View Full Version : Starting out - what do I need?

10-24-2015, 12:38 PM
Hi there. Never played an instrument before. Got it into my head that I'd like to try and become a bit more musical - in part to encourage musicality in my children. Planning on buying a Malaka Waterman tomorrow from a local shop.

Is there anything else I should pick up at the same time?

(Thinking I can use a phone app as a tuner, and for a fair bit else - chords, tutorials, metronome etc)

Thanks for any tips and pointers.

10-24-2015, 12:56 PM
A clip on tuner is handy and can be educational as well. It is just flat out the most convienient thing going. You obviously have access to the internet and because of that will have all the learning materials you could ever use. If your uke does not come with a case a nylon gig bag is good to have. So are a spare set of strings just incase one breaks late at night and you want to keep playing.

10-24-2015, 03:30 PM
+1 for the clip-on tuner. Also I would recommend picking up some sort of instrument-friendly cleaning product, mostly to keep the strings and fingerboard degunked (eg lemon oil). Later on, once the bug has taken hold and you want to try some different types of strings, you'll need to pick up a string winder :)

10-24-2015, 04:50 PM
Uncle rods boot camp, available free online.

You really don't need anything else yet. Give it a couple months. You can't shop your way into more skilled playing. )(Or I would be jake by now.)

10-24-2015, 05:12 PM
Since you're an absolute beginner, I think I should say something to you about tuning. The clip on tuner will get you pretty darn close to being in tune. But they aren't perfect. You need to learn to listen to the strings, one against another, and judge whether you need to nudge one up a bit, or down a bit to achieve really good tuning. When strings are played together on the same note, say 4th string 2nd fret and 1st string Open (an A), you need to adjust them to eliminate the "beating" sound. When they are tuned right, you won't hear any beats. A "beat" is a sort of "waw-waw" sound as the frequencies fight each other. When in tune, the "waw-waw" disappears, and you only hear the one, solid A tone.

After using the clip on, here is what I do. First, I play a C chord, then an F chord, then a G minor chord. If a string is off, my ear will hear it. Then, depending on the string I suspect being off, I will play the 4th string 2nd fret against the Open 1st string, then the Open 4th against the 2nd string 3rd fret, and finally the Open 4th against the 3rd string 7th fret. I keep the tuning of my Open 4th, and adjust the other strings. Now, that is just my way. There are lots of other ways. The point is, train your ear by finding a method of tuning you like, and use it regularly. If you do it the same way every time, you have less confusion, and the best chance of developing a good ear for tuning.

PS: I believe in fine tuning by tightening the string, not by loosening it. So, if I need to adjust the pitch down, I loosen it past the 'in tune' point, then fine tune by tightening it up again. Another trick is to dampen 3 strings with your fingers, while fine running the remaining string. Yet another trick is to let the strings die down, and the tuner to go to neutral (no reading) befoe gently plucking the string to be tuned.

bird's eye view of my ukelele
10-24-2015, 08:18 PM
if you're getting a soprano uke you might find you don't need a strap - wait and see how you get on with the uke before deciding, if you have problems holding the uke and playing then yeah get or make a strap (you can make something for a soprano easily with a bit of string, tie it round the waist of the uke, and round the headstock, there are vids on youtube showing how). some people don't use a strap for any uke, even baritones, i don't use a strap for sopranos or concert size ukes, and if you're mostly gonna be sitting down to play you're even less likely to need a strap.

i would recommend a tuner, clip on or other, but then i don't have a smart phone so if i had one and an app for that, i might not be saying this!

yes to a case or gigbag if you will be taking the uke out and about with you. or............... heaven forbid................ leaving it around your home unplayed for long periods!!

a stand is a good idea, it's easy to kick over, stand on, even sit on small ukes! a stand keeps the uke out and ready to play, but safe and steady

there are indeed lots of learning resources online including on youtube, but if you fancy the idea of going off grid occasionally you can't go wrong with the marvellous starter book "ukulele for dummies" it's informative and amusing. the author doesn't think baritones are much cop but apart from that i agree with everything he says!

when i started out on uke, i got a cheap painted soprano uke, 20, a clip on tuner, and "ukulele for dummies". i still play and love that uke! it came with a thin nylon... you can't really call it a gigbag, it was a cover really, very thin - once i realised how much i loved the uke, i got a hard case for it that cost more than the uke itself! :cool: ah................................ uke love makes you do crazy things!!

10-27-2015, 01:34 AM
Been to some large uke festivals and noticed that most ukers do not find a strap necessary. Use one if you have problems properly holding a uke that you can't resolve. Some strap lovers think they are the only way to go, the rest of us use them only under certain circumstances such as extended playing while standing, for a specialty instrument, or because of some shoulder/elbow/hand issue. My concert size banjo uke is so heavy, I absolutely need a strap for it, the open back soprano I had, not so much, but I'd probably have put a strap on it too if I'd have kept it. I also have some electric ukes and have a strap for them as much for cosmetics as need. You'll figure it out.

Ditto on the Ukulele for Dummies...a great "uke Bible" for new players. Also, join a club if you can. Many demos on UU and youtube to teach you all kinds of techniques etc. Search youtube - "ukulele, how to............." and fill in the blank with whatever you are trying to learn. Can do the same with Google. Too many tutorials out there to count.

10-27-2015, 05:39 PM
After you get your uke, just practice the basic major chords. Then find the tab for a simple song you are very familiar with. The song should have no more than 3 chords. One of the songs I started with was the Happy Birthday song. Learn top play your 1st song and you will be on your way to learning the uke in no time!

10-27-2015, 05:45 PM
Uncle rods boot camp, available free online.

You really don't need anything else yet. Give it a couple months. You can't shop your way into more skilled playing. )(Or I would be jake by now.)

