This is all you need to know about buying a ukulele in Singapore! Ok, not really all but just enough for you before you buy one! If you’ve read previous posts or adventures, you know I play the ukulele and stuff and since a lot of people have asked me about it. This is what you should know before buying a ukulele!
- A ukulele is not a guitar
This might sound stupid but yes. Before you buy that ukulele, you need to know it’s not a guitar. It comes with four strings. The tuning is GCEA. The first string when you strum downwards will sound high then it goes low, higher and highest once more. Yes, it is supposed to sound that way. If you want it to sound “guitarish” or more mellow, you can change your G string to a low G string. It’s actually called that, ask for a ukulele low G string.
- Strings are not fishing wires
Unlike toys, the strings aren’t fishing wires. Some people do not see the difference but there is and it’ll sound weird or that you’ve been ripped off if it’s not proper strings.
In any case, if you think you have sucky strings, buy Aquila nylgut strings. I use those and they sound great! There’s black fluro carbon ones too and they sound mellower and more chill. You might think of using guitar strings (I saw a person doing that at a certain music store and I was appalled) on your ukulele… Just don’t. There’s no point in getting a ukulele then.
- Beware of imitations
Ok. There are imitation ukuleles for some reason. I’m going to spend more time in telling you this before you purchase your ukulele. Now, if you saw my first picture, the first is a TGM ukulele costing around $38, the second is a white Mahalo around $18 and the third is a $335 jazz cutaway Eleuke (electric ukulele). Remember that first.
This one here is an $89 Makala ukulele (available at Ukulele Movement)
Now here’s the story.
Apparently music shops are stocking up on imitation ukuleles. Now, I’m one who goes woooo on cheaptastic ukuleles, I have a range of them anyway. My TGM ukulele is considered a cheap good one because it didn’t go out of tune that fast and while the wood is some cheap wood and when I bought it, the glue was still pretty fresh and strong, it was worth the money for it.
It was an original SIMPLE design. I eventually changed the strings so it ended up being the price of like a good range Makala like the $89 that I stated above here.
Anywho, now music stores are bringing in MAKANA. No. It’s not a typo. The design and stickers and all look like a Makala but the wood is of lower quality and the strings too…
But get this.
A Makana costs $89.
A Makala (original) costs $89 AND it comes with a padded gigbag.
If people want to bring in imitations, I’m like “Ok, whatever maybe it’s cheaper” but no. It’s the same price (and even more expensive for some) than the originals and you don’t get a proper gigbag along with it?!
There’s no point in buying the imitations. It’s not even just Makanas now, there are designs that copy other proper brands like Anueanue. Heck, now TGM sells more expensive ukuleles which are imitation designs. They’ve stopped with their simple ones, I guess cause everyone wants a ukulele now.
So beware of imitations since they’re rampant.
EDIT: As of 31 August 2012, MAKANA and TGM have stepped up! Their constructions are now pretty good PLUS, the newer ones now have tags stating what it is made of and use Aquila strings too. Be sure it’s the newer ones that you’re buying with all the info about it.
- Overpriced branded ukuleles
I can appreciate expensive ukuleles since I know what the craftmanship or sound is like but there are some ukuleles that are too expensive and I can’t see what’s the point of it. For example, there are ukuleles from obscure brands costing $700 and I’m like “What is this junk?”.
A fact, without naming any names
Fender. A good guitar company can make very awesome guitars but they won’t ever match the skill of an established ukulele company. Sure, their ukuleles will sound ok but the price is more expensive than what it should be. In short, you’re just paying for the brand name.
- Super cheap ukuleles
My $18 Mahalo goes out of tune REALLY REALLY fast. You get what you pay for. (FYI, I bought that one cause I wanted to draw on it. I haven’t done it yet still.)
If you just want something to decorate your room or an instrument that you know your kid or someone will not play that often before they lose interest, buy a cheaptastic one.
If you really want to play something good without being frustrated at the notes going out of tune after strumming a few times, don’t buy it. Unless you’re really lucky, the cheap ones aren’t worth it in the long run.
- The ukulele you should be buying
It may be just a ukulele but you should just do a little check on the brand name if you’re going to music stores that aren’t specialized in ukuleles in the first place. (They just stocked up due to the trend.)
Alright, to pick a ukulele to buy would be going to proper ones like Ukulele Movement! I’m not sponsored by them, it’s just that they’re the only one that brings in a lot of models and brands that aren’t rip offs.
There’s also Maestro at *Scape or Davis Guitar at Peninsula Plaza basement. They bring in the proper cheap ukuleles though, not imitations.
Note: Those two shops only bring in the basics, novelty types but not higher grade ukuleles.
So yes, the safest bet is to buy your ukulele at Ukulele Movement if you’re in Singapore and have no idea what a good uke is. The staff are good and will help you if you tell them your budget!
If you want to pick yourself here are stuff to consider:
Soprano, Concert, Tenor or Baritone
Soprano is the usual small one you see on TV or what people play on. Concert just has more frets and better for those with big fingers. Tenor can be tuned like the baritone and the baritone is tuned to DGBE which sounds most to a guitar since it’s lower. Try strumming a soprano and concert and see which feels better for you.
Cuteness of a ukulele
Seriously. The cuteness. Or at least the look and feel of it. There have been so many times that a friend buys a cheaptastic ukulele only to want a better one which sounds and looks much better. Just go for it man. Buy the one that you actually would like. You might want to justify saying, “I’ll get that one once I’m good with this one”. No, no. Just go with the one you want. Save up your monies for it.
Location of where you’re playing it
Will you ever play it with a band, a concert or some outdoor place to show off? If yes, you should consider getting an electric acoustic ukulele or a pure electric ukulele.
Yes, those exists. I have one. Put distortion pedals and plug it to an amp and it can sound like this:
Meanwhile, a normal acoustic one is fun to have around since you don’t need an amp. It will cost cheaper than ones you can plug in. Or well, you can always put a microphone near your ukulele anyway.
Of course, you must have your budget. If you do buy good ones, you can resell them if you want to upgrade! You can’t do that with the cheap ones.
Yep, so that’s that! There’s accessories and books and stuff but eh, you can learn how to play the ukulele from youtube too! For more advanced techniques, you should get a book or buy a DVD though since they’ll be more than just basics.
EDIT: 30 July 2012 – New post on where to buy a ukulele in Singapore!
EDIT: 27 May 2013 – A visual guide on how to TEST your ukulele for buying if you’re a newbie.