New to uke--Fan of George Formby, George Harrison and more


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Apr 29, 2023
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I'm so glad you're here!
I think i'd like to learn to play the ukulele...before a banjolele, at least. Some of my favorites to try and master would be George Formby, the Beatles and the Stones ;)

I'm a member of the George Formby appreciation society and they recommend a solid body tenor uke. From what I've read, moa, mahogany and rosewood get high marks. I've read good things about Kala, but I don't know much else. I can't read sheet music or tablature yet. I don't know what kind of strings or tuner to buy. Or storage. Or, do I really need picks?

All I know is George Formby 's music is my antidote to also loving the the blues and the Beatles and Harrison's music are my moiety to the Stones ;). I love world music (if there's a way to play Malaguena on a uke, I'm up for it!). The uke and banjolele's are just such beautiful instruments.

You can't believe how much your input means to me 🌺. This is my Mother's day present from my dog to me ❤️ (believe you me, I'm being good to my mom, too!)

My dad, bless his soul, always said that if you learn an instrument, you can get a meal anywhere with a song. I promised him several times on his deathbed that I'd learn an instrument. It's time I make good on that promise.

So, thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing from you!

Bunny 🐇
Welcome Bunny! There are a lot of people here who will be very happy to help! Welcome, to the UU forum and to the ukulele. I think you'll find that you can play a lot of different styles of music on the ukulele (including Malaguena, although you might not want to start there!).

No picks needed with ukulele, best option (if you possibly can) is go to a store that specializes in ukuleles and talk to the folks there. Next best is go to a music store that at least stocks ukuleles and try some out. Third best is ordering online after doing some research and chatting with folks here.

Don't worry about not being able to read music - YouTube is your friend! There are a lot of incredible YT tutorials by great ukulele teachers. You can learn a lot that way, and not even need to read music or tab (although you'll eventually pick up tab, it's pretty straightforward, and may work towards reading standard notation eventually if you wish).

Another great way to learn is, if you can, find a local ukulele group and join in with them. You will be able to find out more about different instruments, strings, and learn a lot about playing!

Most important: enjoy. The ukulele is such a wonderful instrument. Make sure that your learning includes joy.
Hi Bunny, welcome to the UU Forum. The uke is a great instrument to learn. It's fun to play and easier to get started with than most other instruments.

My first question is where are you located? The US, UK or somewhere else? (I mention those two because you are a member of the George Formby Appreciation Society.)

You might want to check out the website. Located in England, it's creator Barry Maz runs it and the site has hundreds of unbiased ukulele reviews in it as well as tips, information and the occasional commentary about the world of ukuleles.
Welcome to the forum and good luck with your new interest!
Hey bunny,

Your introduction touched all my buttons. Your dog telepathically asked me to give you this link to the Malaguena tab/sheet music that I play. It's a condensed version for ukulele, but it captures a lot of the essence of the melody.
Malaguena for Ukulele
Hi all,

Thanks for writing! I live just outside of Phoenix, AZ and I hadn't thought to look around for clubs yet.

I'm impressed by how much can be played on a uke and all the fancy strumming techniques to learn on top of that.

Renaissance-man, 💕 Thank you for sending Malaguena. Your telepathy with my dog, Luna, will always hold you in high standing.

How much should a person pay for a first uke? Something of quality? Something where your strings aren't forever falling out of tune?

Thank you all so much!
Have you decided on what size ukulele you want? (Soprano, concert, or tenor are the more common sizes, though there are others.)

I hope that someone in your area can point you to somewhere that you can try out different sizes and brands, and see what suits you and your budget.

And now to the important question: What kind of dog is Luna? 🐶
How do you decide which size uke you want? By comfort? By sound?

Luna is a rescue pup, but I had her genetically tested. She's part German Shepherd, part Australian cattle dog, part Cocker spaniel and part Chow. That's going back 3 generations.

I hope she'll like the ukulele. She'll be my audience for a while.


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How do you decide which size uke you want? By comfort? By sound?

Luna is a rescue pup, but I had her genetically tested. She's part German Shepherd, part Australian cattle dog, part Cocker spaniel and part Chow. That's going back 3 generations.

I hope she'll like the ukulele. She'll be my audience for a while.
Both. My at 5'2" wife is very petite and if and when she decides to learn to play, she would definitely play the soprano. She has tried my tenors, my one concert and one soprano, and the soprano felt the most comfortable, especially the fingerboard, to her and she likes the sound of the sop.

I tried all 4 sizes at a ukulele club, and the tenor ticked all of the boxes for me.

