You, the reader, probably own a cheap ukulele you purchased off the internet, maybe a Kalani, an Ohana SK-10, or Mahalo and you’re probably pretty happy with it. To achieve a better standard of sound, it’s not always strictly necessary to buy a higher quality instrument, just follow a few simple tips.
- Use decent strings
Cheap ukuleles usually come with poor-quality strings, bringing the overall quality down. The most commonly used strings on these instruments are made by Aquila. Here ‘s my post on strings. Ukulele strings last a long, long time, but not forever. When they get old they sound much worse, so it’s a good idea to change them from time to time – there’s no specific period, it depends on how much you play your instrument and how you play. When you feel that the strings give a duller sound, change them.
- Never use guitar picks
Anyone who knows me knows this: I am completely against the use of picks with ukuleles. It produces a horrible sound -similar to playing the piano with a jackhammer! Try using your fingers, and don’t limit yourself to the right hand techniques of the guitar. If it’s really so hard for you to play without a pick (it’s not !!) use a specially-designed felt pick. These picks can be used with any ukulele, whether it’s worth US $30 or US$ 3,000,000.
- Find the “sweet spot”
The place where your fingers hit the strings is very relevant.If you have a soprano ukulele, try playing with your right hand at the height of the bridge: this produces a very acute, bodiless sound.Now try on the “mouth.” Better? Now try touching the strings at the height of the house 12.Makes a difference, right? With other ukulele sizes, you only need to find this place (it isn’t usually on the “mouth”, rather, a bit further up).
- Keep your ukulele well – tuned
If possible, buy a digital tuner.It may seem obvious, but ensure your ukulele is always well-tuned makes all the difference when it’s time to play. Especially when they’re new, or you’ve got new strings, ukes tend to untune a lot. Make sure it is properly tuned over the frets: take the tuner and tap the third string (from the bottom). If you are tuned in GCEA, this will be the C string. Now press the first fret: is it a C#? Is that note tuned correctly? With new instruments, especially cheaper ones, the “nut” is often too high, almost causing pain when played, apart from the bad sound. In this case, it’s best to take your instrument to a luthier, for servicing.
EDIT: A good way to improve sound, particualrly with sopranos, is to tune one tone higher (ADF # B). The instrument thus gains in volume and power. In my opinion, this is the most natural setting for the soprano ukulele. The risk with some low-quality instruments, is of speeding up the process of the bridge becoming unstuck.
If these tips don’t work, your instrument is probably not meeting your expectations. In this case, it’s worth buying a new ukulele, of better quality and made with premium woods.Maybe even buy a different size. At this stage, it’s a good idea to experiment.