FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  • What is a Ukulele?
  • Why play the Ukulele?

What is a Ukulele?

It is a small, four course, or four string, re-entrant tuned, plucked chordophone. In other words, it has four strings, and if you play it right handed, the string nearest your nose is tuned high. A ukulele is a bit like a small guitar although the construction details are different and give it a distinctive tone. The ukulele is not related to the banjo, although the ukulele-banjo is often referred to as a "uke". The Ukulele is arguably related to the cavaquinho, the braguina, the cuatro, the mandora, the chittarino and the requinto. The early guitar had four strings. A modern guitar can be thought of as a "genetically modified" ukulele. A ukulele can be thought of as a "bonsai" guitar. There are some ukulele style instruments which have more than four strings, such as the "taro-patch" which has up to four courses (that is to say, some of the strings are double, tuned in unison or octaves). Distinctions between guitar like, mandolin like and other fretted, plucked stringed instruments are sometimes difficult to make. There is even a mando-uke. (The instrument called the ukeline is actually a cross between a zither and a bowed psaltery, and is not related to either the ukulele or the mandolin, but that's another story). The history of the ukulele, from its origins in Madeira via early construction and naming in Hawaii to its popularity in America is well documented. See the links page for more information.

Why play the Ukulele?

The ukulele is small, convenient and relatively inexpensive, and one can often quickly and easily learn the basics to a rewarding level. One can then undertake a world tour with only hand luggage. Some people go so far as to say that playing a tune on a ukulele is a way of identifying good music; if the composition is good, it sounds good on a ukulele; the very limitations of the instrument encourage thinking creatively about music.