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Guide to Ukuleles

Ukulele : What is it?

Ukuleles

Ukuleles, also called ukes, are string instruments made up of four strings over a hollow soundboard. They are basically smaller versions of the guitar, with the same hourglass-shaped body and fingerboard neck. Their strings may be nylon or stainless steel, and are tuned to the notes G, C, E, and A in descending order. Most ukuleles are made of wood, although some cheaper versions are made of plastic.

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Types of Ukuleles

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Kinds of Ukuleles include the following:

Soprano ukuleles

  • Soprano ukuleles are about 21 inches long and have the highest pitch.
  • They have limited resonance and amplification, and are mostly used in small venues.
  • They are ideal for children because of their low weight and short necks.


Concert ukuleles


  • Concert ukuleles are 23 inches long and have the same pitch as soprano ukuleles.
  • They have a wider, more resonant soundboard that produces a louder, fuller sound.
  • They are commonly used in ensemble and solo performances.


Tenor and baritone ukuleles


  • These ukuleles are 26 to 30 inches long closely resemble guitars.
  • They come in four-string, six-string, and eight-string versions. The extra strings are usually an octave above the G and C strings.


Banjo ukuleles


  • Banjo ukuleles, also called banjoleles, have round banjo-like bodies covered with a taut skin.
  • They are tuned like standard ukuleles, but are played at very high volumes.


Pineapple ukuleles


  • Pineapple ukuleles are box-shaped with relatively straight sides and wide bottoms.
  • Their body shape giver them a louder sound with a sweet, full tone.


Armadillo ukuleles

  • Armadillo ukuleles are made from the backplates of armadillos, a bony animal.
  • The rounded back gives them excellent resonance and sound quality.
  • They are considered exotic instruments and are usually very valuable.

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Choosing Ukuleles (Buying tips)

Body: Choose a ukulele with a moderately curved back for better resonance and volume. Flat bodies have lower sound quality, but may be more comfortable to use for small children.  

Material:
Choose a ukulele with a koa wood or mahogany body. These provide a warm, mellow sound that improves as the wood ages. The best ukuleles are typically those made from a single piece of wood. For the strings, stainless steel is ideal for performance and professional use, while nylon is safer for children.

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