So, if you can, go to a music store and hold and strum a few ukes to see if one size and sound speaks to you.

Then Luna can start looking for ukes of that size, read reviews, (not Amazon reviews), and narrow your choices.
When you have an idea of what you like, I'd recommend that you call and talk to Mim at She can make suggestions for which of her ukes may suit you best. You can buy from her with confidence. Her prices are very good and she'll set your uke up for the best sound and playability.
Can't think of anything to add to Kenn2018's reply to you regarding the ukuleles, except that for me, concerts are the most comfortable, so ask 3 people and you might get 3 different answers. :) But that's a great thing - we have lots of choices and can find what works best for us.

Luna looks adorable.

We once did the genetic testing for one of our family dogs and the results were pretty amusing, and not likely accurate at all. But the tests might be better now. I was tempted to send them a photo and say "Guess again!" But whatever our dog is, she is a wonderful girl, which is all that counts. And I suspect that's true for Luna, too.

Now I have to convince my dogs to buy me a ukulele....
Welcome to UU bunnyo and a big hello from Chicago!
Welcome, @bunnyo. You’l find lots of answers on these forums, and meet a lot of friends. This is a very supportive community.
You're all so wonderful!

Hello, Chicago! I grew up just south of Detroit 👋

I like the idea of going and trying different sized ukes. I'm 5'6" with arthritis in my hands, so I imagine the proportions of the fret board will make a huge difference.

My guess as to how much I'm willing to spend on my first uke will be between $150-225. Could I get a good starter uke for around that price? Hopefully that should buy a solid body and with a bit more, a few accoutrements, like a tuner and a case.

As to when I'll be able to get one depends a bit on Luna. This is a big medical month for her, needing heartgard, nextgard, her Leptospirosis shot and possibly be groomed. She hate's being groomed at home, yet it's $90 every month that she's not. Tried getting her to take a shower last night, big time fears about water, and I don't know why. Today I'm going to try the kiddie pool technique outside. If she'll let me wash her outside, even if it's just during the warm weather months which occupy half of the year, that would be incredible. And then Luna could buy me a mother's day uke!

I really appreciate the tip about Mims. It looks she has a good, honest store, knows the ins and outs and might be able to help you any way she can.

Do you only use nylon strings on a ukulele? Also, what do you guys think about used, vintage ukes?

The story behind Luna's testing: we were told at the shelter that she was likely a lab mix. Then there's my sister...she's opinionated and strong willed enough to be condescending, manipulative and cruel. She's always been that way. (She was absolutely horrible when my dad passed last year, including telling our mom that she was silly to still be so hung up about dad the first Christmas he wasn't here). With my last dog, she would not believe the genetic mix the vet surmised, elevating her pups (who I loved absolutely) above my girl. She ended up upsetting the whole family about it. This time luck was on our side. Luna's gotcha day is November 6th and, a week later, the black Friday sales started. $50 for a test to alleviate any suspicions ;). Totally worth it. I don't even have genetic testing on myself, but for Lu, anything.

Looking forward to hearing from you all again soon,

Ok, I'm to me about lams. How do they compare to solid bodies? How do you dress them? Do they hold tension well? Could you name a few that you like?

I like your "busker diet". My dad had the advantage of being musical in a family with a lot of celebrations, which is why he probably never went hungry, lol 🤣
One thing to be mindful of: anything you buy, from $50 to $5000, will take time, if the strings are new, to settle in. Even if the strings have been on that uke for a while, they'll take time to settle. The environment that you're in will be different than the environment they've been living in until that point, not to mention the environment of transition during shipping.

There are some excellent laminates. I have an all-laminate Famous FS-5 soprano, made in Japan, that has a loud, chiming, beautiful voice. I have a solid-top cedar tenor that has laminate sides and back that has a gorgeous, mellow voice. I was gifted an all solid, luthier-built tenor that sounds lovely, but I don't love playing it. I play it a little, mostly because I feel bad that it sits there being ignored plus I feel like it's the "best" ukulele I own, and I should spend more time getting better at playing it, and it does sound nice, but it's not my baby. I have a solid-top cedar, willow laminate back & sides Ohana SK-50WG soprano from Mim's that is my play everyday girl. I love to play her, but she doesn't sound as lovely as my cedar-top tenor; so while I play my Ohana soprano the most, it's not the one I love the voice of the most.

