Articles within the Ukulele Category

Eagle music blog articles relating to the ukulele.

Ukulele Care & Maintenance – A guide to looking after your Uke

We are often asked how do I look after my ukulele?  and how do I clean it? Here eagle Music answers in simple terms the important do’s and don’ts regarding general care of your ukulele, storing, cleaning and transporting your ukulele safely.

Eagle Music Shop has a fully equipped on-site workshop facility and offers a full set-up and repair service for stringed instruments.

Storing

In general musical instruments like the same environment as their player …conditions where it is not too hot or hot and certainly not wet or damp! Keep your ukulele clean and free from dust,dirt and moisture …In a UK home, its OK to leave your instrument on a stand between playing sessions, in fact we encourage this as it makes you pick up the instrument more frequently to play and practise. Buy a decent quality stand to keep your instrument ‘out of the way’ in a corner of the room. Never leave it near a radiator or in a window where direct sunlight can fall upon the instrument and bake it! Also, never leave your instrument stored in a cold or damp place eg. cellar, loft or out in the garage

Cleaning

Each time you have played your ukulele give it a wipe over with a lint free cloth to remove finger marks. the strings can be cleaned with Fast Fret, martin or Dr Kyser string cleaning lubricant, all these products can be bought ‘off-the-shelf’ from Eagle Music. From time to time you may want to polish your instrument, always check that this is suitable for the finish on your instrument eg. On a modern gloss finish, always choose a non-smear wax free polish. Always remove finger and body marks from Nickel plated or gold plated hardware and use the special impregnated cleaning cloths that are available for this purpose. Never use abrasive cleaners as this can remove the plating! Chrome hardware is much easier to keep clean and is much harder wearing.

Transporting

Care of your ukulele during transportation really depends on where it is being transported to, and how it is being transported. Hard-shell cases and Gig bags have their pros and cons. It can be said that a padded gig bag is sufficient to take your instrument out to the pub or a jam session.But please note, when using a gig bag, you must always remember that your instrument can still be damaged if you don’t take extreme care of how you handle it, how you put it down and where you leave it, other persons can sit on your gig bag! Also, If you are a gigging musician, It wouldn’t be a good idea to put your gig bag/ instrument in the back of a van or in the boot of a car with PA gear and other hard objects! We recommend a hard-shell case always for gigging musicians.

If you’re travelling by by airplane we recommend a hard-shell or even better a flight case. Also, for added protection  ‘bubble wrap’ your hard-shell case before letting it go in the hold of an airplane, the handling of baggage at airports can be very rough! Our Hiscox range of lite-flight cases is excellent or you could have a more expensive flight case made by Keith Calton.

Check out our Black-Ice and Extreme Protection range of well thought out quality gig bags. For hard-shell cases check out our Leader, Hiscox, Deering, Kinsman etc. range of top quality brands.

The Ukulele Banjo – a simplified explanation by Eagle Music

Playing the Ukulele Banjo is almost just the same as playing the soprano or concert ukulele! it is tuned the same as the standard uke, but in use it is‘strummed’ by the player and mainly used for song accompaniment. Strumming in the ‘Formby’ style is very popular today. Eagle Music will help you to make the right choice.

Many people link the ‘Banjo’ to George Formby, but in fact George was not a ‘banjo player’ he was a great ukulele player. George played the Ukulele banjo to the highest level, and his syncopated ‘split stroke’ right hand rhythmic playing is the goal of many players!

The ukulele banjo is mainly ‘strummed’ playing backing chords for singing, rather than used for playing tunes.

Think of the Ukulele banjo as having a ukulele neck fitted to a banjo body! This gives the player much more volume and punch than a wooden bodied ukulele.

The Ukulele Banjo is tuned exactly the same as a soprano or concert ukulele and the popular tunings are G C E A (Regular ‘C’ tuning) or A D F# B (known as ‘D’ Tuning) ‘C’ tuning which is the recognised standard and most popular tuning for ukulele. The G string is tuned in relation to 1st, 2nd and third strings an octave higher. Another name for this tuning is ‘Re Entrant’. The ‘high’ G fourth string in relation the the lower octave C third string gives the instrument the distinctive ukulele sound when you strum across the strings.

