Does your uke need a service?

This article was written by Mitch Morris of aPurla Guitars and edited by BUMS.

Just like your car or bicycle, your ukulele may need a bit of TLC once in a while to keep it sounding and playing well.  Here are some tips on how you can keep your uke in the best condition possible, and how to tell when it needs some expert attention.

Set yourself up for success.

First tip is to buy a good quality ukulele from the start. Anything from $200 upwards is likely to be built reasonably well and should sound good. If you look after it, your uke should be your friend for years.

Anything under $50 just isn’t going to be easy to play and won’t sound good. Read aPurlas’s blog post Things to know before you buy a Uke (

As with anything you use regularly, it will deteriorate over time but there are many things you can do to keep it going strong and at its best for longer.

The pros and cons of timber

Ukuleles are usually made of timber. This is quite a sensitive resource which is porous and vibrant and reacts to its environment. This is one of the reasons it is used for musical instruments because it sounds so alive and natural. It sings and has its own uniqueness.

On the other hand, timber reacts to moisture, and over time, moisture or high humidity can cause damage to a timber stringed instrument. Generally, this kind of damage is most severe on poorly made instruments. For example, a uke with poor glue joints which relies too heavily on glue instead of a good timber joint is going to deteriorate faster than a well-made uke.

No instrument is 100% immune to moisture. That is just the nature of wood, especially in the harsh Australian climate with its extremes of wet and dry periods, or periods of high humidity. If an instrument is constantly kept in a house that can be fine most of the time. But if it is in a room that is overly damp that moisture could be causing damage.

Caring for your uke.

One of the attractions of the uke is its portability. If your uke is being moved about a lot for example, taken to gigs, jams, on holidays, to campfires and on aeroplanes, it will be exposed much more to the elements. A good case is vital to protect your baby.


Fluctuations in weather is another variable that needs to be considered. Keeping your uke in a case means you can maintain a microclimate for your instrument. That is easier than trying to control a whole room, car or house. There are humidifiers and dehumidifiers that you can put in a case to reduce the risk.

However, an instrument can deteriorate from lack of use. An instrument left untouched in a case could get mildew, timber splits, weevil damage or moths laying eggs. Getting your uke out and playing it often will help keep it in a playable condition.

Ukes can also get a bit of shock when they are taken out of a microclimate like a case or a climate-controlled room. They may need time to adjust to the new environment such as a humid bar or a festival where conditions are very different.


After humidity, heat is the next highest cause of damage to stringed instruments.  It doesn’t take much heat to start to do damage. At around 40 degrees Celsius, glue starts to soften and at 70 degrees, the glue will liquefy. The tension in the strings at these temperatures can mean the instrument soon starts to break apart.

Our experience shows that heat damage most commonly comes from leaving a uke in a hot car, hot room or hot caravan. Usually this happens when the uke owner wasn’t with their uke. For example, not realising that the sun shone into their music room at some times during the day.

One solution to avoid these risks can be to keep your ‘best’ ukulele in a safe and controlled place and use it for special events, recording or gigs. And then have an ‘everyday’ ukulele for the rough and tumble of normal life.

When might your uke need a service?

Some symptoms such as a crack or split will be immediately noticeable. One place to keep an eye on is where the bridge glues down onto the body of the instrument. This is a common problem, so if the seam doesn’t look like it is joined, it will need professional attention.

The most common symptom is a drop off in playability. Some more experienced musicians might notice a buzzing on some strings or some strings seeming out of key. These symptoms often come back to the action.

The action on a uke is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. A ‘low’ action means the strings are close to the fretboard and a ‘high’ action means the strings are further away from the fretboard.

With a high action, it can be difficult to press the strings particularly as you play down the fretboard. It can make the instrument play sharp – meaning the notes won’t be in tune with each other anymore. Generally, the higher up the neck you go, the worse your instrument sounds.

If the action gets too low, then you will get buzzes or strings that just won’t ring out anymore.

Some players just get a ‘feel’ that their instrument isn’t as good as it used to be. A professional luthier can quickly identify what needs to be done to bring it back to life. Sometimes a problem may be age-related or linked to poor initial manufacturing standards. We can assess whether repairs are economic or if it’s time for a new uke.

Setting up a uke.

When the uke is first made, the action should be set with the strings at an appropriate height above the fretboard. Over time, with the tension of the strings and changes in the timber due to heat, humidity and general wear and tear, the action can often become too high.

A luthier will remove the strings and adjust the saddle and the nut. The saddle is where the strings are fixed onto the bridge. The nut is at the top end of the fretboard.

The saddle and nut are solid pieces of material that need to be delicately removed and sanded to be the right height and level. As a luthier, I guess putting that into words is a lot quicker than the job itself which is quite tedious and requires great precision.

