ukestuff

Ukulele "Stuff": Education, Technology, Play Alongs, Reviews, Accessories, and More!

Flight Uke Tips: Changing Strings

I have started what I hope will be a series of Ukulele Tips for Flight Ukuleles. This article appeared in their social media on December 8, 2019.  The photo above was used by Flight Ukuleles. The tips are meant to fit in a single Instagram Post (This one exceeded a single post, but future versions will be shorter to allow for this). Many thanks to Flight Ukulele for making this possible.


If you are a ukulele player, you should learn how to change your own ukulele strings. String maintenance is a basic part of ukulele care, and strings are one of the few things you can change or replace on your ukulele. In addition, music stores charge a surpising amount to change strings so you will save money by learning how to change your own strings.

The more you play your ukulele, the more frequently you will need to change your strings. It is common to change strings at least twice a year. A string change is needed if a ukulele starts to sound less lively or if new intonation issues develop with an instrument. If your strings have been on your ukulele for a while, check the underside of your strings. Frets will dent or eat away at the underside of a string—something that you cannot tell simply by looking at or playing a ukulele— and those dents impact the vibration of the string.

When you change strings, have a string winder (with a string clipper) on hand, as well as a tool to tighten screws and nuts on the tuning heads (see the Music Nomad Octopus), some fretboard oil (for wooden fretboards and bridges), and a tuner. You should also have a soft towel or an instrument mat on which you can lay your ukulele while you work on it.

There are four different types of ukulele bridges: slotted bridges (see the Flight TUS 35), tie bar bridges (see the Flight DUC380), pin bridges (see the Flight DUS445) and pull through bridges (see the Flight Voyager). There are two different types of headstocks: solid headtocks and slotted headstocks. Most Flight ukuleles have geared tuners, but there are ukuleles like the Flight MUS-2 that have friction tuners, and there are still other ukuleles that have planetary tuners. Regardless of the combination of bridge and headstock of your ukulele, there is a YouTube video that will show you how to restring your ukulele—just search for it!

When you change your strings, they will keep going out of tune until they have stretched and settled. You can physically stretch the strings after they are attached, or you can tune (and keep tuning) the strings a little sharp until they begin to settle, and then play (and keep tuning) that ukulele until it starts holding its tuning—generally about 30 minutes of playing.

Your new ukulele strings will continue to stretch over time, so be ready to tune them whenever necessary. Then, at some point, those strings will reach the end of their lifespan. Your ukulele may sound “less lively,” there may be new intonation issues, or you may feel some bumps under the strings. When that happens, it will be time to change your strings again.

December Update

Happy December!

There have been a few things going on, so I thought I would post a December Update for the channels!

1) Another ukulele podcaster recently started using “Buy Me a Coffee,” and in looking at the service, I like it far more than Patreon. Like a video? Buy me a coffee to say, “Thanks!” (Remember that the play along videos do not and cannot earn any revenue for the content creators). Visit www.buymeacoffee.com/ukeplayalongs

2) Buy Me A Coffee also allows you to give people access to a Google Drive Folder when they make a donation. This means that I can finally offer my Video Ukulele Method to other teachers. I recently posted a video about the the method on the UkeStuff YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/prZRLt4l6ek) if you want to know more, and you can “purchase” the method at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/l/uvm1920.

3) In some exciting news, I have been talking with the owner of ukutabs.com, and ukutabs.com will now be hosting a chord chart for every new video on the ukeplayalongs channel. People have been asking for tabs (meaning “chord charts”) for a long time, and I haven’t wanted to get into that side of the business…life is busy enough with being a husband and dad, teacher, and making play along videos and other ukulele and music technology content. You can see links to ukutabs.com in the descriptions of the latest videos. One of the things I love about ukutabs.com is that not only is the site free, but you can change the key if you don’t like a certain key. You can also copy and paste the text into applications like OnSong. As a result, this collaboration with ukutabs.com is an exciting tool!

4) The ukeplayalongs channel, after a recent adjustment for closed accounts, will be hitting 39,000 subscribers soon. It would be wonderful to hit 40,000 by the end of the school year.

5) The sister channel, UkeStuff, which features all of my own content (not play alongs of existing songs) has just over 600 subscribers. My goal for that channel is to hit 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours so that the channel can be monetized. If you haven’t done so, please consider visiting the UkeStuff channel and subscribing–and watching a few videos.

6) November was really a tough month for me as I dealt with a cold…and I’m still feeling the after-effects of a four week cold. I’m feeling better, and you’ll start to see more videos over the next weeks.

