Learning Ukulele with Curt

The Mighty `Ukulele

A `Ukulele is:

  • Light Weight, Affordable and Portable
  • Easy on the Fingers ( Four Strings, Four Fingers )
  • Less Need for Strumming Accuracy
  • A Low Level of Expectation — so we can get away with a lot.
four ukes

And where else in the musical world can you go, sing and play, and have a blast with your fellow cohorts.

The ukulele offers a wide range of musical possibilities, the music you play/make can be as simple or intricate as you desire. The ukulele is a remarkable instrument and powerful musical instrument for communication in its own right. And, did I mention it's a blast and a lot of fun to play and explore?

In this day and age, the ukulele has become the instrument of choice, firmly establishing its presence. The initial frenzy has subsided, and it is here to stay. Embrace this fact and embark on an exhilarating journey of ukulele exploration.

When you join, and you should join, a local ukulele gathering, you will discover an incredibly welcoming and supportive community. You'll forge lasting friendships and have an amazing time together.

Parts of the Ukulele

Say hello to my lil` friend. Learn your way around your new found friend.

So what's stopping you? Go get Yourself a `Ukulele and get going. You'll discover a life-long friend.

A Ukulele has two nuts, tho one on the ukulele, shown above and the person holding it!

The Ukulele History

The `Ukulele's Long Journey

In 1879, a Braguinha also called Machete, arrived in Hawaii on a Portuguese ship loaded with laborers destined for the sugar cane fields. Hawaiians made the instrument their own and loosely translated, called it "`ukulele". Which translates to "jumping flea," It's believed to have originated because of the way a performer's fingers jump around on the strings?

Three immigrants in particular, cabinetmakers from the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portagul, Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers.

Checkout this link to a great article, with a lot more information on the History of the `Ukulele by Dagan B.

The Ravenscrag?

from WikipediA • Best known of several similarly named ships, the Ravenscrag (spelled without the "i") is a British sailing vessel commanded by Capt. Biggam that on 23 August 1879 brought 419 Portuguese immigrants from the Madeira Islands to the Hawaiian Islands to work as contract laborers in the sugarcane plantations. The ship left the Madeiran port of Funchal on 23 April 1879 and took exactly four months to cross the Atlantic Ocean, round Cape Horn, and then sail across the Pacific to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Sketch of the Ravenscrag from an 1898 newspaper

Among the passengers were Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Santo, and Joao Fernandes, who are credited with introducing the ukulele to Hawaii. This was the second ship of Portuguese immigrants to reach the Islands, having been preceded on 30 September 1878 by the German bark SS Priscilla.

So we can count our blessings that the Hawai'ian's weren't introduced to the Accordion or Tuba, the traditional, popular German instruments at the time. Or the Bladder Fiddle, Dudelsack, Hackbrett, Nyckelharpa. (CurtDodged a musical bullet with that one.)

The Ukulele Timeline

1990s to Today

Virtuoso musicians such as Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill are altering traditional perceptions of ukulele music. As well as singer / songwriters such as Victoria Vox touring the world and spreading the Aloha!.

Checkout UKEtopia!-Adventures in the Ukulele World by Jim Beloff . Jim's new memoir of his journey and his part of this Third Wave of ukulele popularity. Little did Jim know when he purchased his first ukulele at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in 1992 and with no ukulele songbook collections on the market—none—just a few vintage instructional books. That he would would be at the forefront of this Third Wave of Ukulele.

The current Third Wave of the ukulele corresponding to the influence of YouTube and the Internet®.

Check out all the famous people and musicians associated with the ukulele on the Ukulele Musicians Page .


Can't have a Ukulele timeline without a mention of Tiny Tim...

In 1959 Herbert Butros Khaury, Tiny Tim dropped all his other stage names and performed as "Larry Love, the Singing Canary" at Hubert's Museum and Live Flea Circus in New York City's Times Square. While performing there, he signed with a manager who sent him on auditions throughout the Greenwich Village section of New York, where he performed unpaid amateur gigs, playing the ukulele and singing in his falsetto voice the song which became his signature, "Tiptoe Through the Tulips".


Weekly TV host Arthur Godfrey keeps ukuleles in the spotlight.

A shift from the popularity of radio to most households having access to a TV and the second wave of the ukulele craze.

Arthur Godfrey is responsible for selling 9,000,000 Mario Maccaferri plastic ukuleles during the 50s.

Arthur Godfrey


Ukulele craze revived by the solders and sailors returning home from South Pacific after World War II.

This is the start of the Second Wave of the ukulele corresponding to the influence of TV.

