Ukulele For Beginners: Humidity

I’ve talked a lot about the different aspects of choosing an ukulele for beginners. The size, the type, the setup, and how to get started. One thing that I haven’t covered is humidity. While it’s something you might not think of, humidity can have a big effect on which ukulele you choose.

Recently, I took a 9 day trip to Taiwan (it is an amazing place if you have a chance to visit). Upon returning home, I picked up my ukulele and started playing. Unfortunately, I was only able to play a few minutes because the bridge (the part that holds the strings to the ukulele) popped off. No more playing ukulele!

This happened for two reasons, both of which were caused by humidity. Both of which need to be considered when buying an ukulele for beginners.The first was that the body started to warp.

In my case, I live on a tropical island of Okinawa where the humidity is near 100% during the summer time. I was told this wouldn’t be a problem when I bought the ukulele, but that’s just not the case. Very high or very low humidity can both cause damage to your ukulele. If you live in either you need to keep your ukulele in a case and in the right humidity

Because of the high humidity and the body warping, the glue on the bridge was no longer able to hold it to the body. My instructor told me that this is something that happens all the time here and that I should really keep my ukulele in the case.

So, if you are buying your first ukulele, think about where you live. Laminated ukuleles are supposed to be better against dry or humid conditions (from what I have heard) than solid wood. My solid wood ukulele is warped and my laminate is perfectly fin.

If you live in a very dry or humid climate, you may want to look at getting a good case and some kind of moisture controller.

Ukulele Tutorial: 4 Chords

The reason that I started learning the ukulele was because I wanted to be able to sing and play actual songs. To be honest, I didn’t really know that much about music when I first started, but my image was that I would have to learn many chords just to play one song.

While this may be true for some songs, most just require a couple or chords. The first song that I learned was “I’m Your’s” and that only required 4 chords. As it turns out, a lot of songs only need a few chords. The below video teaches you a bunch of songs that only need 4 chords to play .

The songs in the video are:

  • Where is the Love?
  • Superman
  • She Will Be Loved?
  • Collide
  • No One
  • I’m Yours

Once you learn the chords and the strums, make sure that you spend a lot of time practicing. Finding the chords and switching in between them may seem difficult at first, but as you play more and more your fingers will start finding the chords all by themselves. Also, remember to take small breaks in between your practicing. It will help you stay more relaxed and less frustrated in the beginning.

Ukulele For Beginners: Relax

Once you have learned to hold your ukulele properly, do a correct strum, and play some basic chords, you can start thinking about about how you are hitting the strings and exactly where you are touching the frets. So here is my ukulele for beginners tip: Relax. Not only will you be able to play better, but you will also be able to practice longer and you’ll have more fun.

Recently, I have been learning to play “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. It uses a more difficult type of strum than I had practiced previously. Basically, you only press the chords when you strum and then you let go. When I first started learning, I would get tired very soon and the sound wasn’t that great.

The person who was teaching me, told me that if I hit the strings too hard the sound wasn’t as good as a more relaxed strum. Since I was so tight I couldn’t relax my hand, or play from the wrist as I should. It also caused me to move my arm too much.

However, he said that I played much better, when I wasn’t serious and wasn’t focused on the ukulele (like when I was strumming while talking to someone). I stopped caring about trying to get it right and let my hands take over. I couldn’t focus on the ukulele because I was focused on talking with someone else.

Once I realized this I was able to relax and just go with the rhythm. My hand really started loosening up and I have been able to play longer without getting tired.

So today’s ukulele for beginners tip is practice sometimes when you are doing something else. Talk to someone, watch tv, or go for a walk while playing. It will take your mind of the ukulele and let your hands do the work.

 

Ukulele For Beginners: Learning A New Strum

When I first started learning the ukulele, I didn’t realize how many strums there really were. I started with a simple down up, but it seemed that a lot of the songs I liked required something different. In this ukulele lesson for beginners, he shows you how to play the down, down, up, up,down, up strum and how the proper rhythm.

Learning this strum took me a lot of time as I was stuck on the down up, down up rhythm for so long it was difficult to get off. I would recommend that you learn different strums and practice them all the time.

