ʻUkulele

The ukulele ( ew-kə-lay-lee, from Hawaiian: ʻukulele ( oo-koo-leh-leh ); British English: ukelele ) sometimes abbreviated to uke, is a member of the lute family of instruments; it generally employs four nylon or gut strings or four courses of string.

A `Ukulele is:

  • Light Weight, Affordable and Portable
  • Easy on the Fingers ( Four Strings, Four Fingers )
  • Less Need for Strumming Accuracy
  • and a low expectation for what is expected from a ukulele player

The music you play can be as simple or complex as you want. The ukulele is a powerful musical instrument for communication in its own right.

And, did I mention it's a blast and lot of fun to play and explore.

It's the new social instrument for this millennium and here to stay this go around - the craze is over.

Getting Started with Ukulele?

toon First thing is to decent get a ukulele.

It is generally true that you get what you pay for when it comes to buying a ukulele. Get a few, they come in four sizes and all different shapes, wood, finishes, acoustic, electric, solid body, archtop. There is even a banjo and bass ukulele. Plus they are fun, any size

The above image is a selection of the characters available in a FREE font from www.ffonts.net show the wide variety of ukulele shapes - all of them real.

You can take you ukulele playing to any level. From a few simple basic chords to complicated solo ukulele arrangements like I have available right here.

For selecting a ukulele take a look at over 100 `Ukulele Manufactures & Builders I've collected. And, a `page of `ukulele dealers to get you started.

Selecting a Ukulele

The `Ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-lele) comes in four standard sizes: Soprano (sometimes called Standard), Concert, Tenor and Baritone. The Baritone is tuned just like the four thin strings of a standard tuned guitar and called “G” tuning (D G B E). The Soprano, Concert and Tenor is typically tuning in a “C” Tuning (G C E A) or “D” tuning (A D F# B). The Tenor can also be tuned like the Baritone ukulele with a high or low string four.

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Ukulele Study Plans

One of the hardest things about learning a musical instrument is the overwhelming amount of material available. And with the Internet and YouTube this is more more true than ever. Even an instrument deemed to be as simple to learn as the ukulele. However, with the right plan of attack and taking inventory of what you might already know – It can be done.

I've been asked many times to put together a plan of attack for getting started and getting beyond the basics. There is no better recipe for success that a proven plan and organization for development. These lesson pages are intended to provide material for developing your ukulele skills and expanding your music knowledge.

Music..., regardless of your instrument, involves parts or all of these elements: Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. Then putting it all together in Songs, Compositions, Arrangements, Orchestration, etc...

Visit the `Ukulele Study Plans section of the site

A Few Recommended Lessons

Here are a few ukulele lessons to get you stated. Lessons on the possible tunings of ukulele, the various sizes, basic chords, strums and more...

Or check out the Weekly Lesson Series of lessons for getting stated with ukulele.

Common Ukulele Tunings

Any tuning is possible on a ukulele as long as the ukulele’s construction supports it and a string is available.

Tuning Your Ukulele

From tuning by ear to using an electronic tuner. The below lesson goes over the various tuning methods for tuning your ukulele. You ALWAYS need to play in tune.

Reading Ukulele TAB - Alternate Notation

TAB or Tablature Tablature is a form of musical notation, which tells players where to place their fingers on a particular instrument rather than which pitches to play.

Basic Ukulele Chord Fingering

The art and science of chord fingering. Learning your basic open position chords in common keys.

Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes of the Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning

Standard music notation, the natural, sharp and flat notes of the ukulele fingerboard for C tuned ukuleles. Covers both high C and low G tuning variations.

Which Way Is Up? - Up, Down, Ascending, Descending, etc...

Up, Down, Ascending, Descending, Higher, Lower, Top, Bottom!!!

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard (Finally!!!)

Most players struggle with learning the names of the notes of the ukulele fingerboard. There doesn’t seem to a pattern and notes repeat. There is an easy way and it’s easier that you think!

Fingerstyle Basics for Ukulele - t i m r, ( p i m a )

Exploring fingerstyle on ukulele. This lesson covers the common terms used for identifing the fingers used. And, presents a series of single string exercises for exploring and developing the techniques needed for this style.

