Is the Ukulele Underappreciated

deadpool

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What do you think in general? Do non-uke players think of the uke as a toy? I guess my observations start with Tiny Tim and tip toe through the tulips. That has certainly not engendered our instrument in a lot of baby boomers minds-that's for sure.

I started on the ukulele about 10 years ago as a diversion from the guitar and mandolin only to move on about a year later. Took it up again about 18 months ago and have a new respect for the instrument and am considering making it my go to.

So, I'm interested in other thoughts about where it sits "status wise" with other stringed instruments-not that it really matters though......
 

achutch3

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My experience in general is that when I pull out my ukulele the vibe I get is it's not taken too seriously and have even gotten the "Tiny Tim" remark. So just having a ukulele around or in your possession this is the type of response I get.

Now, once I start playing and showing what it is capable of, the vibe changes. I've had people change their attitude and backtrack on their general comments with things like "wow that sounds really good", or "what kind of wood is that made of?". Just a general backtracking of what they thought and what they expected I guess.

So for me ultimately I'd say in general people do associate ukulele with Tiny Tim, toys, etc. until you show them what ukulele looks like in 2021. I think it can be different depending on where you are located as well. I'm in the upper Mid West/Michigan so may be a different level of understanding and acceptance on the West Coast or Hawaii.
 

Counter

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It doesn't bother me one bit if it's appreciated or underappreciated. I enjoy playing it so that's all that matters isn't it?
 

donboody

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Idk why everybody gets so down on Tiny Tim. He has several great albums.
 

mikelz777

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The ukulele isn't a "normalized" instrument that people are accustomed to seeing like a guitar or say a banjo or mandolin in country music. When they do see it it's often a novelty in a novelty or light-hearted situation or setting and as such, don't think of it in any other way. I can't imagine that anyone who thinks it is a toy would continue to think so after hearing someone play "regular music" for any length of time.
 

emba

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Oh man, in my experience it is. Guitar players think I am learning ukulele as a stepping stone to a real instrument ( ie guitar). And if I hear about Tiny Tim anymore I’ll scream.

I think hearing some good ukulele players on YouTube has changed people’s minds, as has hearing my solid spruce top ukulele. At least three people have been shocked at how good it sounds, that it’s a real instrument, and it’s just a $200 Ohana, not a high dollar k brand. I think it’s just that if all you’ve heard is the $40 uke you bought your nephew, you think they all sound that way.
 
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clear

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In general, I think the ukulele is a wonderful instrument for certain situations; it's small, spontaneous, and easy to learn.
WRT toy status, I don't think most non players view it as a toy.
 

emba

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And I forgot to mention the many jokes about how I must have accidentally put my guitar in the dryer and it shrunk. But those are mostly in good humor, I think.
 

rainbow21

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If you take guitars out of the equation, very few people play a musical instrument once they are done with school. Locale matters. Here in California, Hawaii is often a vacation spot (most of my friends have been there at least once) so they are familiar with the ukulele and slack key guitar. OTOH, fiddles and mandolins are rarely seen.

So it is not really thought of as a toy here. A short exposure can actually pique interest and get them strumming to check it out. Baby boomers. Tiny Tim made it "famous" in 1968, but many baby boomers have moved on regarding the ukulele.
 

Mike $

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I don't know why uke players get upset when people mention Tiny Tim. I think by posing it as a negative is simply a way of bullying us into thinking that we should get upset when people refer to him while talking about ukuleles. It's a shaming technique. And we uke people shame each other with it the most. I agree with Dondoody, Tiny Tim had great albums, he was a great player and singer. He was unique. If someone mentions Tiny Tim, I am happy to play Tiptoe, or Living in the Sunlight...I even attempt to start out in falsetto. He was the most famous uke player of his day, and maybe even of today. Almost no one knows Jakes name - he's the guy who played Bohemian Rhapsody, slightly more people know Iz's name - he's the guy who plays Over the Rainbow, but everyone knows Tiny Tim. Don't be ashamed of Tiny TIm, celebrate him!
 

deadpool

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I didn't mean to denigrate Tiny Tim. I realize he was a great player. By doing the falsetto on Tiptoe and being on Laugh In or was it the Smothers Bros, he was obviously ridiculed by the teens and 20s listeners. Unfortunately many still relate to that.
 

Mike $

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To answer your question, yes the uke is under-appreciated, and seen as a toy. What do you expect when you see guys like Tiny Tim running around singing like a girl? We should all go around dressed like lumberjacks and sing in manly voices until the stereotype is changed.
 
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Is it under appreciated? Maybe, but I personally don’t care. I’ve done open mics with a ukulele and no one said anything negative about it. In world saturated in guitars, stand out with your ukulele!
 

Counter

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The Hurdy-gurdy. Now there is an under appreciated instrument. Hurdy-gurdy players look at us ukulele players and think, you lucky, lucky people.
 

EDW

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Regarding Tiny Tim, I think for many the issue is that in many of his TV appearances, as the saying goes, they are laughing at him, not with him. I know that he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the great American songbook, but much of the time he came on as some type of novelty act or a farce. It is a shame that we did not get to see though of his quality work.

This is how most people knew of him:


 

merlin666

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The simple answer is likely that there are many ukes out there, bought as souvenir or gift, that really are toys, and many that are priced like toys. And unfortunately that's all what many people know about ukes. The main remedy is to buy good and valuable ukes and play them well so that the word spreads.
 

mikelz777

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Re: Tiny Tim

I liked Tiny Tim's whole schtick and I found him entertaining. I would have loved to sit with him and learn a bunch of the obscure and old music for which he had an encyclopedic knowledge. (I lived less than a half hour from where he was living in his last years.) I don't see him as a negative thing and wouldn't intentionally disparage him but to call him a "great" ukulele player as mentioned in earlier posts is a bit of a stretch. (At least from what I've seen and heard.)
 
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DownUpDave

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It’s small, it’s only got four strings, so many are made of plastic it looks like a toy. It’s cheap........how many violins sell for under $50.00. It’s what people think you would give to a child. So sure it’s under appreciated, put down, made fun of and ridiculed. But as we all know it can make great music. Those people that get exposed to that music can quickly change their minds about the ukulele.
 

Bluesy

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The initial reaction is amused and bemused (although most friends and family know the instruments I play).

Some didn't understand why I selected the ukulele as a focus. Others already knew the musical me. (Anyone who'll play chromatic harmonica won't always play the usual.) The ones who were surprised and confused are OK with me. I always view the situation as an opportunity to broaden their musical horizon.

Once the playing and singing begins (sadly, not so much in the last weeks since the Delta surge), they not only "get it", but they want to try it and they usually see how simple it is to begin. They don't get much farther than trying it out, but that's OK too.

There hasn't been one friend or family member had any idea that a ukulele could be used to accompany jazz and American standards. I always enjoy changing minds.

Meanwhile, I play cuz I love it and I don't seek anyone's approval for it.

Bluesy.