The Ukulele: 4 Strings of Pure Awesome


February 20, 2012 by zdueck

For those of you who don’t know, I have a bit of a soft spot for ukulele’s. For a while it was my weapon of choice when writing music (and still kind of is when I’m just fooling around). So naturally, I tend to take note whenever this beautiful instrument makes an appearance in the music I like. Lately I’ve been noticing that over the past few years it has been generating stream as a legitimate instrument and is no longer just that novelty item you picked up in Hawaii. So here’s a couple reasons why ukulele’s are awesome and why you should all go buy one as soon as you finish reading this post.

1.  It only has four strings, so no matter how small your hand is you should be able to wrap your hand around the neck of a soprano and stretch your fingers far enough to make virtually any chord you could potentially need. The only real problem would be if your hands are too big (which mine almost are), in which case you may need to drop a few extra bucks and get a real uke, like a Tenor or Baritone.

2.  You can get a cheap one for around 25$. Next to the harmonica that is probably the cheapest playable instrument you could possibly pick up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that 25$ uke’s are top of the line… But if you had to chose between a bargain bin guitar at 115$ or a bargain bin ukulele running you around 25$, which of those two sounds more appealing considering they’re likely around the same quality of build? That being said if you’re willing to take the time to shop around, traveling from store to store to hear what all your options are (there’s like 5 music shops within a 5 minute walk from each other so this is a fairly easy task in my city) then you can generally find yourself with a fairly decent bargain bin uke. I’ve brought mine outside into -40 weather without any sort of protection, playing it as I walked through the howling wind, and did not get a single crack or even a hint of warping. It sounded just as good in the building I was leaving as it did in the building I was entering (though the portion in between was filled with slight variations in tuning). But if you shell out for a decent uke, I might advise against abusing them in such a brutal way.

3.  You can just throw them in your backpack whenever you go anywhere. I used to chuck my ukulele into my backpack before I headed off to the university just in case the potential to jam presented itself. They just have such excellent sound and portability for the price. When I was trekking around Europe I’d strap it to my backpack and take it as a carry-on (I’m sure I annoyed more than a few elderly tourists waiting to board their flights). Just be careful where you place them, I stashed my old uke under a lawn chair when I was at a campfire and forgot about it only to hear it’s neck crack in two when the chair eventually collapsed with me in it about an hour later.

4.  They are slowly making their way into mainstream music. They’ve already done a pretty good job infiltrating the indie music scene (which is quickly moving in the direction of the mainstream). Well over ten of the indie bands I regularly listen to have it almost as a regular instrument in a majority of their songs. And even bands who pull it out for just a select few songs have made these switch up’s in instruments staples of their live shows.

Elliott Brood – Write It All Down For You 

Bishop Allen – Click Click Click Click

Beirut – A Sunday Smile

Animal Liberation Orchestra – Plastic Bubble

5.  It’s got mass youtube appeal. If you’ve ever thought of bringing your music to the masses, try learning a few of your numbers on the uke. People these days seem to be in love with ukes on the internet. Some of the more popular youtube acts have actually begun getting signed over the past couple years because of how many followers they are drawing in (even if they’re minor labels half the time, that’s further than most musicians tend to go).

Julia Nunes – Stay Awake

Danielle ate the Sandwich – Where The Good Ones Go

Dent May & his Magnificent Ukulele – Meet Me In The Garden

6.  If you can play the ukulele well (and I mean well, like on par with classically trained guitarists) then it actually sounds pretty frickin’ amazing. Even though I know it probably takes way more skill to be a classically trained guitarist, someone who has mastered the ukulele will gain my respect much easier than someone who has mastered the guitar. The ukulele just has such a unique sound and much less natural depth than the guitar, so anyone who goes through the effort of bringing all those tones out in their fullness, in my mind, is truly a greater musician than someone who just learns a bunch of technique and theory and applies that to a guitar (not saying all classical guitarists do that, but I imagine a fairly decent majority of them do).

Kalei Gamiao – Mach 4

Jake Shimabukuro – Blue Roses Falling


One thought on “The Ukulele: 4 Strings of Pure Awesome

  1. sonsothunder says:

    Interesting…I’ve never played a uke…The plastic bubble mash up vid has a little “Sugar Ray” sound to it….I may have to try one soon.
    ~Happy New Year~

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