My first uke – what should I buy? What should I practice?

Essential reading for all new ukers!

These two excellent articles include advice on what to buy as your first uke:



Some more ideas:

I get regular emails via the website asking for advice about the “best first uke to buy”, advice for beginner lessons, etc. There are lots of websites with this sort of advice so I have started listing them here as and when I find them:

My UkeStuff Xmarks:

(Xmarks link: sometimes that link goes to a blank page – if so, please leave a comment and I will fix it.)

I have copied extracts from a couple of emails and the replies I sent – see below – and hope this information helps others too.

This is a “first draft” of this blog post, so please leave any comments about updates or suggestions and I will add them with credit to the author.


Hi Lizzie,

A friend of mine has a ukuele and I’ve quite enjoyed having a go at his. I’m thinking of taking the next step and buying one for myself. But if possible I want some expert advice before I do. I should start by explaining that I’m not musically gifted, probably tone deaf, can’t read music and have relatively short fingers. But I’m up for a challenge.

Can I ask where I’d go for a reasonably priced ukulele in the North East? If possible I’d also like to know which one you’d recommend for a beginner with all the odds stacked against him? Any good books out there for the complete novice?

Many thanks


The first thing to remember – playing a ukulele is the most fun you can have doing something badly!

Secondly – you will be amazed how quickly you will pick it up – speaking as someone also musically ungifted, etc.

1. Which size uke to buy?

  • The smallest is a Soprano, then a Concert then a Tenor. Bigger again is a Baritone but it is tuned differently and you will find it harder to learn if you are going to join a uke-group and learn from watching and listening to other people – and that is the way that is most fun.
  • My advice – go for a Concert. Could have been designed for short, stubby fingers.

2. How much do you want to pay?

I would suggest NOT going for the cheapest you can find as it will be hard to play and will not keep tune. Reckon for up to £50 for a decent Concert from Hound Dog Music (Whitley Bay), Windows or Newcastle Music Centre or look on eBay for second hand.

3. Buy a clip-on tuner – about £20:

It is not cheating, we all use them and your uke will sound vile if it is out of tune.

4. Get good strings.

  • Aquila or Worth (under £10 a set) will make your uke sound like it cost hundreds of pounds not pennies.
  • If you buy at Hound Dog or any other music shop then buy the strings at the same time and ask them to re-string the uke and tune it for you (even if you have to come back later to pick it up). Phone the shop first to ask if they have Aquila strings in Concert size in stock – you can only buy Worth over the internet.
  • Ask them to keep the packet for you – it will have instructions on how to bed them in.
  • Buy two sets if you can afford it, in case you snap a string (not likely but possible).

5. Buy a felt plectrum.

You might or might not like to use it some or all of the time but you won’t know until you try – cheap.

6. Buy a case for your uke if it doesn’t come with one.

This is your new baby!!! Try not to roll over and squash it when you take it to bed!

7. Play with other people.

There is information about uke clubs and sessions in the North East and Cumbria here:

8. Ukes4Fun Google Group.

If you will be coming to our sessions and would like to join our Google Group, enter your email address here:

Further info here:

9. Lots of Ukulele Links.

  • All my “Uke Stuff” bookmarks on Xmarks

10. Don’t delay – practice every day!

The real trick will be work out how to STOP yourself practicing – it’s not like trying to learn to play the guitar – it’s fun!

There is a nifty little site here if you want to practice along to songs – it shows you the chord shapes as the the song plays – might be a bit of leap for a complete uke-virgin but worth bookmarking because it won’t be long before you can play along.

There are also masses of uke learning videos on YouTube – this is a good one to start with – learn to play your uke in less than 10 minutes. (But get a clip-on tuner, not the one on the video)

That should keep you out of trouble for a while!

Many thanks for the excellent e-mail and kind regards,

PS – I’ve got a worried wife re. this whole sleeping with your uke, it’s the second time I’ve heard of this phenomenon over the last couple of weeks…

Your wife will be fine – just get her a uke as well :-)


I am new to this group and enjoyed the video clips of Sunday’s Tynemouth Rowing Club gig.
Is there a programme of songs available beforehand?
A beginner like me would like to be able to practice a few songs that were coming up to get the confidence to join in.


George Welch has given us a booklet for new starters called Ukulele First Step”plus mp3 files of two of the songs to practice to (the third to follow). You can download these from here:

I have been making corrections to the current songbook and there are more songs to be added – the current version will always be on this page, with notes in the “comments” about below the main page about revisions and updates:

Some other handy resources:

A good “starter pack”:

There are some strumming tips here:

There will be some more “tutorial” videos amongst these:

More tutorial videos:

Don’t worry about not being “up to speed” – I had never picked up a musical instrument in my life when I started going along.

The most basic practice is difficult to describe but easy to show:

I couldn’t find a uke video demonstrating but this is what it is on the guitar –

On the uke, start at the top on the string nearest to your head (G) and pluck the strings once each time:

  1. fret the 1st fret with index finger,
  2. second fret with middle finger,
  3. third fret with ring finger and
  4. fourth fret with little finger,

Then move to the next string (C) and do the same and then the same with (E) and then (A)

Then do the whole lot backwards.

Another exercise is similar but you work down the neck (up in pitch) as you go – this is called “the snake”.

Start off the same was as above on the (G) string:

  1. fret the 1st fret with index finger,
  2. 2nd fret with middle finger,
  3. 3rd fret with ring finger and
  4. 4th fret with little finger
  5. 4th fret with little finger again
  6. 3rd fret with ring finger and
  7. 2nd fret with middle finger,
  8. 1st fret with index finger

When you move across to the (C) string, moved down a fret:

  • fret the 2nd fret with index finger,
  • 3rd fret with middle finger,
  • 4th fret with ring finger and
  • 5th fret with little finger
  • 5th fret with little finger again
  • 4th fret with ring finger and
  • 3rd fret with middle finger
  • 2nd fret with index finger

Then move across to the (E) string with index finger starting on the 3rd fret and follow the same pattern

Then move across to the (A) string with the index finger starting on the 4th fret and follow the same pattern

Then do the whole lot backwards – so you end up with the last action being a pluck on the (G) string with your index finger on the 1st fret.

This is the best way to get a feel for the uke and gets your fingers to know the fretboard. You don’t need to practice further down the neck than this.

Hope this is helpful and look forward to seeing you at the sessions,


Workshops and Education eNews

So, you have got your first uke and you are practicing! Maybe you would be interested in coming along to a Workshop?

You do not need to attend Ukes4Fun sessions to come along to these events. For more info and to sign up to get notice of workshops and events see:

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