As students in the Music Department begin a period of online learning again, we are keen to preserve the practical nature of the subject whilst promoting the benefits of the Arts on students’ wellbeing. To that end, we audited Music students to determine who already owned an instrument, and are fortunate that many do; online Music lessons will now be structured to incorporate this. Students who needed an instrument have been loaned a ukelele or xylophone: low maintenance, portable and easy to store instruments, which are excellent for developing sight reading, co-ordination, and other key skills and concepts from the Music curriculum. Additionally, a few remaining instruments can be allocated as a second option on a first come, first served basis.

Ukulele Fun Facts – (article below directly from Stage Music

The ukulele, which comes from the guitar family, is popular in both traditional and pop music.

The ukulele is typically made of four nylon or gut strings or sequences of strings, some of which may be harmonized in courses. Many famed artists like Eddie Vedder and Jason Mraz have used this instrument to enrich their classical songs.

The uke provides an excellent starting point for music students and amateur musicians. Musicians of any age can quickly learn to play this instrument. The ukulele is available in four different sizes with different pitches, tones, fretboards, and tunes.

History of the Ukulele

The ukulele has a rich history and tradition. While this instrument first appeared in Hawaii in the eighteenth century, its roots are found in Portugal. However, it is not known as to who actually invented the uke. Despite this, the story of how this instrument rose to popularity is an exciting one.

Historians agree that the Portuguese braguinha or machete de braga is the instrument that led to the creation of the ukulele. The braguinha is a small instrument as compared to the guitar but operates quite similar to the first four stringers of the guitar.

On the other hand, the ukulele has the same scale length as the machete but is tuned GCEA instead of DGBD. In other words, we can say that the Hawaiians nicknamed the braguinha as ukulele. Let’s see how this happened.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Hawaii’s sugar industry was booming, which created a shortage of workforce in the area. At the same time, Portugal was experiencing economic collapse. The economic downturn forced many Portuguese to immigrate to Hawaii to find employment opportunities in the sugar industry.

Many Portuguese arrived in Hawaii along with their families and machetes. Among them were three woodworkers named Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, and Jose do Espirito (originally from Madeira’s port city, Funchal). A man named Joao Fernandes was also among the passengers. He played the machete and sang a thanksgiving song upon arrival at the Honolulu Harbor on August 23, 1879.

Fernandes’s performance moved the Hawaiians so much so that it made them obsessed with the branguinha. The Hawaiians nicknamed the instrument as the “ukulele,” which means “jumping flea.’ This term refers to the way Fernandes’ fingers moved on the fretboard.

Many Portuguese immigrants lived in Hawaii, but Nunes, Dias, and Santos traveled to Honolulu to find work upon the completion of their contractual employment in Hawaii. They started woodwork and instruments making business in Honolulu. Their efforts further promoted the ukulele.

While the popularity of the ukulele began to vane with the start of rock and roll in the 1950s, it has made a successful comeback in modern times. Ukulele sales saw a sharp spike in the United States between 2009 and 2018. Figures by Statista show that 1.77 million ukulele were sold in the US from 2009 to 2018. The popularity of the ukulele is expected to rise in the coming years.

The ukulele is perhaps one of the most popular instruments right now. While the charisma of this amusing instrument is widely known, here are some fun facts about the ukulele that you might be surprised to know:

  1. The first ukulele is said to have been built in 1879; however, it is not clear who invented this instrument.
  2. Renowned astronaut Neil Armstrong had a great passion for playing the ukulele.
  3. C. F. Martin Guitars manufactured ukulele in the 1920s, and the sales of this instrument were on par with that of guitars.
  4. Lately, the ukulele business has witnessed a boom. Sales of ukulele have grown 500-600 percent in the past few years.  
  5. Initially, the ukulele strings were produced from sheep or cat gut. The modern ukulele’s feature strings made of nylon.
  6. Beatle George Harrison had a collection of hundreds of ukuleles.
  7. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz remains the top-selling ukulele song as of now. It was released in 2008.
  8. George Harrison and Paul McCartney came out as fans of the ukulele in the mid-1990s.

Ukuleles are portable and easy to hold. Also, they are easy to learn than a guitar. Children can easily hold and play this instrument. If you are considering guitar training for your kid, the ukulele can be a good starting point.  Playing the ukulele improves brain-hand-eye coordination. You have to concentrate on what strings you are plucking to generate the correct note. The exchange of information between your brain, eyes, and fingers can sharpen your coordination and mental and motor skills.


Interesting Xylophone Facts directly from this article:

Xylophone Facts
The xylophone is a musical instrument with wooden bars that are struck with a mallet to produce sound. The wooden bars are arranged similarly to a piano, and each one is a different length, which creates a different sound. It is believed that the xylophone dates back to ancient Southeast Asia (2000BC), and that the instrument was brought to Africa by Malayo-Polynesians. The western xylophone, which is the one most are familiar with is first mentioned in Europe in 1511. It was referred to as ‘wooden clatter’ at the time. It wasn’t until the 1860s that the term ‘xylophone’ was used to reference the instrument.
The xylophone is a member of the percussion family of instruments.
Different versions of the xylophone have existed for many years in many cultures.
The African xylophone is referred to as the balafon; in Mozambique the xylophone is referred to as the Mbilia; in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, and West Africa the xylophone is referred to as the gyil; in western Zambia the xylophone is referred to as the silimba.
The early xylophones in Asia were often created with wooden bars attached to gourds. Today the frame of the xylophone is made of wood or metal.
The xylophone gained popularity internationally in the 1800s when the Russian musician Michael Josef Gusikov toured with his instrument.
Between 1910 and 1940 the xylophone was popular in vaudeville acts.
Jazz musicians often used the xylophone in their bands until the vibraphone became more popular in this style of music in the 1940s.
In the 1970s the xylophone became popular in ragtime music.
The bars of a xylophone are often made of rosewood or Kelon (a type of fiberglass).
Bars of the xylophone are created with different lengths, which produce different sounds.
Shorter xylophone bars produce high notes and longer xylophone bars produce lower notes.
The bars of a xylophone are strung together with string or cord and held in place while being able to vibrate when struck with the mallet to produce sound.
Under each bar of the xylophone is a resonator tube that amplifies the sound.
Xylophones used in concert halls often have 42 to 48 wooden bars and are similar in appearance to a keyboard.
Mallets used for the xylophone can be made of a variety of material including wood, metal, or rubber.
The xylophone has been used for purposes other than music. In Senegal it was used to scare monkeys and birds and other pests from people’s gardens.
The type of wood used to create the bars of the xylophone can result in different sounds. Hardwood is the most common but bamboo has also been used.
The xylophone has also been used for sound effects in movies as can be used to mimic the sound of bones clanging together.
Xylophones are often used in elementary school musical education classes.
The first time a xylophone was used in an orchestra for the opera Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (Arnold George Dorsey), a German Composer, in 1893.