Yes, you can play the Ukulele!

One of the best things to happen in the world of musical instruments is the resurgence of the Ukulele! Whether you already play an instrument or have always wanted to try, consider the advantages of the ukulele. There are 3 popular sizes; soprano, concert and tenor. Basic and (often) colourful (soprano) ukuleles can be purchased for under $50, very good quality laminated satin mahogany (concert) instruments, like the Oscar Schmidt OU2, start at around $100, and exotically beautiful ukuleles (from soprano to tenor sizes) typically range from $200 to $400.

Since ukuleles only have 4 strings (so do violins & cellos!) instead of 6 (like most guitars), it's much easier to learn enough chords to strum out something to sing along with. Nylon ukulele strings are also much softer and easier on the fingers than metal strings on a guitar, let's call it "gain without pain".

There are excellent resources for learning to play the ukulele. From private lessons (yes, we have them at Maar's Music), to local learning / playing groups (we can recommend a few!) and even a plethora of YouTube videos. Guitar players -- everything you can play on a guitar with the two heaviest strings missing can be played on a ukulele -- if you already know some guitar, you already know some ukulele!

For young beginners, (8 or under), we'd recommend either a composite body soprano ukulele or colourful wood model.
Once the student is old enough to care for the instrument a little more, 9 to 10 through adult, we'd recommend a concert, satin finish, mahogany Oscar Schmidt OU2 (left handed models are available too!). Picks are not necessary to learn or play, but we do carry proper felt picks that will sound good and not destroy the strings or wood of your instrument (caution: don't use guitar picks!).

To keep your instrument in tune, we recommend a good quality clip-on tuner (about $20, Korg and Snark are two of our most popular brands).

We'd love to show you how easy and fun it is to pick up and play a ukulele, come visit the store and have a look. (The first chord you'll learn is played with 1 finger!)

- Markus @ Maar's Music

How to buy acoustic & electric guitar strings

Who knew it could be so difficult to buy a pack of strings for yourself or a loved one! Here's a crash course to help you feel a little more confident when buying your first set or two or three. Most acoustic and electric guitars have 6 strings and if they are more than a few weeks old it's best to replace the whole set anyway, it's a great and quick way to freshen up the sound and feel of the instrument.

The price range for a typical set of strings varies from $6 to $10, with some special formulas and coatings to extend life often raising the price up to $15 - $25!

Strings come in a variety of gauges / sizes, you'll often hear terms like "9-42" or "10-46" for electric strings, and usually larger numbers like 12-53 or 13-56 for acoustic strings (though, it's possible for these sizes to overlap -- confused yet?).

Acoustic strings are most commonly 80/20 Bronze (brighter & crisper tone) and Phosphor Bronze (warmer tone).

Most acoustic guitars come with 12-53 gauge strings installed from the factory, when in doubt, grab a set of 12-53 strings (or 12-54 depending on the brand). It's pretty safe to stick with factory gauge strings, whether you want 80/20 (bright), Phosphor Bronze (warm) or something fancier in a coated or other special formula, is up to you. No matter what you purchase, they don't last forever and a few weeks or a couple of months later and your instrument will probably be ready for another set.

If you want strings lighter than factory strings, going from a "12 gauge" down to an "11 gauge" set will decrease the thickness and tension of the strings (they'll be easier to play). If you want something with more tension and tone, you can go up to 13-56 strings which are generally as heavy as acoustic strings get. If in doubt, it's probably best to err on the lighter side!

If you're not sure how to change them, you can always bring in the instrument and have them properly installed or perhaps even get a tutorial on how to change strings properly. (a string winding + bridge pin pulling combo tool is helpful!)

Electric guitars most commonly use nickel wound strings (although lots of variations and options do exist!). Most manufacturers install something like 9-42 (often called Super Light) and 10-46 (Regular Light). You can find lots of examples of very famous guitar players using 9 and 10 gauge sets, and others going very heavy, even 12 and 13 gauge sets (as thick as on an acoustic guitar!).

If in doubt, grab a set of 9-42 nickel wound electric guitar strings, or 10-46 if you'd rather have them a little heavier than too light. Again, they won't last forever, so even if they're not perfect you'll be ready to purchase another set soon enough.

Some electric guitars are much more complicated than others when it comes to changing strings, if in doubt, bring it with you and someone will be able to advise you on the level of difficulty for your particular instrument.

Whatever set you purchase, consider keeping the packaging for the next time you buy strings. Take a pic with your smartphone (or even bring in the package!). This way you'll be sure to get the same set if you liked them, or something more appropriate if they were too light, too heavy, too bright or too dull sounding for your instrument.