ukulele, a stringed instrument. Ukulele or ukelele.: Music Video
The ukulele or ukelele is a member of the lute family of instruments. It generally employs four nylon strings. The ʻukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian adaptation of the Portuguese machete, a small guitar-like instrument, which was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, mainly from Madeira and the Azores. It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century and from there spread internationally. The tone and volume of the instrument vary with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The ukulele is commonly associated with music from Hawaii where the name roughly translates as “jumping flea”, perhaps because of the movement of the player’s fingers. Legend attributes it to the nickname of the Englishman Edward William Purvis, one of King Kalākaua’s officers, because of his small size, fidgety manner, and playing expertise. One of the earliest appearances of the word ʻukulele in print (in the sense of a stringed instrument) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations published in 1907.
The catalog describes two ukuleles from Hawaii: one that is similar in size to a modern soprano ʻukulele, and one that is similar to a tenor. Developed in the 1880s, the ʻukulele is based on several small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin, the machete, the cavaquinho, the timple, and the rajão, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers. Two weeks after they disembarked from the SS Ravenscrag in late August 1879, the Hawaiian Gazette reported that “Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts.” One of the most important factors in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was the ardent support and promotion of the instrument by King Kalākaua. A patron of the arts, he incorporated it into performances at royal gatherings. Kamaka Ukulele or just Kamaka is a family-owned Hawaii-based maker of the ʻukulele, founded in 1916, that is often credited with producing some of the world’s finest, and created the first pineapple ukulele. The ukulele is generally made of wood, though variants have been composed partially or entirely of plastic or other materials. Cheaper ukuleles are generally made from plywood or laminate woods, in some cases with a soundboard of a tonewood such as spruce. More expensive ukuleles are made of solid hardwoods such as mahogany. The traditionally preferred wood for ukuleles is a type of acacia endemic to Hawaiʻi, called koa. Typically, ukuleles have a figure-eight body shape similar to that of a small acoustic guitar. They are also often seen in non-standard shapes, such as cutaway shape and an oval, usually called a “pineapple” ukulele, invented by the Kamaka Ukulele company, or a boat-paddle shape, and occasionally a square shape, often made out of an old wooden cigar box. These instruments usually have four strings; some strings may be paired in courses, giving the instrument a total of six or eight strings (primarily for greater strumming volume.) The strings themselves were originally made of catgut. Modern ʻukuleles use nylon polymer strings, with many variations in the material, such as fluorocarbon, aluminium (as winding on lower-pitched strings), and Nylgut. Instruments with 6 or 8 strings in four courses are often called taropatches, or taropatch ʻukuleles. They were once common in a concert size, but now the tenor size is more common for six-string taropatch ʻukuleles. The six string, four course version, has two single and two double courses, and is sometimes called a Lili’u, though this name also applies to the eight-string version. Eight-string baritone taropatches exist, and, 5-string tenors have also been made. A Javanese ʻukulele commonly has only three strings. Apparently, it’s a modern innovation, as the first generation of three-stringed ʻukuleles were four stringed instruments with one string removed. They are now manufactured with only three strings.
Ukulele price: Cheap/Toy: $35 and Under, Budget: Around $50, Beginner: $50 to $150, Mid-Level: $150 to $500, High-End: $500 and Up.
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