What does it cost to repair a ukulele?

As far as my own prices go, setups are generally around $85* for a uke setup.

More significant damage would be more expensive. Of course, any of this damage would have to be assessed first, but my rough prices for things like bridges coming off is around $100-$150* depending on severity.

Crack repairs are around $75* if the crack needs to be glued and braced.

Necks that have been cracked in half or cracked head stocks would be more expensive at around $300-$400*. At this point, we have to consider whether the repair is economic to you.

When we work on an instrument, we will usually do a string change because it makes the uke easier to work on and you get it back feeling (and sounding) nice and new again. You can supply your own strings, or we can provide them at a cost of around $17*.

The prices quoted (*) are estimates and will change over time.

The bottom line.

We hope this article has helped you understand how to protect and care for your ukulele. Now you know what to look (or listen for) to identify simple problems and what a set up or repair cost might be.

Contact us at:



Summer of Sound

Treasurer Lesley Allen and winner Paul Colch with the first prize at NUMB BUMS


Drawn at the Coorparoo Jam Wednesday 3 February 2021

1st Prize: Paul Colch

2nd Prize: Denis Fitzpatrick

3rd Prize: Charmaine Matthews

Extra Prize: Peter Vance – SPRUKE t-shirt

January 2021 Multi-Draw Raffle

Tickets $2 each

(available at jams throughout January)

Drawn at the February Coorparoo Jam.

PRIZES (valued at over $200)

  • 1st Prize:  Tikiman concert ukulele and gig bag $150
  • 2nd Prize: “Australian Ukulele Vol 1” CD by Australian ukulele artists $20;
    Ko’olau concert uke strings (monofilament/nylon) $15 & ukulele strap $13
  • 3rd Prize: “Your ukulele has more than 3 frets”CD &
    Percussive Strumming” DVD by Trevor Gollagher $10 each;
    D’addario concert uke strings (nylon) $15; & ukulele strap $13

Prizes courtesy of BUMS Inc & Trevor Gollagher Music 


What a joy to be back playing live again. It’s been seven months since the last Westside daytime jam and it was all smiles on 9 December 2020 to gather together again.

The café was busy before the jam started at the Rosemount Community Centre as jam goers fueled up for a feast of music. Sue and Peter did not disappoint with 23 songs from a wide range of genres.

COVID restrictions meant the jam was limited to 30 places (plus organisers) and half a dozen non-ukulele playing residents came to join the singalong.

Sue commented, ‘It really was terrific to see so many old friends again, and to meet some new uke players. I think everyone played and sang so well. It was amazing, especially how good the endings were. There might be some sore finger tips today.’

Next jam

The next Westside Jam will be held on Wednesday 13 January 2021. The same COVID-safe arrangements will apply, and you will need to book a ticket. There will be 30 seats again. Watch out for your email invitation.

For more information on the Westide daytime jam read on.


On Sunday 22 November 2020, the Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society held its Annual General Meeting at the Coorparoo Bowls Club. Twenty-one members attended suitably socially distanced to meet COVID 19 requirements.

Congratulations to the newly elected members of the BUMS Inc Management Committee.

President: David Pedler
Vice President: Angela McGrath
Treasurer: Lesley Allan
Assistant Treasurer: Sylvia Hunt
Secretary: Keryn Henderson
Assistant Secretary: Peter Grace
Gigmeister: Max Borchardt
IT Manager: John Henderson
Media Manager: Jo Kunde
Festival Director: Dave McGrath
Events Manager: Max Borchardt
Properties Manager: Andrew Hunt
Assistant Properties Manager: Steve Sandilands

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new form of coronavirus. It was first reported in December 2019 in China and has since been declared a pandemic.
Symptoms reported in identified cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus include:

  • fever
  • a cough
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath

Anyone who has fever (or history of fever) OR acute respiratory symptoms (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) should see a doctor immediately. There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 infection and there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

Transmission of COVID-19

It is currently understood that COVID-19 spreads in the following ways:

  • Direct contact with a person while they are infectious
  • Direct or indirect contact with respiratory droplets (such as when a person coughs, sneezes or sings)
  • Direct contact with objects and surfaces which are contaminated by respiratory droplets

Current medical advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that COVID-19 is not an airborne virus. As such, the WHO does not consider air conditioning to be a factor in spreading COVID-19 at this time.

