Ukulele: A Musical Instrument That Might Surprise You

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In case you’ve recently come across an article on good uke strings, you might have been a bit surprised by this less-known musical instrument. The same might apply if you’ve been on an exotic vacation in Hawaii and you left there wondering how you could capture the atmosphere and bring it home through music. 

Ukuleles are quite unique musical instruments in their nature, that have originated in Hawaii. In fact, these instruments still play a very important role in the island’s culture. Just as it happens with everything good, ukuleles have spread out through time and reached many other corners around the world, so today it’s getting increasingly popular. 

A bit of history 

In 1878, Hawaii was a place that produced a lot of sugar cane in an area that didn’t have that many plantations around. This meant that when the market developed, plantation owners had to grow their business to meet the demand. The result was that many workers from Portugal came on the island and they also brought a part of their culture with them. 

Part of their culture and of the things they brought onto the island was a small acoustic instrument that was known as “machete de braga”. With four strings and simple design, this musical tool became an instant hit among the locals. 

Settled immigrants worked on the instruments and started modifying it and adding other features, thus creating the ukulele’s predecessor. Over time, the ukuleles were refined and improved and slowly but surely became part of the island’s culture. 

Ukulele Explained

What’s interesting about ukuleles is that they are very similar to acoustic guitars, especially the classical type. These similarities go from shape to how it works, but there are some notable differences as well. 

A ukulele is significantly smaller than a guitar, and it also uses a different type of tuning. This means that different chords, as well as playing techniques are necessary to make it sound great. A guitar player might be able to start playing the ukulele, but he or she would not be an expert from the start. 

While guitars are a bit more complex, the ukulele comes with only four strings, and each one has completely different keys than a guitar player might expect. This means that you cannot really transfer all the knowledge from playing the guitar to handling these particular instruments. 

Ukuleles have their own quirks, so if you want to learn how to play one, you will have to take a bit of time and discover everything that it has to offer. 

Ukuleles and musical styles 

Before learning how to play these special instruments, you may be wondering how you are going to use them in the long term and, more importantly, for what type of music. Most people think that these are just instruments that you can use for happy beach songs. 

However, there’s nothing stopping you from exploring the wide range of capabilities that a ukulele has, especially when it comes to extending your own musical horizons and trying new styles. However, it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t attempt to play metal music on a ukulele, as this cannot really work. 

Jazz or blues, on the other hand, are still a possibility, if you learn how to translate your skills from guitar playing to the ukulele. Both fingerpicking and strumming are viable playing styles, so if you find yourself lost in blues for hours, you shouldn’t be surprised. 

Ukuleles can also be used in an amplified form, and this may bring the sound to a whole new level. The important part is not to limit yourself to anything that you think you might know about these instruments. 


Marc Wilson is the Guest Lifestyle Editor of Social Life Magazine, a 2013 Big Apple Award nominee and the Founder and Creative Director of MWD Lifestyles (formerly Marc Wilson Design) and Weddings by MWD Lifestyles. Marc’s company is a full scale wedding, event design, production and planning company with destination partnerships and capabilities and has grown to be the name in the decor and events, weddings and destination industry it is today. Marc’s fifteen years within the events industry has resulted in national and international recognition and, to date, MWD Lifestyles has worked with Rolex, Hugo Boss, Martha Stewart Weddings and MGM Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Marc’s work has been published in Grace Ormond Wedding Style, Design Bureau, New York Weddings, Manhattan, Essence, Weddings by Design, The Knot, Brides and Town&Country. Instagram@mwdlifestyles

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