ukestuff

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

Illinois Music Education Conference 2020

I had the privilege to present a couple of sessions at the Illinois Music Education Conference on Friday, one of them a ukulele session. I’d like to thank the ILMEA for making it very affordable for presenters (they offered a $50 rate for the convention). Conventions “headliners” are paid for their work–however, most presenters (unless sponsored) pay for themselves to travel to and attend a convention.

Just a few thoughts following the presentation…

First, the automatic tuner I like to use is the Jowoom Smart Tuner T2. If you want to buy one, consider using this referral code (same price, but the purchase through the link sends a small commission my way): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G8J1XQ3/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07G8J1XQ3&linkId=6bfe6e440ec892757a1942dd56265dd4

Second, my method, based on the videos and using Google Slides, is available at www.buymeacoffee.com/UkeStuff. If you go to “store” you will find the very affordable priced method.

Third, I was playing my Enya Nova Concert Ukulele…highly recommended.

And finally…thank you for coming and learning about the ukulele! You can find the session notes below.

Enya Nova AcousticPlus Travel Ukulele

My reviews and resources for the Enya Nova AcousticPlus Travel Ukulele are out now!

Michigan Music Conference Session Notes

Thank you to everyone who attended the sessions I presented at the 2020 (Hawaiian D7) Michigan Music Conference! I wanted to make sure the session notes were available here as well:

Humidity and Ukuleles

I have started a continuing series of Ukulele Tips for Flight Ukuleles. This article appeared in their social media on January 14, 2020.  The tips are meant to fit in a single Instagram Post. Many thanks to Flight Ukulele for making this possible. The photo is from the Oasis website.

Show care for your ukulele by maintaining its level of humidity.  We refer to humidity in terms of “relative humidity (RH),” which is the amount of water that the air can hold based on the ambient temperature.  Ukuleles prefer conditions between 40% to 60% RH.  If you don’t know the RH level, you can buy an indoor weather station or a hygrometer, and some household thermostats show humidity levels.

It is uncommon to over-humidify a ukulele, but it is easy to under-humidify one.  If you live in a dry area or where indoor heat is used, indoor conditions are likely below 40% RH.  While laminate ukuleles are able to handle more extreme conditions than solid wood ukuleles, they still have wooden fretboards and can benefit from attention to humidity levels.  

A lack of humidity causes wood to shrink, resulting in sharp fret ends and cracks.  Sharp fret ends are easily fixed and are a sign that you should do a better job of humidifying your instrument; cracks require the skill of a luthier to repair and are a problem that is best avoided.  If you feel sharp fret ends, put the ukulele in a bathroom with a shower (not IN the shower), letting the room get nice and steamy.  Allow the ukulele to absorb the water vapor in the air and repeat this process a couple of times over a day or two.  Afterwards, check the fret ends to see if they still need to be filed down.

How do you keep a ukulele humidified?  First, store it in a bag or case.  Cases do a better job of “locking in” humidity, but gig bags work, too.  Next, purchase a humidifier such as the D’Addario Humidipak or the Oasis OH-18 or OH-32.  Finally, soak or fill the humidifier with distilled water and store it inside (or next to) your ukulele while it is in its bag or case.  The humidifier will release water vapor into the air inside the case (or gig bag).  You can also make your own humidifiers with sponges or water beads, and you can buy hygrometers that can be stored in the case with your ukulele.

It is easier to care for a ukulele than to repair one—so store your ukulele between 40% to 60% RH.

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.