The Hawaiian steel guitar and 4-string ukulele are two instruments that represent the rich musical heritage that is rooted in the Hawaiian culture. When people think of Hawaiian music, they often think of the 4-String Ukulele or the Hawaiian steel guitar.
History of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar and 4-String Ukulele
History credits Hawaiians with inventing the Hawaiian steel guitar and 4-string ukulele. The real story behind these incredible instruments is quite different. The birth of the ukulele was on an island, but not one from Hawaii. Rather one in the Atlantic Ocean in a region of Portugal named Madeira. The timeframe is thought to be the mid-1880s.
The Hawaiian steel guitar came into existence when 11-year-old Joseph Kekuku began experimenting on his Spanish guitar in Honolulu, attempting to make different sounds with different objects. Eventually, using a piece of steel sliding across the strings, the Hawaiian steel guitar was born in 1885. Kekuku became a world-renowned guitar soloist. The unique sound produced by these instruments defines their rich heritage of music that defines Hawaiian music.
The Hawaiian steel guitar and the 4-string ukulele get their base from a Spanish guitar. These two Hawaiian instruments differ in appearance, construction, and how they are played. The Ukulele is smaller in size and has only 4-strings, whereas the steel guitar has 8-strings and is larger.
Differences Between Hawaiian Steel Guitar and 4-String Ukulele
These two popular instruments are unique due to how you play, the number of strings and tuning, and the tone produced by each instrument.
- Playing methods
The Hawaiian steel guitar and the 4-string ukulele are stringed instruments that require regular tuning. The proper way to play the 4-string ukulele is to hold it against the chest while strumming the strings. It is typically strummed with the index finger while forming chords with the opposite hand. The Hawaiian steel guitar is different as it is laid in your lap and is strummed with a set of picks while moving a piece of steel called a slide up and down the neck to produce music.
- Strings and Tuning
The ukulele has four strings. Nylon is the typical material used for ukulele strings, but other options exist. The natural tuning of the 4-string ukulele is G-C-E-A.
The Hawaiian steel guitar has 8-strings, and C6 tuning is standard for this instrument. The strings for the steel guitar are A-C-E-G-A-C-E-G. Musicians mostly prefer strings made from steel.
- The Tones Produced by these Hawaiian Instruments
Both instruments have their own unique tone. The Hawaiian steel guitar can produce a range of tones, but the familiar sounds of this guitar can be described as crying, supported by vibrato that sounds human. This sound nicely compliments other instruments, especially in country and gospel genres.
The 4-string ukulele produces a very different tone depending on the size of the instrument: soprano, concert, tenor, or baritone. The ukulele makes a thinner sound than other stringed instruments. The pitch is considered easier to sing with, and many soloists use the ukulele on social media.
Though these two Hawaiian instruments are unique, they are both ingrained into the age-old culture of Hawaiian music.
The Best Strings for Hawaiian Instruments
If you are looking for strings that specialize in bringing out those bright, rich tones from your Hawaiian steel guitar or your 4-string ukulele, you are recommended to apply the following strings by Alice.
- Hawaii Guitar String Set ASHG2 by Alice
The ASHG2 Hawaiian guitar string set produces a clear and crisp tone. The highest quality material is used to make the string set, and the stainless-steel plain string has a hexagonal steel core with nickel alloy winding. This string set is perfect for almost any setting and genre. Whether practicing at home or gigging with the band, the ASHG2 will not disappoint.
- Ukulele guitar string set AU045 by Alice
The AU045 ukulele guitar string set is made for performance and is ready to impress those within your Uke’s earshot. These strings produce a warm and rich tone and are listed in the professional setting for concerts. The AU045 is made with nylon, silver-plated winding, and an anti-rust coating. These strings are durable and long-lasting.
If you are searching for that specific tone that you have come to love, you are strongly recommended to use these two string sets from Alice. Their smoothness and bright tone can push the sound through all the other noise surrounding you.
We at Alice are known for designing the highest quality guitar strings available. We have decades of experience engineering strings. We devote ourselves to delivering the best strings for the Hawaiian steel guitar and 4-string ukulele. Musicians around the globe use Alice strings and accessories. These innovative products are created by Alice engineers, who are always looking to create the next musical innovation. Click to learn more about what is on the Alice roadmap for guitar strings!