A) There are four most common sizes of ukulele: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone (from smallest to largest). Most children will start on a soprano, and it suits adults who want a brighter tone. Its smaller fingerboard can be difficult for adults or teens, and a concert size can provide a great solution, yet keeps a classic uke sound.
Adults with larger hands and those who come from a guitar playing background will generally prefer the larger body and fingerboard of the tenor size. It still tunes and plays the same chord shapes as the smaller sizes.
The Baritone is the largest and deepest sounding uke. Because the tuning and chords are different than the others (a baritone tunes to the top four strings of a guitar) it is probably better as an addition to your collection rather than your first ukulele. Remember our Uke Nation experts are here to help you make the perfect choice!
Your strings are the start of your tone, and what you feel on your hands constantly, so it’s important they feel and sound right. Many cheap and nasty ukes come with strings akin to fishing line: these ‘strings’ sound, feel and hold tune terribly.
At Uke Nation, every single uke (yes even our most inexpensive models) come stock with a set of quality strings such as the Italian Aquila strings, Worth, or D’Addario string sets, which can also be purchased separately and fitted in store.
A) 50% functionality, 50% fashion. The cutaway on uke is really a design trend borrowed from acoustic guitars. The intended purpose of the cutaway is to allow for easier high fret access. Few uke players will use their instrument’s full note range, but at least the cutaway gives you the option!
A) Ukes, like most timber instruments, should be stored in an environment that is cool, dry, and not in direct sunlight. Following these steps should ensure longevity from the instrument. Instrument-friendly cleaning cloths and sprays can be purchased and used with ease at home along with lemon oil to ensure your fingerboard stays hydrated. Care when transporting the instrument is essential, so ensure at the very least you have a well padded gig bag or a hard case for longer journeys.
A) Totally subjective! We advise trying both and seeing what works for you!
There are plenty of helpful video tutorials on youtube along with most how to play books containing a section on tuning. However; here is a brief rundown.
The ukes tuning can be a little counterintuitive, with the string closest to you tuned higher than the string that follows and the strings ascending in pitch from there. Just remember it is very difficult to tune by ear: an electronic tuner is the best way to tune these instruments, and at Uke Nation we have plenty to choose from and are happy to show you how to use them/tune your ukulele!
A) Firstly, no two trees are the same, so no two ukuleles are the same. We order in thousands of ukuleles each year. Even though we choose quality makers, we occasionally strike the following issues:
- Unattractive timber cuts and cosmetic variations/inconsistencies.
- Intonation and tonal issues outside of what we will accept.
- Imperfect necks and fretwork.
These are not necessarily considered faults by the makers, but the ones we are not happy with are returned to the supplier. THESE ARE NOT THROWN OUT, but end up going to online-only dealers. Our ‘every uke discounted’ policy ensures that you always buy at a very competitive price. Just be aware that buying a uke online, sight unseen means running the risk of ending up with a uke we may have rejected, and you almost certainly will not be able to return for a refund in many cases. NEVER BUY A UKE THAT YOU HAVEN’T SEEN, HEARD, OR PLAYED!
A) Let us firstly be blunt here: if you have purchased a sub $35 uke from a department store, pawn shop or toy store, the strings alone will be rubbish! Give it to a child or co-worker you dislike and come see us – we have genuinely decent instruments from $54.
If you have quality strings on board (eg Aquila, Worth, D’Addario) they will still have a ‘stretching in’ period of a week or so, but will settle. Come see us in store – we can help stretch them and stabilise your tuning. Lastly always buy a tuner for your uke!
A) Basically, when we talk about solid vs. laminate, were talking about whether the cuts that the uke is made from are either milled singular (solid) pieces, or manufactured layers of timber (laminate) with a top veneer and layers underneath glued together.
Although laminate ukes are cheaper and generally a little more robust, they lack in tonal depth and potential for aging. Solid timbers will transmit and ‘hold’ the kinetic energy from the strings better as those vibrations can pass through singular pieces easier than their layered and glued counterparts. The ability of the ukulele to vibrate and resonate is equal to the tonal quality of the instrument.
It is important to note that a well manufactured uke made from laminates will sound and play better than a poorly manufactured solid uke. The uke’s tone is really the sum of its parts, and factors such as effective bracing, gluing, and body design come in to play, but the timber is where it all starts.
Our Uke Nation team can demonstrate these characteristics, and help you balance budget with choosing a uke with a tone you’ll love!
A) ‘Tonewoods’ is the term we use to label timbers that add a tonal element to the sound of an instrument. Like each cut of timber is different, each species has different tonal characteristics.
When it comes to ukes, given there is so little vibration being sent from the strings comparative to larger instruments, they are heavily reliant on their timbers for not just tonal depth but also for projection. This is important to note as you search for ukuleles that have certain tonal characteristics, as it will help you identify which ukes have the tone your after and help you narrow down your options.
Most of what you hear from the ukulele is the top piece (also called the face or soundboard), as it is the primary contact point for the strings. This cut will be responsible for most of the tonal characteristic of your instrument. The back and sides are there to add flavour and resonance: the pairing of these cuts will deliver the full tonal fingerprint of your uke, and the more solid the uke is the more it will age and these tonal characteristics will develop.
It is important to keep in mind that as no two cuts of timber are the same, NO TWO UKES ARE THE SAME, IN BOTH LOOK AND TONE!
At Uke Nation we pride ourselves on our knowledge of timbers and tone: simply tell us what you want from the instrument and we can help you find that sound in your head, and make sure you leave with it in your hands!