7 Fun Facts About The Ukulele

7 Fun Facts About The Ukulele

The Ukulele is probably the most popular instrument at the moment and is riding on an unprecedented wave of success. The charm of this fun instrument from the sunny South Seas is undisputed and now pretty much everyone knows it. Numerous stories and myths surround this extraordinary instrument and our shooting star from Hawaii has already experienced surprising adventures. In this article we have summarised some interesting facts.

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1. The ukulele is not a Hawaiian invention

The birth of the ukulele dates back to 1879 with the landing of Portuguese sailors on Hawaii, where it got its name. Its predecessor, the “machete de braga” also called the “cavaquinho“, existed long before and was brought from Madeira to Hawaii. Well then, Aloha! ?

 

2. The ukulele overtook the guitar several times (almost)

In the 1920s, the traditional manufacturer C. F. Martin Guitars, among others, sold as many ukuleles as guitars. The global economic crisis cast its shadow ahead and the affordable ukulele enabled many manufacturers (including Gretsch and Gibson) to survive the difficult years. After the Second World War, Maccaferri was able to keep a constant daily production of 2500 instruments with a plastic ukulele series (!) at the beginning of the 1950s.

? Soprano Ukuleles can be found at this link

3. No Beatles, No Uke

We are currently experiencing the third wave of success of the ukulele, which is significantly reinforced by the Internet. This euphoria began in the mid-1990s, with an ABC documentary about The Beatles in which George Harrison and Paul McCartney come out as ukulele fans. The ukulele rapidly regained popularity. George Harrison is undoubtedly one of the most important characters in the story of the ukulele. He always advocated this instrument, as can be seen here:

Zitat George Harrison

 

4. The ukulele has a high “low” string

In contrast to the guitar, the ukulele has the so-called “reentrant” tuning. This means that the strings are not tuned upwards continuously like on a guitar or many other stringed instruments. This also gives the ukulele its lovely sound. It is also possible to put on a low string. This “Low-G” tuning, provides a fuller sound and is particularly suitable for guitarists and soloists, but you compromise a bit of the typical uke sound.

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5. There is a bass and banjo ukulele

Yup, you read correctly, besides the typical ukulele as we know it, there are a whole bunch of different sizes and variations. The bass ukulele has thick rubber strings and is tuned like an electric bass. When connected to the amplifier, it sounds very much like a double bass. By the way, there is also a so-called “banjo-lele” (or “banjo-uke“), a hybrid of a banjo and a ukulele (as the name suggests) and it even turned 100 years old last year.

? Click here for the Bass Ukuleles on thomann.de

? Click here for the Banjo Ukuleles on thomann.de

 

6. The origin of the name is not clear

The most common assumption is that “uku” and “lele” mean “jumping flea” because when the Portugese sailors arrived in Hawaii, the Hawaiians saw the players’ fingers jumping over the fretboard so quickly. According to uke historian Jim Beloff, Queen Lili’uokalani (who wrote Aloha`Oe) gave the word a poetic twist by using the other meanings of “uku” and “lele”: “gift” and “come”. This made it to signify “a gift that came to us from far away”. Whichever one it really means, to us it means remains “a 4-stringed bundle of joy” 🙂

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7. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is an old hat

The ukulele anthem par excellence is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Did you know that the “gentle giant”, as he was called, died unfortunately in 1997 and only wrote his hit in 1990? In 2010 the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World” was number 1 in the German single charts. It was first released in 1993 on his album “Facing Future“, 17 years prior!

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Click here for ALL Ukuleles on thomann.de

? The DIY ukulele kit from Harley Benton would be something for those who want to try constructing a ukulele themselves…

Author’s gravatar
Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.

9 comments

    i wanna be a cowwwboyyy babbbyyyy

    i ukulele often i master 1v1 me bruv

    wzxscsaxczcsdxsxzcsxqxsxaxzxqwqzawax54~7c6 v,,

    What a wonderful instrument!

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