Best Ukulele for Beginners: Buying that First Ukulele

Deciding what type of tuner and strings to use on the ukulele is a matter of choice. Having to consistently re-tune the ukulele can be quite a frustration causing you not to play the instrument. The tuners most commonly used on most ukuleles are the friction peg and geared tuners. Cheap strings are prone to break and may make the ukulele sound more like a toy. The two types of strings commonly used today are the nylon and Aquila. This article discusses tuners and strings to help you decide what is best suited for your needs. This article is the final in a three-part series that addresses these issues in buying that first ukulele. The article concludes with some helpful hints.

Geared and Friction Peg Tuners
Located at the neck of the ukulele are four tuners. Each tuner is attached to a string and is responsible for the pitch of that string. This is how the ukulele is tuned, which is not discussed in this article. What is important is there are two types of tuners available, namely the friction peg and geared tuners.
Friction peg tuners are the more common type of tuner found on the ukulele. They are considered the more traditional type of tuner since the original ukuleles used friction peg tuners. Friction peg tuners use wood-to-wood friction fit to keep the peg to stay in place. For beginners, the friction peg tuners can be more challenging to tune the instrument accurately. A higher percentage of ukulele players prefers the control that with geared tuners offer especially on a larger ukulele. For instance tenor.

The other type of tuners is the geared tuner. For beginners, geared tuners are much easier to tune the ukulele because of their gear ratio. The gear ratio describes the number of times the peg needs to be turned for the post to make one revolution. The gear ratio is expressed as 15:1 meaning it takes 15 turns of the knob for one complete revolution of the peg. Geared tuners allow for more accurate tuning and prevent the slippage that occasionally happens with friction tuners.
There is a debate amongst musicians on which is better, the friction peg or geared tuner which is a matter of preference.

The strings on the ukulele are the sound source as they vibrate when plucked or strummed. The two common strings used today are nylon and Aquila. Nylon strings are cheaper than Aquila and are typically found on less expensive ukuleles.

The original ukulele used strings made of gut. Today nylon strings have replaced gut strings. Nylon is superior to the gut in many ways. Nylon is more available and less expensive than gut. Nylon strings also stay in tune far better when gut was the only option for non-metal strings. Nylon is more resilient than gut, which is easy to break if the strings are not installed properly. Clear and black nylon strings are popular today. Both are good; it’s just a matter preference. Most ukulele strings are made of nylon although some people prefer the sound of the gut.
An Italian company called Aquila creates another type of string used today. They are white strings made from a synthetic material called Nylgut. These strings have the same qualities as nylon and gut. Nylgut is more stable than nylon in keeping its tonal attributes against temperature and humidity. Nylgut is elastic to tension as compared to the gut. Aquila strings are becoming the choice of most ukulele players. Aquila strings are highly polished to a smooth surface and more expensive than nylon strings.

Helpful Hints
The best advice is to go to a music store that sells ukuleles and ask questions. Pick up the instrument, look at it and see if it meets your expectations and that you will enjoy playing. Unfortunately, there are not many shops that specialize in selling ukuleles and many stores have a limited selection.
Many reputable websites sell ukuleles for less than what you may find in music stores. Many of the better sites should have a customer support department where you can call or email questions or concerns, if not avoid them.
Here are some helpful tips:
• Deciding on friction peg or geared tuners is a matter of preference.
• Friction peg tuners are the traditional tuners used in most ukuleles today.
• Most beginners prefer geared tuners.
• Nylon strings are available either in clear or black and found on most ukuleles.
• Aquila is superior to nylon in tonal qualities and strength, but more expensive.

This is the final article in this series on buying that first ukulele. Hopefully, the information in this series was informative and helped you decide which ukulele is best for your needs. Buying a quality made ukulele will bring years of musical enjoyment.
This is a comprehensive guide for the best ukulele for beginners. Make the best choice for maximum enjoyment. Good luck!

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