I started with tenor, because I thought soprano would be ludicrously small for me (I'm 5'10" and have long hands & fingers). I had a concert, and it's ok, but doesn't grab me. Then I got my Famous soprano and I fell in love. I prefer to play classical music (early music especially, from medieval, renaissance and baroque periods), and I prefer to play linear tuning (the G (4th) string is a lower voice than the C (3rd) string, is deeper than the E (2nd) and the highest is the A (1st) rather than reentrant, which my Famous is tuned to (the G (4th) string has a voice between the E (2nd) and the A (1st) strings, but is strung in the position of what would, in many stringed instruments, be the lowest note position). Eventually, I hope to be able to invest in a soprano that sounds beautiful with that linear tuning. Possibly, it's me, though, that doesn't sound so good, so I'll keep at it with my Ohana, and save money for now (despite being desperately tempted on the Marketplace here and on the Cocobolo Ukulele website fairly regularly). So I've tried three of the sizes (tenor and concert first, then soprano) over time, and it's hard to know as a beginner what size is going to work for you, until you start to learn more and figure out what kind of playing you actually want to do.

If you like to strum, and like the traditional voice of an ukulele, then reentrant is definitely worth considering, especially soprano. It's the "typical" voice of an ukulele, and there are so many resources out there for reentrant tuned ukulele. If you think you want to be able to get something a little deeper voiced, then you might be interested in linear tuning. It's very difficult (in my experience where I live) to have the opportunity to try a good quality ukulele in a store, especially in linear tuning (next to impossible - they're all reentrant here, it seems), but you may have better luck. That's one reason why, if you have an ukulele group near enough to you, that it's definitely worth at least visiting, chatting, and possibly getting the chance to try some ukuleles while you're there.

I think you can get some great options that are very satisfying and joyful to play that would be in your price range. A solid-top, laminate body is a very reasonable place to start: it's a lot less finicky about humidity control issues, you can have a great voiced-instrument that if you decide to upgrade, you can use for travel purposes instead of your "upgrade". There are certainly some good all laminates, but it's sometimes a bit harder to find. I also suggest Mim's - she's got a lot of good ukuleles in your price range, and would be a great person to discuss options with, plus you will get the instrument set up properly so you don't even have to know what a disaster a poorly setup instrument is to try to suffer through.

As far as strings - that's an entirely different rabbit hole to bound down. There are people here that swear by nylon, and others are strictly fluorocarbon. Once you find your ukulele, and have gotten used to it for a while, it's fun to try different string types, to see what different tones you can achieve, and discover what suits you and your playing style best.

Luna is a lovely girl!
Welcome, Bunny! I just helped a friend buy her first ukulele and we went with an Ohana CK-22 Concert from Mim's. It's got a solid spruce top and laminate mahogany back and sides. That should be right in your price range ($168 plus a few bucks for shipping) and Mim sets it up great, particularly for beginners. It just arrived yesterday and I've been checking it out. It's a nice instrument, definitely an excellent tool for a newbie. I'm thinking about swapping out the factory nylon strings (Nylgut?) for a fluorocarbon set to give it a little more brightness and "pop". My friend is away on a trip, so I want to have it perfect for her when she returns.

If you want to save a few dollars, Mim stocks some "blemished" models that have some tiny cosmetic flaws. There's no difference in sound, playability, or durability, just some minor spots or marks in the finish that most people would never notice.
Welcome to UU, Bunny!
There are many fabulous laminates available, and laminates have their benefits too. They usually are cheaper to replace should you lose or damage it; they are somewhat easier to care for (=less babysitting), and you'd likely feel less intimidated to play it. Whatever you get, just play it (however much or little time you have)... every day!
Wow you guys are good!

Living here in the desert where our humidity is less than pressurized wood, it sounds like finding a laminate might be the way to go. It looks like I'll be going in to see which size will fit me, then calling Mim's to figure out what sound fits me, too.

I'm so looking forward to doing this!

I gave Luna a bath outside in the yard in a puppy pool to help save for the uke. That girl does not like water! And she wouldn't get in the pool (which came with toys), so I had to fill bowls of water to splash over her and rub her with baby shampoo. She's her own person!

Her birthday's coming up on the third. I'll post pics ❤️
When we lived in Surprize, AZ (A suburb North of Phoenix). We had a backyard in-ground pool. Our dogs were both rescue dogs. The male was a Shepherd/Hound mix who loved the water and would go swimming as often as he could. The female was a Lab/something mix. She would lay down on the top step of the pool in about an inch of water to cool off. But she hated to swim. If I threw her ball into the pool, she'd swim after it, complaining the whole time.

Neither liked getting a bath, but they would both endure them.
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