About the Ukulele


The ukulele comes from the island of Hawaii and was invented after Portuguese sailors brought stringed instruments to the island in 1879. The local Hawaiians saw these instruments and made their own version which they called the ukulele.

The ukulele was played by the royal family of Hawaii and is an important part of their culture. ‘Ukulele’ is Hawaiian for jumping flea and describes the movement of your fingers when you play.

In 1915, a great exposition was held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. Hawaii hosted a pavilion and many Hawaiian musicians, such as the Royal Hawaiian Quartet, played there. The music was so popular that it created a craze for ukulele music that swept across America.

At the height of the ukulele craze, tens of thousands of ukuleles were sold and many songs were written for the instrument. The craze soon spread to Britain and stars like George Formby played ukulele songs. In Britain, the banjo ukulele was the most popular style.

Perhaps the most famous ukulele was owned by Richard Konter, who took his ukulele to the North Pole. It was the first musical instrument to be taken there. The ukulele is ever popular today and is played in many countries around the world.


Length: about 40cm
Number of strings: 4
Typical tuning: C F A D
Basis starter model: around £45

Less common, smaller version of the soprano ukulele. Also known as the piccolo or ‘pocket Uke’. You need smaller fingers to play this and it has the highest pitch of all the ukes.


Length: 53cm
Number of strings: 4
Number of frets: 12-15
Typical tuning: G C E A
Basis starter model: around £30

Probably one of the most popular sizes for beginners, tends to be very affordable. Being almost the smallest of the ukes, the frets are quite close together. There are many different makes and these can be bought very cheaply right through to hundreds if not thousands of pounds.


Length: 58cm
Number of strings: 4
Number of frets: 15-20
Typical tuning: G C E A
Basis starter model: around £40

Developed in the 1920s, this is a larger version of the soprano Uke. It shares the same tuning but has a deeper, louder tone. Because it is slightly bigger, many people find this the preferable option to the soprano as they can get their fingers around the frets with greater ease, especially if they have bigger fingers.


Length: 66cm
Number of strings: 4
Number of frets: 15+
Typical tuning: G C E A
Basis starter model: around £45

Developed in the 1920s, after the concert Uke so as to provide a bigger version, the tenor ukulele is bigger again and so a bit louder an deeper in tone.


Length: 76cm
Number of strings: 4
Typical tuning: E A D G
Basis starter model: around £250-300

The most recent development in ukuleles, created in the last five years or so. It has longer and thicker strings and therefore can produce the bass notes in a similar way to a bass guitar.