Reasons I’ve Purchased a Ukulele

  1. It’s compact, portable, and easy to play while holding a baby.
  2. Babies enjoy songs played on the yookalayli.
  3. It’s easy to spell.
  4. Hawaii.
  5. It’s snowing outside.
  6. It stays in tune.
  7. An electric guitar is heavy, too loud, and potentially dangerous to operate while holding a baby.
  8. It’s just like playing the guitar.
  9. It’s a fun, new instrument to learn.
  10. It supports CSS3.

For those now chomping at the bit to share in the excitement, I’ve found a relatively clear and concise beginner’s guide to the ukulele. Join the revolution.

68 Comments

  1. A ukulele? I’m not even sure what it looks like let alone how to spell it (at least until now anyway), but I’ve been told it’s a fine instrument, especially for those with no guitar experience to start with.
    Is it standards compliant?

  2. Ethan says:

    11. It’s no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

  3. Small Paul says:

    11. Comes in handy when I’m cleanin’ windows.

  4. Pete says:

    Turned out nice again!
    (For non UK residents or those under 35, try Googling for “George Formby”)

  5. Anonymous says:

    12. Get to invent new style of Metal Ukulele. This may inerfere with item two, however.

  6. Charles Kihe says:

    For people here in Hawaii, it IS easy to spell :D It’s a good instrument to learn – check out Jake Shimabukuro if you want to hear some of the best modern ukulele stylings.
    Also, I hope you’re pronouncing it right! It’s “oo-koo-leh-leh”, not “you-ka-lay-lee”!

  7. Dave says:

    Haha! That’s the same address I came to by typing in “ukulele” in the address bar in firefox.

  8. Steve says:

    Great minds must think alike. I just got my first uke dropped on my doorstep about 2 weeks ago. It’s competing for playing time with my guitar, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
    Thought I might pass along this site with some uke tabs. You never know when somebody might request Stairway to Heaven on the ukulele. Although I’m partial to Pinball Wizard.
    http://www.alligatorboogaloo.com/uke/tabs.html

  9. Hugh Roper says:

    Metal – that’s funny.
    Now that I’ve learned how to play the harmonica (ultra portable and baby friendly), the ukulele is a fantastic idea.

  10. Gordon says:

    Metal? No no no. You’re missing an opportchancity here. I say neo-post-modern electro funk with country and western rhythms and underpinned with a soft and elegant fusion of jazz and thrash speed metal….
    No?

  11. Chriztian Steinmeier says:

    MediumQuiz #1
    Yep – the spelling of said instrument is crucial in a particularly cool Clint Eastwood movie… by the name of?

  12. Kinsbane says:

    While an electric guitar might be potentially dangerous while holding a baby, they are neither too heavy nor too loud. There are options about to ensure you have a quiet, heavy metal jamming session. A good number of manufacturers have lightweight electric guitars available.

  13. Eckhard Rotte says:

    Watch this movie:
    http://ukuleledisco.com/jake

  14. I will learn to play any instrument that supports CSS3

  15. Dane says:

    Heh.
    Great list, though I fear that entropy will get the best of it, and items will continue to cross themselves off until there’s nothing left!

  16. Gary says:

    I strange as it may sound, I used to regularly go listen to the
    Langely Ukulele Ensemble when I lived in Vancouver, BC . . . and really enjoyed it! Okay, maybe that is strange.
    http://www.langleyukes.com

  17. Lena says:

    Answer to comment #4
    I do belive George Formby is known even outside UK. As a child I often saw his mowies with a jolly good laugh. Some people say he looks like a horseface. I say he became more and more like his favourite instrument – the ukulele :)
    I have a friend who plays the ukulele and it seems not to be easy, especially if you have big hands and fingers.
    Perhaps Jake loves to listen when his father plays lullabys on the ukulele?

