukulele chords everyone needs to know. They are Bu, Bah, Bi, Bo..... hahaha! Just kidding. Please don’t search for those “chords” on the internet. But if you are new to the ukulele here’s a pro tip. Please do not watch some one like Feng E and think you must have some godlike ability to play the ukulele. He makes it look easy! But if you want to really know if the ukulele is easy to learn, click here. And now here is the worlds greatest secret... you can play almost any song on the ukulele if you learn just 10 chords. There I said it! I hope the ukulele mafia doesn’t come after me now. But I don’t care, the world needs to know! The Majors The first chords everyone learns when they first pick up the ukulele are the majors. They are all relatively easy to learn. These chords are the C major, G major, A major, F major, and D major. The C major is very special! It’s the easiest chord to learn. One note, one finger. The ukulele‘s version of the middle C on a piano. So it‘s a great place to start. Here are the chords diagrams: C Major Place your ring finger on the1 string 3rd fret. Yup its that easy! Done. G Major I call this finger placement ”The Triangle”. Place your index finger on the 3rd string 2nd fret, ring finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret, and middle finger on the 1st string 2nd fret. Remember “The Triangle”, or “The Pizza”! A Major Place your index finger on the 3rd string 1st fret and your middle finger on the 4th string 2nd fret. F Major Place your index finger on the 2nd string 1st fret and middle finger on the 4th string 2nd fret. D Major Place your index finger on the 4th string 2nd fret, middle finger on the 3rd string 2nd fret, and ring finger on the 2nd string 2nd fret. This may take a little practice squeezing all your fingers together. The Minors Now you will need to add the “sad” chords to the quiver. If your making a salad, the majors are the veggies and the minors are the toppings. The minor chords add the flavor to a song. These chords are the A minor, E minor, D minor, G minor, and B minor. A Minor Place your middle finger on the 4th string 2nd fret. Like the C major chord, we start with an easy one. E Minor Place your index finger on the 1st string 2nd fret. Then place your middle finger on the 2nd string third fret and ring finger on the 3rd string 4th fret. I call this “The Stairs”. D Minor Place your index finger on the 2nd string 1st fret, middle finger on the 4th string 2nd fret, and your ring finger on the 3rd string 2nd fret. G Minor Place your index finger on the 1st string 1st fret, middle finger on the 3rd string 2nd fret, and your ring finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret. B Minor Here is the first bar chord. It can be tricky at first but with practice you will get it. Press down on all the strings on the 2nd fret with your index finger. And with your ring finger place it on the 4th string 4th fret. The secrets out! Now you know the 10 ukulele chords everyone needs to know. Practice these chords daily and put them into memory. And find your favorite songs and see if they have the chords shown above. Now of course there are other chords your gonna need to learn, but here’s the big 10. Now if you were like me in high school and needed extra credit (Trig class with Ms. Baldwin) here are two extra credit chords. One is infamously challenging to play. Try and you‘ll know. B Major Here’s another barred chord. With you index finger bar the 2nd fret. Middle finger on the 3rd string 3rd fret and your ring finger on the 4th string 4th fret. E Major Place your index finger on the 1st string 2nd fret, middle finger on the 4th string 4th fret, ring finger on the third string 4th fret, and your pinky on the 2nd string 4th fret. And if you see a car parked in front of your home with blacked out windows playing the song Bandito Tyler, grab your ukulele and RUN!
