I’ve always loved the ukulele which is, of course, related to the lute family of instruments and steeped within the history of Hawaii where the name (as many uke players will know) roughly translates as ‘Jumping Flea.’ This is said to have derived from the speed of the players fingers!
The popularity of the good old ukulele is still booming and still outselling other acoustic instruments. Literally millions are in the hands of players all around the world, soprano, concert, tenor and baritone models, they are everywhere!
It would seem just about every city, town and village has its own ukulele club. I can hear all forms of music from Segovia to The Sex Pistols wafting from my village hall on a Monday night. Folk of all ages thrum away in unison on their ukes as they compete with the nearby church bells.
So when you’re travelling from town to town with your prized uke, how can you be sure to keep it safe, secure and in top condition? Here are our top tips for travelling with your ukulele.
Carry Tools and Accessories
Without doubt, one of the big attractions is the portability over larger acoustic instruments. Off we go then on a day out… “Got the ukulele? Yep in the car.” Ah…but did you think about spare strings?
I have seen the glum player who has popped a string or two and is reduced to just clapping in time with pals.
It’s essential then, to carry those all important accessories, not only strings, but a string winder, nail file, plectrums, a tuner and maybe a capo.
You never know when you might need your tools or spare parts on the road.
Find the Perfect Case
Whether you have a custom, hand-built model or indeed an affordable uke, they need love and protection.
Because of the size, there’s the temptation to leave it until the last minute to pack in the car, right by the window in the sunlight or over your shoulder in a substandard bag but it can only end in tears!
The need for a decent lightweight, robust waterproof case (ukes do not like water either) is an absolute necessity.
The best quality gig bags like the Fusion Urban and Premium Series for example, are specifically designed to protect ukuleles on the go, with extra padding, headstock support and a host of pockets and compartments for accessories and back straps that leave you hands-free.
Size Does Matter
Well it does when it comes to boarding a plane, a seriously worrying time for musicians flying with an instrument larger than a ukulele.
Most airlines accept a ukulele as overhead luggage or cabin luggage especially if it’s in a decent case (it is best to check first though before flying).
Some owners say loosening the string tension before flying makes no difference on an instrument this size. Cabin pressure doesn’t vary that much, but to avoid any further tears, I would detune to prevent any possible warping and accommodate for climate change, especially when flying to and from hot or cold countries.
We know how the effects of extreme heat or wet conditions can harm our ukuleles. Humidity (the measure of water vapour in the air) plays a huge part, especially if you have to store the instrument for a while or if you’re travelling in a very hot climate.
Like the weather affects humans, it can also have an effect on wood. When the humidity is high, wood will expand. When it’s low and dry, wood will contract. The likes of acoustic guitars and ukuleles are especially vulnerable and of course, they’re not going to sound so good if they’re not kept at optimum humidity levels.
Keep an eye on the humidity in the room wherever you’re travelling, especially during the winter with the heating on. Better still, check out some of the very effective humidifiers designed specifically for the ukulele.
Prepare for Busking on The Go
It’s surprising how loud ukuleles can be, especially in the open air, and this is ideal for busking, as the higher frequencies have the ability to cut through better than a lot of acoustic guitars.
This is fine if you are on a quiet street corner, but if you want more output you are going to have to go down the electro-acoustic route.
This means either fitting a pickup or having two microphones, one for the instrument and one for vocals, assuming you sing as well, and of course, you’ll need a small battery powered amp with two inputs.
Make sure to plan ahead and bring all of the necessary equipment if you’re planning on busking while travelling.
Fusion Bags - The Professional Ukulelist’s Choice
Fusion Bags has many professional endorsees around the world that play ukuleles. The likes of Victoria Vox, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel from the USA and Zoë Bestel from the UK have taken the ukulele to a whole new level incorporating loop stations, floor effects and playing with glass slides.
If you’re ready to set of on your own adventure with your uke, take a look at our ukulele gig bags and keep your instrument safe.
The ukulele is arguably the happiest instrument in the world, it’s the simplicity that we love, the love it creates, enjoy it - play it large!