No Pineapple in the
Pineapple Ukulele

Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka is generally credited with the creation of the pineapple ukulele. The ukulele was debuted in the 1920s after he came up with the concept for this design. Despite the name of this ukulele, it’s important to understand that the original goal was not to make a ukulele that looks like a pineapple.

Pineapple Ukulele Is Born

This ukulele was conceived by the designer as a variation on the traditional, more guitar shaped, ukulele design. It was a friend of his who pointed out that it looked a little bit more like a pineapple that it did a ukulele and the name stuck. In fact, some of the pineapple ukes that were first produced – and some of the modern versions, in fact – were equipped with paint jobs that made them look almost exactly like a pineapple.

Kamaka received a patent for this design in 1928. It is actually the most famous ukulele patent in existence. For 14 years, he was the only manufacturer making this particular shape of ukulele. It wasn’t long, however, before other manufacturers started picking up on the popularity of this design and what it had to offer.

The Impact

To understand why the pineapple ukulele is important, it’s important to get beyond the visual aspects of the design. The design of this particular ukulele produces a distinctive sound. The shape gives the instrument a bit of a fuller and richer sound, which some players vastly prefer. It also helps to set the ukulele apart as a distinctive instrument, rather than making it look like a very small guitar, which is the case with a standard ukulele design.

In fact, for many people, the traditional shape of a ukulele is, to some extent, what made it a novelty instrument. For somebody who doesn’t know any better, the ukulele very much looks like a tiny guitar and many people treated them as scale models of a real instrument, not even realizing that they are viable instruments in and of themselves.

Take away that guitar shape and go with the shape of the pineapple ukulele, and suddenly the instrument becomes very distinctive. It is clearly an actual instrument and not a scale model of another type of instrument. This allowed players to take the instrument more seriously and, because of the unique tonal characteristics that the instrument takes on because of its shape, it allowed experienced players to branch out a bit and try new things.

This ukulele design, in fact, has become so distinctive that it is oftentimes used to advertise ukuleles in general. It is a timeless design, even though it is a relatively recent one, and one that professional players have adopted enthusiastically as a way for them to get new and interesting tones out of their chosen instrument. If you have a standard ukulele, you may want to consider adding a pineapple designed to your collection of instruments, as they do offer quite a bit more than just a distinctive look.

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