You’ll will find this strum in a lot of great songs such “Over the Rainbow”, Stand By Me, and many others. Adding a mute to the strum gives an even larger number of ways to play.

Start out slow and it will get easier as you keep practicing. This is ukulele for beginners after all, so we should all be practicing a lot!

 

For those of you who would like to use this strum to play “Over the Rainbow”, here is a tutorial on how to do the strum and apply it to that song.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback on your progress. Please leave comments below about what you have learned, what you are playing on your ukulele, and what tips you might have for others.

Buy Ukulele: Toys vs Instruments

Buying your first ukulele can be a bit difficult. If you were like me, then you probably had very little information about ukuleles and what to look for. Furthermore, finding the right information can be a pretty daunting task. Some people will say that a certain ukulele is great while others will say that it is horrible. Some will say to get a cheap ukulele and some will say to get the most expensive you can afford.

What do you do?

I started out with a really crappy ukulele, and then had the chance to play a number of different ukuleles. I was able to realize that not all ukuleles are the same. At the end of last year I wanted to buy 3 ukuleles and had to make some decisions. What should I get.?

I ended up buying 3 ukuleles that were all different brands, different materials, different sizes, and at different price points. The reason for this is that I had different needs for each ukulele.

The least expensive was for my brother, as he had interest in playing, but chances were that he would probably not continue playing for very long. He ended up with a Makala MKS. You can buy this ukulele for pretty cheap, but it actually has a great sound if setup properly. It was the one I was most impressed with because of it’s price point.

The other two I bought were an Ohana Willow Wood Soprano and a Hamano H-100 Concert. Both great ukuleles, but they were a bit more than the Makala. These two get played on a regular basis, so I didn’t mind spending the extra money. They are both high quality ukuleles

The bottom line is that you can find great ukuleles even at lower prices, but to really know what is best for you, you should try to get the ukuleles in your hands. You’ll be able to decide what sound you like and what feel. I have played crappy ukuleles and it can be a bit depressing. Some of the ukuleles out there are really just toys, and you will have a hard time making them sound good even as you get better.

There are differences even in between ukuleles of the same model, so it is always best to try them out first. If you can’t, then you should at least make sure that you have them properly setup.

Ukulele For Beginners: Beginner Videos

I actually have two things I want to talk about in today’s post. The first is buying an ukulele for beginners. The second is getting started and learning to play.

A few days ago I had a friend ask me about buying an ukulele. She had recently attended an ukulele class and had so much fun she decided she wanted her own ukulele. Since her ukulele knowledge was very basic, she didn’t know where to start. How much should she spend? What brand should she get? What size should she get?

There are a lot of questions for the beginner. So what should you do?

The first thing is to do a little bit of research yourself. Check out the bottom of this post for a bunch of useful links on choosing the right ukulele. However, it’s also important to realize that you don’t have to choose the most expensive ukulele. You want one that sounds good, but it doesn’t have to be the best. (check out the ones in the sidebar for some cheap, but good ukuleles for beginners. If possible, get to an ukulele shop and try them out.

Learn Ukulele For Beginners

Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find a good ukulele teacher. I live on a small tropical island in Japan, and I actually have an ukulele teacher here. However, there are a lot of areas that don’t.

So what’s the next best thing? YouTube of course! This is how I first started learning the ukulele, and I still use YouTube to learn a lot of different songs or for helpful tips.

A few days ago I came across a really cool YouTuber who is making beginner ukulele videos. He has a series of videos that you can check out and learn from. The first video shows you how to tune your video, and how to play your first few chords.

I recommend that you watch the video once and then actually try to play along on the second run through.

Two Great Ukuleles for beginners

If you found this website, then there is a really good chance that you have come looking for information on buying an ukulele for beginners. Seeing as this site is dedicated to the topic, I have written quite a few articles about it. You can find those articles at the bottom of this post.

For those ready to purchase an ukulele, I have also created links on the sidebar for two great ukuleles. Both the Makala MK-S and Dolphin were very high rated in the surveys that I did for the best ukulele for beginners under $60 and also the one for $100.