Tuning your ukulele in ‘D’ tuning (A D F# B) was more popular in the early 1900s, you will find some music books and musical scores written in this tuning from that era. This higher tuning can give a lift to some instruments that sound ‘flat in the lower ‘C’ tuning.

If you are going to sing along with your ukulele, you may want to experiment with different tunings to suit your voice, tuning up your ukulele to a different pitch enables you to sing in a different key while still playing the same chord shapes!

As a leading UK specialist, we supply dozens of highly playable ukes to schools, a highly playable colourful starter kit costs around twenty pound, thanks to the high-tech modern far Eastern factories!

Ukulele buyers guide by Eagle Music including explanations of uke types

All the different types of ukulele including soprano, concert, tenor, baritone are all explained here by Eagle Music with their relative tunings.

There are three critical but simple decisions that you our valued customer should make when buying a banjo:-

Buy from a Specialist Company… that will set up the instrument correctly
Eagle Music is Europes leading ukulele specialist shop

Buy the Best Quality instrument… that is within your budget
Eagle Music carry Europes largest selection of world class ukulele brands

Choose the Correct Ukulele… for the kind of music that you want to play
Eagle Music’s specialist musician sales team  will ensure this for you

The notes below will help you choose the ukulele that is the right model for you.

Types of Ukulele Simplified

The four main popular sizes of ukulele are (From the smallest to the largest) soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. So, when choosing your ukulele consider what size is most suitable for you and also the sound/tone that you will get from the instrument.

Steve Noon of Eagle Music Shop writes … My guitar teacher father put a ukulele into my hands at a very young age, from that day on I never looked back, I went on to play ukulele, piano, guitar, mandolin and banjo and was a professional musician by the age of twenty!

The ukulele is the ideal musical stepping stone that will take you on to playing a whole range of stringed instruments. The smallest size soprano uke is ideal for ‘child size fingers’. The chord shapes are the same as the first four strings of the guitar. Britain’s George Formby society has created much interest in the ukulele with local branches now spread all over the country. Many people link the ‘Banjo’ to George Formby who was in fact a great ukulele player. George played the Ukulele banjo and his syncopated ‘split stroke’ right hand rhythmic playing is the goal of many players! As a leading UK retailer, we supply dozens of highly playable ukes to schools, a highly playable colourful starter kit costs around twenty pounds, thanks to the high tech modern far Eastern factories!

We sponsor schools and events and attend festivals throughout the year in the ukulele and banjo world.

Types of Ukulele Explained

Soprano 4 String Ukulele

The soprano ukulele is the smallest in the ukulele family and has the traditional bright, sweet sound. It is the best choice for children starting to play and can be played by children as young as four years old.

The soprano ukulele is regarded as the ‘original’ ukulele and its smaller size produces that traditional ukulele sound. However, if you have long, fat or stubby fingers you may find it difficult to play because it has small frets. In this case we recommend that you choose a concert ukulele which has a longer neck and wider frets.

Tuning … The soprano Ukulele is tuned exactly the same as a concert ukulele and the popular tunings are G C  E A  (Regular ‘C’ tuning) or A D F# B (known as ‘D’ Tuning) ‘C’ tuning which is the recognised standard and most popular tuning for ukulele. The G string is tuned in relation to 1st, 2nd and third strings an octave higher. Another name for this tuning is ‘Re Entrant’. The ‘high’ G fourth string in relation the the lower octave C third string gives the instrument the distinctive ukulele sound when you strum across the strings.

Tuning your ukulele in ‘D’ tuning (A D F# B) was more popular in the early 1900s, you will find some music books and musical scores written in this tuning from that era. This higher tuning can give a lift to some instruments that sound ‘flat in the lower ‘C’ tuning.
If you are going to sing along with your ukulele, you may want to experiment with different tunings to suit your voice …tuning up your ukulele to a different pitch enables you to sing in a different key while still playing the same chord shapes!

Concert 4 String Ukulele

The concert ukulele is an excellent choice because it has a fuller tone than the soprano ukulele but still retains the traditional ukulele sound, it also has the advantage of having wider frets which make it easier grown ups to play.

Tuning … The concert Ukulele is tuned exactly the same as the soprano ukulele and the popular tunings are G C E A  (Regular ‘C’ tuning) or A D F# B (known as ‘D’ Tuning) ‘C’ tuning which is the recognised standard and most popular tuning for ukulele. The G string is tuned in relation to 1st, 2nd and third strings an octave higher …Another name for this tuning is ‘Re Entrant’. The ‘high’ G fourth string in relation the the lower octave C third string gives the instrument the distinctive ukulele sound when you strum across the strings.