Times Square Kiss WWII


After the Panama Pacific International Exposition Ukuleles all the rage. This corresponds to the popularity and availability of radio in the decade of the 20s to 40s. The First truly fast way of disseminating news, entertainment, and information to a mass audience. This was a big shift in the technology for communication around the world.

This is the First Wave of the ukulele corresponding to the influence of Radio.

Family Watching Radio


Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California USA unveils ukulele to the world. The Panama–Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) was a world's fair held in San Francisco, in the United States, between February 20 and December 4 in 1915. Its ostensible purpose was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but it was widely seen in the city as an opportunity to showcase its recovery from the 1906 earthquake.

Pacific International Exposition

NOTE: Prior the Panama Pacific International Exposition Hawi`ian performers did tour the US to a great reception. However the Ukulele craze really too off the Hawai`in palvillon as a result to the year long Panama Pacific International Exposition .


This Is When It All Started

Portuguese sailors introduced Hawaiians to small four-stringed instrument that gave rise to the ukulele. King David Kalakaua was influential in the initial rise of popularity of the ukulele.

Among the passengers of the Ravenscrag that arrived in Hawai'i, 23 August 1879, were migrant sugar cane workers, Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Santo, and Joao Fernandes, who are credited with introducing the ukulele to Hawaii. This was the second ship of Portuguese immigrants to reach the Islands, having been preceded on 30 September 1878 by the German bark SS Priscilla.

We can count our blessings that the Hawai'ian's weren't introduced to the Accordion or Tuba, the traditional, popular German instruments at the time. Or the Bladder Fiddle, Dudelsack, Hackbrett, Nyckelharpa from previous ships arriving in Honolulu with migrant workers. (CurtDodged a musical bullet with that one.)


The Island of Madeira, Portugal

Before 1879 it really started on the (wikiwand) · Island of Madeira, Portugal with the Bargina and (wikiwand) · Machete . Historians believe the machete was introduced in Madeira from Braga as a braguinha and subsequently brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the late 19th century as a possible predecessor of the ukulele.

Emigrants from Madeira also influenced the creation of new musical instruments. In the 1880s, the ukulele was created, based on two small guitar-like instruments of Madeiran origin, the cavaquinho and the rajao. The ukulele was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers. Two weeks after they disembarked from the SS Ravenscrag in late August 1879, the Hawaiian Gazette reported that Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts.

(wikiwand) · Island of Madeira, Portugal

Each ukulele craze corresponded to a new media for disseminating information fast and to a wide audience.

Radio Television Internet® ?

What's next?

Should You Study Music With A Teacher or Should You "Wing" It On You Own?

This question always comes up in this type of discussion about music.

Here is Chuck Anderson's take on the question.

An objective assessment of the two alternative approaches leads me (Chuck Anderson) invariably towards the formal route. Why? Because without guidance, there is a tendency to go in circles, What do you practice, when do you move to the next topic? When are you doing something wrong? How do you practice what doesn't exist to you?Chuck Anderson

Common Ukulele Sizes

The ukulele comes in four (4) common sizes: Soprano (sometimes called Standard), Concert , Tenor , and Baritone .

A ukulele can can be tuned to any tuning as long as there is a string available and the instruments construction supports it. With that in mind here are the common tunes for the four common sized ukulele.

The Baritone ukulele is tuned (D G B E), just like the thin 4 strings of a standard guitar. This is called "G" Tuning. String can be a low D or a high G.

The Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles typically uses C tuning: (G C E A) or D tuning: (A D F# B). The Tenor can also be tuned like the Baritone ukulele, typically with a high "G".

A ukulele can have a mellow-mainland or bright-island sound.


Information on ALL the related goodies that go along with the ukulele – The Strings , Cases , Pickups , Amplifiers , Cables , Pedals , and such that you might need for your ukulele is available right here on LearningUkulele.com, Learning Ukulele with Curt.

Simulating Various Ukulele Scale Lengths

If you don't have any concert size instruments nearby to try in a store you can create the scale length on your tenor with an inexpensive capo. A capo on the second or third frets of a tenor leaves you with a scale length (and fret spacing) similar to a concert and the neck width at that level should be very close to that found on most concerts. And if you want to get an idea of what a soprano scale would feel like put the capo at the 4th fret and you'll be almost exactly at the standard 13 5/8 inch length. However the width at that point on a tenor will in most cases be greater than at the nut of a soprano.

Good Trade!

Woman is at a uke festival with a lovely soprano ukulele under her arm. Another woman walks up and gazes admiringly at the first woman's uke, at which point the woman holding the uke looks over and says with a smile: got it for my husband. Second woman nods and says, good trade.

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

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Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II, 37 years ago. Man, does time fly.

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LearningUkulele.com has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, Luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. Curt has been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

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