In this guide I will try to explain a few bits and give a few tips on how to properly maintain your ukulele. When should you consider restringing your ukulele, is a case a necessity, what is humidity and should I care about it?
When do I need to restring my ukulele?
When you restring your ukulele is up to your really. It depends on how much you play your ukulele and how hard. Some people change them after a few weeks, other people after months (I change them every 4-6 months). You should consider restringing your ukulele when a string breaks of course. And when replacing, do not just replace that one string, but replace all of the strings because the others are probably also worn out. A few signs when restringing is needed:
• You find yourself tuning your ukulele a lot more then you used to do. This a sign to restring your ukulele.
• The string doesn’t feel as smooth as it used to feel. There might some grooves in it due to pressing the strings on the frets.
• Your ukulele doesn’t sound that good anymore. The sound isn’t as clear, bright, loud as it should be.
What is humidity and should I care about it?
Humidity affects all wood things and especially wooden instruments. It should be noted that solid ukuleles are affected a lot more by humidity levels than laminated ukuleles. To quote WikiPedia “Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air”. Wood is a natural material and will expand if it absorbs vapor (i.e. high humidity levels). The wood will “swell” and cause several distortions (neck will bend, intonation changes,…). When the wood looses vapor it will contract (i.e. low humidity levels). This can cause serious damage to your ukulele such as cracking.
So what is the right humidity level? It’s somewhere between 45% and 55%. Most locations in the world will be around these levels. It doesn’t matter if it goes above or under these limits a few times, but you should start thinking about doing something if it stays at that level permanently. So what can you do?
• Too dry: Get a decent humidifier. There are quite a few budget friendly instrument humidifiers out there (look on eBay or Amazon). I personally use and prefer the Oasis humidifier. They are really easy to use and do their job. You can also buy a hygrometer from them which measures the temperature and humidity level quite accurately.
• Too moist: This isn’t as easy to solve unfortunately. You may need to consider investing in a de-humidifier for the room where you keep your ukulele. This is the only solution that I know of.
Is a case really necessary? My ukulele came with a bag.
There are a few factors to decide whether you need one or not and at the end it really is a personal choice.
• What do you plan on doing with it? When you travel a lot, you should consider a hard case. When you are playing at home most of the time and only take your ukulele a few times to your friends, a soft case or bag should be enough.
• How much did you spend on your ukulele? When you have a $50-$100 ukulele it isn’t really worth putting it in a case in my opinion. The main reason for that is because the case itself will almost cost more than your ukulele. When you have a $200+ ukulele it is definitely worth considering keeping your ukulele in a hard case. Do you have a $500+ ukulele? No question about it, buy a case for it! There is a big change you’ve even got one for free with your ukulele.
Cleaning your ukulele
When it comes to cleaning an ukulele, you can copy everything from guitar cleaning. When you play the ukulele, your fingers produce sweat and it will deteriorate the wood and finish. It will collect on the surface and trap more dust and dirt. How to solve? Simple, use some dunlop 65 lemon oil. This is the best fretboard cleaner that I know of and I have been using it for years. Do this every 4-6 months and your fretboard will be as good as new.
And what about the wood? A simple cleaning and polishing will do the trick to make it as shiny as possible. As with the fretboard cleaner, Dunlop also produces some very good polishers. Your local music shop will definitely have them.
The ukulele is a wonderful little instrument and it only takes a little bit of your time to take care of it. When you are not playing it for example, put it in its case or bag. When you take care of your ukulele properly, you’ll enjoy playing it a lot more (and it will even sound better)! Hopefully you've enjoyed reading this guide. Any remarks, questions or suggestion? Use the contact form to let me know what they are!