Guide to Ukuleles: Part of the guitar family, these are increasing becoming popular because of their compact size and a warm sound that makes it a perfect companion when travelling.
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Anybody who has been to Hawaii has probably seen this musical instrument. You just can’t miss it if you are there. It’s used in almost all their musical performances.
And the ukulele is not just popular in that part of the world and associated only with the Hawaiian culture; in general, it’s a very popular instrument that is known to produce melodious sounds.
These were first created in 1879 in Hawaii by the Portuguese, and it used to be called “Madeiran / Madeira guitar” then. In Hawaiian language, the ukulele means “flying flea”.
Exciting times for the ukulele.
You’re hearing more and more people are playing ukulele. Lot of new artistes are playing uke, writing songs on ukes.
Why the ukulele has become popular again
Its fun to play, four strings, open chords (c6 chord, a happy chord), very easy to play. You will find kids, adults, seniors, playing and enjoying the uke. Its a lifetime of musical joy and fun, and really easy to get started on.
Music teachers recommending the Ukulele to beginners
Now rivaling the recorder in the educational market, more and more music teachers seem to recommend the ukulele as an ideal introduction to music at an affordable price.
Is it Similar to Guitar?
They do look similar, have several things in common, but there are some differences as well.
Types of Ukes
You get different types of Ukes (short name for this instrument) depending on the range of sound it produces.
- Soprano: This is the smallest of them all, and almost everybody starts on this one.
- Concert: Slightly larger body & neck compared to the Soprano and has a heavier tone.
- Tenor: Has a fuller tone, and is larger compared to a Concert Uke; available in 4, 6 or 8 strings.
- Baritone: Deep tone and among the largest of all ukuleles, almost like a guitar and can be tuned to a guitar.
- Bass Ukes: Though the above ones are more common, you now get models that can actually sound like a bass guitar.
- Electric Ukulele: These need an amplifier to be audible.
Here’s a cool video that explains the differences between concert, soprano and tenor ukuleles and also provides recommendations on which one to choose.
Tuning the Ukulele
If you already play the guitar, you may already have a tuner, or you may just buy a tuning device. You may even download any free a tuner on your computer.
You will need to tune the strings in the order G, C, E, A with G on the top, and A being the string at the bottom.
Ukulele is Easier to Learn
Besides, most music teachers feel that it’s comparatively easy to learn. Just learn a couple of chords and you can start playing some great tunes.
That’s why most schools encourage students to learn this instrument before taking up the guitar. And because it’s smaller in size<, it's also quite easy to carry it to school. There are many ways of learning to play this instrument, but here’s a useful video that will give you the best beginning lesson. Just follow the instructions and you will get started in no time.
Which One to Buy?
The sound produced depends on the wood used to create the front, sides, and back. Dense woods like mahogany give a better & brighter sound. Softer woods like spruce mellow out the sound. Laminates can produce uneven results depending on the composite woods used but they are usually cheaper.
So, it depends on what you’re after.
In terms of strings, you can choose from gut, nylon, or steel depending on the effect you are after, and the amount of sustain you’re after.
Popular brands that manufacture ukuleles include: Kala, Lanikai, Kamaka, Mainland, & Mahalo.
Here’s another video that talks about the things to look for before you buy a ukulele:
Here are some more useful links to read reviews of the popular brands:
There are many who would not even know that a musical instrument named Ukulele exists, but its actually quite popular.
For those from the Indian subcontinent, just look at the picture and you will probably recollect seeing it or hearing it before.
If you are from the Indian sub-continent, or are fond of watching Bollywood movies, one of the most popular hindi songs of all time “Tujhe Dekha To – from the movie DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge)” features the Ukulele prominently.
In fact, the lead actor Shahrukh khan is shown strumming the instrument in several scenes.
Most beginners would prefer to start on a guitar, but the Ukulele is easier to learn and is also not that expensive; for about 40-50 bucks you can get hold of a nice instrument.