The ukulele, as one of the easiest stringed instruments to learn, is an excellent place to start for anyone interested in learning to play music. However, much as with buying a sewing machine, a telescope, or a pressure cooker, the next step after unboxing isn’t always obvious. A few key accessories might assist you in getting started with the ukulele, and they’re all reasonably priced. We’ve compiled a list of them below, starting with the most essential.
If you don’t already own a ukulele, our guide to the best ukulele for beginners lists a number of decent, low-cost options.
You’ll need to tune your new ukulele and locate some music to play before you can do anything with it. After you’ve mastered a few chords, you should consider how to take your uke throughout town to widen your experience, as well as how to play with it comfortably.
You won’t be able to play a chord unless you tune your ukulele’s open strings to the notes G, C, E, and A while looking at it from left to right. Although you can use an online tuner or a smartphone software like Pocket Ukulele Tuner to tune your ukulele, nothing compares to the convenience of a clip-on tuner. For the ukulele, the same model that works for the guitar also works. Simply attach it to your uke’s headstock (near the tuners) and pluck a string to see if the tone is sharp (too high in pitch) or flat (too low in pitch) (too low).
Tuners are included with some ukuleles. If yours isn’t, we recommend the Snark tuner’s basic version, which is available under numerous model names such as the SN6X. (Avoid the Snark HZ1, which I found to be surprisingly flimsy.) Models with more bells and whistles have features you’ll almost certainly never use. The Kliq UberTuner responds faster and features an illuminated circle that makes it easier to see when you’re in tune, but it’s bulkier than most Snark tuners and costs almost twice as much.
a book of instructions
Although a professional instructor will definitely help you learn faster, and there are many of online ukulele tutorials, a decent instructional book is a simple and economical method to get started. Essential Elements for Ukulele Book 1: Comprehensive Ukulele Method was chosen as the finest by two professional instructors who evaluated various books. We like how it concentrates on chords rather than single notes because chords are what you’ll need to perform most songs and complement your vocals.
App for music
There are a lot of wonderful, free music applications out there (like Chordify and Ultimate Guitar), but my favorite—and the one I see most other artists using—is iReal Pro ($14) for Mac, iOS, and Android. It includes chord changes for thousands of songs, as well as play-along tracks in any speed, key, or style. The fact that iReal Pro can provide chord fingering diagrams is a huge benefit for ukulele students. I like that it isn’t restricted to just one instrument or family of instruments, so you may play with others and have the same chord chart. To use iReal Pro, first download and install the program, then browse the app’s large forums for free chord charts. You may learn the chord changes of 1,350 jazz classics, 400 pop songs, 300 bluegrass tunes, 100 Christmas tunes, and more in less than two minutes. If a tune isn’t available on the boards, you can easily copy the chart from another source into iReal Pro.
Stand for music
It’s easier to practice when you have a good stand to hold your music. As a bonus, I find that when I have a piece of music on the stand screaming to be played, I practice more.
While Manhasset music stands have been the industry standard for decades, the Peak SMS-20, which is almost as robust yet folds for travel, is preferred by most musicians I perform with. However, both are somewhat costly.
I haven’t found a low-cost stand that feels as solid as the SMS-20, but rectangular stands like the Gleam GMS-001D or the almost equivalent ChromaCast CC-MSTAND frequently do. The GMS-001D has supported my 462-page Real Book through multiple jam sessions, but it’s best for sheet music and educational books.
Playing the ukulele with other people, whether at a friend’s house or at a local ukulele club, is a lot more enjoyable. You’ll need a case to keep your ukulele safe while you’re on the road. Unless you plan to chuck your instrument into a car trunk or an airliner’s overhead compartment, a soft-sided gig bag will suffice. If your ukulele doesn’t come with a gig bag or case, you may get one up for roughly $20. Cloudmusic, for instance, creates them in both conservative and flamboyant styles. Make sure the case you choose fits your ukulele, whether it’s a soprano, concert, tenor, or baritone.
You won’t need a strap if you’re playing a soprano-sized ukulele, but if you’re playing a concert, tenor, or baritone ukulele, you’ll need one. On the big end of the body, most larger ukes have one strap knob, but no strap knob at the neck end. Ukulele straps generally come with a string to tie around the headstock, which is where the tuners are, but a “strap knob strap,” which clamps around the headstock, is a more elegant option. (Clip-style straps are also available, but I think they make the uke hang unnaturally.)
I use a Kala Uke Crazy strap, but any uke strap will suffice. The ukulele strap from Hot Seal is a low-cost, low-profile solution. If you want something a little more flashy, go for a flower, space, kitten, dog, pineapple, flag, rainbow, skull, or comic strip motif.
Most ukulele players use their fingers to strum and pluck, but if you’re coming from a guitar, you might choose to use a pick. Unlike plastic picks, ukulele players use felt picks, which produce a mellower, more uke-like tone. The Golden Gate FP-1, a thick, soft pick with a sound more akin to fingers plucking the strings, is my personal favorite, but guitarists may like the brighter sound and quicker response of the thinner BoloPick, which has a cutout to make it easier to handle.
So, once you’ve gathered all of the necessary gear, what do you do next? Simply open a ukulele book or an app and begin playing. Anything! The fingering may feel strange at first, but after a few days, you should be able to play a simple tune reasonably well. It’s entirely up to you whether you become a dedicated backyard strummer, a dedicated uke club member, or the next Jake Shimabukuro (video).
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