Tuning your ukulele in ‘D’ tuning (A D F# B) was more popular in the early 1900s, you will find some music books and musical scores written in this tuning from that era. This higher tuning can give a lift to some instruments that sound ‘flat in the lower ‘C’ tuning.
If you are going to sing along with your ukulele, you may want to experiment with different tunings to suit your voice …tuning up your ukulele to a different pitch enables you to sing in a different key while still playing the same chord shapes!

Tenor 4 String Ukulele

As you move up through the range of ukulele sizes to the tenor and baritone ukuleles you get a deeper, fuller tone with increased volume. The tenor ukulele is a popular choice for musicians that want to pick out fingerstyle tunes and play solos. In many cases the professionals choice! You have a wider range of musical notes which lends itself to solo playing.

Tuning … The tenor Ukulele can be strung and tuned in different ways. The popular tuning is G C E A  (Regular ‘C’ tuning) which is the recognised standard and most popular tuning for ukulele. The G string is tuned in relation to 1st, 2nd and third strings an octave higher …Another name for this tuning is ‘Re Entrant’. The ‘high’ G fourth string in relation the the lower octave C third string gives the instrument the distinctive ukulele sound when you strum across the strings.

Low G Tuning … Players needing a wider range of bass notes tune their tenor ukulele to Low G tuning. this tuning is an alternative to the ‘re entrant’ tuning that is described above

Low G tenor tuning is as follows: Low G C E A …The Low tuned G string gives you a wider span of octaves.

It is important that your ukulele is fitted with the correct strings for the tuning that you require.

Baritone 4 String Ukulele

The baritone ukulele is the largest ukulele and can be likened to a four string guitar as it is tuned the same as the first four strings on a guitar which are D G B E

NOTE: There are two popular tunings for the baritone ukulele as follows:-

High G Tuning … D  ‘High G’ B E

High G baritone ukulele tuning gives you the same pitch relationship as that on a guitar. Guitarists will find the transition to baritone ukulele from guitar easy and the larger sized neck oof the baritone ukulele wil feel comfortable, on the other hand if you learn to play the ukulele and then move on to playing guitar you will find that many of the chord shapes are the same. (but may have a different name due to the ukulele tuning)

Re Entrant tuning … D ‘Low G’ B E

The G string is tuned (in relation to 1st, 2nd and third strings) an octave higher …The ‘high’ G fourth string in relation the the lower octave C third string gives the instrument the distinctive ukulele sound when you strum across the strings.

It is important that your ukulele is fitted with the correct strings for the tuning that you require.

Changing the strings on your Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Ukulele etc – advice from Eagle Music

Eagle Music explains here all the do’s and don’ts when fitting a new set of strings to your instrument. It is important that you understand that the weight, size and tension of your strings affects the set-up and action of your instrument.

First, I offer you this simple advice, invest in a string winder. A string winder will take all the work out of string changing and as an added bonus it will speed up the process! I insist that string winders are used at all times in our workshop, this ensures that our customers get a lower priced bill when it comes to the cost of paying for workshop time!

In the following notes, I shall assume that you are a right handed person, and that you are going to change the strings and then tune your instrument to standard tuning. The string set that we are using in the example is our most popular standard Eagle-Newtone set as follows, 1st also referred to as the ‘top’ -string is the furthest away from your chin when holding your instrument in the playing position. (If your instrument is part of the mandolin family, you will have a pair of 1st strings) The ‘bottom string’ is the string that is nearest your chin.

The string numbers eg.’9’ or ‘12’ refer to the diameter of the strings and they are measured in imperial measurement, which is used by the USA manufacturers (Not Metric) a ‘9’ for example measures .009” (which is nine thousandth’s of an inch in diameter)

Also take note before changing your strings what gauge of string set is already on your instrument, if your instrument is correctly set-up, the nut will have been cut to suit the gauge of strings that are already on your instrument. Changing up to heavier strings, without having your top nut cut to suit, can cause the thicker strings to bind in the nut. Slight binding can be cured by rubbing a little graphite into the slot (an HB graphite pencil or softer is fine)

Remove your Old strings

Please Note: Your instrument is ‘SET UP’ under tension, so it is a good idea when string changing, not to take all your strings off at the same time. Change one at a time. Slacken off your 1st string and unwind it from the capstan/pillar on your tuning peg, then remove the string from the tailpiece or bridge saddle.