7) If you celebrate gift-giving this time of year, you may want to check out the gift guide on the UkeStuff channel. I was joined by my seven year old son for this year’s version of the ukulele gift guide: https://youtu.be/cHI5MxQvdbM

8) And finally, my family celebrates Christmas. To all of those who also celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And to everyone who doesn’t…I hope you had a great year and have a very wonderful New Year!

Thanks for visiting this blog, and thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

Chris Russell
Content Creator (YouTube.com/ukeplayalongs, YouTube.com/ukestuff, ukestuff.info, techinmusiced.com, the MET Podcast, and the UkeStuff Podcast)

Now available…the Video Ukulele Method

I was looking at Ukulele Abe’s Twitter feed the other day, and I noticed that he was using Buy Me a Coffee. I wasn’t a fan of Patreon, so I decided to check that out. It turns out that Buy Me a Coffee had a way to do what I needed a service to do…to allow people to make a purchase to get access to a Google Link.

I have been using this method in my own classroom, and it works. However, I still have to finish the 3rd part of the method…but now I have an incentive to do so (I have never had the time to get students to that final level).

So I am happy to announce that I can finally share my Video Ukulele Method with others! If you are interested in purchasing access you can do so at: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/l/uvm1920

2019 Ukulele Gift Guide

Here are the items covered in this year’s gift guide video:

The following links are Amazon Associate links.  If you buy any item using these links, a small percentage comes back as a commission for the referral.  Please note that the referral link adds no extra cost to the item.

Tools: 

Music Nomad F-One Fretboard Oil $9
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006WPGZAG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B006WPGZAG&linkId=a310f7d40a63986f3d1a5935119900c6

Music Nomad Work Mat and Cradle Cube Neck Support  $34
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0188WO5SO/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0188WO5SO&linkId=5944c8cb928c6951d5b71f881e5abf08

Music Nomad Octopus 8-in-1 Tool $14
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06VX1DL9N/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B06VX1DL9N&linkId=f031ff7eed1e4a4a3f766f5062b70307

Plastic String Action Ruler (Currently Unavailable)

Ukulele String Winder/Clipper $11
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002E1G5C/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0002E1G5C&linkId=d1723360b548f604e6a728477c4dea33

Jowoom Smart Tuner T2  $80
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G8J1XQ3/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07G8J1XQ3&linkId=2c92d89746462586fc886bc25b47caaf

UkeStuff Merchandise, including the new 2020 Year of the Hawaiian D7 T-Shirt: www.teespring.com/stores/ukestuff

Ukuleles:

Flight TUS-35 $50 (new long neck version coming soon)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SMV1KTJ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07SMV1KTJ&linkId=468b44d3413cfd886d4680227c9ca90a

Enya Nova $90 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YCF76GC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07YCF76GC&linkId=f834e5fc3c82084c1ea00270e4d5f623

Enya Nova With Transacoustic $190
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WRV48MY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07WRV48MY&linkId=9f3f41f7384bbaedc94a6f5eba44b751

Enya KUC-20 Kit $50
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06X1GL96W/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B06X1GL96W&linkId=392f6c136995e07f49949a3c59e793a7

Enya X1M $50
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G32QTFY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07G32QTFY&linkId=6713e8dad79215dfb20ec042fffe61df

KALA SSLNG $160
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X2KVP13/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07X2KVP13&linkId=e6194a5a00fa642682e4a467adc70b54

Note: I suggest ordering the Kala SSLNG from a dealer that does set-up, such as Mim’s Ukes, The Uke Republic, The Ukulele Site or Elderly Music

Aklot Ukuleles on Black Friday Sale

You can get 20% off Aklot Ukuleles on Amazon right now for Black Friday 2019, making the very respectable solid mahogany top AKC-23 (Concert) $48. That’s an amazing deal.

Roadie Tuners on Sale! (Black Friday)

I just received an e-mail regarding Roadie tuners…all of them are on sale for Black Friday 2019 at a 20% savings. That’s a pretty good deal. While I prefer the Jowoom T2 Smart Tuner, the Roadie 2 is also an excellent device. See https://www.roadiemusic.com for the Black Friday deal.

November YouTube Update

I’m posting these updates on my YouTube channel, and then later deleting them. I am going to keep posting them here on UkeStuff.info, so that there can be a record of those posts.

Unbelievably, we’re in the middle of November already. My production of videos has been slowed down by two things. First, I am (now) an elementary music educator, and I am teaching recorder for the first time. I am making play along videos for recorder, using Recorder Karate and a few other methods (including some new material by me). I cannot share these videos as I do not own the rights to the materials. However, I will be uploading some of my own recorder resources on YouTube.com/ukestuff.