“My...dog... has... fleas!” YUCK! If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me how to tune a ukulele, I’d be on the maiden voyage to Mars with Elon Musk! This is the critical question everyone has after getting their first ukulele. It makes sense. You need to able to tune the ukulele in order to play. With the ukulele being over 100 years old, there are many methods to do this. You have the piano method, tuning fork, and pitch pipe. Does any one still use a pitch pipe? Do you even know what that is? Here it is... These methods still work perfectly today but I am a millennial. We are all about modernity and lovers of tech. We took coffee and avocado to whole new level! So keeping with modernity, I’m gonna go over the newest methods of tuning the ukulele. I remember in the early 2000’s you still had to tune the old fashioned way. I remember being in my high school guitar class having to tune with a pitch pipe. For me it was strange because we were tuning to what sounded like a harmonica. Though I did have a friend who brought his mic tuner to class. This type of tuner could pick up the frequency of a note and move a tiny needle on a screen. This allowed you to follow the needle till it lined up with the right note, tuning the string. It worked great......... until class started. As soon as my classmates tuned up their guitars, the needle on our tuner would pick up all the sounds in the room and ping pong erratically. I remember having to go out and tune in a quiet hallway. It wasn’t until 2005 that I first used my first electronic tuner. You ever of heard of having a religious experience? I guess you could say that with this tuner I was born-again! Using a chromatic, or electronic tuner is the easiest way to tune your ukulele. It is also the most accurate. All you have to do is clip the tuner onto the headstock and pluck the strings. The tuner picks up the frequency and displays the note on the digital screen. Then you simply tune the tuners (keys) and follow the prompts on the screen. It’s that simple! Unlike the mic tuner, this tuner uses vibration to find the note. This allows you to tune the ukulele in noisy environments! Some tuners use a system of lights (for example, red and yellow for too high/too low, and green for being in tune). Make sure you know which note you’re tuning to. Ukulele are usually tuned to the notes G, C, E, and A. With the G string being closest to you. You can find many of these tuners online and in your local music shop. They are affordable and will make your life a whole lot easier. Make sure to check if it is made to tune ukulele or is a chromatic tuner. You can get one here. Now what if I told you, you could tune your ukulele with your phone. Would you believe me? Of course you would. Our phones can almost do everything! They can search the web, take amazing photos and videos, give directions, stream countless hours of entertainment, be an artist’s canvas, a gamer’s obsession, a library full of books, an actual phone, and now an ukulele tuner. Yes, the phone in you pocket can tune your ukulele. This is the method I now use the most. If you are recording music or playing at live events, an electronic tuner is still recommended since it’s more accurate. But if you do not fall into these categories a phone tuner is all you need. There are many free apps out there. Just search the App Store on your device and type in ‘ukulele tuner’ and a bunch of them should show up. Many of these are free to use. I recommend GuitarTuna. You can download it here. These tuner apps work the same a mic tuner. They use the microphone in your device to listen to the sound being played. It will then translate these sounds into notes and show them on your phone screen. Then like the electronic tuner, adjust the tuner keys on your ukulele until you tune the string to the note. The only downside of this tuning method is you tune in a quiet place in order for the mic to ‘hear’ your ukulele. Other than that, this method of tuning is the most convenient of all the methods. You don’t have to buy anything. If you have a phone you got a tuner! And it’s super easy. You can master it in minutes. So there you have it, “The Millennial’s Guide to Ukulele Tuning!” Hehe! (Sorry I had to represent my generation. Sorry not sorry)! I hope this answers the question on how to tune a ukulele. Be strong... be courageous... and go tune your ukulele!
Is the ukulele easy to learn? Now this is a great question! Working in the ukulele business going on 11 years and this is a question I often get asked. Whether your a parent of a potty training toddler, a budding middle school indie pop singer, or a recently retired periodontist, this is a burning question. Before I answer it I must go back to my own upbringing to when I learned my first instrument. And if you were in elementary in the United States from the 1940’s till about the early 2000’s you probably already know what instrument this is. Have you already guessed it? It was none other than the Flutophone! If you remember walking around elementary schools during this time period you may recall hearing “Hot Crossed Buns“ or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” blaring through the air. And thats it, those 2 songs. Don’t get me wrong. I remember looking forward to receiving mine in first grade, just to be let down when I realized my vision of me rocking out didn’t match with reality. Hehe! I digress. Just trying to process those repressed adolescent memories. Just like the memory of receiving a green JanSport backpack from Santa when my older brother got a bike... I digress again, sorry! Back to the question up top. The Flutophone is an easy instrument to learn. But it wasn’t versatile. And it wasn’t fun. You were left playing nursery rhymes and that was it. Then the came the break through in my musical journey! When I was in the fourth grade I got the opportunity to learn the ukulele. It was a part of a new initiative to rekindle the passion of