The ukulele may not have the same long historical significance of the violin or the guitar. However, during the last century, it has become a much more mainstream instrument. Before he passed away, former Beatle, George Harrison, was playing the ukulele almost exclusively. Even as recently as May 2011, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder released an album of songs with only the ukulele as accompaniment.
The head of a ukelele has the least amount of parts, yet is responsible for tuning the instrument. The ukulele head consists of the headstock. The headstock holds the machine heads and the tuning pegs. The machine heads or tuning pegs hold the strings of the ukulele taut. On the headstock you will also likely find the brand name or logo of the manufacturer imprinted.
The neck of the ukulele has the frets, fret board, nut and fret markings. A ukulele neck is a thin piece of wood that holds the strings and allows for the players hand to go around it to make the notes. There is a nut at the top of the neck, which holds the ukulele strings in their proper positions. The frets are small strips of metal that are placed in slots on the fret board; where a string is held against a fret will determine which note you hear. The fret board is a piece of wood that holds these frets in place. The fret dots on the fret board are usually made from plastic and are simply a player's guide to the frets.
The body of the ukulele consists of the soundboard, which is the top of the body that holds the bridge and contributes to the sound; the sound hole, which is an opening in the soundboard that allows the vibrations out into sound; and the bridge, which holds the strings into place and transfers the vibration to the body. The strings start on the body and work their way up to the head. When strummed, the vibration of the strings resonating in the sound hole is what makes the sound you hear. The saddle is also found on the body and its purpose is to hold the strings above the fret board so they do not rattle against the fret board when played.
The ukulele dates back to 1879. It was invented by a Portuguese craftsman and instrument maker by the name of Manuel Nunes, along with the help of Joao Fernandes and Augustine Dias. The ukulele is popular on the Hawaiian islands and received royal acclaim from King Kalakaua, Queen Emma and Queen Lili'uokalani who all enjoyed playing the instrument. Around 1915, the ukulele hit the U.S. mainland. Its popularity has since reached from the United States to the United Kingdom.
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