10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Ukulele

10 Things You Probably Don't Know About the Ukulele Header

You might know chords and strumming patterns, but do you know these 10 ukulele facts? Uke teacher James W. has some great trivia for you…

The ukuele is a universally popular instrument and a fine way to enjoy music together anywhere anytime. So, here’s a little food for thought for the next time you’re strumming one…

1xThe ukulele descended from an instrument called a machete brought to the islands by sailors visiting Hawaii from Portugal.

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2xYou may have heard that ukulele means “jumping flea” in Hawaiian. However, the last queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Liliuokalani, translated ukelele as “gift from afar”.

3xBeatle George Harrison, before he passed away, collected hundreds of ukuleles and was often seen strumming them or giving them away to friends.

4xIn 1916 The New York Tribune Newspaper made fun of what they called “the Hawaiian Quarter”. Cartoonists lampooned the ukulele craze by depicting upper class people wearing grass skirts in the middle of a New York winter, while playing the uke of course. This did nothing to dull the popularity of the ukulele.


Early ukulele strings were made from cat or sheep gut. Most modern ukulele strings are now made of nylon, but you can still find gut strings at specialty shops.


Jason Mraz’s 2008 single “I’m Yours” is the best-selling ukulele song of all time. After spending 76 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, it broke a record for the number of consecutive weeks spent on the chart. It is also the tenth best-selling digital download of all time in the United States with over six million downloads sold.


There is a Ukelele Orchestra in Great Britain that is hugely popular. They regularly perform worldwide to great critical acclaim.

8xThe ukulele business is booming! In recent years, ukulele manufacturers such as Kala have reported growth of 500-600%.


The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong loved to play the ukulele (as do many other famous people). In fact, after visiting the moon he spent several weeks in quarantine as scientists at the time feared he may have picked up strange bacteria while in space. He spent much of this time in quarantine strumming his uke.

10xIn the event of an apocalypse, you can transform your ukulele into a flamethrower. Check out this Mad Max inspired tutorial and watch out for war boys! Remember kids, safety first!


Do you know any interesting facts about ukuleles? Let us know in the comments below!


james-walsh-150x150Post Author: James W.
James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!

Photo by reway2007

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3 replies
  1. Robert Flores
    Robert Flores says:

    I’ve played a uke since 5, self taught by ear. The uke has got to be the easiest musical instrument to learn and play. One, two, three chord songs for kids to learn, sing and play keeps their interest at very young ages..then as it grows with you, you can pick and strum melodies as an individual soloest. Or master the uke finer qualities playing classical, country, rap, pop and religeous combinations like Jake Shimabukuru. My uke traveled on 6 US Navy Shipes because of its locker size and circled the world twice in my 22 Naval career. Nice fact:
    In the early 1950’s Fred Kamaka made quality Ukes soon to hit the international market were knock offs manufactured in Japan with Freds, “Kamaka” trade name. To combat infringement in which were no big international laws protecting his name, Fred contracted a family in Japan to produce the “Kamaka Kaiki” (childs Ukulele) which prevented any other company from utilizing the Kamak name in Japan. To ensure Quality of the Kamaka instruments the Japanese sent all Kaiki’s to Fred for quality check, they had to pass his inspections prior to going to vendors. Mine is a Gold Label (each internal label, Gold Silver or White, told the time frame in which it was made. Depending on condition, These Kamaka Kaiki Ukulele’s can run in thousands of dollars, (although back when they were made, my dad may have bought mine for $10).

  2. Arlene Yates
    Arlene Yates says:

    My dad owned a Martin Ukulele. I play it for my children’s shows and I love it to no end. My dad passed at 90 and it means the world to me. It’s easy, it’s fun and can entertain you for hours. Pick one up now and start playing.


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