The ukulele or uke is a member of the lute family. It has four nylon strings and is usually played with the bare thumb and fingertips or a felt pick. Common types of ukuleles include concert, soprano, tenor, and baritone. The soprano is the second-smallest and was the original size. It’s referred to as “standard” in Hawaii.
The diminutive string instrument has origins in 19th century Hawaii, when Portuguese immigrants who worked in the sugar cane fields introduced a small guitar-like instrument called a machete. Native Hawaiians incorporated elements of European music and Spanish guitar to the playing of their own songs, and the ukulele was born. The instrument was a hit with King Kalākaua, a patron of the arts who arranged for it to be performed at royal gatherings. Today the instrument is synonymous with Hawaiian music and culture.
A plastics manufacturer sold more than 9 million inexpensive ukuleles after WWII, which boosted the instrument’s popularity in the United States. In the sixties, entertainer Tiny Tim made a splash when he appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and played “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
More Ukulele Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a ukulelist.
Notable ukulelists include Troy Fernandez, George Formby, Gordon Freitas, Kalei Gamiao, Joni Mitchell, Amanda Palmer, Elvis Presley, Jake Shimabukuro, Taylor Swift, and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).
Hula Girl and Ukulele
Vintage Hawaii Travel Poster
Premium Giclee Fine Art Print
Listen to the Ukulele
Performed by Jake Shimabukuro
Who doesn’t love Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” But have you ever heard it played on a ukulele? Musician Jake Shimabukuro was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He loves the instrument and began taking lessons from his mother at the age of four. Jake was the first ukulele player to sign with Sony Music. He was also the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Jake Shimabukuro: Life On Four Strings.”
We Love Ukuleles
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Keep an eye on this automatically updating gallery of ukuleles and accessories available on eBay. Find a ukulele sale and add this fun-to-play instrument to your collection.