Tag Archives: Ukuleles

How to get kids interested in music Part 1 – Preschoolers

Many parents ask us how to bring music into their children’s lives from an early age so they are used to seeing and playing instruments and will be able to progress naturally to learning to play. Here are a few of our top tips for making music with very young children:

1) Buy small percussion instruments. Try to explore different methods of making sound such as shaking and banging. Also, vary the texture of the sounds so you have a mixture of instruments suitable for different types of music making.

2) Play along to a favourite TV theme tune together and choose children’s TV programmes which regularly contain a song and/or dance number to play and sing along to. Instead of just banging away, encourage your child to match the rhythm and dynamics (loud/quiet) of each song and to choose an instrument that fits it best. Or read a story together and use your instruments to make sound effects. Try to be imaginative and explore the different sounds you can get from each instrument!

3) Draw on any experience you have yourself, even if it’s a little while ago! If you can sing or play, make time to do this so your child gets used to seeing it. Your first instinct will probably be to keep small children away from an expensive instrument but instead, teach your child to handle your instruments gently, even if they’re too young to play it.

4) Many people are surprised to find that you can introduce children as young as 2-3 to a simple instrument like the ukulele. Ukes are cheap, very easy to learn and great starter instruments for all the family to learn together :-).  For more info on starting to play the uke read our blog here.

5) Most areas have music groups and classes aimed at very young children and their parents. If you’re in the North East, Sweet Symphony School of Music and Piccolo Music are great places to start making music with your children.

Why not pop into enjoymuzic – your North East Music Shop and see our great selection of percussion and ukuleles?

How to use a digital tuner

 

We always encourage you to buy a tuner with any stringed instrument – most often a guitar or a ukulele. Many phones and tablets have a download app you can use and obviously something is better than nothing but there are a few reasons why a clip-on tuner is a better option.

The first is that, because they work by vibration, a clip-on tuner is significantly more accurate than either an app or a desk tuner for stringed instruments. The second positive about a clip-on tuner is that they aren’t disturbed by external noise eg: other people tuning around you or the TV.

So, what’s the best and easiest way to use a clip-on tuner to get the maximum results? Just follow the easy steps below, ideally every time you play, to keep your instrument sounding great:

– Make sure your tuner is set up correctly for the instrument you are tuning. You may have options for mode – eg which instrument and notes you need so make sure you’ve selected an appropriate option first. Also there may be a choice of pitch. In normal circumstances, this should be set to 440, which is standard concert pitch.

– Attach your tuner in a way that gets the best reception. This is the headstock of a guitar, ukulele, banjo or mandolin and the middle of the back of the neck on a violin. Try slightly different angles and positions until you find your perfect positioning where you get a good signal, you can see the display clearly and you can comfortably reach the tuning pegs.

– It sounds obvious, but make sure the peg you are turning relates to the string you are trying to tune! If in doubt, follow the string along to find the peg it’s attached to. Even experienced musicians sometimes snap a string by turning the wrong peg and not stopping to wonder why the pitch of the string isn’t changing :-).

– New strings go further out of tune and a lot more often so don’t worry if you seem to spend a lot of time tuning at first. As long as you store your instrument away from changing heat (not near a radiator or in the loft/conservatory/shed!) then it should settle down so you can tune once or twice a week.

We have a great selection of tuners for all instruments in store at Royal Quays, or you can see them here:

http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/musical-instrument-tuners.html

TGI 81 Digital Tuner

Ukulele Lessons in Seaton Sluice & Bedlington

We’re often asked where there are local ukulele classes for complete beginners and more advanced players.   Learn to play your ukulele at local, reasonably priced courses starting very soon.  They’re run by a lovely lady called Diane who hosts them in Seaton Sluice & Bedlington.  Places are limited so don’t delay, call us at enjoymuzic for Diane’s contact details on 0191 2966544.  No need to read music!  You will need your own ukulele but we have some great quality beginner ukes in stock now.

Brunswick Ukulele Sizes
Brunswick Ukuleles from enjoymuzic

Which ukulele should I buy? (Part Two)

So you’ve read ‘Which Ukulele Should I Buy Part One’ and hopefully you have a clear idea of what size you need to buy but there are soooo many brands, finishes and price ranges out there, so here are a few of our preferred ukes for you to consider….

Things to look out for:

Friction pegs v. machine heads – Ukuleles, like most folk instruments, all had friction pegs until relatively recently and many well respected brands such as Ozark have stuck with this tradition. If you’re new to playing a stringed instrument however, we would always recommend that you look for one with machine heads (like a guitar) as friction pegs tend to slip and require some maintenance. Ask the shop to explain the difference if you’re not sure.

Laminate v. wood – There’s nothing wrong with starting out with a cheap laminate ukulele and seeing how you get along but be wary of paying too much for one. Real wood ukes are surprisingly inexpensive and sound so much better.

Accessories deals – You will need a tuner and maybe a bag or a stand for your ukulele. Ask the store if they offer any discounts or accessories bundles.

First time players and children: If you’ve never played an instrument before and you’re going to take up the ukulele, then good on you! Keep it cheap and cheerful with a Mahalo soprano ukulele package. There are loads of cheap ones around but we really rate the Mahalo brand for good value playability. If you’re confident you’ve selected the right size for you and would like a better sounding one, Mahalo also do an entry level wooden ukulele with a smart padded bag which is available in all the standard ukulele sizes. Brunswick is a slightly more expensive but better quality brand which is worth a look. They do ukuleles in a popular shade of mahogany or the more unusual blond maple version.

