Accessories for Your Ukulele - dummies

Accessories for Your Ukulele

By Alistair Wood

The extras you can buy for your ukulele range from the very useful to handy non-essentials to indulgently expensive. Once you get hooked on playing ukulele, you’ll find yourself considering these accessories more and more.

  • Capo: A capo straps round the neck of your ukulele and holds down the strings — it’s like having an extra finger. Most capos are elasticized and are particularly good for ukulele players because they’re usually variable enough to handle different sizes of ukulele.

    An elasticized capo.
    An elasticized capo.

    If you want a lever capo, you’ll have to buy one made for a mandolin or banjo. The up side is that you can put them on and remove them quickly, and they tend to create less buzz from the strings. On the down side, they’re more expensive and don’t fit all ukuleles (so try before you buy).

  • Case: Uke carriers come in three varieties:

    • Gig bags: These soft bags keep the dust off your ukulele but don’t offer much protection.

    • Soft cases: Usually padded with stiff sides, a soft case gives your ukulele a certain amount of protection.

      Get a bag or case with a generous outside pocket. You’ll want to take along a spare set of strings, a tuner, and a chord chart (or book) with you at the very least.

    • Hard cases: These cases protect your uke from all sorts of mishap and remain intact. The one problem with hard cases is that they often have a very small storage compartment.

  • Pick: Generally, playing a uke with a pick is a no-no, but in certain situations, using a pick is almost acceptable.

    If you’re strumming, go with a felt pick. This type is specifically made for the ukulele and, as the name suggests, is made of felt. You don’t get that nasty clicking sound when you strum. If you want to try a plastic guitar pick, make sure that you get a really thin one — one labeled ‘extra thin’ or ‘extra light,’ and try not to go any thicker than 0.5 millimeters.

  • Recording equipment: Even if you don’t plan to be a ukulele rock star, having a way to record your playing is useful so that you can hear your mistakes and monitor your progress. A cheap desktop mic to plug into your computer is fine. If you have some money to spend, try an sE Electronics USB2200a. For something in between, try an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB or Blue Microphones Yeti USB.

  • Stand: Very few specifically ukulele stands are available. Mostly, you’ll find violin and mandolin stands being sold as ukulele stands. They work okay for soprano and concert ukuleles, but not very well for tenor ukes. So be careful.

    Wall hangers are a popular way of storing ukuleles, but make very sure that your uke fits lest it ends up crashing to the ground. For gigs, you can also buy hangers that attach to a mic stand (or any other small pole that comes to hand).

  • Strap: Although ukuleles are meant to be played without a strap, many people find that they can play much more comfortably with one — particularly standing up.

    You can use a guitar-style strap, but most ukes don’t come with strap buttons, so you have to add them yourself or find someone to do it for you.

    A ukulele thong goes around your neck, behind the uke, under the bottom (the uke’s, not yours) and hooks on to the hole.

  • Tuner: Because they work by picking up the vibrations, you can use tuners in noisy environments — really useful if you’re tuning in a ukulele group or before a gig.