The Normans. Ukulele Buyers Guide. Ukulele Buyers Guide

The Normans Ukulele Buyers Guide Ukulele Buyers Guide Author: Jack Patrick I have put together the ultimate guide to buying a ukule...
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The Normans Ukulele Buyers Guide

Ukulele Buyers Guide Author: Jack Patrick I have put together the ultimate guide to buying a ukulele. In here I will cover – components of a ukulele, the different sizes of a ukulele and frequently asked questions.

If you have any questions about the information in this guide or would like some further advice, then please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to help you in any way I can. You can send me an email: [email protected] or call me: (01283) 535333.

Components of the Ukulele I think it is important to have a good, overall understanding of the different components on the ukulele as these are the things you are going to want to be looking out for when purchasing one: Machine Head / Tuning Peg

Fret Board Nut


Sound Hole

Bridge [email protected] 01283 535333

These are all key parts to the ukulele and can all affect the quality of the sound produced. Here is a brief description of each part: Machine Head / Tuning Peg – These are the mechanisms that hold the strings in place and seize the tuning of the strings. The quality of the tuning pegs can have a big affect on how well the ukulele holds its tune; poor tuning pegs will mean the uke will slip out of tune easily, whereas good ones will help secure the tuning for prolonged periods. Nut – This keeps the strings in the correct position and can have an impact on the action of the guitar. Fret Board – The fret board is where all the frets are. Each frets is separated by the metal bars (frets), with the first one being next to the nut. Body – The body consists of 3 parts: Back, top and sides. The wood of the body will have a major impact on the tonal qualities of your ukulele. The body will either be a laminated or solid wood. Laminated wood is where thin pieces of wood are stacked and glued together (plywood), you can tell as sometimes you can see the layers on the inside and the uke will be very light. Solid wood is where the top, back and sides are cut of a solid piece of wood. These will generally be heavier and feel more “solid” and will give of a warmer, more rounded tone. Laminated wood is a lot cheaper to manufacture so you will find more or less all of the cheaper ukuleles will be laminated. Bridge – This is mounted on top of the body and houses a saddle which holds all the strings in place above the fret board and also has a major impact on the action of the ukulele. Sound Hole – The sound hole is the opening on the top of the body. The purpose of this is to help project the sound more efficiently and it allows the top back and sides to vibrate more freely as the sounds can travel in and outside the uke. Action – This is the height of the strings from the fret board. If the strings are too high then it may become more difficult to play but if the strings are too low then you may get “fret buzz”; this is where the strings catches on one the fret bars to create a buzzing noise when the strings vibrate. Tone – This is a reference to the quality and strength of the sound being produced. Now you have grasped the ukulele and understand each different part and how it affects the overall quality we can move onto the different types of ukulele you can buy. [email protected] 01283 535333

Different Types of Ukulele There are 4 different sizes of the standard ukulele; Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone.

Soprano Ukulele Length: 21” Number of Frets: 12-15 This is the most common and standard size of uke. It is the smallest in the family and is the one that is commonly associated with ukulele’s as it is petite, thin and perfect for travelling. People with larger fingers sometimes get concerned that they will have trouble playing the soprano because the frets are closer together, but I personally think unless your fingers are very large you shouldn’t have too much trouble. The only other slight downside to having a soprano uke is that they have less tension in the strings than the other sizes meaning they may slip out of tune after bending a string. In spite of these slight downsides this is great fun and is the most affordable out of the 4, so you won’t have to spend a lot to get jamming!

Tanglewood TU2 Soprano Ukulele

Concert Ukulele Length: 23” Number of Frets: 14-17 Only a couple of inches bigger than the soprano, the concert ukulele produces a more rounded sound due to the slightly bigger frame. It is usually tuned to the same tuning as the soprano (GCEA) and is a popular choice for people with larger fingers because there is more spacing between the frets. Guitarist like the concert size not only because of the sound but because there is more tension in the strings making it beneficial to players who are looking to bend strings as you will not bend them out of tune as often. Having up to 20 frets means that players can steer to higher notes on the fret board. Luna Tattoo Concert Uke [email protected] 01283 535333

Tenor Ukulele Length: 26” Number of Frets: 15-19+ The tenor uke is quite a lot bigger than the soprano uke and because of this you will get a much richer and fuller sound along with a heavier, more weighted instrument. This ukulele is a popular choice for performers because of the tonal qualities and the capabilities to reach higher notes on the fret board. It is usually tuned to standard tuning (GCEA) but is sometimes can be tuned lower like a baritone uke (DGBE).

Mahalo U320T

Baritone Ukulele Length: 30”+ Number of Frets: 19-21

Mahalo U320B

This is the daddy of the ukulele family, the baritone. It is tuned to the bottom four strings of a guitar (DGBE) giving a deeper sound. With this added depth you do lose the bright, snappy tonal qualities that you get from the soprano. A lot of guitarists convert to the baritone because of the similarities to the guitar and with big frets it is ideal for anyone who is looking for that bigger uke with bigger frets.

