Thursday, August 25, 2016

What is a ukulele?

What is a ukulele? This article will cover the most important thing you should know about ukuleles. A ukulele is a string instrument usually associated with Hawaiian music. It is among the guitar family of instruments and has some common features with the standard guitar like the shape and the general constructions. A standard ukulele consists of four strings, but some use eight strings which contain two string courses.  Ukuleles are also known as uke. Here are some of the differences between ukulele and guitar.

  1. Price – Guitars are more expensive than even the most advanced ukuleles. (Take a look at the list of best ukulele under $100 for more information)
  2. Range – A guitar has more features than a ukulele.
  3. Size - As compared to ukuleles, guitars are much larger.



The instrument is linked with Hawaii though it originated from Portugal in the late 1870’s.  On August 1879 a Portuguese ship arrived in Honolulu. The ship came with Joao Fernandes who had his stringed instrument known as the braguinha.  Joao sang and played with it, and it became very popular among the Hawaiians. The sudden interest attracted the attention of these three Portuguese Augusto Dias, Jose de Espirito Santo, and Manuel Nunes, after which they churned out braguinha. The name’s origin is not clear, but there is a famous story which involves a small court jester by the name Edward Purvis who kept jumping when performing then King Kakalua nicknamed him uku-lele which means jumping flea. Famous musicians such as Elvis Presley made the instrument more attractive.


Body – It has a back, top and sides. The type of wood that makes up the body can determine the type of sound it produces. It is either solid or laminated.
Neck – This is the sturdy piece of wood which gives support to the fretboard and connects the body with the headstock.
Headstock – It is the top most of the uke where tuning pegs are attached. Serial number and the brand's logo can be found here.
Strings – These are the ones you strum to create vibrations which are sent to the sound hole to the body to create the sound.
Sound hole – It is an opening at the top of the body which allows the generated vibrations out.
Bridge – it is usually placed at the upper part of the body, and it holds a saddle which is required to put all the strings together above the fretboard.
Nut – It keeps the strings of the ukulele together.
Tuning pegs – They are also known as tuning keys and machine heads. They usually hold the strings. To tune your ukulele you just need to rotate them.
Fretboard – All the fret can be found on the fretboard. They are usually made of rosewood.
Frets - They are the metal bars on the fretboard.


There are 4 common types of ukuleles, they include.

1.    Soprano 

 It is also referred to as standard ukulele since it is close to the original size made in Hawaii. This instrument is around 21 inches long and consists of 12-15 frets depending on the model. Soprano only has half twenty-two tones, and it is recommended as a learner instrument for children due to its small size and the short distance between frets.  It can also be an excellent traveling companion. However, the instrument is not ideal for people with larger hands as they might find it hard to navigate the fretboard.

2.    Concert ukulele

Concert uke is bigger than the soprano. Therefore, it maintains most of the features found in soprano.  It has a length of 23 inches and consists of 15-20 frets depending on the type. This gives it a better playing range than the soprano and makes it a favorite among the ukulele soloists.

3.    Tenor ukulele

It is bigger than the concert and has a deeper sound as compared to both soprano and concert uke. Tenor ukuleles are not common, and you may find it hard to get them in various stores. This ukulele has a length of 26 inches and consists of 15 to 25 frets. The body of this instrument is larger as compared to soprano and concert and produces a better sound.

4.    Baritone 

Baritone is the biggest of all the other ukuleles.  It is more of a guitar than ukulele as the strings are tuned the same way like a four strings guitar. This instrument has a length of 30 inches and consists of more than18 frets depending on the model. It is ideal for ukulele players who would like to proceed to learn how to play the guitar. As compared with other ukes, the baritone has the best sound. It is also made up of high-quality materials.


What have you learned from the above article? Do you now know what a ukulele is? It is my hope that the article has enlightened you on various issues about ukuleles that you did not know before. If you have ever wished to own the instrument, you have now learned some of the features of the various instruments. Ukuleles are suitable for everyone because as we have seen, there are different types for everyone. If you cannot afford to buy a guitar, you can start with these since most of them are cheap. What would you like to add? Feel free to post it in the comments section.  You can also share with your friends.



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