Thursday, June 11, 2009


This morning, I got my early morning dose of Alistair Wood’s Ukulele Hunt feed. His topic was 10 things I wish I’d known before I bought one (a uke). You can read his thoughts and several comments here: I started to leave a comment too – then took a twist that I didn’t think was directly pertinent to his topic. So I cut and pasted and put it here. I have definitely been less than frugal, although not extravagant, with my ukulele, music book and collectible purchases.

I think that in my desire to play better I often looked outside of myself to find a solution. That is not to say that a well set up ukulele can’t make a difference. I was being told to buy the best ukulele that I can afford. But there is a matter of experience, time with hands on the uke, hours of creating consistent vibrations, and rhythmic strums caressing the ukulele.

Now, that I’ve been around a few corners with my uke, I think there are several things to keep in mind early because it is not always the uke. Here are some things to consider before blaming the ukulele…

1) Believe that in the beginning the fingers are unskilled and haven't developed muscle memory. The uke plays sour with some awful buzzing. Fingers are tender and a bit raw. It takes some time and practice. Fingers toughen up and sound improve.

2) Sometimes we would like to think that it's a crappy uke that's the problem. It can be. But hand your uke over to an experienced player and they’ll probably crush that myth.

3) Play, play, play until that dreaded Bb chord doesn't have any buzzing. It can take a while and you don't have to rush. Just keep forming the chord and it will come. Keep that chord shape and play the Bb, B, C, Db, D back and forth. Perhaps the fingers just need to build a little strength.

4) Fine tune the uke with new quality strings. My favorite is Aguila but others like Worth or D'addario. Get someone to look at the string height above the frets. If you're in a battle to press the strings then get the "action" lowered.

5) Try to learn to touch the strings just firm enough to get the chord to sound true. This tip comes from Steven Strauss. He’s a master of his music and instrument. He’s a musical guru and plays with an effortless appearance (created over 40 years).


1 comment:

  1. Steven is right (5), & you are right to
    emphasize this point. I tend to play very
    heavy-handedly, grabbing the neck with a
    virtual death-grip. The result, of course,
    is a currently sore index (barring) finger. Completely
    unnecessary & self-defeating.