392 of 404 people found the following review helpful
This is a decent starter package for what it is:
1. A Firebrand wood soprano ukulele with nylon strings. (More on this)
2. A copy of Alfred's Teach Yourself to Play Ukulele with a CD
3. Extra strings
4. A "gig" bag.
The uke is laminated wood and mediocre. The strings are average in quality. The book is fine, though I prefer Play Ukulele Today! for the rank beginner (it teaches the notes on the strings) and if you are somewhat familiar, then I prefer Ukulele for Dummies which has a lot on not only playing, but strumming, picking, styles and has a CD and many types of songs to learn.
As to the uke, believe it or not, a plastic-and-laminate Makala Dolphin though it looks like a toy, is an excellent instrument and when set up with Aquila Strings sounds amazing. Many "pro" ukulele players and those who are advanced and own instruments that cost into the thousands, own a Dolphin and play it with pleasure. It comes in a myriad of colors, so if you are looking for something battle-solid, funky and kid-friendly, the Dolphin with Aquila strings has it all.
If you want to save money, this still is a good deal, but I suggest you change the strings to Aquila Strings no matter what spare strings come with it. This is a soprano, by the way, so when buying strings, that's the size to look for. Aquilas are made of a nylon that makes a loud, rich sound and they are known for bringing out the sound of even poorer quality instruments. And you need a tuner--the Snark Tuneris not expensive and can be used on other types of instruments as well (guitar, etc.)
This was a good deal at under thirty simoleons, but if you are really serious to learn uke or want your kids to learn, the setup I mentioned may keep them interested longer. The quality of strings and the quality of a cheap uke can be optimized to the point where it's more than barely playable, and one mistake people make when taking up a musical instrument is to buy one that is so inexpensive, that it frustrates the learner. I have had this happen with the flute and the guitar. It really makes a difference what you learn on, and you have to balance the desire not to invest too much at first with the fact that too cheap a setup will just lead to failure.
For the record, I own a red Dolphin. I played uke as a kid and was able to pick up the instrument after 50 years of not playing, learn fingerstyle (picking) and enjoy playing it until I got a more serious instrument that indeed plays more sweetly. But I actually play the Dolphin quite a lot and enjoy its sound.
The setup I propose here will do you better as an adult, and will suit a child as well. You'll spend about twice as much but your chances for success are, in my opinion, a lot better. There are some excellent sites to visit to get free advice and to subscribe to video lessons (ukulele underground is my favorite.) Check out what I say and see if others don't agree with me. At the very least, if you opt for this package, get the better strings and the tuner. I guarantee you will be happier.
427 of 446 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
I've been pondering picking up uke for a really long time and when I saw the deal that is this kit, I decided, I'm going for it. (I already play guitar, guitalele, cello, bass, and Dobro, and have for literally almost 75% of my life.)
First of all, I'm really impressed by the quality of the instrument! It's a very solid little thing and puts out plenty of sound. I was not expecting that out of this thing--I figured, for the price, it'll be a piece of crap I can noodle around on, but it's surprisingly decent. My only complaint after playing this guy daily for a few weeks is that the intonation is slightly off. Even when the strings are perfectly in tune, chording will result in slightly out-of-tune pitches. If you have perfect pitch, this will annoy you, but most folks may not even notice. I'm not taking any stars off because that's pretty much to be expected in entry-level instruments, and it's fairly minor--I barely even notice it.
The book itself is a little "meh" for me mostly because it's not really about teaching yourself to play the ukulele. A lot of it is Music 101 stuff about how to count rhythms, read music, how chords are constructed, stuff like that. Only about half the book is ukulele-specific content, and as a lifelong musician, I spent a lot of time flipping pages. But, with that said, the content that is relevant is awesome, which is why I'm not taking any stars off--the chord charts are simple and easy to understand, and large print. The sample songs are well-chosen--mostly folk songs we've all heard at some point, which helps you get an ear for chord changes, etc. There's several pages in the back for basically every chord you could need, and that's probably what I use the most. I also LOVE the tuning instructions: there's about 2 pages of detailed directions and diagrams explaining how to tune a ukulele, which was really the hardest part for me to get used to as a guitarist.
Another reviewer mentioned that the strings slip. The tuners themselves are rock solid, but because the instrument arrives detuned and especially because it's nylon-stringed, EVERYONE is going to have that problem. Here's my advice, as a lifelong string musician: For the first week or so you've got the uke, just tune the crap out of it. Tune it at least once a day if you can. I have a Snark SN-2 All Instrument Clip-On Chromatic Tuner that I leave permanently clipped to the headstock, which makes this a total snap (I just flip it behind when I'm not using it). It's gonna stretch and stretch--you'll notice when it's out of tune, it's almost inevitably flat. So you're going to have to put it in tune, let it sit, and then tune it again. Just do it. A million times. It builds character. Okay maybe not, but it serves two purposes: 1. the more you tune it and leave it, the more it'll stretch so it'll stay in tune, and 2. it also forces you to become very intimately familiar with the way your uke is supposed to sound, haha. This sounds inane, but it really comes in handy once you start cracking down and learning to play.
