What is the best cheap ‘ukulele I can buy?
Cheap is relative in this case because you can pick up an ABC store ‘ukulele for $15 that is horrible. So, you want to get an instrument that will at least get you started instead of making you discouraged. Kala, Makala, and Lanikai are just a few respectable brands that will get you started at a reasonable price ($40-$80). Competition between companies has eliminated almost all of the weak products. Use your ear and eyes. Look at the ‘ukulele buying tips page for what to examine on a new or used ‘ukulele.
I want to invest in a high quality ‘ukulele. What is the best brand/kind?
There is no “best brand” of anything. It all comes down to what you want to hear, see, feel in an instrument. Kamaka, Koaloha, Kanile’a, G String, Ko’olau, and all the high-end custom luthiers make great instruments. I highly recommend trying before buying. Play as many ‘ukuleles as you can and once you narrow it down to a few favorites ask to play as many of the same model as the shop has. I have heard of only a few cases in which the buyer was not happy with the $1000 uke that he/she just picked up and most of them were because they didn’t do their research and neglected to “go shopping.” Read the page on buying tips and check out the manufacturer’s web sites.
If you are looking for a custom instrument that says “John Doe” on the headstock, then the one man shop is your best bet. You can find lists of custom luthiers on these sites: http://www.hawaiianmusichistory.com/ukulele/luthiers.htm, and http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12834
What is the best brand of ‘ukulele strings?
It depends on your ‘ukulele and preferences. If you like warm a sound, you might want to try Hilo, D’addario, or Ko’olau brands. If you prefer a brighter sound you might want Worth, or Aquila brand. Another thing to keep in mind is that if your ‘ukulele sounds really bright, you can use a warm sounding string to mellow out the sound and vice-versa. Everybody has their own favorite strings, so if you ask you will get many different answers. Experimentation is the best way to find your favorite.
Should I get a high G or a low G string?
It depends. A high G is the traditional Hawaiian tuning and has the signature “plinky” sound. Jake Shamabukuro and Troy Fernandez are two popular artists who use the high G. It has a tight and focused sound that is great for jazz chords and Ka’au Crater Boys style lead playing. The low G is a little more “new school” and adds 5 extra notes below middle C for a more balanced, top-to-bottom sound. Herb Ohta Jr. and Brittni Paiva use low G strings. It allows for wider chord voicings and “open” sounding leads. I recommend trying both to see what you like the sound of best.
What are the chords/tabs for ______________?
If it’s not already on the site (try the search bar in the header) I probably don’t know, but here are some great places to search before you send in a request (remember, guitar and piano chord names are the same as ‘ukulele chord names):
- Google – just search “[song name] chords” or “[song name] tab”. Sometimes you will need to add the artist’s name too: “[song name] [artist name] chords (or tabs)”
- Ultimate Guitar – Hands down the best tab site on the web. It’s a great help to be able to see the ratings.
Is there an easy way to play [insert name] chord?
No, sorry. Try a different fingering or playing just some of the strings. Practice is the solution for difficult chords. I’m kind of a hard-nose on these things.
What size ‘ukulele should I get?
Again it is a matter of preference. The smaller the ‘ukulele, the brighter the sound. The bigger the ukulele, the fuller the sound. Smaller instruments are cheaper to start with. For more on the different sizes read “Ukulele Sizes”.