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The ʻukulele is a chordophone classified as a plucked lute; it is a subset of the guitar family of instruments, generally with four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings. According to Queen Lili'uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, the name means the gift that came here, from the Hawaiian words uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come). Developed in the 1880s, the ukulele is based on two small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin, the cavaquinho and the rajao, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. One of the most important factors in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was the ardent support and promotion of the instrument by King David Kalakaua. A patron of the arts, he incorporated it into performances at royal gatherings. Four sizes of ukuleles are common: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. There are also less common sopranino and bass ukuleles at the extreme ends of the size spectrum.
The soprano, often called "standard" in Hawaii, is the smallest, and the original size ukulele. The concert size was developed in the 1920s as an enhanced soprano, slightly larger and louder with a deeper tone. Shortly thereafter, the tenor was created, having more volume and deeper bass tone. The largest size is the baritone, created in the 1940s. Ukuleles are generally made of wood, although variants have been made composed partially or entirely of plastic. Cheaper ukuleles are generally made from ply or laminate woods, in some cases with a soundboard of an inexpensive but acoustically superior wood such as spruce. Other more expensive ukuleles are made of solid hardwoods such as mahogany (Swietenia spp.). Some of the most expensive ukuleles, which may cost thousands of dollars, are made from koa (Acacia koa), a Hawaiian wood.
Typically ukuleles have a figure-eight body shape similar to that of a small acoustic guitar. They are also often seen in non-standard shapes, such as an oval, usually called a "pineapple" ukulele, invented by the Kamaka ukulele company, or a boat-paddle shape, and occasionally a square shape, often made out of an old wooden cigar box.
These instruments may have just four strings; or some strings may be paired in courses, giving the instrument a total of eight strings.... information source - Wikipedia ...... Copyright (C) 2011 Sharon Mau - All Rights Reserved
The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of the cavaquinho or braguinha and the rajao, small guitar-like instruments taken to Hawaiʻi by Portuguese immigrants. It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century, and from there spread internationally.
Tone and volume of the instrument vary with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Hawaiian ukuleles may also be tuned to open tunings, similar to the Hawaiian slack key style.
May 16th, 2011
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