As my readers will know, I do try to play my ukulele in public as often as I can (nothing like performing in front of others to hone your skills) and it struck me that when I do so, a number of questions from those listening start recurring.
In this post I will share with you the most frequently asked questions I hear about the uke.
Q: Is that a miniature guitar?
Nope - it's a ukulele, but there are from the same Chordophone family!
Q: A ukulele? No, it can't be, I've seen George Formby playing a ukulele in his films, and his looked like a banjo.
Well, yes, he did often appear playing a banjolele, but he can also be seen playing a traditional wooden ukulele too!
Q: So, is it tuned like a guitar?
Very similarly - in fact its the same as the four highest strings on a guitar as if it were Capo'd at the fifth fret. Those four strings on a guitar are tuned DGBE, whereas on a ukulele they are tuned GCEA. See -Tuning a ukulele.
Q: Is that just a toy?
A toy??? You tell me - Jake Shimabukuro
Q: Where can I buy a ukulele?
All over the place! In fact they are hugely popular these days, but try to stick to a reputable music store with staff who understand how an instrument should be set up. If you are buying at the cheap end of the ukulele range, I think this is essential! See How to buy a ukulele
Q: (When playing my Fluke) Is that a lute?
No! (though I can see the likeness!)
Q: Do you know any songs by Tiny Tim?
Yes, I do, but I would rather not play them just now thanks!
Q: Can you plug that into an amplifier?
Well, some of my ukes can - those that have pickups installed. See - Ukulele pickups
Q: Is it easy to learn?
I tell everyone the same thing - the uke is a very easy instrument to start to learn, but like anything, requires practice and may take a lifetime to master. I believe though that I can get anyone to play a two chord song in 10 minutes.
Q: I thought they only played those in Hawaii?
Well, yes, the uke is hugely popular in Hawaii, and it has its most famous origins in those islands where it is considered the national instrument. It's history goes further back though to Portugal - see Ukulele history
Q: Why dont you play it with a plectrum?
There is nothing stopping me playing it with a pick, and many players do choose to do this, but I prefer the traditional finger strumming. See - Pick or strum?
On the whole though, the usual response from an audience hearing a ukulele is smiles on faces and positive comments saying how much they enjoyed it and what a lovely sweet sound it has.
What do you get asked the most?