Ancient Music

The Tahitian Ukelele

Guitars

    The Tahitian ukelele is quite different from the rest of the ukelele world. Tahitians consider the Hawaiian ukelele a misnamed imposter and their design the true original. I have heard Hawians make the same claim for their (better known) design. The common tuning and name implies some common thread in their heritage.

    The main difference is that this is a solid-body instrument (which does argue for some very primitive ancestor). The guitar-like body construction of the Hawaian style does hark bach to Spanish roots. The Tahitian style employs small gage nylon fishing line with all strings the same diameter which gives it a high tinny voice. The tunung is a variant of the Hiwaiian pattern, differing in that the first and the fourth notes are dropped an octave. Tahitian ukeleles are often strung with four pairs of strings (illustrated) rather than four single strings.

    The instrument has a depression carved out of the face (either flat-floored, or a shallow bowl shaped) which is then covered over with a thin wooden 'drum head'. The sound hole is on the back face and the bridge sits in the center of the drum-head. The strings are mounted in the tail surface.

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