  18. Shinano Sato says:

    Thank you very much for the nice support, feedback and re-action to my messages.
    I found your book by chance @ nearest bookshop one day, noticed that your writing + idea + guidelines are most comprehensive to me. SimpleBits!
    I respect your kindness and design, plus surprised to know your baby’s birth – at the very first contact…
    Mmmm.
    :)

  19. J. says:

    The ukelele is propably the most highfashioned instrument in Europe right now. Its been like that for maybe two years now because of the artist Patrick Wolf.

  20. hank says:

    Great! I just got a ukulele for Christmas from my girlfriend and I’m loving it. She also had a pickup put it so I can plug it into an amp.
    Watch out for the tuning section of that beginners guide to the ukulele. I spent the first 2 weeks playing the damn thing tuned upside down (or left-handed) because they regard the first string to be the one closest to your feet, those quirky Japanese :)
    Brook Adams has a very helpful site, where I’ve learned quite a bit of ukulele music.
    Cheers.

  21. gary turner says:

    Um, Hank? Every stringed instrument I fool with uses that numbering scheme. As you look at the belly side with the neck pointed up, the #1 string is to the right. As it’s held in playing position (right-handed), the #1 string is on the bottom. That applies to guitar, banjo, mandolin/mandola, zither, the whole viol family, autoharp and ukelele. It does not apply to the Appalachian 3-string dulcimer.
    cheers,
    gary

  22. hank says:

    Thanks Gary,
    I am undoubtebly a string instrument noob (except 3-string dulcimer, Appalachian variety, the least confusing string instrument imho).
    Interestingly, I found this, which is a different system from the standard.

  23. What is Ukulele?

  24. Brandon Eley says:

    Never thought of a Ukulele, but my kids love my harmonica. I got it for $5 clearanced at a store in the mall, and wish I had bought several now. My daughter’s old enough to play it now and it’s become hers.
    PS it’s really easy to play and you can have both hands free at the same time!

  25. Charles Kihe says:

    @#21 hank – the ‘ukulele is Portuguese, not Japanese :) Not trying to pick on you, just a friendly “fact of the day” kind of thing. In addition, it translates to “jumping flea” in Hawaiian.

  26. Ryan Cavicchioni says:

    I actually have thought about getting a Ukulele too. I am a guitar player but I have no idea who makes a good Ukulele and how much that would cost. Does any one have any suggestions for a decent Ukulele for a beginner?

  27. hank says:

    Charles (#26), I believe the website I was referring to from the original post is Japanese (.jp) not the Ukulele. Nevertheless, thank you for the fact of the day, I never knew it was from Portugal. How cool! I always thought it was from Hawaii.

  28. Greg says:

    I played a mini-guitar (5 Strings (?), not 4) until my fingers got sore. I think a Ukulele is more fun because you can actually play it ;)

  29. Well, violin could also be an option, but bear in mind that it requires a lot of practice and I am sure that the first three years will be very difficult for your family, until you can attain proficiency in it ;-)
    So, I guess, you have found a better instrument to play with;-)
    Good luck with the playng and the holding of your baby, Dan! :-D I am happy you are well:)))
    My $ 0.02 ;-)
    Michel
    [sidenote]Violin also does not support CSS 3, just bear it in mind![/sidenote]

  30. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned Tiny Tim with his classic “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” That is a very well known ukulele accompanied song.

  31. Pid says:

    Prime Minister Tony Blair recently owned up to learning the ukulele. Bet you’re glad to be following in his footsteps.

  32. Daigo says:

    No way, Dan! Awesome. Check out my del.icio.us uke links!
    http://del.icio.us/daigo/ukulele
    I’ve been playing uke last couple of years and it’s been my passion! (I have a thing for a four string instrument I guess)

  33. Daigo says:

    Another thing, Jake Shimabukuro is going to be performing at the
    Natick Center for the Arts on March 4. It is a must see concert. Have you seen his infamous version of “My Ukulele gently weeps“?
    In my humble opinion, Ukulele chord finder is the most useful Ukulele source on the web. But be aware that by default it shows you Soprano D (I assume you have Soprano C Uke). My son Jonathan (now 19 month) always wants me to play “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Old McDonald”, its really cute. Uke rocks! Sorry for the multi comment post (I got excited…).

