You don’t need to spend much money to get started with a ukulele.
You just need a ukulele that’s good enough to stay in tune. Here’s a link to my post about how to buy your first ukulele.
The ukulele is wonderfully, enchantingly inexpensive! It’s a perfect instrument for those of us who already have too much stuff, and don’t want to buy any more.
Having said this, some gear is very handy when you’re a ukulele player.
Here’s my list of the top seven pieces of equipment that you could consider getting.
Maybe you’ve fallen in love with the ukulele, and you want to invest in your new life as a musician. Or maybe you want to give a birthday present to a ukulele player in your life.
1. A tuner
A little digital tuner that clips onto the ukulele is very handy, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned musician. Ukulele tuners cost $20 to $25 from music shops or online.
Make sure you get one that’s specifically for ukulele, which makes it super-easy to use. And tie a coloured ribbon on it so it’s clear which one is yours. They’re very easy to lose, which is why a tuner will always be a welcome gift for a ukulele player.
Having said that, there are also free ukulele tuning apps. Here’s a link to a post about tuning your ukulele.
2. A ukulele bag or case
You’ll need a reasonably sturdy bag if you’re carrying your ukulele around to group practices and jams (and I hope you will). The cheaper ukuleles come with very flimsy bags. I’ve seen them described as “like supermarket bags”.
You might like to get yourself a better bag. However – I suggest you consider putting the money towards getting a better ukulele in the not too distant future. More expensive ukuleles usually come with a free bag.
Or you could get creative. If you’re crafty, I’ve seen some very elegant hand-sewn ukulele bags. Or think laterally. One musician friend carries her ukulele in an old violin case that she picked up at a garage sale.
3. A music stand
This saves craning your neck to read your song chart when it’s on the floor or perched on a chair. Music stands start at $25. I suggest buying a cheap one and see if it suits your purposes. For $50 you won’t necessarily get a stand that works better than $25.
I’ve been through three new music stands in the last three years. I still prefer the old one that I used in the junior orchestra in my early teens, although it’s now on its last legs.
4. A folder for your music
You’ll quickly accumulate lots of pieces of paper, so start organising your music sooner rather than later.
I used to use plastic clearfile folders, but I now keep my music in a ring binder with the music in plastic pockets. I can shift pages around to keep it in (more or less) alphabetical order when I add more music.
The only problem comes when the ring binder gets so full and heavy that it falls off the music stand. Maybe that’s why I get through so many music stands (see above).
Two people in my Monday ukulele class came up with excellent (and quite different) systems for organising their music folders. (John is an engineer and Judith is a school inspector.)
5. A basket or bag or case to carry your music gear
This makes it super-easy not to leave bits and pieces behind after practice.
My basket has space for my music stand, a couple of music folders, and my ukulele bag, wedged in vertically beside them.
6. A shoulder strap for your ukulele
This is optional. I’ve seen some professional musicians play ukulele without a shoulder strap.
However, I find a strap is very handy for performances. It means I don’t have to worry about holding the ukulele – I can concentrate on playing and singing. Everyone in my Saturday afternoon ukulele group, the Strumbles, now has a shoulder strap, except our bass player.
Many people find that having a strap means that when they’re playing while seated, the ukulele stays in position and doesn’t slip down onto their lap.
If you’re an early childhood teacher, having a strap on your ukulele will be especially handy, so you don’t have to leave it sitting around to be untuned by pixies.
Putting a strap on a ukulele involves screwing on a button to hold the strap, usually at the end of the ukulele body. The other end of the strap loops through the strings near the tuning pegs. If you’re handy with carpentry you can do this yourself. I paid an assistant at my local music shop to do it. However, if you have a very cheap or a very expensive ukulele they may be reluctant to put a screw in because of possible damage to the ukulele.
My local music shop usually has plenty of ukulele shoulder straps to choose from. There are colourful straps with pineapples and Union Jacks, and leather straps dyed in tasteful colours. They cost anything from under $10 to about $30.
7. A metronome
I’ve included a metronome in this list because it’s handy for practicing. A metronome provides you with a regular beat so you get used to changing chords and strumming in time. You can buy electronic metronomes at music shops or online (prices start at $25). Or, you can use a free or paid online metronome app.
Want to find out about working with me?
I’ve been in love with the ukulele since my mother, Sue, taught me three chords when I was six. Sue learned to play ukulele and guitar when she was a student in Hawaii in the 1950s, before she came to New Zealand.
I teach ukulele to people all over the world via Zoom and Skype. If you happen to live in Hamilton, New Zealand, I also teach group ukulele classes.
Here’s a link to book a free, no obligation 15-minute chat to find out how I can help you. https://alicebulmermusic.as.me/free-15min-chat