THE humble ukulele has come a long way since its hey-day, when it was tucked under the arm of George Formby while he was leaning on his famous lamp post.
However, sales of the four-stringed instrument – which some cynics sniffily call a ‘novelty instrument’ – have been soaring recently.
Last year, a survey by Musical Instrument Retail Conference found that ukulele sales had risen by 42 per cent. Nu-folk stars the Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons have both used ukuleles on tracks in recent years.
So, why is the good old ‘uke’ proving so popular in 2012?
Jon Loomes, of the Music Room, in St John’s Place, Cleckheaton, said the simplicity of the instrument, coupled with the low cost, was proving a big hit with those both young and old.
“Over the last couple of years we have been selling a lot of ukuleles,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s due to a revival of the George Formby era, but lots of kids in indie bands are playing them.
“It is easily accessible and isn’t hard on the fingers like guitars are. It’s an attractive sound and is portable and easy to pick up.”
Price is a big factor too, with a basic ukulele selling for £30 compared to a guitar that could cost hundreds of pounds. The three major chords (C, G, F) can be picked up by a novice within minutes and simple tunes can be reproduced quickly and attractively.
“For people who want to learn the guitar, it’s really useful. If you get your head around the concept of strings and a fret board, then you can transfer what you learn to the guitar very easily,” Jon said. “There are people who do the George Formby thing as well, but it is not specific to that 1930s repertoire.
“I’ve heard kids come in doing country and western music on there or even heavy metal like the band Cradle of Filth. The sound ukuleles produce gives them a cheerful character. It is impossible to be miserable with a ukulele.”
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