  34. Drew says:

    “7. An electric guitar is heavy, too loud, and potentially dangerous to operate while holding a baby.”
    Have you tried putting him in the baby bjorn?
    Blaster by your side — that’s good stuff…

  35. Shaun Inman says:

    Brilliant! We’re having a destination wedding and with everything else we need to ship it’s probably going to be too much trouble to bring the guitar. With this ringing endorsement Dan I’m sold on smuggling a uke in a pillowcase.

  36. Darren Kopp says:

    I don’t know if a ukelele is the best idea. You may want to watch this video. There is a part with a ukelele in it (towards the middle).
    It’s a windows media video, and i notice that you use a mac… so i don’t know if you will be able to view it.

  37. If a former Beatle plays ukelele, then it must be ok. George Harrison became quite the uke player before he died, and I saw Paul McCartney recently in concert where he played Harrison’s song “Something”, starting it out on ukelele. He does this with Eric Clapton in the George Harrison memorial concert that is on DVD. I highly recommend it!

  38. jen says:


    copycat
    . I got my uke about 3 months ago. They’re great fun and fairly easy to learn. I’ve got some great uke tabs links etc if you want them.

  39. Heh, that’s a funny list. I remember the PS2 controller being a baby-friendly device during our youngest’s first few months. Think I’ll stick to guitar, thx all the same :-)

  40. Russ Brooks says:

    HEY! I just got one myself for Christmas! My girl remembered that I’ve been wanting one for quite some time. It’s made by Ovation, the well-known acoustic guitar manufacturer. It is an exact mini version of my guitar – little inlays and all. Here’s a good shot of it.
    Christmas morning, I opened my accompanying Mel Bay’s Fun with the Ukulele book to the first page and saw “Tuning Your Ukulele”. I ran down to my studio to plug her into to my digital tuner. A quick glance at some of the chords in the Mel Bay book and I was back upstairs playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole in minutes – one of the most beautiful ukulele songs of all time. Get the “Facing the Future” album if you don’t have it.
    Yeah, they don’t stay in tune past one song, if that—not even my $180 one. Learn how to tune it quickly. It’s not so bad once the strings are broken in.
    Great little instrument. I’m sort of on a little quest to acquire exotic instruments. It started with my Steinberger bass guitar in 1989. Then, it was a Chapman Stick in 1996. Didgeridoo, banjo, ocarina, tin whistle. Next, it’s bagpipes!! I almost have the girlfriend convinced that this is a great idea!
    Have fun with it, Dan!

  41. Rene Grassegger says:

    HI Dan,
    a famous german Entertainer uses and plays the uku. for years and very well.
    Stefan Raab is the name.
    So go on and fight 4 the revolution.
    Greets
    Rene

  42. Dylan says:

    Oh my, I actually own a ukelele myself. Mind you, a very cheap one. I actually went to a lesson or two when I was very very young, but never kept it up. Interesting instrument.

  43. Rick says:

    I’ll definitely will get one.
    CSS3? Ha ha ha.. Better than IE..

  44. I am not usually a pedant, but after hearing the way Ukelele is *really* pronounced, I could never go back to the American bastardization of the word (hearing it from the mouth of an adorable Tongan woman might have had something to do with it).
    It is pronounced :Ohk – uh – lay – lay.
    And its not just from Hawaii, there like thousands of island, hundred’s of countries, in the South Pacific who could claim it as much a part of their heritage.
    At any rate, I am glads to have more Ukelele out there. Do you know Ayano Tsuji?
    http://audio.theworld.org/wma.php?id=11162005

  45. Anonymous says:

    Cool. I play the ukulele too. It’s a fun instrument to play. I recommend Dominator’s ukulele website http://www.ukeland.com/~dominator for more advanced stuff. There are also some instructions and tabs at http://www.ezfolk.com.