Edited to add: Also, once it's staying in tune reliably, change the strings and do it again with the spare set that's included in the kit. This may sound stupid, but it'll save you a ton of time in the long run because once you've broken in both sets, you can change strings quickly when you need to and not have to go through the whole process again; the "new" set will stay in tune much better because you've already stretched 'em out.
This starter pack is a seriously amazing deal. I would absolutely recommend it to anybody who is pondering taking up the ukulele, and I can't believe I didn't do it sooner!
163 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2012
I purchased this set, based on the reviews, as a gift for a young neice. Rather than just giftwrapping the box, I took the uke out, tuned it, retuned it, stretched the strings, retuned it. After 2 days, it would hold tune for about 3 minutes of playing (junk strings are probably to blame). I did all this because my neice would be a beginner and therefore be easily frustrated by an instrument that would not hold tune. Next I went to a "learn to play" site on the net and found C Am F G7 chord diagrams and started to attempt to play. The strings were so high off the fretboard that any note fingered above the 3rd fret would pull the string out of tune. The easy chords were difficult because the high strings got in the way of my fingers so that I could not finger a chord cleanly.
With the intonation and tuning problems, I was not willing to give this instrument to my neice, so next I went to a local music store to see if a set of strings and some shaving of the saddle (the white peice on the bridge that the strings rest on) would make it playable. In order to gain a frame of reference, I picked up a $78 uke and strummed my newly learned chords. It sounded and played great! I told the music store guy that I wanted this uke to play like the $78 one. He said the the cost would equal the original cost and still might not produce a good instrument. Then he showed me a $40 instrument, an entry level uke from Kala or Lanakai. It played like the more expensive one, but didn't have the pretty binding, etc. I loved it and bought it. When I got home I called for an RMA and will send the much inferior Firebrand uke with all the books and cd's back to the seller. The sellers were nice and seemed concerned about selling an unplayable instrument. It's too close to Christmas to waste time on this one. Hope this helps you out.
32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2012
I am 72 years old--have never played a string instrument. This ukulele is so much fun--I am having a ball. So much fun that I ordered 6 for my grown children for Christmas. Cannot wait to show them that an old dog can learn new tricks!
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
Got here is reasonable time! The strings take a while to break in and lose the pitch quite fast a first. You just have to work with it! Good for the price, and the book is quite helpful!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2014
My husband got this for me as a birthday present. I did not know I even wanted a ukulele, but I absolutely adore it. DISCLAIMER: I'd never held a uke before, and had exactly ONE guitar lesson before I got this gift, so I am IN NO WAY an expert. But, for a beginner, I would not trade it. I have a digital tuner - I do not have a problem keeping my uke in tune (with the strings it came with). I check it every time I practice, but as long as I'm practicing a couple of times a week, it takes less than 5 minutes to tune.
Since I am not an expert, I can see why serious musicians may not like this instrument. But then, if you ARE a serious musician, why would you pay $35 for a ukulele starter kit?
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2012
Let me start by saying that this is a fantastic product. I had no experience with any stringed instrument before and my only musical training was over 15 years ago. I ordered this beginners kit on Wednesday, received it Friday, and by Monday was playing 6 chords comfortably.
The uke: It's fine! I'm sure money can buy you a better instrument, but it sounds great to me and I wasn't looking to spend a lot on a starter instrument.
The strings: Like other reviewers said, you have to tune them a lot at first. However, this is true of any untuned nylon strings - it's just the nature of breaking them in. I have a free tuner app on my ipod (no access to a piano) and that helped a ton until I got an electric tuner. I would highly recommend that you purchase a tuner or download an app because by the time I finished tuning, the first string was flat already. If you're prepared for this, it won't be too frustrating. After a day or 2, it was fine. If you're buying this for a child, I would spend some time tuning it first.
The book & DVD (I used them together): Fantastic! Perfect for a true beginner. The best part is that after every couple of chords, there is a song using just those chords so that you actually feel accomplished.
Overall, this is a GREAT product!
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
This uke is a great beginner instrument. It is my first one so I'm no expert uke player, but I am pretty satisfied with it. It took about a day of constant tuning for it to stay in tune, but after that, it's great.
I got this product on sale for $27 which was a really good deal. I'm not sure if I would get it at its regular price as there are probably be better options at the same price out there. The book isn't that useful, it just goes over basic music theory and I have not opened the DVD and CD rom (At $27, I only cared about getting the uke and the case).
If it goes on sale again, I'd recommend getting this pack otherwise I'd consider other ukes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2015
First of all, let dispel a few pieces of false information in some of the negative reviews.
