View Full Version : Picking out a uke in a store

05-02-2013, 11:47 AM
I'm heading to Austin Bazaar this weekend to pick out my first uke.

I already picked out a model but I'm wondering what to look for as far as picking the uke of my model line with with the best set-up. I would base my choice off of playability, but I can't actually play yet.

Some advice?

05-02-2013, 12:06 PM
If you have a friend who plays ukulele take your friend with you for him to play it for you. Have him teach you a few chords so you can strum it too. Go to


and watch the video where Music Guy Mike teaches beginning chords. C, G7, F are all easy and can give you a sense of the sound.

Ask if they do setups to give the best intonation and action. You want low string height without fret-buzz. The less expensive the uke the more important the setup is. There's a pick of every litter; hold out for the best one. That's the one you will keep playing long enough to love it.

Hold it away from you with the sound hole facing you (as if you were the audience). Ukes sound different that way from when you hold and strum. Listen for the one with the most pleasing tone.

Have your friend, or the sales guy play your top 2 or 3 choices for you with your back turned so you can choose by sound. Follow this rule: they play but they don't talk. You must choose the ukulele that sounds best to your ear, not theirs.

I didn't know any of this when I got my first two ukes. The selection was not large enough that it would have made a difference though.

05-02-2013, 02:46 PM
I very nearly bought a uke at Samash a little while ago as a gift. I even had them go out back to bring back all the ukes of that model so I could try each one individually in hopes I'd find a good one, but the setup that the "big 3" uke-sellers like Mim, HMS, Ukerepublic do is invaluable. I was met by blank stares when I was talking with them about whether or not they'd throw in a setup on it for me. The salesman insisted that "only guitars need setups", but humored me by having their "set-up guy" look it over.

It was obvious that he didn't know how to play it, but that in no way stopped him from pretending he did. After playing about 3 chords, he took another minute or two to "look it over" which involved him overdramatically holding it up to the light it in various positions and yanking on the strings. Then he said "this looks really great, and it plays great, sounds great, I don't think it needs any more set-up work". The A-string buzzed at the first fret, but they weren't going to say anything until I pointed it out. He then replied "well, what sort of setup are we talking? Ukes don't need setups." so I listed off the same things they showed on the HMS set-up video.

At this point he admitted "I don't actually *do* setups (real surprise there :P), but we have a tech that comes in once a week to do them. I can have him look at it, but it'll probably cost you 50-100 depending on how much he decides a uke setup costs". I then had to awkwardly let them know that I wouldn't be buying their uke, even after spending a half hour or so with me individually. I found it on the HMS website (where I bought my first). It was like $10 more due to shipping, but that $10 extra carried a whole heck of a lot more value with it than $10 should. If that's all it costs for you to get a proper set-up then it's a steal.

Honestly, I don't think you're doing yourself a service by trying out ukuleles at a store like that. Granted, it's definitely a good thing to try the ukulele out before you buy it. However, is trying out your first uke more important than getting it setup? I say no, especially since it's your first. If you want a decent uke, you'll find that on the shelf anywhere. If you want a great uke, you'll find those ones online at the "Big 3".