Tips on Picking the Right Travel Ukulele
One of the reasons I wanted to learn how to play the ukulele was because it seemed like the perfect portable instrument. Whenever I got on a trip with friends, I’m always tempted to bring one of my guitars with me, but choose not too because of the bulky size. Even though ukuleles are small and lightweight, there are still some important considerations to help pick out the best travel uke.
Think About Frequency
Finding the best travel ukulele starts with thinking about how often you plan on bringing it with you. If you want to have a simple instrument that you can grab whenever you meet up with friends and casually strum a bit, then you’re probably going to be looking at the standard soprano models made out of one of the softer woods. On the other hand, if you do a lot of traveling with your instruments or plan on taking it with you on an extended trip, you might want to look at a model made of a harder wood in order to get a clearer and louder sound.
Consider the Setting
You also need to think about where you’re planning on playing your ukulele, since the setting is going to dictate some important decisions. Taking your ukulele anyplace where it can get wet means you run the risk of causing some serious damage. If you want a ukulele that you can bring with you to the beach or comfortably play poolside, then I would highly recommend thinking about one made out of a sturdy polycarbonate plastic. It might seem like a plastic ukulele wouldn’t be playable, but there are some models out there that make great use of the material to create a water-resistant instrument that’s very easy to carry.
Understand Weather Conditions
Bad weather can ruin any instrument, and ukuleles are no exception. If you’re going to be playing outside in an area prone to rain, or even light drizzle or fog, I would caution against buying anything too expensive or that is made out of any of the fancier woods. Exposing the wood to water like this can cause it to warp, which will affect the sound and also potentially ruin the finish. Humid weather can also lead to a slow rusting on metal machine heads and frets, which not only makes the ukulele harder to play but can hurt you in the process.
Weighing in on Weight
Even though virtually every type of ukulele is going to be lighter than a guitar and most other instruments, there are some big differences in the weight of different ukuleles. Style plays a big part, with sopranos being on the lighter end, followed by tenor and finally baritone in increasing weights. Also, harder woods like mahogany are usually going to weigh more than softer woods, with both typically weighing much more than a composite material. It might not seem like much, but sometimes every ounce counts when it comes to transporting instruments.
Also, most acoustic electric ukuleles are going to end up heavier because of the electronics inside. If mobility is your ultimate concern, then you’re probably going to want to focus on full acoustic models. If you need to go with an acoustic electric, then just be aware that the weight differences in most models are going to be pretty small.
If you plan on doing a lot of traveling with your ukulele I would highly recommend picking up a gig bag, at the bare minimum. This lets you protect the instrument from water and other debris, to a degree, and makes it easier to tote it around. For more frequent travel, I would say pick up a hardshell case, which will protect it from dents and scratches as well.