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
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
Looking for more ukulele facts? Here are some of our favorite pages about ukuleles for you to enjoy:
Best Gifts for Music Lovers
We’ve created more than 2,000 products for string instrument players and music lovers. Find a unique gift for your favorite ukulele player or enthusiast. Beware of inferior copycats! Our original designs are available here and in our String Kings Music Ukulele collection.
Find a Ukulele Online
ADM Soprano Ukulele Beginner Start Pack
- 21-inch basswood body ukulele with high-gloss finish
- Four nylon strings
- 12 brass frets, blackwood fingerboard
- Nickel Silver Frets marked on 5th, 7th, 10th of fingerboard
- Handcrafted instrument at an affordable price
- Starter Pack includes gig bag, strap, two spare picks, extra string, polishing cloth, digital tuner, 1 month free lessons
- Perfect for beginners, both children and adults!
Soprano Ukulele Beginner Starter Pack with Gig Bag and All the Accessories You Need to Start Playing – 1 Month Free LessonsUkulele Bundle Includes Digital Tuner, Extra String, Fingerboard Sticker, Chord Card, Strap, 2 Spare Picks, Cleaning Cloth
Ukulele Gift Ideas
If you need to find a gift for your favorite ukulele player, you’ve come to the right place. We’re always creating new products and sharing our favorites from other designers.
Shop for Ukuleles and Accessories
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. This means that–at zero cost to you–we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
Soprano Ukulele Beginner Pack – 21-inch Basswood Ukulele Starter Kit – Gig Bag, Digital Tuner, Spare Strings, PicksLaminated Ukulele Chord Chart – Handy Poster Packed with 108 Ukulele Chords – Measures 8-1/2 x 11 inchesDonner Concert Ukulele – 23-inch Mahogany Ukulele Starter Kit – Gig Bag, Strap, Nylon Strings, Tuner, Picks, ClothUke, I Am Your Father Funny Ukulele or Guitar Player Cotton T-Shirt – Available in Black, Asphalt Grey, and Brown