With a name that means “jumping flea” to many Hawaiians, the ukulele was the Hawaiian interpretation of the various small Portuguese guitars which had made landfall in the islands in the course of Hawaii’s encounters over the centuries with European mercantile powers. With the avid support of King Kalakaua in the late 19th century, the ukulele became established in Hawaiian culture.
The ukuleles at the Hawaiian Pavilion captivated visitors to San Francisco’s 1915 Pacific International Exposition, igniting a fad for ukulele music that ran through Tin Pan Alley, carrying the instrument into the jazz age and featuring in a number of early sound-on-film experiments..
Conveniently compact and inexpensive, the ukulele was a favourite too of vaudeville performers, and during the interwar years occupied much the same position in popular music as the guitar was to do, post WW2. Sheet music of the day included ukulele charts
The ukulele was to experience a dramatic boost to its cultural significance when in 1960 the Canadian educator Chalmers Doane recruited it as a cheap, handy instrument for teaching children the rudiments of music. Doane’s program continues in Canada, and children all over the world continue to benefit from the ukulele’s many virtues as a teaching instrument.
Ukuleles are generally, but not always, made of wood. As well as from relatively inexpensive woods, a quite acceptable sound can be had from the use of plastics. More expensive, concert performance instruments can be made from dense woods such as mahogany. The typical ukulele has four strings, but five-stringed ukuleles do exist. On some ukes, the four strings are paired. The commonest size of ukulele is the concert soprano, but larger instruments, with a lower register, do exist, as does a smaller, sopranino ukulele. A variety of tuning is used, but for a concert soprano ukulele the commonest is C6-tuning: G4 C4 E4 A4. The “low” G is an octave higher than would be expected, giving “re-entrant” tuning. However Doane’s ukulele teaching method uses D tuning with a low 4th, A3 D4 F#4 B4, sometimes called "Canadian tuning".
At Music Mart we carry a great range of Mahalo teaching ukuleles from as little as $29.95, as well as fine concert models in the soprano, tenor and baritone registers. These include electric models from makers such as Fender and .Kealoha. Whether you are buying a school ukulele for your child, or a concert instrument for your performing career, we’ll have one to suit your purpose and your pocket. Here are some of the brands we stock:
To learn more about our range of ukuleles, give us a call on (08) 9250 2015 or send an email enquiry.