Uke Care - Get a Good Sound From Your Cheap Ukulele




Introduction: Uke Care - Get a Good Sound From Your Cheap Ukulele

About: Hey there! I make music by mixing ukulele/guitalele, didgeridoo, and beatbox. I love little instruments and finding how to get the best sound out of them. Recently my biggest projects have been making ukulele-…

Hey there!

You can get a pretty good sound even from a cheap ukulele. Here I show you a few trick on my Makala Dolphin, which is one of the cheapest ukuleles there are. It's a semi-plastic soprano ukulele, but this will be the same on a wooden ukulele.

Here is the video, if you prefer to follow along that way :)

(please subscribe on YouTube if this helps you out. it's free and there's more like it coming :)

Step 1: Change the Strings

Strings that come with cheap and mid-price ukulele are usually pretty bad, unfortunately.

Changing them even with the cheapest Aquila strings will give your ukulele a much better sound. It really makes a clear noticeable difference!

I use Aquila Super Nylgut strings (Aquila code 101U), with a low G (which gives it a nice sound that's a little bit deeper).

For the low G string, it can be included in the 101U pack. Otherwise you can buy it separately (Aquila code 71U), or use the cheap-but-perfectly-valid alternative: a wound guitar D-string. That string is so long that you can usually cut it in half and get 2 ukulele strings from 1 guitar string!

There are many great string brands!

Step 2: Feed It Some Oil!

Oiling wooden instruments can keep the wood from drying up, and protect it from the elements.

The hydrophobic properties of oil mean your uke will suffer less from humidity or rain. So to do this:

a. get a paper towel, or (better yet) a piece of cloth. you can cut off a piece of an old t-shirt for example.

b. put a bit of oil on it

c. wipe the whole length of the fretboard with it

d. wipe the saddle (place at the bottom of the ukulele where the strings are attached)

e. pour a bit of oil inside the ukulele, and move the ukulele around so the oil gets everywhere. this step here is not a standard thing to do, so if you don't trust me :) don't do it on your most expensive ukulele. try it first on a cheap travel ukulele which you want to weather-proof, for example. I've been doing it for a long time and I personally feel it gives my uke a nice rounded sound to oil the inside. You can check the sound sample after oiling in the video if you want.

f. put the ukulele upside down on a plate overnight (like you see on the photo), so any excess oil comes out. you can also wipe what you can of excess oil with your piece of cloth. your ukulele will take a while to dry out completely (an extra day or so), but you can use it already)

note: you can keep the little piece of oily cloth for next time (for example in a little cup in the fridge)

Step 3: Tune It

I know this is obvious to most people sorry, but often if your ukulele sounds bad it's just that it's a little out of tune.

Changes in humidity or temperature (like playing outside) will make your ukulele out of tune, but just retune it a little and it's all fine.

The simplest is using an electric tuner (which costs ~$10), but you can tune it by ear based on another instrument or on a tuning whistle if you prefer.

Step 4: Play and Be Happy!

Hope you're happy with your ukulele's new sound!

It's also more resistant to outdoor conditions, so that's nice.

Thanks Instructables users for having motivated me so much for my previous ukulele Instructable!

If you want to help me keep creating music, and creating free instructions like this, you can join my Patreon page:

Patreon is a great system where you can make small donations and get special perks/advantages! Even being a $1 contributor would help me out a bunch! :) Cheers!

jonny boxmonkey

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    Olive oil is a vegetable oil, so doesn't it go nasty and rancid over time? I thought only mineral based oils would be suitable for this sort of thing? Just wondering!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    For example here's an article that compares different types of vegetable oils used by a flutist. He likes using tung oil (which comes from a nut).

    You might prefer one type of oil or another, but generally vegetable oils work well for oiling wooden instruments. People usually say not to use boiled linseed oil but that others are fine. Sources like this article ( say vegetable oils do oxidate with time (unlike mineral oils), but that it doesn't cause any problems; just means you'll have to re-apply a little bit of oil once in a while to keep full protection.



    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No it's fine. I've been using it for more than a year, and my brother also on his quena flute. I probably wouldn't use 2 year old oil for pesto, but for the wood it just dries up and keeps its hydrophobic properties to protect from humidity. Doesn't rot or anything if that's the worry.

    (it won't keep smelling like pesto though :)