There are 5 key ways we can all help stop the spread of viruses

    1. Stay home if you’re sick. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested.
    2. Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs.
    3. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
    4. Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth. And avoid shaking hands.
    5. Keep 1.5 metres away from others as much as you can — think two big steps

Vulnerable groups

Based on what is known about coronaviruses, Queensland Health has identified those most at risk of serious infection are:

    • people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
    • elderly people
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
    • people with chronic medical conditions
    • people in group residential settings
    • people in detention facilities

Keeping Our Community Safe

BUMS Inc has developed a set of COVID-safe guidelines for any gathering of our members. We follow these guidelines in designing our events, jams and band rehearsals. We need your cooperation to ensure we keep our community COVID-safe.

The health and safety measures that apply to our jams

  • The total capacity to be controlled.
  • Ticketing through Trybooking.
  • Patron contact tracing- using Guest Track QR codes.
  • A defined area allocated-venue.
  • Our audience being seated- People from the same household can sit together and groups of households kept separate.
  • Ability to control the flow of audience movement in and out of the venue.

If you have any questions about Trybooking, or Guest Track QR codes please check these posts first.
Trybooking Tips
QR Code Tips

Any further enquiries please contact Jo Kunde via

Check in fast with QR codes.

As BUMS returns to live jams things are a little bit different! As well as booking tickets online for the limited places available, BUMS Inc are required to keep accurate visitor details for contact tracing. Checking in to venues becomes the new way and to ensure BUMS Inc is compliant and to speed up that process for you we are using GuestTrack QR Codes.

QR Codes are simple to use and on the latest smart phones very easy. Open your camera or QR code app.

  1. Scan the code and tap to go to go to the website ( in your browser
  2. Complete your details, agree to the Covid-19 Declaration and submit
  3. Show your confirmation screen to the door greeter.

That’s it you’re in!

The great news is next time you come to any of our jams with the same phone/device, when you scan the QR code your detail will be auto-populated and you only need to hit submit to complete the check-in.

You can check-in up to 5 persons in one go.

Don’t have a smart phone or you are QR code challenged?

These QR codes can be read by the built-in QR code reader of all IOS and Android devices.

For visitors with older Android models which do not come with a QR code reader, you need download an external application before being able to scan codes.

Most of the QR code scanner/reader apps available on Google Play Store would work. We recommend the below two apps which have been tested by GuestTrack testers specifically:
QR Droid: View in Google Play Store
QR Code Reader: View in Google Play Store

Read more about scanning code with a Samsung phone here.

If you do not have a mobile phone or your phone fails to scan the QR code, don’t worry, our door greeters will check-in on your behalf using the “Check-in Visitors” function on their own device.

A few minute preparing for the new ways our jams operate will safe frustration on the night and help us check you in faster!

If you have any further questions about QR codes please email Jo Kunde via .

An Opportunity to Come Together

Current social restrictions presented BUMS with wonderful opportunity to bring its members together for an unique and solemn celebration. The BUMS Online ANZAC Day 2020 event, honouring Australian and New Zealand war efforts from WWI to the present day, comprised a 10:00 am service followed by an 11:00 am jam.

An indication of the value of the event is seen in the Facebook statistics. The event has viewed by over 130 members and received over 150 comments of support and appreciation.

The Service

BUMS Inc President, David Pedler, led the service through the many symbolic elements of a traditional ANZAC Day service. It was pleasing to see the valuable contributions of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori to the war effort acknowledged. Many of our BUMS members involved in presenting the service were ex-servicemen or reservists, for whom ANZAC Day holds a very special significance.


ANZAC DAY wherever we may be is so important. To acknowledge our soldiers and their wider families and communities for their sacrifice is one of the most sacred moments we should all cherish and respect today. To pay tribute through prayer, stories and song to share with our wider families and community keeps our ANZACs alive each year remembering their courage and bravery. To have their sacrifice carved in the hearts of our children is a blessing which is what I love today. Including our children in the services so they learn and understand just how important and special this commemoration is to us all so they can teach their children. BUMS ANZAC Day Service was a very well orchestrated event and a joy to watch.

Congratulations BUMS for a well presented service. Many hours went in to this and both Kerrie and I are very honoured to be a part of this. My family and I also held our own service on our front lawn at 6 am. We love being able to include our Māori culture in to our service which makes it very special for us. Thank you very much BUMS for all that you do for our community. This was a great moment.

Vic and Kerrie Kena






The Jam

The ANZAC Jam featured many of our favourite performing members leading our all time favourite patriotic songs.

A recording of the BUMS ANZAC Day 2020 service is on the Brisbane Ukulele Facebook page:

Join the West End locals in a small intimate jam

Chill out and get your weekend off to a great start with a lively strum. Well known BUM Cath McCourt takes the lead, joined by a few special guests.  WE BUMS now has a great new room to jam in. Yummy food and drinks if you want to come early and have a bite! More info;

VENUE: Hope on Boundary Café , 170 Boundary St, West End (ph:0409905258)
TIME: Jam starts at 6:30 pm
COST: Gold coin donation.

