There are only a few things to know that can insure your ukulele will last a long time and continue to sound and play well. Laminated instruments take a bit of care, but solid wood instruments require more concern, even under “normal circumstances”. First lets go over Things that all ukuleles require.
1. Normal temperatures. Treat your ukulele like a person, or at least a pet. Don’t talk to your ukulele. Unless you really need to.., But consider that when wondering what is an acceptable temperature for your ukulele.
So no hot or cold cars for much more than you would like to experience. Cracking/warping/glues loosening etc. can occur.
2. New strings at least once a year. Twice a year or more if you can. Even if they don’t break they get inconsistencies in the radius. Intonation, or the accuracy of the pitch as you go up the fretboard, will usually go off on at least one of the strings. It is not always a visible dent in the string, but there is a precision with a rectified new string that gives a clearer more accuratte tone.(koolau,aquila…). Be aware that strings stretch out so you may go out of tune for a while, this also depends on how much you stretch them out. Here’s a full How To Video/Tutorial on How To Change Ukulele Strings
Ukulele Cleaners(not a necessity): Do not use furniture polish or just any wax on your ukulele. It may not be a problem, but it can be. If you don’t want to buy another cleaner just for your ukulele, then use a very lightly dampened rag wrung out and wipe dry. A common favorite for cleaning minor stuff is the Dunlop 65 guitar polish and a micro fiber cloth. If you want to find something at wal-mart or maybe your hardware store that will really gloss up yout finish try the Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound (says clear-coat safe). This will be fine on any gloss Asian import but I would not use it on a higher end uke or local maker. There are a number of guitar polishes you can use. (feel free to share your experiences in the comments)
Ok, so what about Solid wood instruments? What else do they need?
Living in Hawaii for the last 20 years my body has acclimated to a fairly high humidity level. Every year when I go to the Music trade show in Anehiem CA my eyes get bloodshot and my lips are chapped. There is not much difference with us and what our ukulele goes through. It wants to live somewhere between 40-60% humidity. So the main thing to do with solid wood instruments is –
Have a humidity gauge where you keep your ukes and if you are below 40% or above 60% humidity, have a means of humidifying or dehumidifying.
Humidifying – The most common problem is your humidity levels being low. This is often bad during the winter or summer months when there is a lot of air heating/cooling. Or in states like California/Arizona/Nevada etc..where it is very dry. This is also the biggest problem your instrument can encounter because it quickly leads to neck angles being off, fret ends are often sticking out, and in extreme cases cracking occurs. So what you do to prevent that is, when you are not playing it, keep your ukulele in it’s case with a humidifier. The Herco HE-360 is what we commonly give with all solid wood instruments. We are soon switching to the Oasis Ukulele Humidifier because it is more effective in extreme changes. But one major thing that should be noted is that you need to maintain your humidifier. Follow the directions. Just having it is not enough.
So what about us humidified people? Very humid environments can cause an ukulele to swell and get higher action or get a “tongue rise” causing buzzing. If you can, have a room with an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep your instruments. More than likely you don’t, so you can get the Planet Waves Humidipak.
Please share your experiences or questions, Aloha!
We got a guitar in for repairs once, and the owner wanted it refinished as well. After many, many attempts to have it accept the new finish only to have it bead up on the surface, Fred contacted the owner and told him about the problem. The response was, “Gee – I’ve taken such good care of it. I clean it with Pledge once a week!” (Furniture polish, of course, being loaded with silicone!) LOL
This post is perfect timing for me as I’ve just invested in my first all-solid wood ukulele! Cheers!
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Great info! I was wondering how often I needed to change strings.
Simple and practical advice. Especially 1 & 2. Thanks!