A Guide To Ukulele Accessories
Kala Ukulele Stand, Cloth & Tuner Pack
If you have a ukulele, then strictly speaking, you don’t need anything else in order to play it. As far as instruments, go, it’s pretty self-contained.
However, there are still a variety of ukulele accessories that can make life easier, or give you extra options when it comes to music making. These include a tuner, stand, case and other items. Let’s look at these in this article.
First, if you’re planning to take your uke out of the house
(or you just want to make sure it stays safe while at home), a ukulele case is
Bargain Ukulele Cases on Amazon
You have two basic options here: hard and soft.
Hard ukulele cases provide the most protection, and are the best choice if you’re going to be travelling far. They are more expensive, although not prohibitively so, and are definitely a good idea if you have a valuable instrument (although higher end ukuleles often come with a case included anyway). Hard cases are heavier than their soft counterparts, although the weight shouldn’t normally be a problem, since they’re relatively small – they’re certainly not as heavy and cumbersome as hard guitar cases.
Soft ukulele cases and gig bags are a cheaper option, and these are available in a variety of styles. Some have straps so you can carry them over your shoulder like a rucksack, which makes them very convenient, especially if you’re cycling. However, these are basically just padded bags, and will protect your instrument from superficial scratches and light knocks, but you should be careful not to let it get bashed about, as the protection it’ll get in a soft case is limited.
Both hard and soft uke cases will normally have compartments where you can keep other accessories.
A capo is another handy accessory to have, especially if you haven’t yet mastered playing in all keys. A capo is a simple device that attaches to the fretboard, and holds down all the strings at the fret where you put it on. In effect, it’s like a movable nut, and lets you play in different keys easily.
Ukulele capos are smaller than guitar capos (although these could be used), and can be used for similarly sized instruments such as some mandolins, banjos etc. too.
There are different types of capo, although they do the same thing. The cheaper ones have a solid bar attached to a piece of thick elastic which stretches around the neck of the instrument and is secured at the other end of the bar. These are simple to use, but take some time to add and remove, so you’ll need to stop playing to do so.
You can also get capos that have springs and a ‘trigger’ release mechanism which allows you to remove it very quickly with minimum disruption while you’re playing.
Other capos clamp around the neck and are held in place by adjustable screws.
The best type of capo is really a matter of personal preference, but you should look for one with adequate padding on the areas where it comes into contact with the instrument, as well as no protruding parts that will get in the way as you play. It should also apply an appropriate amount of pressure on the strings; you want them pressed down firmly enough to prevent any buzzing, but not so much that the instrument goes out of tune.
The ukulele is generally played by plucking the strings, but
you can also play with a pick. It’s best not to use conventional guitar picks
however, as these are designed for use with steel stringed guitars, whereas
ukuleles have nylon or other soft strings. Instead, look for felt picks; as the
name suggests, these have a soft covering that will give a much pleasanter tone
when used with nylon strings. Like conventional picks, you can get felt picks
in various sizes, and also in different shapes, although many are in the usual
triangular pick shape. Some are also harder than others, and the materials
vary, which make a difference to the tone, so you may want to experiment with different
types to see which you like best.This site has a nice selection of felt picks.
Next, you might want to get a strap. This isn’t an essential if you play sitting down, but some people do find the ukelele awkward to hold when playing (especially the small soprano size), so a strap can help to stabilise it. And if you want to play standing up, it’s almost a must.
Unlike electric guitars, ukuleles don’t come with strap buttons on the body of the instrument as standard. So using a guitar strap will be tricky. Fortunately, you can get special ukulele straps which attach to the instrument at the sound hole, with a loop to go around your neck (this design is sometimes also used for acoustic guitar straps).
A ukulele tuner is also a useful accessory to have, so you can be sure your uke will be in tune even if you don’t have a piano or other reference instrument handy.
A tuning fork is one simple option, and pitch pipes are another – these low tech solutions have the advantage of not needing batteries, and not being very prone to breakage.
On the other hand, many people prefer the accuracy and ease of use of an electronic tuner. These sometimes come with a metronome included in the same unit, which makes them especially useful. Regular ukulele tuners have an internal microphone that picks up the sound produced by your instrument, and then displays a reading to tell you the degree to which it’s in or out of tune. You can also get clip-on tuners, which clamp to the headstock, and pick up on the vibrations directly. These are more accurate, since ambient sound has less of an influence on the reading.
You can choose a tuner that’s designed especially for the ukulele (this will be especially sensitive to the frequencies within the ukulele’s range). Another option is to get a general chromatic tuner which can be used with any instrument. Whichever type of tuner you get, be sure to tune up each time you play, as playing a slightly detuned instrument is not only unpleasant for anyone in earshot, but will have a harmful effect on your own pitch perception too.
Stands & Hangers
If you don’t store your ukulele in its case (assuming you’ve got a case!), it’s a good idea to get a stand or a hanger for it, rather than just leaving it leaning against the wall or on a shelf. These are safer options, and aren’t expensive.
Ukulele stands are usually portable (they fold up easily), and will hold your instrument securely. You can also get general purpose stringed instrument stands with hanger attachments that will hold guitars, ukuleles, mandolins etc. But a dedicated ukulele stand that holds the instrument closer to the floor may be a safer option. Just make sure it’s stored somewhere where you won’t accidentally trip over it!
If floor space is limited, a ukulele hanger is another good option. Wall mounted hangers are very simple, and will display your uke nicely when it’s not in use. They also keep it out of the reach of children, pets etc., and it’s less likely to get knocked over.
Strictly speaking, strings are a core part of the instrument rather than an accessory, but they’re something you’ll need to buy on a semi-regular basis, so are worth discussing here. The strings you use will make a big difference to how the instrument sounds, so it’s always worth paying a little more for quality strings from a leading manufacturer such as Aquila or Worth. This is especially true if you have a lower-end ukulele – cheaper instruments can sound a lot better with good strings.
Ukulele strings are made from different materials, depending on the manufacturer. Some are made from nylon, but Aquila’s ‘nylgut’ strings are especially popular; these have the tonal qualities of gut strings, but without the disadvantages. Worth ukulele strings are also popular; these are made of a fluorocarbon material.
You might want to experiment with string sets from different manufacturers, to find the ones you like best.
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