1. This IS a real Uke. Some have said its a toy, and I don't even know what that means. Its a Uke. You can play Uke songs on it...But you can do that with many toy instruments as well so this concept is weird. But rest assured, there is nothing not a ukelele about this product.
2. This Uke is the PROPER size. Some reviews have been saying it isn't "full sized" which has led them to say its a toy. With all respect due I have to assume they did not research and don't understand how Ukelele's work. This is a Soprano Uke. It is the smallest style of Uke. Still very much a Uke and in fact the most popular kind both for its affordability and portability. It is small and very light, as all Soprano Uke's are, it is not however in any way UN-standard size from any other Uke. It is a normal, Soprano sized Uke. Most people likely wanted a concert size Uke. If that is what you want, buy a concert size uke. This is a soprano. There are some really good and interesting web pages that show the differences and have sound samples for the differences between a soprano, a concert, a tenor, and a baritone ukelele.
3. This Uke will stay in tune. It doesn't come in tune, few insturments do unless you buy a custom from a music shop in person and they have been tuning it for you. Understand something about tuning string instruments - you are essentially stretching strings and eventually those strings will stay at their correct length to give you the sound you want. At first they try to compress which constantly makes them go out of tune and later they may go the other direction. There is a happy medium place where you don't have to tune as often until you change strings and then the whole delightful process starts all over again. It gets a little better the more you use an instrument and eventually you get to the point that tuning isn't much of a chore and you can do it very quickly. Right out of the box though, and this is not at all uncommon, your Uke is going to be strung very loosely. You will find it goes out of tune quickly. When that happens, tune it. Tune it again and again. Its actually useful because you need to learn how it sounds tuned and not tuned anyhow, and you need to learn how to tune efficiently. This is part of playing music. You may decide to LIGHTLY tighten the bolts on the back if you think it comes lose very regularly. But I advise doing this once, and carefully, and only if its really every chord. Even if its every minute or so, this is normal. It gets better I promise. Any instrurment has to be "trained" to stay in tune.
So this product specifically, how is it?
At the price I got it for its perfect. 49 is too much, but 37 was good. What your getting is a perfectly normal Soprano Uke of budget quality. It plays, you can learn on it, there isn't anything specifically wrong with it, its just a less expensive instrument. I did see some of the little dings on the fret board edges that look like it was a part of the factory production of the instrument. Please rest assured if you are new to music and just want to learn to play the Uke this is not going to be a problem for you, they are very small marks. Understand, and not trying to be rude but, people who have been playing music a long time tend to be very snobby about what they play on. It won't hurt your ability to play and its not even a cosmetic problem. You won't notice unless your really looking for it. Chances are any uke you buy will look like that after a few weeks of wear.
Do understand though that this kit, as I've said, is a Soprano. Soprano's are great for price and portability. Some people prefer a richer sound that comes from a concert. Personally I plan to graduate to a concert eventually but this suits me for learning right now. One problem people have is bigger hands can struggle with the smaller size of soprano frets. This isn't the fault of the Uke its just how the insturment is. You'd have this problem with any soprano uke. I can tel lyou though I was a bass player and I played bass mostly because guitar wasn't going to work for me, and after a day or two on the Uke I'm playing chords. Its been a blast. I've really enjoyed this product.
Its a cheap Uke. I won't dispute that. But that's what most people want starting out. Understand that if you make this investment you will be tuning a lot, you will have to get used to the insturment which is true of any insturment. And you likely will, eventually, want a higher quality Uke. But that is pretty much true of every instrument ever. Sure once I'm better at it and ready for more complex stuff, i'm likely going after a mid-range concert Uke. That doesn't make this a bad product and I am very satisfied with it.
The book is cool. I've been using youtube more that the book but its very detailed and one this I will say for it is if you've been struggling to learn to read music it does a pretty decent job explaining it.
All in all this is one of the better deals for beginner Uke's on Amazon. This Uke is ready for you, the question is just are you ready for it? Getting into an instrument always requires patience and dedication. If you give it time, it will give you music. Just because its for beginners and you'll likely upgrade doesn't make it a bad instrument at all.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2012
The Alfred's Teach Yourself to Play Ukulele, was just what I needed to begin playing the ukulele. The instruction book comes with a DVD, which is helpful to watch and listen to in getting started. My biggest challenge with the ukulele right at first was getting it properly in tune. The strings needed to be stretched and tuned an entire octave higher than it was when it arrived. Though those cheaper strings were ok, a little research told me that aquilla strings plus having a good ukulele tuner were going to be just what this ukulele needed to sound it's best. Indeed, after I got the new strings on and used my tuner to assist with tuning, voila! The ukukele sounds beautiful to me. I love the dark wood finish on the uke, and the whiteness of the aquilla strings totally sets the ukulele off as an exquisite, fine crafted, instrument, that sounds great!