The Harmonized Major and Minor Scale Charts

The Major Scale or Ionian scale is a diatonic scale, made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first one octave higher. In solfege these notes correspond to the syllables “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, (Do)”, the “Do” in the parenthesis at the end being the octave of the root.

The Trouble with TAB

TAB, short for tablature is a form of musical notation using numbers and letters on a staff that that corresponds to the number of strings of fretted string instrument. Theses number tell a player which fret to place their fingers on the fingerboard.

Common Ukulele Sizes

The ukulele comes in 4 sizes: Soprano (sometimes called Standard), Concert, Tenor and Baritone.

A ukulele can can be tuned to any tuning as long a s there is a string available and the construction supports it. With that in mind here are the common tunes for the four common sized ukulele.

The Baritone ukulele is tuned (D G B E), just like the thin 4 strings of a standard guitar. This is called "G" Tuning.

The Soprano, Concert and Tenor ukuleles typically uses "C" Tuning G C E A or "D" tuning (A D F# B). The Tenor can also be tuned like the Baritone ukulele.

A ukulele can have a mellow-mainland or bright-island sound.

Comparing the four different sizes of ukulele
that are in common use today.

Good Trade!

Woman is at a uke festival with a lovely soprano ukulele under her arm. Another woman walks up and gazes admiringly at the first woman's uke, at which point the woman holding the uke looks over and says with a smile; "I got it for my husband." Second woman nods and says, "good trade."

The Ukulele History

In 1879, a Braguinha arrived in Hawaii on a Portuguese ship loaded with laborers destined for the sugar cane fields with a Portuguese instrument called a Machete . Hawaiians made the instrument their own and calling it "ukulele" which translates to "jumping flea," It's believed to have originated because of the way a performer's fingers jump around on the strings.

Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers

Here is a link to a great article on the history of the ukulele by Dagan B.

The Ukulele Time-line

1879

Portuguese sailors introduce Hawaiians to small four-stringed instrument that gave rise to the ukulele. King David Kalakaua was influential in the initial rise of popularity of the ukulele.

1915

Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California USA unveils ukulele to the world.

The Panama–Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) was a world's fair held in San Francisco, in the United States, between February 20 and December 4 in 1915. Its ostensible purpose was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but it was widely seen in the city as an opportunity to showcase its recovery from the 1906 earthquake.

1920s

Ukuleles all the rage. This corresponds to the popularity and availability of radio in the decade of the 20s to 40s.

1940s

Ukulele craze revived by GIs returning home from South Pacific after World War II.

1950s

Weekly TV host Arthur Godfrey keeps ukuleles in the spotlight.

A shift from the popularity of radio to most household have access to a TV and the second wave of the ukulele craze.

Current

Virtuoso musicians such as Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill are altering traditional perceptions of ukulele music.

The third wave of the ukulele corresponding the the influence of YouTube and the Internet.

Check out all the famous people and musicians associated with the ukulele on the ukulele musicians page.

Ukulele virtuoso and master educator James Hill has a great take on how the three ukulele crazes have spread — They ALL corresponded to the adoption of new vehicle for the delivery of mass media. He has a great point that Radio, TV and the Internet all created a sense of community around the ukulele.

james also contenteds

Simulating Various Ukulele Scale Lengths

If you don't have any concert size instruments nearby to try in a store you can create the scale length on your tenor with an inexpensive capo. A capo on the second or third frets of a tenor leaves you with a scale length (and fret spacing) similar to a concert and the neck width at that level should be very close to that found on most concerts. And if you want to get an idea of what a soprano scale would feel like put the capo at the 4th fret and you'll be almost exactly at the standard 13 5/8 inch length. However the width at that point on a tenor will in most cases be greater than at the nut of a soprano.

Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books! — Peter Rhee

Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the best — Glen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys

Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too. — Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg

I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent. — fatveg — Portland

Thanks for visiting and checking out the site!

Content is always being added and updated. So check-in often. Thanks, for visiting!!!

One of the largest collections of lessons, songs and TABS, archtop luthiers, ukulele builders, festival information, ukulele links on the web. I’ve been on the web since the early 90's and growing everyday. This site just never stops growing!!!

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