Second, we had teacher conferences two days during the first week of November. Those 12 hours days combined with a shot of very cold weather and an outbreak of sickness resulted in my coming down with something–I’m calling it a cold. I’ve been dealing with that cold for over a week–which means that I cannot make new tutorial videos, and any play along videos that I create are only published when I have a corresponding tutorial video.

As I write this post, the ukeplayalongs channel is approaching 38,000 subscribers, and the ukestuff channel is just over 550 subscribers. If you’re new to the channels, welcome! And if you keep coming back, thank you!

I quit using Patreon this summer, and also stopped asking people to subscribe in videos. I did start using the end screens that offer a link.
My goals for the two channels are:

  • For ukeplayalongs, to hit 100,000 subscribers for a Play Button. The ukeplayalongs channel cannot be monetized, so the best I can hope for is a play button that I can put up on my wall at school…my students would love that.
  • For ukestuff, which contains all my other ukulele “stuff,” the goal is to reach more than 1,000 subscribers and more than 4000 watch hours so that channel can be monetized.

If you haven’t subscribed to YouTube.com/ukestuff, and you enjoy the content on YouTube.com/ukeplayalongsor ukestuff.info, would you do so? And then watch a few videos there? I have a recent review of the new Enya Nova, in which I destroy one of the ukuleles.

I’m also getting ready to “kick off” my ukulele method (designed for schools, but it could be used by anyone) which is based on the ukulele play alongs videos. Watch for that announcement on YouTube.com/ukestuff. I try to leave ukeplayalongs for just play along videos.

If you haven’t checked out Ukulaliens on YouTube, do so…Rachel Webley, the creator of content at Ukulaliens, has begun making tutorial videos to go along with her videos as well, which you can find at Ukulele Wales on YouTube.

I don’t have a lot of plans for holiday songs this year–I’m not yet in the mindset for holiday music (not against it, just not there myself), and being sick also doesn’t help.

I hope you have had a lovely fall, and that if the coming holiday season is something you celebrate, as it is for me and my family, that you have a lovely start to that season!

I’ll check back in during December!

Roadie 2 Update

If you have a Roadie 2 that has experienced button issues, the company sent out an update recently, and I thought it was worth spreading the news about the matter. The update stated:

Hardware Tweak As for hardware, some of you may know that about 5% (a few hundred) of our first batch of Roadie 2 devices had a slight plastic tolerance issue in the inner housing of the R button (ON/OFF button). Basically, a plastic-y bit had a hair too much plastic for its own good. For some users who received these units, this caused the button to become stuck in the pressed position and make the device unusable for anything other than paperweight duty. We have of course corrected this in our newer production batches but some of you lucky few are still suffering from this issue. We do have a fix, it is easy and fast.

Here is a video walking you through it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MduS0PsIeSw&feature=youtu.be If you are having this issue and do not want to fix it yourself with the method above, we will be happy to fix it for you or send you a replacement button without the plastic tolerance issue. Whatever your preference, please accept our apology for the inconvenience and allow us to help correct this small but impactful error. We are dedicated to getting your Roadie back in business and tuning for a long time to come.

I’ve watched the video, and while I am pretty sure I could fix the problem, for most users, I’d contact the company about a faulty button and work out a way to send your model in to have it repaired.

Early on, I experienced this button failure with both of the Roadies that I purchased for our school, which were replaced. One of the replacements experienced it, and the other one is still okay. I didn’t pursue a replacement of the third faulty model because I was using the Jowoom T2 Smart Tuner, and I no longer have access to that third faulty model.

My preference for a Smart Tuner is the Jowoom, mainly because of the full automatic mode (no button presses needed), but I do think the Roadie 2 is an excellent device that offers far more customization (e.g. custom tunings). For my needs, however, GCEA is all I need in the classroom. I like this update as it acknowledges there was an issue, offers continuing help for the issue (customer support), and also points out that the stuck button issue will not happen any longer to any new buyers of the device.

The Fret Zealot for Ukulele

I have been in touch with Fret Zealot (the company) for some time. The Fret Zealot is a device that you can put on a guitar–and now a ukulele–to learn how to play the instrument. We decided to wait for a review until the product was released for ukulele. Originally I was hoping to simply review a unit installed on a ukulele, but it made sense for the company to send me a unit to install on one of my ukuleles.

The Fret Zealot is a combination of adhesive strips containing wiring and LED Lights, and a control module that connects to the strips and which gets mounted to the ukulele. The strips (3M) are rather permanent (they can be removed), but the control module can be removed at any time–and is charged by a USB mini plug. The control module interacts with an iOS or Android device, allowing you to interact with the Fret Zealot app.

