Thinking about taking up a new (or your first) instrument? If you’re considering the ukulele, this post is for you.
The uke is a great instrument, it’s small, light and portable. It’s less expensive than other, larger instruments. Plus it’s a good instrument to go into or branch out from guitar due to their similar tuning and playing style.
The main disadvantage to playing the ukulele is its poor solo melodic capacity because:
- It has a limited range of about 2-3 octaves depending on tuning and number of frets. Basically you can’t play anything lower than middle C (standard C tuning) or G3 (low G tuning), or higher than around A5 (C tuning with 12 frets).
- It has only 4 strings and they’re tuned relatively close together. Without trying to get too technical, this extremely limits the number of notes you have available at any one position on the fretboard. On the guitar, you have a similar close tuning, but having 6 strings makes up for it. On the violin or mandolin, you have 4 strings, but there’s no issues because the strings are tuned further apart from each other.
That isn’t to say that you can’t play melodically on the uke, just that you’re limited in range, and have to move your hand up and down the fretboard a lot more than you would have on other stringed instruments just to get the same results.
When playing harmonically, however, the uke is about as effective as a stringed instrument can be.
Another disadvantage comes if you’re looking to be “taken seriously” by others as a musician. You have to be able to play something impressive, as many people’s first reaction to the uke is that it’s just a toy. This isn’t true with other musicians as they usually understand that, like any instrument (save the tambourine, triangle, etc.), the uke can be as difficult as you make it.
Don’t worry if you didn’t understand some of the more technical stuff (”What’s a fret and octave?”), this was put in for musicians looking to play another instrument. As long as you got the gist of the different points, you should be able to make an informed decision about taking up the ukulele.