  46. Kathy says:

    A ukelele, huh? Somebody hasn’t been getting enough sleep lately, maybe? I know you won’t really believe me, but you’re almost through the worst of it. At 6 weeks, things start to get a little easier. Anyway, belated congratulations on Jack. And if the ukelele doesn’t work, try the vacuum cleaner. Put my kids right out.

  47. Hi, Dan!
    I have never heard of ukulele before your post. I like your site for the reason I am learning something new every time I visit it. Just opened ukulele guide and looks like it’s interesting instrument. ;-) In Russia we have a “balalajka” – that’s something close to it ;-)
    Will try to learn more about it’s sound.
    Thanks

  48. tomsw says:

    Last but not least reason:
    You saw the video of Jake Shimabukuro.

  49. Bruno Figueiredo says:

    What you call “ukelele” is what we portuguese people call a “cavaquinho”, which is its original name. Portuguese navigators brought it to Hawaii, and hawaian people described it as they saw best: “fingers that jump like fleas”, which translates to “ukelele”. The cavaquinho is a cherished portuguese tradition. In fact, portuguese people invented quite a lot of musical instruments with strings. Our most famous one is the portuguese guitar, used in “Fado” which has 12 strings and must be played with a fake, long, fingernail.

  50. Pete says:

    Ukulele? man that’s so rock’n'roll, you will of course have a velcro pad for attaching to jumper

  51. Dave says:

    Hi all,
    A friend of mine alerted me to this thread. He and I founded the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum which helped usher in the current wave of ukulelemania. Back in around 1994, we created the first ukulele web site on the infant WWW! It’s been moved from it’s original server, but you can still see it in all it’s HTML 2.0 glory, made on a Mac LC!
    http://ukediner.ukulele.org
    Also, here’s cool opporrtunity for seeing live uke music for grown-ups:
    http://ukulelenoir.com/
    If you ever need ukulele tips or advice, email me via the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum website, or the Uke Diner!

  52. Ryan Azar says:

    Woo! Another ukulele player. I got one recently to fiddle with after I get bored with practicing guitar. Thanks all for those links, I did not know they existed.

  53. will says:

    yeah! I love my uke. I got a nice mele tenor before moving away from maui. enjoy it enjoy it. I’ve been working out REM songs on it lately. Not being sassy-blog-commenter-know-it-all-face, it’s oo-koo-lay-lay, not yookalayli or just ‘yook’.
    check out as much hawaiiain master stuff as you can cause it’s insane and lovely, not just cheesey as we’ve been lead to believe. That jake fella is something else. not really my style but damn that kid knows his uke. Check out ukefink for a different view.
    I’m so glad. best instrument ever.

  54. jeff says:

    Yikes, are there others out there? I asked for and received one for Christmas. It’s fun but, as a guitar player, I find the uke almost microscopic. Also, it’s hard to keep in tune. I spent half a day working on a version of “Something” by The Beatles, only to have to re-tune every few minutes. And my family weren’t too keen on my constant bashing away at the thing. Still, it’s cute to look at…

  55. Bill Napier says:

    Stumbled onto your blog while looking for tv resolution. But since have really enjoyed reading some of these entries. Your account of assuming nothing with child birth hits close to home with us. Our baby (Grace Ann) has heart murmurs and apnea episodes. She has been on an apnea monitor for a little over 4 months. So life is exciting, huh? I’m glad that your son is doing well. Take care.

  56. Wyness says:

    Hi all, I’m thinking about purchasing a ukulele to learn on. Having a look at most ukuleles out there on the net, I haven’t found one with the same number of frets in the clear that Jake Shimabukuro uses in his ‘While my guitar gently weeps‘ video.
    Is the uke he’s using standard (like a baritone) or is he using a custom setup? Also, does anyone have any tips on what makes and models I should look into that would have a great sound, but not break the bank?

