One includes a pickguard, which can allow the player to control the instrument. The other takes up more space and has a slightly deeper sound.
How do you define a uke, anyway?
“The definition is that you have a single instrument, and the instrument has a specific sound,” said James H. Miller, the president of the American Musical Instrument Manufacturers Association, or AMI, which represents manufacturers that make instrument parts for ukulele. “A violin has five strings. If only three of them can be tuned, it’s a violin no matter how many strings they have.”
How do you decide what kind of sound is best?
Miller is a fan. “If you look at a saxophone, you’re talking about a single string, maybe one, and you can’t make a saxophone go higher,” he said. “A soprano requires five strings. A bass ukulele requires seven. That’s where the similarities in sound are that really make it the kind of instrument you want a person to play.”
Does that mean you can’t find a soprano ukulele on the market this year?
“There are plenty of bass ukuleles,” Miller said. “The majority of manufacturers won’t make a soprano ukulele. The majority of manufacturers will make a bass.”
A few of the major manufacturers, such as Yamaha and Korg, make three different variations of ukes. And some manufacturers, such as Fender, now make an instrument (the Mustang) with even more strings and higher highs than the Yamaha.
Where do you go for the low, mellow sounds that most ukuleles rely on?
They start in Italy, where manufacturers have been working on bass ukes since the 1960s, said Ken Gollnick, chairman of the Professional Instrument Co. (PICCO) board of directors.
In the country, companies have found three key ingredients to making an instrument with a lower low end: a slightly longer string design, a small number of adjustable high-lift treble strings and a single-piece lower horn. Each of these features adds to the instrument’s low end and produces low notes from a single pickup. One downside: Bass ukes are harder to tune to the right pitch than sopranos.
Which instruments are the most sought-after?
“This goes back to the same issue you’re talking
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