the performing arts in Hawaii‘s youth. So instead of the Flutophone, students were handed ukulele. Did it work? I sure think so since it spawned a new generation of incredible ukulele players. These would include Kalei Gamiao, Taimane Gardner, and Jake Shimabukuro. This was due to the fact that the ukulele is the perfect instrument for beginners. All of that to say this... YES the ukulele is easy to learn! Now heres why... First, the ukulele is not intimidating. Unlike it’s guitar counterpart the ukulele has only 4 strings. It’s also a lot smaller with the soprano size ukulele being only 21 inches long (533mm) and weighing less than a pound (.5kg). This makes the ukulele easy to hold and carry around. Anyone over the age of 3 can carry a ukulele. Try carrying around a piano! Secondly, ukulele exclusively use non metal strings. These strings are softer and easier to press. Acoustic guitars, being larger and utilizing longer scale lengths require more finger pressure to play notes on it’s steel strings. This can dishearten beginners as they struggle to hold down chords. On the other hand, learning and playing chords on an ukulele is easy! In fact, I’m teaching my 7 year old son how to play ukulele and in his first half an hour lesson he learned how to play 5 chords! He can find them on the fretboard, press the strings, and strum through them. (Proud dad here, I know, I know!) And when I meet with people who‘ve never touched a ukulele before and want to learn, they can start playing chords in less than 5 minutes. 5 minutes! They laugh and chuckle at how simple and fun it is. With a little more practice they should be able to play simple songs in a matter of days. Many songs are composed with 3-5 chords. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is. Lastly, the ukulele is easy to learn because of the vast library of online resources available. Ukulele instructors and and enthusiasts upload free tutorials and play alongs daily on all the main digital platforms. Chances are your favorites songs are already online and ready to learn! These online resources allow you to learn the ukulele in the privacy of your home, at no cost, and no shame. Haha! Ricky Somborn, seen in the picture above started playing ukulele almost two years ago. He even has a IG post and YouTube video showing the progress of his skills over the years. Its incredible to see where he started to where he is today. Watch his progress video here. Get ready to be amazed! Hopefully I‘ve convinced you to pick up this small, simple, and amazing instrument. It really is an easy instrument to learn and play. I know, I know, easy is relative. But seriously... it is easy to learn. Now if your interested in getting your first ukulele, check out my post on the subject here. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
“What is the Leolani/KUMU Feather model?“ Great question! It’s a question we always get asked along the follow up, “So what is the difference between the Feather and full bodied models?” Zing! So lets talk about it. But before we start lets go back to the beginning. In 2010 we at Leolani began to see a trend in the guitar biz of guitars shrinking down to travel size. Some even being able to be brought on a plane as a carry on! Seeing this spurred us to design the perfect travel ukulele. It had to be thin enough to fit in a backpack while having superb sound. We accepted the challenge and got to work. Though we would soon find out we weren’t the only ones figuring out this new idea. As we were in the design process a travel sized ukulele hit the market. This version of the travel ukulele had a very thin body, almost to the point of looking like a paddle. And being honest, it also had a “thin” sound. We on the other hand decided that our version needed to retain the sound attributes of a full bodied ukulele as well maintaining a high standard to aesthetic design. We wanted to make it difficult to choose between the two versions as it meant the new design held up to tradition. After months of designing and mulling over several prototypes, the Feather model was born. Given the name for the ukulele being “light as a feather.” Many Leolani and KUMU ukulele come in both versions, Feather and Full. We currently offer them in both tenor and concert sizes seeing that the soprano size is already compact and perfect for travel. So lets dig in! There are two major differences between the models. This being the depth of the body (upper and lower bouts), and the weight. The full bodied tenor model has a depth 3.2 inches, or 81mm while the Feather tenor has a body depth of 2.12 inches, or 54mm. This is a difference of a little more than an inch, or 33%! For the weight, there is a 2 ounce difference. This equates to a 10% difference. These two differences have made the Feather model more comfortable to play for younger/smaller players since it plays closer to the body. Keep this in mind when deciding between the two. Other than that, everything else is identical. Identical length, scale, and width. As well as having the same adornments. And as I mentioned earlier, they are also the same price! We didn’t want a price difference to be the deciding factor between the two. “But what about the sound?” Great question! There indeed is a difference in the sound profile between the two models. The thinner body of the Feather focuses the sound. It is bright, ‘punchy’, and has great note separation. The perfect model for finger style playing. On the other hand the full bodied model has a deeper, warmer sound profile. Sporting a larger body allows for more sustain. If the Feather ukulele is the jazz piano, then full bodied ukulele is the grand piano. Perfect for strumming and playing rhythm. So there you have it! These are the differences and similarities between the Feather and full bodied Leolani/KUMU models. Check them out on our website at leolaniukulele.com. Now to the only question that really matters.... which model do you prefer? Good luck!
