Ukulele The ukulele is a fretted string instrument which is, in its construction, essentially a smaller, four-stringed version of the guitar. In the early 20th century, the instrument's name was often rendered as ukelele, a spelling still used in Great Britain. The Hawaiian spelling 'ukulele is very common.
Page comparing the four different sizes of ukulele
that are in common use today.
The ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-lele) comes in 4 sizes Soprano (sometimes called Standard), Concert, Tenor and Baritone. Tuned like the thin 4 strings of a standard guitar. The baritone Uke uses "G" Tuning (D G B E) just like the guitar. The Soprano, Concert and Tenor uses "C" Tuning G C E A and "D" tuning (A D F# B). The Tenor can also be tuned like the Baritone ukulele. These are the same intervals as the guitar's upper 4 strings, string 4 to 3 is a perfect fourth (P4) or 11th depending on whether using traditional high tuning or a more guitar like low tuning, string 3 to 2 is a major third (M3) and string 2 to 1 is a perfect fourth (P4).
A ukulele can be a mellow-mainland or bright-island sound.
The Ukulele History
In 1879, a Braguinha arrived in Hawaii on a Portuguese ship loaded with laborers destined for the sugar fields. Hawaiians made the instrument their own and calling it "ukulele" which translates to "jumping flea," It's believed to have originated because of the way a performer's fingers jump around on the strings.
The Ukulele Timeline
- 1879: Portuguese sailors introduce Hawaiians to small four-stringed instrument that gave rise to the ukulele.
- 1915: Panama Pacific International Exposition unveils ukulele to the world.
- 1920s: Ukuleles all the rage.
This corresponds to the populary and availability of radio in the decade of the 20s to 40s.
- 1940s: Ukulele craze revived by GIs returning home from South Pacific after World War II.
- 1950s: Weekly TV host Arthur Godfrey keeps ukuleles in the spotlight.
A shift from the popularity of radio to most household have access to a TV and the second wave of the ukulele craze.
- Current: Virtuoso musicians such as Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill are altering traditional perceptions of ukulele music.
The third wave of the ukulele corresponding the the influence of YouTube and the Internet.
Check out all the famous people and musicians associated with the ukulele on the ukulele musicians page.