For guitarists: If you or the person you’re buying for already play guitar then it’s safe to say that a soprano ukulele is likely to seem too cramped and fiddly. Go straight in for a concert or tenor size. Brunswick do some beautiful real wood ukuleles at a great low price and there is also an electro-acoustic option at less than £100. This is ideal if the person already plays electric guitar and enjoys playing through an amp.

Of course, if you want to hit the ground running, the easy thing to do is choose a baritone ukulele which is tuned like a guitar. Again, the Brunswick Baritone Ukulele is a good value buy but Ashbury do a great Baritone too.

Intermediate players: As you approach the £100 – £200+ price bracket, a whole new world of ukuleles comes into consideration. When you’re ready to pay this kind of money, you’ve probably been playing for a while so the best advice is to get out there and try as many as you can. It’s also a good idea to decide whether you think an electro-acoustic ukulele would be of any use to you, rather than finding your perfect uke and having to pay someone later to fit a pick-up for gigging or just experimenting with changing the sound through an amplifier.

Regardless of the brand, the ukuleles we really love are all made from Pacific woods like Curly Mango and Koa. The trees grown in that Hawaiian region are much sought after for ukulele building and tend to carry the specific twangy tone associated with original ukuleles.

One of the best brands at an intermediate price is Kala but you may want to look at some of the big guitar names (Martin, Gibson, Gretsch) who have all been outputting some great ukuleles recently. If you fancy something that looks a bit different, try Riptide.

There are plenty of other options including the pineapple shape and also the classic ‘George Formby’ Banjo Ukulele like this one from Barnes and Mullins which is often the first thing people picture when you mention ukes. Great sound but try before you buy! They’re heavier than they look and can be a bit awkward to keep in tune.

Which ukulele should I buy? (Part One)

Ukuleles come in five sizes. Here’s a quick round-up of the features of each and some of the reasons you might choose them…

Brunswick Ukulele Sizes

Soprano Ukulele: The smallest ukulele is often mistaken for a child’s guitar or toy. In fact, it’s a versatile instrument which is easy to master and ideal for adults and children. For anyone who is starting to play for the first time, the soprano uke is the perfect choice because they’re cheap and often come in a variety of bright colours. The easy chord shapes are a great lead in to starting to play the guitar. Start playing uke with your child at around 3-4 years old and get one for granny too!

Concert Ukulele: The concert ukulele is the next size up from the soprano. It has a longer fretboard so it lends itself better to more advanced playing. Because the tuning is the same as the soprano uke, many people, particularly men, who start with a soprano uke graduate quite quickly onto the concert size because it gives them more room to manoeuvre. The concert ukulele will normally ‘sound better’ than a soprano ie: it offers more resonance, and is great for both chord and melody playing. The perfect choice for someone who already plays other instruments or who has been playing a cheap soprano ukulele for a while.

Tenor Ukulele: The tenor ukulele is also tuned in the same way as the soprano and concert models, meaning that players can switch between the three with relative ease. The tenor uke is bigger than the concert ukulele. In some ways, it is the most versatile of the uke family as there are various string sets readily available with different combinations of wound and nylon strings and high or low G string. This makes it easy to find the sound you like best and also means it can be adapted easily to be a melody or a chord instrument. Great for guys who still feel cramped on the concert size and anyone who likes a slightly more guitar style sound.

Baritone Ukulele: The baritone ukulele is tuned like the top four strings of a guitar (although you can buy strings for it which are tuned like a standard uke). The baritone uke is very popular with guitarists who find it easy to pick up and play and because it tends to have two wound strings, it sounds very like a guitar. The compact size makes it a perfect travelling companion. It’s also a good harmony instrument, often used to play the harmony line, or chords, in a ukulele group.

Bass Ukulele: The largest of the ukulele family is the most expensive and least mass produced. Normally only used to give extra depth to the harmonies in group playing.

Visit Part Two for our top tips on the best brands of ukulele to buy and how to get the best uke for your budget.

Boulder Creek Guitars and Riptide Ukuleles are hot!

Made by the same company, the unusual design of these instruments has probably put off as many people as it has excited. But the science behind the small or missing soundhole is valid and makes a unique playing experience. There is also a soundhole on the top of these instruments which means that as the player, you get to experience the music you’re making firsthand as some of the sound is coming directly up to you. It’s particularly useful on the electro versions of the instruments if you’re playing a gig. However, the general high quality of finish and the sweetness of the sound makes them a great choice for playing at home too. When you get the opportunity to try one, give it a whirl – you won’t be disappointed!

But you don’t have to take our word for it! Have a listen to this beautiful rendition of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a wonderful world’ by Piotr Szumlas playing one of the Solitaire series of Boulder Creek Guitars. Piotr is an up and coming young Polish solo guitarist and composer and he shows off the resonance and clarity of the instrument really well here.

If you prefer something smaller, we love the awesome Riptide ukuleles too. In this case, the best things definitely come in small packages!

Ukuleles are HOT!

So, ukuleles are just little guitars with 4 strings for babies, right? Wrong! Ukes are fab little instruments that are easy to play, sound great, incredibly cheap and SO funky! And best of all? They are trashing the recorder!! Schools are wising up to the fact that kids are loving the uke (and so are their grannies). Anyone can do it – why don’t you?

Here’s a couple of links to some of the cutest uke designs we’re offering and the coolest accessories for your ukulele;

The UK has been a hotspot of national pride since the Olympics and the Jubilee, so how about a Union Jack uke?

It’ll sound great if it’s bang in tune – the Snark Clip-On Ukulele Tuner is a great little gadget to make tuning easy.

Anything from Adele to ZZ Top, with Black Sabbath in between. Bring your favourite tracks bang up to date with sheet music for your ukulele.

If you would like a taster of just how cool the ukulele can be, check out this video of the Ukulele Orchestra playing Nirvana!