Ukulele Mania! Why are Ukes Flying out of Stores?

Guitar manufacturers have been enjoying a grand old time of things lately. Last year saw Fender sell more of their famous guitars than in any 12-month period that has come before. 

One possible reason for this was probably due to the sheer boredom and frustration of being forced to lockdown at home in 2020. Once government mandates dictated the need for self-isolation, lockdowns, and social distancing, people started to look for new hobbies and other forms of entertainment. 

Many went to the internet for streaming platforms and video games, but others decided to try something creative. Perhaps something that they had wanted to do for many years, but had never found the time before…learning a musical instrument. 

While many people clearly chose the guitar, many others decided to learn another instrument, the ukulele. You may be surprised, but the popularity of ukuleles has been on the rise for years, and there are plenty of good reasons. 

Are ukuleles really that popular?

Ukulele Mania! Why are Ukes Flying out of Stores?

Sales of ukuleles have been on a steady upward trajectory for some time now and hit record sales in 2018. Although there was a dip in 2019, the following year saw sales strengthen once again, possibly due to the pandemic. 

For anyone considering their first musical instrument, a ukulele might not spring to mind. The normal choices when beginning to play an instrument tend to be the violin, the piano, and of course, the guitar.

Guitars just look cool, be honest. When you look at musical heroes and legends over the years, many of them seem to be attached to a guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, BB King, Santana, Jimmy Page, Johnny Marr, and Pete Townshend, are all linked inextricably to their guitar playing skills. 

However, many guitarists also play the ukulele. Johnny Marr has been known to rock out on a Cole Clark, and Billie Eilish said the uke was the first instrument she ever learned. In fact, Billie Eilish now has her own signature Fender Ukulele available for public sale. 

Why are ukuleles so popular today?

As you have just read, Billie Eilish learned the ukulele before she decided to press on with any other instruments. The reason for this, and also one of the main reasons that ukuleles are so popular, is that they make great gateway instruments. 

A popular refrain when anyone asks about ukuleles is that they are extremely fun to play, and they are easy to pick up and put down. They are simpler to play than guitars, and most chords are played with just one or two fingers. 

The fretboard is simplified compared to a guitar, with just four strings instead of six. And those strings are soft nylon meaning that younger children can enjoy learning the instrument and making sounds that bring to mind, Hawaii. 

Many also find that the learning curve on a ukulele is nowhere near as steep as that of a guitar. This means that there is a quicker sense of gratification, as newbies can start playing songs quickly. 

What are the characteristics of a ukulele compared to a guitar?

Ukulele Mania! Why are Ukes Flying out of Stores?

Well, the immediate and obvious difference is the size. This can mean for some that a guitar is actually a better choice. As the fretboard is small, anyone with larger hands might find it difficult to play chords on a ukulele and would be better suited to a guitar. 

The musical range of a ukulele is much smaller than a guitar, and if someone with a low vocal range was planning to sing and play, they should perhaps look at a guitar. 

However, the ukulele can be used on a variety of music, and YouTube is full of examples and tutorials for ska, punk, jazz, and bands such as The Killers, and Blink 182. There are even examples of classic punk songs being played that include rather good versions of Stiff Little Fingers’ Alternative Ulster and Fugazi’s Waiting Room. 

One big difference from a guitar is the cost

The other major difference is the cost involved. When starting a new hobby, the cost involved can always be a factor. 

Beginning to play any instrument will usually involve some financial investment. Unless you are fortunate enough to be gifted a guitar or piano, you will have to buy one. 

Even second-hand guitars can still cost a fair amount, depending on brand and model. When looking at new guitars and ukuleles, the difference can be quite big. 

A new guitar may cost around $200, but a brand new ukulele might only run to 60 bucks. This is another factor in their rise in popularity. Many people can afford to try to learn the ukulele without the worry of wasting money on something that they may fail at. 

Celebrities and musicians are endorsing the ukulele

Ukulele Mania! Why are Ukes Flying out of Stores?

Possibly another reason that ukulele sales are on the rise is that celebs and musicians are being spotted with the instrument. Celebrity endorsements go a long way with some products, and musicians can certainly add an extra layer of cool to a ukulele. Depending on who they are of course. 

Apart from Johnny Marr and Billie Eilish enjoying the pleasure of playing the ukulele, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are also fans. In the past before their untimely deaths, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and George Harrison were also ukulele players. 

If you want some more convincing of the rock credibilities of the ukulele then you can look towards one of the biggest names in grunge. Rocker Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam even released a whole album of ukulele songs, called…Ukulele Songs. 

If one of the foremost members of the grunge era can rock out on a ukulele on Can’t Keep, then anyone can…including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

What is the best way to learn to play the ukulele?

Learning to play the ukulele is very much like learning any other instrument, including the guitar. 

One method is to try booking some private lessons with a teacher. This can be one of the best ways to get a headstart, and they will test you, and help you to set and achieve goals.

You can, of course, teach yourself. Many famous musicians in the past have taught themselves guitar such as Kurt Cobain, and Paul McCartney, however, they both started with at least one or two lessons. 

Another way is to use the internet to find tutorials, courses, and resources. Some apps will help you to learn chords from songs on YouTube or from your own uploads. If you want to learn a chord ukulele then you can click on a song in the library of one of these apps, and the chords will be displayed for you to follow. 

Using any of these methods can help you get started and make progress with your new instrument, and a combination approach might get you the best results. 

Takeaway

Music has many benefits from being entertaining to improving mental and physical wellness. Listening to music can lift the mood, and transport a person to another place, far away from lockdowns and the pandemic. 

Learning an instrument means that you can have a creative hobby at your hands that can also entertain others. If guitars and pianos have always seemed too hard to learn, or out of your price range, then maybe ukuleles are the answer.

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