Category Archives: Ukulele



Name: Ukulele.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.6
Country: Hawaii, USA.
Region: Oceania & North America.

Description: The ukulele is small guitar-like chordophone, it is a member of the lute family. The ukulele was introduced by Portuguese settlers in Hawaii during 1879 when they arrived from Madeira. They brought with them the the braguinha. Included in those who settled were three men, Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose do Espirito Santo who knew how to make braguinha.

The Name ‘Ukulele’: There are several accounts of how the ‘ukulele got its name, which means “jumping flea.” Edward Purvis, a small, lively musician popular in Kalakaua’s court was reportedly nicknamed ” ‘uku lele” and the instrument may be named after him. Alternatively, the rapid action of the musician’s figures when playing possibly reminded Hawaiians of jumping fleas. The name may also represent a modified version of ‘ukeke, the term for the mouth bow, previously the only string instrument in Hawaii.

Ukulele Tunings
Names Tunings
 G C A E
A D F# B

History: The small guitar quickly became popular with Hawaiians and by 1888 Nunes, Dias and Espirito Santo were all producing ukuleles for the local market. The instrument was modified to suit local musical tastes and the Hawaiian ‘ukulele was born. The ‘ukulele found favour in the court of the Hawaiian King David Kalakaua, a champion both of customary Hawaiian music and musical innovation.

Under Kalakaua’s patronage, the ‘ukulele was adapted to accompany hula dance performances, transforming the more sedate tempo of earlier types of hula into the more lively rhythm characteristic of many hula performances today.

Construction: Very early on in its history it became associated with the nascent tourism industry in Hawaii, and this association was largely responsible for the rapid dissemination of the instrument to the Mainland U.S. and beyond around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to Hawaiian makers of the ‘ukulele whose instruments, by the 1910s. Ukulele’s were being sold both in Hawaii and through instrument dealers on the Mainland.

Several Mainland companies started manufacturing large numbers of the instrument. This includes the C. F. Martin company of Pennsylvania, who produced thousands of high quality ‘ukuleles between 1915 and 1971. The choice of material for the body of the instrument, including metal 1928-1941. The National and Dobro companies and plastic first made by Mastro Industries in 1949 and subsequently by other operations.

Citations: Bibliography: Jim Beloff, 1997 – The Ukulele: A Visual History. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books ; Kanahele, George S. 1979. “Ukulele,” in George S. Kanahele, Hawaiian Music and Musicians. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, pp. 394-407 ; McLean, Mervyn, 1999 ; Weavers of Song: Polynesian Music and Dance. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press ; Jay Scott Jay Odell 1984 “Ukulele [ukelele].” NGDMI v.3: 696-697 ; Helen H. Roberts 1967. Ancient Hawaiian Music. New York: Dover Publications, Inc ;  Websites: Bibliography: Websites: The met Timeline of Art History / Ukulele ; Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection ~ Ukulele ;

Banjo Ukulele

Name: Banjo Ukulele.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Many.
Region: Many & North America.

Description: The Banjo Ukulele, banjo uke or banjolele is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. The “Banjolele”, sometimes also spelled “banjelele” or “banjulele” is a generic nickname [clarification needed] given to the instrument.

The earliest known Banjo-Ukuleles were built by John A. Bolander and by Alvin D. Keech, both in 1917. Alvin D. Keech claimed to have conceived of the ‘Banjulele’ as a fusion. The Banjo Ukulele, is a fusion between between banjo and ukulele.

A late 19th century Hawaiian interpretation of the Portuguese cavaquinho and rajão and a banjo a commercial instrument appropriated from African slaves in the New World during the second quarter of the 19th century.

History: The banjo-ukulele gained popularity during the 1920s 1930s. Combining both the ukulele and the banjo, hence its name. The development was further pushed by the need a vaudeville performers to have an instrument that can be played with the ease of a ukulele.

In order to augment the former’s notoriously quiet sound, thus making it more conducive to Hollywood studio recording. The instrument was quickly adopted by vaudeville, radio and recording due to Keech’s entrepreneurship and the release of a cheap Gibson model.

The UB-1. Reports of this instrument’s original retail value start from less than $2 and go upwards to $10, reflecting the Hawaiian music craze at the turn of the century. The instrument was most commonly employed to accompany solo voice, as a solo instrument and as a member of early bluegrass ensembles and early jazz ensembles.

Banjo Ukulele Tunings
Names Tunings
G / C / A / E
D / G / B / E
A / D / F# / B

Construction: The banjo ukulele is a hybrid instrument comprising the body of a banjo,  fretboard, 4 strings, peg box and tuning of a ukulele. The traditional gut or nylon-gut strings have been replaced by steel to produce a louder and more strident sound. The head section is circular and mirrors the membrane sound table of banjos of the period.

Attached to the 6” in diameter head section is a fretboard extending into a peg head. The neck section both peg head and fretboard is carved from one solid piece of stained maple. Occasionally position indicators of mother-of-pearl are inlaid are inlaid in the fretboard, the back of which is rounded as are most lutes.

The body of the instrument is made from 8 pieces of sawn maple glued together around a form to make a series of three stacked rings two, four, two pieces respectively. The soundtable is made from stretched hide held tightly to the body with a metal band. This band, in turn, is anchored to the body with ten metal shoes placed 4.4 cm or 1.75 in. apart and terminating in a nut.

A hex-head truss rod is visible from underneath. The instrument’s four wire strings run from a common nut at the base of the resonator, over a wood bridge on the soundtable. Over a nut at the top of the fingerboard and terminate individually where they are wrapped around the studs of the four wooden friction tuning pegs in the pegbox.

Citations: Bibliography: “Bolander Banjo Ukulele”, Tranquada, Jim 2012. The Ukulele: a History. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-0-8248-3544-6 ; Whitcomb, Ian 2012. Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Books. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4584-1654-4 ; K. M. Drowne and P. Huber 2004 The 1920’s. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group ; Odell, Jay Scott. 1984. “Ukulele [ukelele].” NGDMI V2:.696-697 ; Schenkman, David E. “The Banjo Ukulele Haven.” Accessed October 10, 2010 ;