This is the best bit of advice for beginners I've read on this forum in a long time.

ETA: Link to Uncle Rod's Bootcamp http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com/

10-28-2015, 08:40 AM
Just two items that I've found helpful and why:

1) I practice in an environment that is small and cluttered, where most horizontal surfaces have stuff on them. (Don't judge me! That's how it is.) I've found that a simple homemade strap allows me to keep my uke safer, because if I want to pick up a music book or a pencil and paper, instead of having to find a safe place to put the uke down (and the shape and weight distribution does sometimes make that a little tricky when you have scant surface space), it can just hang there for the moment. I sometimes put one hand on the uke so it doesn't swing around.

2) My teacher suggested I keep my uke in a place easily at hand, so that practicing and playing with it is only a thought and a grab away. I decided to hang it on a closet door with one of those hangers that slips over the top of the door. The plastic zippered gig bag that came with my beginner's uke was ugly, a pain to deal with, didn't work that well on the hanger, and I couldn't see how it provided much protection. I found a suitable tote bag (actually tried several, over time, in different sizes and materials) that provided better padding than the gig bag and gave instant access to my uke. I eventually came across the perfect leather bag, deep and narrow, at a yard sale. (I now have a better quality uke which I keep in a hard case, but my first uke still lives in the bag on the door and my spouse is now the person grabbing it.)

So, under similar circumstances, I recommend a homemade strap and/or a tote bag.

10-28-2015, 10:04 AM

I really appreciated the detail of your post regarding tuning, especially for myself as an educator who is constantly trying to find new ways of teaching how to tune for my own students. I think your idea of eliminating the "wah-wah" when comparing cross string is super helpful and something I never even thought of myself. Also the fact that you stress taking the 4th string and comparing it to all the other strings, it really takes into account that we don't want to tune string in isolation of itself, but with each other.

10-28-2015, 06:12 PM
I've been playing Uke for about six months and found a tuner very helpful, I like the red Snark with the metronome function. Free stuff is abundant. Uncle Rods Boot Camp, and Howlin' Hobbit's Uke exercises with lots of chord progressions really make leaning fun. The song books and other stuff in the Uke Resources sticky at the top of the forum are invaluable for a noob like me.

C-F-G7 are the place to start. one finger, two fingers and three fingers and you open up a whole lot of music.

mm stan
11-14-2015, 11:55 PM
Inspiration, passion to learn

11-15-2015, 06:08 AM
I recommend a tuner. It senses the vibration in your uke, and gives you a clear indication when you are in tune. It works even in a noisy room. I remember when I started out as a teenager learning guitar, and at that time, most people used pitch pipes or tuning forks. Pitch pipes were a pain, since the tone it gives sounds like a harmonica, which doesn't help the untrained ear match it to a string sound. It can get confusing, and many people have broken their strings from over tightening when they start out. The tuning fork required one hand to strike it, then you had to hold it onto the sound board. That meant you had to put it down to turn the tuners. The electronic tuners are the best teaching tool, and some of them even have a mic setting (red Snark), in case you want to practice your vocal pitch.
If you are playing at home mostly, a stand or wall hook is great for these plastic ukes.
Get a good padded gig bag or light weight hard case to protect your new treasure. At the very least, if it comes in a box, keep the box for protection until you have a case.

After you play a week, you will know if you need a strap. After playing a month or two, see if you have a uke group nearby to play with.

Have Fun


11-15-2015, 04:20 PM
This might sound a bit obvious, but the first thing to learn is to hold the darn thing correctly. After messing around for 3 years, I finally found out I was holding it wrong. I had to start over. Now I don't know how in the heck I ever played it the old way. My hands and arms don't get as tired now. I do use a strap though, I have a permanently injured right shoulder. Or should i say injured and reinjured many times.

11-23-2015, 08:30 AM
All of the basic techniques (positioning, tuning, strumming, first chord) are available for free [PROMOTIONAL LINK REMOVED] in the first lesson on my book "Beginning Ukulele" this should help you get started on the right track so you don't get started with bad habits. Hope this helps! Enjoy playing the ukulele.

11-23-2015, 10:26 PM
Mark, please familiarise yourself with the UU rules (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?85568-Ukulele-Underground-Forum-Rules).

5) Posting Links:
5.1 You may post links to items that you think may be of interest to your fellow members, but please do not post links to your own business, or other for-profit website in which you may have an interest, except in your forum signature or in the "Links and Videos" section.
5.2 Please keep links to your personal/hobby website in your forum signature or in the "Links and Videos" section.

With one exception, all your posts have been used as opportunities to spread your links. As you are a new member you are being given the benefit of the doubt but please stop spamming the forum.


11-27-2015, 08:09 AM
My suggestion for beginners is to find a group of folks to play with. Playing with others - at ALL skill levels will help you grow in your confidence in playing and build your skills faster than playing alone.

If you do not know a chord - ask some one to show you how to finger it and how to move from the previous chord to get there. This will build your mental library of chord positions more quickly than just looking at a book.

Listen to the other players strumming pattern and rhythm and copy it as best you can. Playing alone we just tend to strum and change chords at a leisurely pace - whether it fits the song or not. Playing with others really helps you HEAR the song and the chord changes.

Ukulele players are a friendly bunch and most groups welcome new players to join in the fun.

11-27-2015, 09:00 AM
My suggestions would be fake books The Daily Ukulele and The Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition. These books cover a lot of territory. You might not use them right away but you will use them soon. They will give you something to do with all the chords you will be learning.

11-28-2015, 09:50 AM
I watched a ton of youtube videos when I started. Videos teaching strums, chords, easy finger picking licks, as well as just folks performing. I think it helped a lot to give me a good boost in the beginning.