Attach the new string to the tailpiece or bridge saddle, note from the remaining old strings that are still on your instrument, how the strings fit to your tailpiece or bridge. For example: Tailpieces on banjos come in many designs and on some tailpieces the string lays across the top/front of the tailpiece.

Hold some tension on the string to keep it attached to the tailpiece/bridge, as you lay it along your fingerboard and feed it through the hole in the pillar on your tuning peg, pull the string through the pillar with your left hand until there is no ‘slack’ on the string. Keep tension on the string with your left hand. Some of this excess that is now pulled through your pillar will be ‘cut off’ when you have tuned the string to its correct pitch.

At this stage you need to give yourself some ‘slack’ on the string, this ‘slack’ will allow you to put at last three turns around the pillar/capstan on your tuning peg. To do this, keep hold of the string with your left hand pull tension on the string. Then place your right hand index, middle and ring fingers behind the string near the pillar with the back of your fingers touching the instrument and ‘clamp’ the string against your fingers with your right hand thumb. Still holding tension on the string with your left hand, transfer your grip to hold the tension of the string now with your right hand.

Turn your right hand approximately ninety degrees with your index finger remaining in contact with your instrument, this action will pull some ‘slack’ back through the pillar. At this point ‘kink’ the string to ‘dog-leg’ the string as it enters and leaves the hole in the pillar, now in the same motion wind the string around the pillar to take up some of the ‘slack’ that you are holding in your right hand. Note the direction that the string winds around the pillar. It will be wound in the same direction as the old SECOND string that is still attached to your instrument. (Anti clockwise, assuming that the old string was fitted correctly!)

Tuning the 1st String

Carrying on from iii. above and still holding tension on the string with your right hand to keep it attached to the tailpiece, move you left hand to the tuning peg button and start to wind tension onto the string. At this point note that the string is located in its groove in the nut of your instrument, also that you are turning the tuning peg in the correct direction …you can see the pillar rotating as you wind the tuner peg. Carry on turning the tuner button until you take up all the ‘slack’ from your right hand. Then continue to ‘tune’ the 1st string to pitch. A clip-on electronic tuner is very useful for this operation, also to speed up the operation, use of a ‘string winder’ which is very helpful. At this stage you can ‘cut off’ the excess from the string …always tune your string BEFORE cutting off the excess. A small pair of wire cutters is a handy tool to have in your instrument bag, or you may want to invest in a state-of-the-art ‘string speed winder’ that has a pair of clippers on the end of the winder. For neatness, clip the string close to the pillar leaving approximately 6mm (¼”) Angle the remaining part of the string towards the neck face to avoid spiking yourself, but ensure that it does not touch the face of the neck which can scratch the finish when it is being wound.

Fitting and Tuning the 2nd, 3rd 4th etc. Strings

Fit the 2nd string using the same method as the first string and tune it to pitch. Fit the 3rd string in a similar way and tune it to pitch. Note that it winds around the pillar in the correct direction. Then fit the wound 4th string and tune it to pitch. Note also that the fourth string winds around the pillar in the correct direction. Carry on with the remainder of your strings with the same method. NOTE: NEVER cut the excess off a wound string before it is tuned to pitch, doing so can cause the string to unwind and loosen it’s winding along the length of the string.

5-string Banjos Only:-

Fitting and tuning the 5th or Octave String

The fifth or ‘octave’ string is attached to the tailpiece in the same manner as your other four strings, but it will have a guide on the neck of your banjo, it may also have a plastic ‘sleeve’ that fits onto the string to protect the side of your banjo neck. Take note of such things when you remove your old 5th string. Again ensure that you give it enough ‘slack’ when fitting to allow at least three turns around the pillar of the tuner button. The fifth string is tuned to high ‘G’ which is an octave above your 3rd ‘G’ string.

I have written these notes as simply as I could to help the beginner. I have tried my best to write down and explain the way that I change my own instrument strings! String changing is very much a ‘knack’ and I am certain that you will develop your own ‘knack’ of changing your strings based on the above notes.

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