One comment that I hear a lot from ukulele players, and not just beginners, is that they have a dislike for friction tuning pegs.
I think that is quite a sweeping statement, and personally I actually prefer tuning pegs - I think they are more traditional and just look better. I say "sweeping statement" because like a lot of things in the world of musical instruments, there is good and there is bad.
This blog post is prompted by the fact I changed the friction tuners on my new Canarian Timple from the 'bad' to the 'good', and you can see the result below.
The way a ukulele friction tuner works is that the screw running through the peg tightens the peg itself against the metal collars on either side of the headstock until they grip. With a poor quality friction tuning peg you will find that the action is 'sticky' or jerky and you find yourself moving above and below the correct pitch quite easily. Slacken the screw and the tuners don't hold, tighten too much and you get the jerkiness. Extremely frustrating. The original tuners on my Timple were not absolute howlers (I have seen much much worse) but they were sticky enough to irritate me and I am quite particular about friction pegs.
So, what makes for a better peg? Well, simply, better construction, meaning more parts including washers that assist in making the action smooth whilst still holding tune as a result of the bite the friction brings. Check out the pictures below to understand that better.
In this first picture I show all of the parts of the original friction peg on my Timple. As you will see there are five parts, and the friction is achieved by nothing more than the plastic of the peg biting into the metal collar on the back of the headstock.
The next picture shows all the parts of the replacement ukulele friction peg, which as you can see is made up of 9 parts including various washers and sleeves. The result is a really smooth action that still holds tune.
Now these replacements are not top of the line either (and amount to about £3 each) though one can spend an awful lot more on adjustable friction tuners. For me those, this model just work fine and have made a huge improvement to the instrument.
So, therefore, don't write off a ukulele if you see it has friction tuners. If you are struggling with friction pegs on an instrument you have, consider replacing them, it really isn't all that hard. A good quality friction peg is a dream to use!