If you are looking to buy a great ukulele for beginners, definitely check them out. I also get a percentage of the sale if you purchase through those links, which in return allows me to spend more time working on the site.

 

 

Learn to Play the Ukulele More Often

One of the key components to learning to play the ukulele for beginners is frequency. The more often you play, the better you will get. It’s no mystery. The more practice you get the quicker you learn and the more frequent you practice the less you “forget” in between each session. So if you are wanting to play more, but for some reason just don’t, then this might help you.

Get your ukulele out of the case.

This last September I bought two brand new ukuleles for my wife and I. However, once we got them home, I was barely playing my ukulele at all. I barely touched it. It spent most of the time in it’s case hanging on the wall. I was however, playing my wife’s ukulele nearly everyday.

The difference was that my wife’s ukulele was always sitting on the table, but mine was locked away in it’s case. Those few extra steps of getting it out kept me from using my own ukulele. I felt I needed to take action. I mean, I didn’t want my brand new ukulele to just sit in it’s case.

So I decided to make an ukulele hanger, so that I we could hang both ukuleles on the wall. They would be out of the way, but also in plain sight and easy to get to. The ukulele holder was easy to make (I used mostly materials I had) and it looks pretty good too. It’s sits over the TV so the ukuleles are always in view.

The result? I now play my ukulele not only once a day, but in most cases several times a day. It is so easy to pull it off the rack and play a few chords or a couple songs, that I do it every chance I get. I highly recommend it.

The Best Ukulele For Beginners

If you go on Yahoo answers, you will find this question has been asked hundreds, more likely thousands, of times. “I want to learn the ukulele, but I don’t know what ukulele I should buy. What’s the best ukulele for beginners?”

Having now spent more time learning the ukulele, and having now bought 4 ukuleles myself as well as playing on several others. I think one of the best ukuleles for the money (especially with proper setup) is the Makala Dolphin and the Makala MK-S. This is further backed up by the survey I made on the Ukulele Underground Forum. They are dirt cheap ($35-$60), so you don’t have to worry about beating them up too much, and they sound pretty good.

Of the three ukuleles I bought this christmas, the one I was the most impressed with was the Makala MK-S with Aquila strings. It sounded about the same as the nicer Ohana that I purchased. Having played the MK-S or the MK-C, I feel that it would have been more than enough to get me well through the learning these stages and beyond. In fact, there were a lot of people who left remarks on the survey saying that they still often put their much more expensive ukulele aside to play their Makala Dolphin.

So if you are trying to find the best ukulele for beginners, then I say this is a good choice. If you aren’t happy with it, you aren’t out much money. Or if you use it a lot and then want something better, you can always use this as a backup to take to the beach or on trips. I even considered buying a second one just for that purpose, but decided I would see how often I was playing before I invested the extra money.

Ukulele For Beginners: Learning the chords

Chords. With out them you really can’t play the ukulele. Learning them however, can be a bit frustrating and even painful. So here are some tips to help you learn ukulele chords a little easier.

First, start with just a few chords. A good way to do this is to choose a song that only has a few chords and practice them over and over. If you are also learning a song, it will be more fun than just playing the chords. Some very common chords are C, F, Am, and G. With those four chords you can play quite a few songs.

The next thing is how long you practice. In the beginning, your hands will get sore pretty fast. Try to keep your practice sessions short. Give both your hands and your mind a little time to rest. Short frequent sessions are much better than long ones. You will actually be able to spend more time practicing this way and will learn quicker.

Don’t rush it. It takes time to learn the ukulele. While it may be easier or more difficult for different people, it takes practice for everyone. Don’t give up. What seems like an impossible way to hold your hand will eventually seem natural with enough practice. If you keep practicing and don’t give up, then you will continue to get better.

For chord practice you might also want to check out “Uncle Rod’s Ukulele Boot Camp”. It is a free ukulele practice book in pdf format that will help you learn some of the more difficult chords and learn them a long with other chords.

Uncle Rod’s Ukulele Boot Camp

Learning the ukulele should be fun, so if you are getting really frustrated, set it down and give yourself a break. It will be a little easier (and a lot more fun) after you have had a chance to rest.