Certainly a little thing, the Ukulele provides an amount of fun out all proportion to its diminutive size.
The most common tunings are g’c’e’a’ or a’d’f#’b’. The top string is tuned an octave above the others.
The instrument seems to have appeared in Hawaii in the 1880’s and has been popular ever since. A recent resurgence is probably due to the popularity of the wonderful Ukulele orchestra of Great Britain
In The UK the instrument is most commonly associated with George Formby. George more commonly played the Banjolele, a variant of the Uke with a drum head like a banjo.
The banjo head increases the volume of the instrument considerably, but the instrument lacks sustain, resulting in a percussive sound. In theatres and music halls, the banjo head had to be used to enable the instrument to be heard.
On stage Formby would have a number of uke’s and switch between them. he kept them tuned differently so he could play in different keys but use the same chord shapes and patterns.
Whilst we can all appreciate the merits of ‘When i’m cleaning windows’ and ‘The Lancashire Toreador’ Formby’s style isn’t the limit of it’s range.
Classical Ukulele can be wonderful. Check out the late great John King.
Or watch me trying to wrap my stubby fingers round this Tarantella!
Or why not go heavy with Uke til U Puke
As Loudon Wainwright III puts it so eloquently:
“Four strings made of Nylon, always put a smile on, anybody’s face who’s feeling blue”