  57. Josh says:

    “There’s nothing like a good blaster at your side” is a fantastic comment.
    Carrying my still three-weeks-new uke to a class full of eager first graders (because there is nothing, nothing worse than the recorded hyper-music they use to teach things in schools in Japan, but fun songs will often mean fun classes), it schlupped out of the back of its case and landed with a THWONG and a CRASH on the hallway floor. Despite the damage–a fair sized piece that broke out of somewhere on the inside and some cracks and splintering below the bridge–it still stays in tune about the same as it did before. And, you know, kids are pretty easy sells. It’s band practice I worry about.
    But after only three weeks with the thing, I’m a whole heck of a lot more adept than I figured I’d be (except, obviously, for the unbelievably complex mechanics of zipping the bottom of its little case); keep it and you should be seranading that kid to sleep in no time (also, mozel tov on the kid).

  58. Hoku says:

    Got a uke? Cool. If you’re really gonna get into it, you should buy any CD from Jake Shimabukuro, the guy is a genius on the uke. He was on Conan O’brien last month. Also, if you do a search in Google Video with his name, I think there’s a snippet of him playing a George Harrison song on the uke.
    Aloha from Hawaii!
    -Hoku

  59. Have you ever listened a Paul McCartney’s song from his second Album solo, called RAM on ??
    Nice Ukulele.

  60. Marc Sexton says:

    The Do-It-Yourself network has an online Ukulele Tuner. They also have some free Kentucky Thunder blugrass mp3s for download.

  61. kaleoaloha says:

    Interesting to say the least.
    I learned to play the ‘ook years ago living in Hawai’i.
    Since I am the antithesis of laconic I will just make a quick list of points.
    1) a great resource for ukulele popularity is the Martin factory production statistics
    2) It is not a Hawaiian instrument. It was introduced to the hawaiians by the Portuguese
    3) the Hawaiian tuning is somewhat unique using an octave higher tuning on the fourth or “G” string
    4) the hawaiian pronunciation (please practice and learn it) is phonetically sounded out as ” ooh koo leh leh”
    NOT “you kah lay lee” the name is a compound word, meaning the “leaping bug/flea”. So nicknamed after a Portuguese man that was very small in stature, but huge in presence. He would do frequent “pub crawls” around Honolulu and the ‘ook” was his ticket to drink.
    *notes
    I tune my soprano standard “hawaiian” style. The baritone “ook” is the same tuning as a guitar, but I tune my baritone the same as the soprano, however I tune the 4th “G” string an octave lower so it is completely identical to the guitar’s when fretted or capo’d at the fifth fret. It is fun to take a guitar capo at fifth fret and hand it to a good “ook” player.
    If you want to hear really hot “ook koo leh leh” music check out the ka’au crater boys and as much as I love “troy Fernandez’s” playing, I have to take my hat off to the young man I nominate as the worlds all time hottest “show boat” Jake Shimabukuro. The first time I saw jake play, he was waiting for a stage transition to complete so the band he was in at the time, (Pure Heart) could perform. I watched Jake’s stage antics and thought, “this young man is either the worlds most arrogant, or best player”. He proved to be in my opinion the latter rather than the former !

  62. Teacher says:

    Great! now we need the advanced guide to Ukulele ;)

  63. Chris Jenkins says:

    Hey, Ukulele’s are ultra cool!

  64. David says:

    Congrats on joining the club…
    Beware of UAS (ukulele acquisition syndrome). You can’t have just one. I bought my first uke only 18 months ago and have since managed to sneak another 2 into my house and 3 at the office (hiding them from my wife).
    If you are coming to SxSW bring your uke. We can compare instruments. Austin is a remarkably uke-friendly town. You might even be able to coordinate a little strum-along…

  65. Frank Henning says:

    If you want your ukelele paradigm shifted forever, check out http://www.ukulelejames.com
    Aside from creating one of the best CDs around, Canadian James Hill has recreated the landscape for an instrument that I shall hereafter consider the equal of any other!

  66. mary says:

    looking for ukulele players in Illinois, the Chicagoland area in particular,…
    spend the winter in Kona and have played the ukulele for the last 4 years,… just saw OhtaSan at eh 6th annual ukulele festival in Waikoloa,… awesome!!