By Nicolas Grizzle
There are many ways to store a ukulele, and each will provide at least some level of safety for your instrument. But what is the best way to store a ukulele? Should you always store a uke in its case? If you want to keep it visible, is it safe to hang a ukulele on the wall? And if you like to keep it in arm’s reach, can you keep your ukulele on a floor stand?
Each of these options provides a different level of protection for your instrument, and there are reasons why any of these options may suit you best. When it comes to proper ukulele care, no matter what you choose from these options it will be better than leaving it on the ground or kitchen table unprotected and liable to spills and stomps. Here are some details about how to store your ukulele.
The safest place to store your ukulele is in a case. Many ukuleles come with cases designed to fit them snugly and securely, but there are also many cases available with different options to suit your particular needs.
There are hard cases and soft cases made for every size ukulele, from soprano to baritone. Most ukuleles that come with a case will come with a soft case, with higher-end instruments being more likely to include a hard case made specifically to fit that instrument. While hard cases offer the best protection for the instrument, soft cases have more options and are usually more affordable.
Hard cases provide the most protection for your ukulele and are the safest option for storing your instrument at home or when traveling. They have a padded interior and a hard outer shell made of durable material like molded plastic, fiberglass, or wood. Uke maker Ohana has a variety of hard cases on its roster, including an eye-catching tweed ukulele case with brown tolex trim ($70). Most hard cases are made in the shape of the instrument, though there are rectangular cases that can be good options for flying or long-term storage. The drawback with hard cases is that they are more expensive, heavier, bulkier, and usually have fewer pockets for accessories than soft cases. Hard cases can cost anywhere from $60 to $200 for top-quality models. They can top the $200 mark, though, if you’re looking to splurge. Take the Crossrock CRF1000 ($230), for example: it boasts a waterproof fiberglass shell that can withstand 300 lbs of weight, with backpack straps and thick, plush padding inside.
Soft cases, also called gig bags, are the most popular option for ukulele storage. While hard cases all share the traits of a hard outer shell and padded interior, soft cases vary greatly in functionality and quality. They have a fabric exterior with varying levels of padding and most have a soft interior that snugly holds the ukulele in place. Some top-quality soft cases can provide high levels of protection comparable to hard cases in many regards, and some are thin budget options that protect only against the most minor of incidents.
Gig bags are named as such because they are a good option for those who bring their ukuleles to gigs. They are easy to carry, lightweight, and have a variety of options to suit your needs. There are even gig bags that offer padded shoulder straps to wear like a backpack, like the rugged Gator Transit Bag ($95), and eye-catching Kala Sonoma Coast case ($60-$80). Most gig bags also have several pockets to store everything from clip-on tuners and extra strings to cables and pedals, like the Fusion Premium bag ($90). Prices for soft cases and gig bags range from about $15 to upwards of $100.
Cases may be the safest option for storing your ukulele, but that safety has its tradeoffs. Some ukes are works of fine art for the eye as much as the ear, and when a uke is in its case it won’t be on display. Plus, its siren song luring you to play may be quieter when you don’t see it in front of you every day. Wall mounts are a popular option for storing ukuleles that keep it out of harm’s way and in plain sight. Keeping your ukulele in a place where you see it all the time and can access it easily will make you want to play it more and allow everyone to enjoy its visual beauty.
There are wall mounts specifically made for ukuleles, like Jamver’s black walnut hangers shaped like ukuleles ($17 for a 2-pack) but wall mounts that are made for guitars can also be used for ukes, like the String Swing ($13). Some may be far sturdier than necessary for a small soprano uke, like this robust Hercules acoustic guitar mount ($22), but a sturdier hanging surface is not unwelcomed when it comes to hanging a precious musical instrument several feet off the ground. Wall mounts can be found from $10 to $60 or more, ranging from utilitarian black plastic models to beautiful woodgrain and leather options.
One note of caution with wall mounts: it’s important to be careful when installing a wall hanger, even for a light instrument like the ukulele. Try to mount them on a stud, or, if that’s not possible, consider using drywall anchors to keep it firmly in place.
If you don’t need to keep your ukulele out of reach of pets or kids (or clumsy adults), a floor stand is another way to store your ukulele while keeping it visible and easy to reach. Most models cradle the bottom the of the uke, but there are some floor stands that hold the neck like a wall mount, like the Hercules Ukulele Stand ($35). There are also floor stands that can hold multiple instruments, like the Luvay 3-tier 9-instrument standing rack ($75) which are perfect for relieving the storage problem that is a common side effect of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).
Ukulele floor stands are often small enough to fit on or under a desk, like Kala’s Ukulele Stand Out ($25). This makes for a good option if you’re doing a lot or recording in a home studio. They can also be nice to keep a uke by your favorite sitting spot. They are portable—many fold up for easy travel, including Donner’s Wood Ukulele Stand ($24)—and can be a good way to keep your uke off the ground when you bring it camping, on a picnic, to the beach, or other inspiration locations.
Some floor stands made for guitars can accommodate larger ukuleles like tenors or baritones, but it’s best to look for smaller floor stands that are specifically made for ukuleles. Again, quality varies greatly here. There are basic stands that are affordable and do the job well enough, but those don’t offer much aesthetic value. There are also beautiful hardwood options fitting for displaying a fine instrument, like the Zither Wood Ukulele Stand made of solid walnut ($200). And, as you can imagine, there’s a multitude of options in between utilitarian plastic and fine luxury. Prices for ukulele floor stands range from about $15 to $200 or more.
Don’t Forget About Humidity
No matter how you store your ukulele, it’s vital to maintain the proper humidity to protect it from long term damage. Humidity around your ukulele should be kept at 40 to 50 percent. If the air is too dry, a ukulele can dry out and develop cracks. If it’s too humid, the wood can swell, leading to fret corrosion and higher action than normal. Fortunately, you can avoid this type of damage by using a humidifier on your instrument or in its case.
Humidifiers for ukuleles come in different styles, ranging in price from under $10 to upwards of $50. Many humidifiers made for acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments can also be used for ukuleles. There are also models that come with built-in hygrometers, like the Oasis HH Combo OH-30, which measure the humidity of the air and automatically adjusts the humidifier as needed.
One of the most common styles or humidifier clip onto the strings and rest in the soundhole of the instrument, like the Humilele by Music Nomad. These can be useful for regulating humidity whether you store it in a case, on the wall, or on a stand. Some of these options should be refilled or drained (depending on your humidity conditions) every month or so. Some even can connect wirelessly to your smartphone and allow you to monitor the humidity with an app from anywhere in the world, like D’Addario’s HumidiTrak ($50), which is designed to remain in your ukulele case.
Speaking of humidifiers in the case, there are many options for the no-frills crowd. Disposable, set it-and-forget-it packets, like Boveda’s 2-way humidity control ($30 for a 4-pack), only need to be changed once every few months.
No matter how you choose to go about it, protecting your instrument is something all ukulele owners need to consider. And it’s OK to have multiple options—sometimes you may want to have it on display, sometimes it may need to be cased up for a while. There is no one perfect solution, but one thing’s certain: any of these options is better than doing nothing at all!
The Ukulele Owner’s Manual is the book that belongs in every ukulele player’s instrument case. Each chapter was written by the experts and performers at Ukulele Magazine, with topics ranging from commonsense instrument care to fixing rattles and buzzes to a pictorial history of the instrument. Book owners can also download how-to videos with step-by-step guidance on common set-up and maintenance topics.