Eat My Uke

why does my ukulele sound bad

Why Your Ukulele Sounds Bad [Common Problems]

Have you recently jumped into the world of ukulele playing? You are eager to get started but the uke you are using sounds like it’s offending everyone around you? You are not alone.

Having a ukulele that sounds bad can be seriously detrimental to your progress on the instrument. It’s common for people to give up early because everything they are playing sounds dull and lifeless.

You might want to consider the following issues that could be causing your ukulele to sound bad:

It’s important to have a clear understanding of why your instrument is acting in this way. It will allow you to make a good judgement on what to do next to make it sound better.

Its Not Your Ukulele, Its You

I don’t want to discourage you so early into this article. But I often find that a ukulele sounds bad because of the person playing them. I appreciate that might be a hard thing to hear. Let’s think about two things you can do that might change that.

Your Holding It Wrong

If you are a new player and learning your first chords, you will be very keen to make sure you are fretting the correct stings. What often happens here is that you arch your shoulders over the ukulele so you can see the fretboard. You must resist the urge to do that. You might be able to see the chords you are playing but they won’t sound great because you can’t get an efficient strum. Your hand will be in a very unnatural position and your sleeve might even drape over the strings.

Play in front of a mirror so you can see the fretboard. That way you can keep a good posture and still play the correct chords.

holding the ukulele correctly with blue

Finger Positioning

Another issue that might cause your ukulele to sound bad is where you place your fingers on the fretboard. If you are playing them too close to the frets (the metal lines on the neck), the strings will almost certainly buzz. 

 

This is a super simple fix. For your next practice session, have it in your mind to check how close you are to the frets. They need to be in the centre. It’s important to start training your fingers to naturally place themselves correctly.

finger position ukulele sounds bad

Its A Cheap Instrument

Without trying to come across as some kind of musical instrument snob, there are plenty of people out there who see the ukulele as some kind of toy instrument. Often the same people who protest that the ukulele is the easiest instrument to play (it’s not).

 

While they might have good intentions, maybe somebody bought you a ukulele as a gift. They might not have wanted to break the bank so they jumped on amazon, or went down to Lidl supermarket, and got the cheapest one they could find. Often these types of ukes are just novelty items. They serve a very limited musical functionality.

 

The unfortunate truth is, you get what you pay for. I’m not saying every cheap instrument is garbage. There are lots of well-known ukulele manufacturers that do a great job of producing low quality but playable ukes. Even still, you are likely to pay roughly the price of a weekly food shop for one of these.

 

It’s worth the investment if you are serious about playing the ukulele. If you know that your uke is not one of these cheap ukes, there are some other things that might be making it not sound good.

Enviromental Changes

Maybe you started to play the ukulele a few months ago and you had a break from it. You have gone back to it, tuned it up but something sounds off.

 

There is a chance that the humidity levels have caused something bad to happen to the wood. It can bend, warp and even crack.

 

Experts say that the perfect humidity levels for any wooden instrument is between 45 to 50%. Of course, that’s near impossible to control in your house. A good way to combat this is to use a case for your ukulele and a portable humidifier.

The Strings

They Take Time To Settle In

Fresh strings need time to stretch and settle into place. By that we mean they need to be tweaked a lot after you put them on. This is completely normal and every single ukulele in the world goes through this when it has just been re-strung.

 

The time frame from putting them on and them finally beginning to settle is going to make your ukulele sound bad. This is one of those things you just have to exercise patience with.

If you have more than one ukulele, re-string them at separate times. That way you can keep playing while the other is in its settling in-phase.

Might Be Time For A Re-String

Maybe your ukulele was passed down to you from a family member. They might have neglected the instrument for a while and it’s in some need of some care. An easy fix up is some fresh strings.

 

Ukulele strings don’t last forever. While there is no specific time frame in which you should change your strings. That depends on how much you play it. You should consider changing them if they start to sound dull and lifeless.

The time frame from putting them on and them finally beginning to settle is going to make your ukulele sound bad. This is one of those things you just have to exercise patience with.

Your First Time Stringing A Ukulele

Make sure you are putting your ukulele strings in the correct order. Sometimes they don’t label them and it’s easy to get confused. Its G, C, E then A. Good Children Eat Apples is a good way to remember. If you have your strings in the wrong positions your ukulele playing will not sound right at all.

You Are Having Too much Fun

Lastly and the least problematic issue. You are playing your ukulele a lot. That is not a problem, I repeat, that is NOT a problem. It’s great news that you are enjoying it this much. It might just mean that you are a heavy strummer. I suppose you could calm it down a bit but the better option is to train yourself to keep your ukulele in tune.

 

Tuning the ukulele is the bedrock of learning how to play it. You should be checking to see if you are in tune each time you pick it up. That way, you can play it as hard as you like.
too excited with the ukulele