With the ukulele being so small, some people question whether it is even a real instrument. It can almost seem like a toy when you first look at one. If you have never been introduced to a ukulele, and you happen to see a small soprano sized model, you will probably think that it can’t possibly be a real instrument. Surely it’s a child’s toy, isn’t it?
What’s more, many manufacturers make colorful ukuleles with tacky designs on them which makes it difficult to take a ukulele seriously. You can buy a hot pink one or a model that has a cheesy beach scene painted on it.
Ukuleles are not as mainstream as some of the other popular instruments that you are used to seeing. The guitar is the king of the acoustic stringed instruments and is most certainly what someone would consider a real instrument.
What about the ukulele? Is it a real instrument and one that should be taken seriously?
The ukulele is a real instrument and it takes real practice and skill to obtain mastery of it. Although some ukuleles can be cheap, many are expensive and should not be seen as a toy. It produces beautiful music and is played by some of the best musicians in the world making it a serious instrument.
Besides the fact that the popularity is on the rise for this instrument, it has been making serious music for over a hundred years. Let’s look at five reasons why I think the ukulele is a real instrument that should be taken seriously.
5 Reasons To Take A Ukulele Serious
1) Ukuleles Are Not As Easy To Play As You Might Think
Since the ukulele is so small and only has four strings, you would probably think it would be easy to learn. While it is true that the basics of the ukulele are fairly easy, it can also be a complex instrument to master. As with any stringed instrument, learning the basics is not so challenging. You can pick up a ukulele and be able to play a handful of chords within a few minutes.
Some of the chords on the ukulele are very simple and only require that you hold down one string. However, there are other chords that are more difficult.
I thought the ukulele would be a simple instrument to play when I began my journey into mastering this instrument years ago. I picked it up and began strumming chords and found it to be fairly simple.
However, once I began to learn more challenging chords and scales as well as other playing styles such as fingerpicking, I discovered that it wasn’t so easy. It takes a lot of practice just like playing the guitar.
There are some songs that are very difficult to learn and you can make anything as complex as you want on a stringed instrument. If you think that you are going to pick up a ukulele and automatically be able to play it, think again. It will take fundamental skills and lots of practice in order to achieve a level of mastery that sounds good.
2) Ukuleles Can Be Very Expensive
If you are a beginner and seeking to purchase a ukulele, you have probably seen numerous low-cost options. There are a multitude of ukuleles that can be bought for under $50. However, these are generally laminate ukuleles that are not built as high-quality as some of the solid wood ukuleles are.
Solid wood ukuleles can get quite expensive, especially if you purchase them from a reputable company from Hawaii. The ukulele originated in Hawaii and there are a few companies that still hand make these amazing instruments there today.
These sell for thousands of dollars and can cost much more than even a good acoustic guitar would cost. With the high cost of a ukulele like this, you can expect an instrument that sounds and plays like a high-quality instrument.
A solid wood ukulele is similar to a solid wood guitar and is coveted by ardent players. These instruments are high-quality and must be cared for like a fine piece of furniture. They are not toys that you can throw around or store in the attic. These are masterfully created instruments that produce a high-quality sound and are a lot of fun to play.
There are four main ukulele brands that are handmade in Hawaii and are known for their high-quality sound. Kamaka, Kanile’a, Koaloha, and Ko’olau are some of the highest quality ukuleles that you will ever find and also demand the highest price. This price will definitely let you know that you are buying a serious instrument.
3) Ukuleles Are Heard In Mainstream Songs
Although ukuleles are not as mainstream as other instruments that you might be aware of, they can be heard from time to time in popular mainstream songs. Some of the most popular songs in recent years feature a ukulele or at least have the sounds of a ukulele in the background.
A couple of the most well-known ukulele songs include I’m yours by Jason Mraz and Hey, Soul Sister by Train. These songs are played on the ukulele and are among the most popular songs that new ukulele players attempt to play. Another popular song includes Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole.
Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam put out an entire album called Ukulele Songs. This entire album features songs that are only played using the ukulele. With an artist like Eddie Vedder dedicating a whole album to ukulele songs, what could make a ukulele more real?
4) There Are Some Amazing Ukulele Artists
As noted above, ukuleles are not easy instruments to play just because they are small and have four strings. However, there are many masterful ukulele players that make it look easy. These players can take a ukulele and make you think that you can probably do the same thing.
The difference is, these players have amazing talent and years upon years of practice with this instrument.
Some of the most well-known ukulele artists include:
- Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole
- Jake Shimabukuro
- James Hill
- John King
- Daniel Ho
All of these artists have a unique way of playing and they can make the instrument sound amazing. You can have a field day on YouTube by searching for ukulele players and hearing some amazing music.
These artists have taken the time to perfect this instrument which shows that it is a real instrument to be taken seriously. The dedication and talent of these artists prove that this is certainly no toy.
Watch the video below of Jake Shimabukuro and you’ll see just how real the ukulele is.
5) It Has A Great Sound And Makes Great Music
Perhaps the main reason that the ukulele is not a toy and is real is that it has a great sound and can create some amazing music. Isn’t this what matters in the end?
The sound of the ukulele is a happy, upbeat sound that can stir up emotions of happiness and well-being. The sound can make you feel as though you are on a Hawaiian island and enjoying a stress-free day.
This makes sense since the ukulele was born in Hawaii. There are a lot of different sounds that can be made with the ukulele and each has its place. Whether it is a strumming sound or a fingerstyle picking sound, the instrument can create some beautiful sounding music.
This sound can be made even better with a high-quality instrument. By using one of the handcrafted ukuleles mentioned above, you can hear the quality and the sound of it makes you just want to play more and more.
If you have ever had the privilege of playing a handcrafted ukulele, you know that the difference between one of these and a cheap model can be heard. It can also be felt as you run your hands along the fretboard and strum the strings as they resonate through the solid wood body.
Yes, the sound is very important and this instrument produces one that people love. There is a reason the ukulele has become so popular in recent years. Not only is it a great first-time instrument, but it’s also one that has a lovely sound.
Besides the super cheap models that you see selling for a very low price online, ukuleles are certainly real instruments. These instruments have a place in today’s music and are enjoyed by many people throughout the world. They are becoming more and more popular each year.
However, it’s those handcrafted models from Hawaii that continue to set the bar high and make sure that the ukulele is taken seriously. It’s not that a laminate ukulele is any less real, it just doesn’t demand the price of the more expensive ones so it doesn’t get the same respect.
When all is said and done, the ukulele has a pleasant sound and a true following making it one of the best instruments to play.
If you are a beginner, the ukulele is a great instrument to start with because you can find one for an affordable price. Although not quite the handmade masterpiece, an affordable ukulele can help you get into this type of instrument and give you a place to start.