What Is a Pineapple Ukulele?

by Allison Edrington
The shape of the pineapple ukulele is the source of its unique sound.

The shape of the pineapple ukulele is the source of its unique sound.

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While the idea of having an instrument made of fruit sounds appetizing, the pineapple ukulele is not, in fact, made from a pineapple. This instrument is actually a variation of the standard ukulele with an unique shape and sound that has been popular with ukulele players for decades.

Size and Shape

The pineapple ukulele is much like a standard (or soprano) ukulele in size, but while the body of a standard ukulele is shaped like a miniature guitar, the pineapple variation is instead shaped like a solid ovoid roughly the size and shape of a pineapple. The name apparently came after the instrument's creation; it was only when a friend of the designer compared his new ukulele to a pineapple that the fruit was added to the design's title.

Hawaiian Beginnings

The ukulele has been in Hawaii since about the 1880s; the pineapple ukulele was patented in 1928 by Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka. Early designs were painted to make the base look like a pineapple, and the instrument became one of the best-known ukulele styles. The original company still produces the pineapple ukulele today -- as do many other manufacturers, since the patent expired in 1942.

A Different Sound

The pineapple ukulele is not only different in shape, but also in sound. One problem with the standard figure-eight design is that it was difficult for some listeners to distinguish between a ukulele and a guitar since they sound very similar. The pineapple ukulele's design gives the instrument a distinctive sound that is mellow and resonant.

Increasing Ukulele Popularity

As the unique sound of the pineapple uke helped audiences and musicians distinguish between ukuleles and guitars, ukuleles were no longer thought of as just miniature guitars; they became known as instruments in their own right, and more musicians picked them up. The difference in sound changed the public's perception of the ukulele and helped it shed its status as a second-class novelty instrument.

About the Author

Allison Edrington is a freelance journalist based out of Eureka, Calif., specializing in crafts, science fiction and gaming. She has written for the "Eureka Times-Standard," covering education, business and city government, and previously worked for the "Chico Enterpise-Record." Edrington graduated from California State University, Chico, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in history.

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