You should now have a good understanding of the different types of ukulele and the components of each one. [email protected] 01283 535333

How do all these components affect the playing experience and the sound of the ukulele?

The first thing you need to look at is the body of the guitar, is it laminated or solid. If the body is laminated then the uke will feel lightweight and will have a weaker sound compared to that of a solid wooden body. The solid wood will feel heavier and give you that feeling of a bigger more punchy tone. Overall wooden bodies are better for quality but are more expensive, so if you are a beginner looking for something cheaper to start on then laminated will be ideal for you. A solid wooden body would be recommended for an intermediate /professional / performing ukulele player.

The second thing to look at would be the tuning pegs. This is something I would recommend finding out about before making your purchase. If you do not know what to look for or cannot get to us to test one then feel free to call or email and ask us; we all have experience in playing the different brands we sell and have a good knowledge of the tuning pegs on each ukulele. You need to be aware that new strings take time to settle but you can get an idea of the tuning pegs by bending the strings whilst playing and seeing how in tune they are afterwards.

The quality of the strings will have an significant effect on the tone of the ukulele. Some manufacturers don’t always put top quality strings on their ukes and so sometimes it is recommended to purchase an extra set of quality strings and replace the original ones. I would recommend the D’addario Strings; they give off a great sound.

The bridge and the nut play an important role in the playability of the ukulele, as they control the action. Having a bridge too low can cause fret buzz but too high can make it difficult to play. If you are unsure what you are looking for then contact us for advice on the different ukes.

These are the things to be looking out for when buying a ukulele, whether it is a cheaper, beginner brand or a more expensive professional one. If you ensure that the body, tuning pegs, bridge and strings are of a good quality then you will be sure to have a great uke. [email protected] 01283 535333

Frequently Asked Questions What about Electric Ukuleles? Electric ukuleles are becoming more and more popular, especially in performing players. They are basically acoustic ukes that have a pick-up placed inside them which is powered by a battery. This allows you to plug your uke into an amplifier or PA to boost the signal when gigging. You can get specific electric ukes that have a solid wooden body (like that of an electric guitar) but these are quite specialist and can be expensive.

Does the Shape Affect the Sound? You would of noticed that there are numerous different shaped ukuleles and may be wondering if they affect the overall sound. Well yes the shape does have an effect because the resonance coming from the body will be varying from each shaped ukulele. Traditionally the “classical shape” is meant to give the most rounded sound but overall I generally think you would buy a more funky shape for the shape itself rather than the “rounded” timbre.

Should I Read Reviews? If you have set your sights on a few ukuleles then I would recommend going online and reading reviews of and potentially watching videos of the ukulele in action. This will give you a good indication of the sound and quality of the instrument as well as getting independent reviews of them as well. What Tuning is a Ukulele in? The most common type of tuning in a soprano, concert and tenor ukulele is G4-C4-E4-A4 with the G string tuned an octave higher than you might expect. A baritone is usually tuned to D3-G3-B3-E4 which is the same as the bottom 4 strings on a guitar. How Do You Tune the Ukulele? If you want to know how to tune your uke then see this link:

What are the Best Starter Ukuleles? Read my article on what I think the top 3 starter ukuleles are:

I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions on anything I have mentioned then please feel free to get in touch with me. Thanks

If there are some questions that we have not answered within this guide, you may find them on our blog or forum.

Normans Blog

Normans Soundboard Forum [email protected] 01283 535333

Meet the sales team Jack Patrick

Hazel Adams

Jack has been a sales advisor at Normans since September 2012 after graduating from university with a degree in music. Jack’s expertise is in guitars, music technology and live sound, although he does have very well rounded knowledge of all things musical.

Hazel is the customer service and sales office manager, who has worked for Normans for 6 years. She played the keyboard at school and over her years here, has built up her knowledge of most musical instruments. Hazel would love to learn to play another instrument, but just can’t find the time.

Jonathon Hines (Jonty) Jonty has been with Normans for over 10 years and has had many different roles within the company, currently he is the sales product manager, with fantastic knowledge of the products that Normans supply. Jonty is a piano and tuba player, but can play most musical instruments.

Lizzie Ball Lizzie is Normans’ drumming expert, and has been drumming since she was old enough to hold drum sticks. She also plays the guitar in her spare time. Lizzie joined the Normans team after graduating from university with a degree in music.

Hayley Walker

Diana Stone

Hayley is the sales office manager with 5 years experience. As well as being a great singer, she is also an avid Robbie Williams fan. Hayley has recently taken up playing the ukulele and is having great fun learning.

Diana is the newest addition to the Normans team. Diana is a grade 8 pianist and a singer-songwriter. She is fluent in 3 languages and has joined our team after completing a BTEC Extended Diploma in Music Performance at Burton College.