Introduction to the Ukulele

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like nowadays everybody plays guitar. Whether it’s a classic acoustic or a custom electric, in the sphere of music, guitarists are a dime a dozen. But don’t get me wrong, it’s the first instrument that got me into music, the same for a lot of us, and how can they blame us? With all those videos of Jimi Hendrix making his axe scream or Eddie Van Halen simply destroying solos… you tell me how I’d ever want to pick up a violin! But with that said, the great thing about music is the shear amount of options we as musicians have to play around with and master.  So, for those of you looking to spice up your instrument skill set, why not try some of these guitar alternatives?

Sure, there are a few differences between them; an extra string or two, an alternate tuning here and there, but nothing that veterans capable of holding chord patterns should worry about. So, for all you axe-men (and axe-ladies) out there check out some of the guitars less popular cousins. While they might not melt anyone’s face soon, they make great partners for YouTube videos!

This week, we will be featuring the one, the only...



The Ukulele 


The Birth of a New Instrument

Probably the most popular of the alternatives, especially in the aforementioned YouTube department, the ukulele is a four-stringed member of the guitar family credited to being invented around the 1880s in Hawaii after Portuguese merchants brought over two similar stringed instruments along with them. Production of the ukulele as we know it came soon after as King Kalākaua began incorporating the instrument into music at royal gatherings, becoming synonymous with the island.

What's the DIfference?

Besides the obvious difference in string count, what give the ukulele its signature sound are the positioning of the strings according to tone and the type of strings used. Unlike the traditional acoustic guitar which has strings set up from low to high (or high to low if you read tabs), the ukulele incorporates a setup similar to the banjo, with the two outer strings being thinner and higher in tone while the two middle strings are thicker, lower in tone. Just imagine the lower four strings on a guitar and replace the D with another high E string. The ukulele uses nylon strings, similar to classical guitars, which definitely gives it a warm quality and not at all metallic like in regular guitars.

The Importance of Being Properly Tuned

Probably the biggest road block for those wanting to play the ukulele is the tuning setup, but it is definitely a lot easier once you get used to it. Most people make the honest mistake of thinking that the four strings on the ukulele must be the same tuning as the higher four strings on a guitar, meaning DGBE, and in the case of a baritone ukulele, they would be right, but chances are they picked up a standard or soprano ukulele, as are the ones sold in most music shops. Sure, you can use that setup on any uke and it will technically work (because music always technically works), but that is definitely not the traditional setup of the instrument, causing the strings to either be too loose or too tight. Check out this chart to figure out the proper tuning for your ukulele:



 Scale length 

 Total length 


 Soprano or standard 

 13" (33 cm)

 21" (53 cm)

 A4-D4-F#4-B4 or G4-C4-E4-A4


 15" (38 cm)

 23" (58 cm)

 G4-C4-E4-A4, or G3-C4-E4-A4


 17" (43 cm)

 26" (66 cm)

 G3-C4-E4-A4, G4-C4-E4-A4 , or D4-G3-B3-E4


 19" (48 cm)

 30" (76 cm)



So, there you have it. That wasn’t so bad, right? The ukulele is a great instrument in its own right with a rich history and distinctive sound, making it a pretty popular (and portable) alternative when six strings are just too much. Now, how about some soprano ukulele chords to get you running in the right direction?




Don't own a ukulele yet? Check out the Fender Nohea All Koa, Hau'oli or the Pa'ina for top quality ukuleles at a great price!



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