The app has three basic parts…”Play” “Learn” and “Fun.”

“Play” has a library of songs (more about this in a moment), a tuner, and a metronome. The song list is rather long, but not very useful. The notes or chords that show are not connected to a “real” audio file, and there are no lyrics. So to be honest, I wouldn’t spend much time there.

“Learn” is where the power of the Fret Zealot comes into play. You can have the device show you different chords, scales, and notes. Amazingly, there are a few videos–songs and lessons–from Justin Guitar and The Ukulele Teacher that have been “programmed” to work with the Fret Zealot, and this is simply amazing. This is where the future lies with this technology, and Fret Zealot is on the leading edge. I just hope the library of videos continues to grow. There are also partner apps…Guitar 3D, Uberchord (old acquaintances of mine from techinmusiced.com) and Spark. I do not think that any of these partner apps are ukulele friendly.

“Fun” is, for now, a way to have your Fret Zealot show off rather fun display patterns on the LED strips. You can see examples of this at the start of the YouTube review embedded below.

As for the device itself, it works, and I’m excited about the future for Fret Zealot. The whole idea of the Fret Zealot is that you can turn any ukulele into a learning device, rather than having to buy a specialized ukulele.

I do have some criticism about the device, and I’ll share those thoughts, too. My preference is to have action at the 1st Fret to be .5mm. This was too low for the Fret Zealot and caused buzzing on the dual LED strip in the 1st Fret. I had to find a ukulele that had higher action to avoid the buzz–and had to remove an already installed Fret Zealot to do it. This isn’t the Fret Zealot’s fault, but it isn’t a device to be taken on and off at will–you commit to having it on your device until you take it off.

After installing the Fret Zealot on a different ukulele, I found that I really didn’t like the top row of LEDs, a dual strip. The top row represents an “open string,” and the immediate second row represents the 1st Fret. The diagrams for the Fret Zealot all show installation towards the actual (metal) fret, which placed the indicator for the “nut” in the middle of the 1st Fret–and this really threw me off.

As a result, I uninstalled the Fret Zealot AGAIN and moved it as high as I could on each fret, making the first row of LEDs much closer to the nut. Really, I’d love for that first strip to be above the nut, but I don’t know if that is possible.

And the penalty for a movement of the Fret Zealot a third time was that the top corner of the Fret Zealot (the one with the main cable) no longer sticks like it should, and as a result, there was some buzzing where the G string interacted with the top left corner of the Fret Zealot LED strip. I need to say very clearly that this is my fault and no fault of the Fret Zealot. Adhesive materials simply cannot be removed and replaced over and over again with the same results.

As I previously mentioned, the song library doesn’t seem to be very useful to me, and when installed, the Fret Zealot adds significant weight to the headstock.

That said, this is a product I’m really excited about, because it can help people learn how to play ukulele. The ability to sync videos with the Fret Zealot is a game changer, and the only problem is that videos need to be added one at a time, and that takes hours of labor, and thus lots of money. Perhaps Fret Zealot could make a end-user “video sync” app that would allow end users to make videos that could be added to the Fret Zealot library. I also love the idea of connection with other apps, so it would be fun to see what could be done with some other ukulele apps–anything from Kala’s library (and Musopia/Ukeoke) to Monster Chords (which uses or used to use some functionality with Uberchord).

I hope that future versions will be able to reduce the size of the controller, the height of the LEDs, and the cost of the device. But if you are looking for a device that can help you learn how to play the ukulele–making your existing ukulele an “intelligent ukulele,” Fret Zealot is worth checking out. And while there are other “intelligent ukuleles” on the market, if you buy one of those ukuleles, you have to choose from those ukuleles. With the Fret Zealot, you can connect any concert or tenor ukulele that you might have.

You can find the Fret Zealot at fretzealot.com and Amazon.com (look up “Fret Zealot Ukulele” and choose “concert” or “tenor”).

Many thanks to Fret Zealot for sending me a unit to review!


My video review appears below. Honestly, it’s a little scattered as I was trying to record what I was doing with the Fret Zealot app on my iPad while using the Fret Zealot and making a video at the same time. My iPad wasn’t recording all of the interactions with the app, and the part I wanted to demonstrate most–the syncing with The Ukulele Teacher’s video would not record (perhaps this is an iOS copyright limitation). Therefore, I wrote this more concise blog post, which says everything I say in the video.

This post will also appear on techinmusiced.com