Instruments | Ukulele | Stringed
The ukulele is a fretted stringed instrument that looks like a four-stringed guitar. It is most commonly associated with Hawaii, where its name translates as ‘leaping flea’, but there are no other string instruments native to Hawaii and the ukulele in fact has its roots in Portugal.
Origins of the Ukulele
Three Portuguese instrument makers arrived in Hawaii in 1879, bringing with them native instruments including the cavaquinho, on which the ukulele is based. They opened shops selling their new instrument and it quickly caught on among the local population. It was often used at times of celebration and even made an appearance at the jubilee of King Kalakaua. Very soon the ukulele took off in other states, as the craze for Hawaiian music swept across the United States in the early-twentieth century.
Types of Ukulele
There are four sizes of ukulele: the soprano, the concert, the tenor and the baritone. Each has four strings and a varying number of frets, from around 14 on the soprano to at least 22 on the baritone. All the instruments have four strings based on the intervals fourth–major third–fourth. There are not set pitches for each instrument, however, and players raise or lower their strings in order to play in a key that best accommodates their music.
In the 1930s and 1940s the ukulele’s success spread to Europe. It became particularly successful as part of the British music-hall tradition, or variety acts that performed during the Second World War.
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