Anyone is welcome to lead a song. Dust off your repertoire, and polish up your performance. If you have suggestions or would like to lead a song or two, bring the formatted songsheets on a USB stick.

Caths first night as leader at WEbums.

Most of our songs come from the Internet. Visit our Ukulele Music (in the Ukulele Info menu) for links to Richard G’s songsheets, Bytown songbooks, and many more. The Bytown slow jam songbooks are great for beginners.

Other BUMS Inc jams and events are listed on our News & Events page.

For more ukulele fun, visit us on Facebook, or check out our performances on YouTube/BrisbaneUkulele!

On Saturday 27 July 2019, a group of 18 bass players assembled at Coorparoo Bowls Club to attend the It’s All About the Bass workshop offered by Mark Cryle. Mark is a nationally and an internationally well-known bass player, who performs with both session musicians and bands. He’s one of Australia’s leading singer-songwriters, and also plays the guitar and mandolin.

Bass players at Mark Cryle’s workshop, July 2019.

Mark’s workshop concentrated on the underlying fundamentals of bass playing (tempo and rhythm) rather than teaching a particular piece of music, and was loosely divided into three sections.

Firstly, the bass as a rhythm instrument and understanding the fundamentals of keeping time and staying with the rhythm of the piece; the fact that the bass is the link between the rhythm and the melody; and the importance of deciding which beats to accent.

Secondly, (and I suspect with his tongue in his cheek) that, “No one knows the chord until the bass player decides which note to play!”… which was a discussion and demonstration of the concept of the “root note”, knowing when to play it and when not to.

Thirdly, what to play between the “root notes”, understanding the importance of scales and harmony theory in deciding which notes to play and not to play. This part of the workshop included scales 101 and basic harmony theory and why they are important to the bass.

Aspiring bass players came from as far away as Byron Bay and Toowoomba. Robert Soothill, a keen bass player, from the Gold Coast, found it well worth the trip. Robert reports …

Mark started his workshop by talking about the role of a bass player within the group and the importance of the beat and pulse set up by a skilled player. He covered basic harmony, substituting notes, accenting beats and many topics important to bass players.

Everyone attending expressed areas in which they had gained new knowledge and skills. It was a great workshop, well done Mark, most enjoyable! Perhaps YOUR ukulele group will now benefit from its bass players new skills!                                                           Robert Soothill

Brisbane northsider, and NUMB BUMS baritone (and occasional bass) player, John Low, found the workshop inspirational. Here’s what John thought.

The workshop was designed and advertised for BUMS members who played the bass, and while it did focus on the bass as an ensemble instrument, it also covered areas of tempo, rhythm and melody which are a major benefit to any ukulele player aspiring to play in a group.

The content was neither as boring nor as dreary as some may assume, and showed that a little musical knowledge can take you a long way. There was also a discussion on ‘riffs’ and Mark made the point that while they could add significantly to the ‘drama’ of a piece of music they should be used very sparingly or not at all.

Mark interspersed the important bits with amusing anecdotes and his jokes and insights were well worth the price of admission. He seemed to have an innate sense of what was important and kept returning to the critical elements, the importance — and the difficulty many experience — in keeping time and staying with the rhythm of the piece being played.

Just to reiterate, while it was advertised as NOT being a beginners workshop, — and that to get the most out of it participants needed to have the fundamentals of playing bass and knowing the notes of the bass fret board — any musician interested in playing in an ensemble would benefit from Mark’s discussions on the links between tempo, rhythm and melody. If you have an opportunity to attend a workshop given by Mark Cryle — no matter what the context — I recommend you grasp it with both hands.           John Low

On 25 May 2019 at Coorparoo, a small dedicated group of baritone ukulele players gathered to learn more about their craft. If you’re at all interested in branching in baritone, look out for Garry’s next workshop. This is what Di had to say about May’s.

Garry presents the May 2019 Baritone Ukulele Workshop.

We were promised a baritone ukulele workshop that would cater to a wide variety of skills, and Garry Collins certainly delivered.

At his workshop, Garry started out with the basics and progressed to some chord theory, arpeggiated fingerpicking and 12 bar blues.

Garry demonstrated various additional skills and styles and was able to answer any questions, and scaffold the use of those ideas that captured our interest, such as Malagueñas style. The framework allowed for questions, and allowed the time and opportunity to move around workshopping with other players utilising these new skills, playing songs, and networking. The format included a fantastic mixture of structure and open-ended learning opportunities. Diane Davis

Happy customers at the May 2019 Baritone Ukulele Workshop.