Fender Ukuleles

If you need any evidence of the increase in people buying ukuleles, just look at the number of new models of ukulele that have come out in the last year or two. And now the biggest name in the guitar world has entered the field and brought out their first ukes.

Today Fender are launching a range of three tenor ukuleles: the Pa’ina, Nohea and Hau’oli. I caught up with Mike Lewis from Fender to find out more.

Fender are the biggest name in guitars. Why move into ukuleles?

It all started around six years ago when we noticed the Uke’s growing popularity in Japan. When we asked about it, our friends there explained that because the Uke is tuned like the first four strings on the guitar, it was easy for guitar players to adapt to it. Being guitar players ourselves, we gave it a try and like everyone else, got hooked!

When people buy a Fender ukulele, what are they getting that they wouldn’t get with any other ukulele?

The Fender Ukes were in development for quite a long time and we experimented with a lot of different designs. What we were looking for was an instrument that sounds great, looks great, is easy to play, tune, and change strings- all at an affordable price. The Ukes also come with a padded carry bag.

One thing we wanted to avoid was for someone to buy their first Uke, take it home and then get discouraged because they didn’t know how to tune it, play some basic chords, or change a string. That’s why we include the instruction book with care, feeding and basic how-to-play info. Playing Ukulele should be fun, not frustrating!

There are many Fender-a-like ukuleles out there but – other than the distinctive Telecaster headstock – they’re a very traditional design. Why did you go in that direction?

The form followed the function really. We had specific sonic results in mind for the various price points so we experimented with numerous body shapes, bracing patterns, bridges, materials, etc. This is just how they ended up! The Telecaster® guitar headstock not only adds the distinctive Fender vibe, it’s quite functional in that it provides straight string pull over the nut and easy access to all four of the geared tuning machines.

Where are the ukuleles manufactured?

Crafted in Indonesia with oversight by our U.S. manufacturing and quality assurance operations.

There’s a big Hawaiian theme in the ukuleles. Do you see yourselves as part of the Hawaiian tradition of ukuleles rather than those made in the mainland US?

Even though the instrument was first introduced to the Hawaiians by Portuguese immigrants, it didn’t become a Ukulele until the Hawaiians named it that. During our research for this project, the Hawaiian connection was of course all pervasive. We even studied the Hawaiian language a bit, which is where the model names came from. Just seemed natural to stick with it!

Why did you go with all tenor ukuleles? Are there plans for other sizes in future?

Our customers are primarily guitar players. The Tenor being the largest “my dog has fleas” Uke, is a good option for the first-time guitarist turned “Uke-ist”.

Are there any plans for future models in the Fender ukulele range?

Let’s hope so!

Visit Fender ukuleles and friend them up on MySpace.

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