So your thinking about buying your first ukulele? Where to start? First let me congratulate you on doing your homework. Doing research on this topic will make buying your first ukulele a memorable experience. I have personally sold over a thousand ukulele (in person) to customers from all over the world. Doing this that many times gave me a better understanding of the sort of questions customers were asking. These experiences helped to form four simple steps that will help you buy your first ukulele. The four steps to consider are Price, Sound, Looks, and Fit. 1. The Price The first piece of the puzzle is figuring out the right budget. If price is of no consequence go BIG. There are many masterclass builders building museum pieces. The price tag of these works of art are in the thousands. If this is not you there is still hope! There are many great affordable options out there. For your first ukulele you want to steer towards an ukulele that will inspire you to explore the instrument further. To unlock your and it's potential. This ukulele will be your first, and there's a lot of sentiment in that. So my advice is to stay away from ukulele that are in the bargain bin. These are ukulele in the $20-$50 range. These ukulele tend to be poorly made well and will give you a improper impression of the instrument. These types of ukulele are good for decoration and souvenirs. On the flip side you want to avoid breaking the bank. With practice you will hone your skills and find your musical preferences. With these preferences you can upgrade in the future. Maybe splurge on your dream ukulele (at whatever cost). But for your first ukulele, choose one that is affordable and playable. There are many amazing ukulele that can be found in the $100-$500 range. For your first, this is a great place to start. 2. The Sound Remember you are buying an instrument so sound is critical. Sound is subjective and ukulele manufacturers showcase their preferences in the sounds their ukulele produce. Differences in wood selection, ukulele size, body design, strings, and build construction can affect the tonal qualities of the instrument. When buying your first ukulele it is important that you find an ukulele that sounds best to your ears. Some people prefer the sound from company X, others from company Y. That is great but that is what they like. You need to find the ukulele that when strummed sends you to your happy place. If you live near a music store head down and strum on several ukulele. Tone, projection, bass response, and sustain are important things to think about when finding your personal sound preference. Take your time. Discovering your sound preferences is important. You may have to ask someone working at the store to play them for you to figure this out. If you aren’t able to visit your local music store, listen online to high quality sound clips. This will at least help you find your sound preferences. 3. The Looks Who said looks aren't important? We may tell ourselves that to give us a sense of virtue, but seriously looks really do matter. Ukulele come in all shapes and sizes not to mention cosmetic bling. These include body design, wood combinations, bindings, inlays, and finish. The finish can be a smooth satin, or a buffed out mirror gloss. The body may be adorned with shimmering abalone shell purfling (look it up). Or the grain of wood may have stunning patterns that look like ripples on a pond. Since beauty in is in the eye of the beholder look closely for the ukulele that catches your eye. Believe me you will need extra time looking over these beauties! 4. The Fit Fit is the area of decision least explored when someone chooses their first ukulele though it is a crucial element. Like trying on a pair of shoes, how it fits on your foot is important. You must ask yourself these questions when picking up the ukulele. "Does this ukulele feel comfortable against my body?" "Is it too big to hold?" Too small?" "Does it look right in proportion to my body when I hold it up in a mirror?" Believe it or not most people don't consider these questions when buying their first ukulele. Why is fit important? It's like asking why picking out the right size of shoe is important. It's comfort. If the ukulele isn't comfortable you will not pick it up and play. Concerning fit, follow Goldilocks. Make sure your first ukulele fits just right! Price, sound, looks, and fit. These four 'pillars' will guide you to the perfect first ukulele. If you are able head down to your local music store. This will give you a better idea trying on the fit of the ukulele as well hearing the actual sound of the ukulele. If you can't purchase your ukulele in person, head to online reviews and shops looking at hi-res photos and sound clips. There you go! May these steps guide you to the start of your ukulele journey, or at least to your first ukulele. Aloha!