Is Ukulele a Serious Instrument?

Jan 13 · 5 min read

As a music teacher I get a lot of different questions from parents. Some parents are hesitant to let their child learn ukulele because they don't think it is a "serious" instrument. I decided to write this article to discuss if this assumption is true. So, is ukulele a serious instrument?

Yes, ukulele is a serious instrument. When you play ukulele you can play chords with 4 notes and you can play an octave and a half range. This means it is a useful and serious instrument.

A Brief History of the Ukulele

The ukulele, also known as the "uke," is a four-stringed instrument that has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. Originally from Hawaii, the ukulele made its way to the mainland United States in the early 1900s and quickly gained popularity. I love playing my ukuleles, I have 3 of them. Each one has it's own sound.

The origins of the ukulele can be traced back to Portugal, where a small instrument called the machete was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants. The machete, which was similar in shape and size to the ukulele, was quickly adopted by the Hawaiians and eventually evolved into the ukulele we know today.

One time I read that in the early 1900s, the ukulele became popular on the mainland United States, thanks in part to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. At the exposition, Hawaiian music and culture were showcased, and the ukulele quickly became a popular instrument among Americans. This popularity was further boosted by the arrival of George E. K. Awai, a Hawaiian musician who toured the mainland United States, performing and teaching the ukulele.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the ukulele was a popular instrument among jazz musicians, and it was featured in many popular songs of the time. It was particularly popular in the Tin Pan Alley, the center of the American popular music industry.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the ukulele saw a resurgence in popularity thanks to the folk music revival. Artists like Tiny Tim and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole helped to popularize the instrument, and it became associated with a more laid-back, beachy style of music.

I've heard from many people that today, the ukulele is played by people of all ages and backgrounds. It's a popular instrument in music education, and it's also a popular choice for amateur and professional musicians alike. The instrument can be used to play a variety of genres, from folk and pop to jazz and classical music. I love playing songs on my ukulele. One of my favorite artists that plays the ukulele is Dodie.


Some of My Favorite Ukulele Players

  1. Roy Smeck

Check out this video, get ready to be amazed!

Roy Smeck was an American musician and one of the most famous ukulele players of the 1920s and 1930s. He was born in 1900 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and began playing the ukulele at the age of 6. He quickly became known for his virtuosic playing and his ability to play a wide range of styles, including classical and jazz.

Smeck's ukulele playing was characterized by his use of advanced techniques, such as two-finger and three-finger picking. He was also known for his use of alternate tunings and his ability to play complex harmonies. He was considered one of the most technically advanced ukulele players of his time.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Smeck became a popular performer and recording artist. He appeared in several films and on radio programs, and he also recorded a number of albums. He traveled the United States, Europe and Asia performing in vaudeville shows and stage productions, earning him the nickname "Wizard of the Strings." He was also a prolific songwriter and an accomplished musician on many other instruments including banjo, guitar, and harmonica.

Smeck's influence on the ukulele is undeniable. He was one of the first ukulele players to gain fame and helped to popularize the instrument. He also helped to develop the jazz ukulele repertoire and his techniques and style are still studied and admired today.

He continued to play and perform well into his later years and in the 1970s and 1980s, he made a comeback in the folk music scene. He also taught ukulele and gave workshops until his death in 1990.

  1. Jake Shimabukuro

If you still don't believe me that Ukulele is a serious instrument, this video of Jake playing will change your mind!

Jake Shimabukuro is a Hawaiian musician and one of the most celebrated and accomplished ukulele players in the world. Born in 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii, he began playing the ukulele at a young age and quickly developed a passion for the instrument. He's known for his virtuosic fingerstyle playing and his ability to play a wide range of genres on the ukulele, from classical to jazz to pop.

Jake's ukulele playing is characterized by his use of advanced techniques such as two-finger and three-finger picking, and his use of alternate tunings. He has been praised for his ability to play fast, complex runs and his ability to create a full and rich sound on the ukulele. He's also known for his ability to play various styles and genres, from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary pop and jazz, and has been able to push the boundaries of what is possible on the ukulele.

In addition to his solo work, Jake has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, from jazz legends like Bela Fleck and Stanley Clarke to pop stars like Jimmy Buffett. He has also released a number of albums as a solo artist, and has been praised for his songwriting and his ability to create unique and innovative arrangements. If you are interested in learning how to play music check out our piano lessons in Plymouth and Canton.

Jake's influence on the ukulele is undeniable, he's considered as one of the most popular and influential ukulele players in the world, and his music has helped to popularize the instrument and bring it to a wider audience. His live performances are also highly praised, and he's been able to captivate audiences with his energetic and engaging performances.

  1. Taimane Gardner

Taimane Gardner is a prodigious ukulele virtuosa who has gained international acclaim for her exceptional musicality and technical prowess. Born and raised in Hawaii, Taimane developed a deep appreciation for the ukulele at a young age, and quickly began to hone her skills on the instrument. She began to forge her own path in the world of music, fusing elements of flamenco, classical, and rock into her playing to create a truly unique and inimitable sound.

Taimane's ukulele playing is characterized by her extraordinary dexterity, fluidity, and emotive expressiveness. Her fingers dance across the fretboard with effortless grace, coaxing a kaleidoscope of harmonics and melodies from the instrument. Her technical acumen is matched by her artistic sensibility, as she imbues each note with a sense of passion and soul. Her ability to play fast runs and complex harmonies is truly remarkable and her fingerstyle is truly mesmerizing.

Taimane's performances are nothing short of mesmerizing, as she seamlessly blends technical virtuosity with captivating stage presence. Her dynamic and emotive performances have captivated audiences around the world, and she has become a sought-after performer at renowned venues and events.

As a composer and arranger, Taimane's work is marked by its originality and creativity. Her compositions are infused with a unique blend of styles, and her arrangements are masterful and evocative. She has released several albums and her music has been praised for its originality and versatility.


Well I hope that some of these artist have proved to you that ukulele is a serious instrument. You can make some very beautiful music with the ukulele. So please learn how to play! Thank you so much for reading this article.

Karen Flores
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