Pineapple Ukuleles

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Early Kamaka
Photo Courtesy of Ukulelefriend.com
Doraemon Cartoon Pineapple Soprano at Ukulele Corner
My modern Chinese made
The "Pineapple" is probably the most common Ukulele body shape after the traditional Figure "8" that is used for Ukuleles, (and most other variants of the Guitar family). In itself it is a bit of a misnomer as the actual shape is basically an oval, sometime moving towards and egg with a smaller top than bottom, or sometimes moving toward being squared off, (or even both for a bit more of a trapezium with rounded corners) but an oval is the best description.

Historically this is quite and old Ukulele shape, and the first one to actually come out out from the Hawaiian islands. It came about in the early 'teens of the twentieth century and the luthier who invented this shape was Sam Kamaka (Snr), (founder of the Kamaka Ukulele manufacturing outfit). The reason for the shape coming about has two stories, the more publicised "that it came about in an effort to get more volume from an acoustic Ukulele by increasing the area of the lower bout", (and the Pineapple shape does give more volume than an equivalent scale standard Ukulele) but the alternative is that young Sam couldn't see why the Ukulele, a very small instrument, needed a waist so started making some more simply, with less wood bending, as an oval shape and the volume increase was an unexpected, but welcome benefit. The reason the name caught on was one of his friends suggested than the new design looked a bit like a pineapple, (a major cash crop in Hawaii), and painted a picture of one on the soundboard. This decoration, along with the shape caught on and Kamaka started making Pineapples commercially with pictures of a pineapple on the front and often the back, (and in some cases painting the whole body to look like a pineapple). The design idea spread to a few of the other makers in Hawaii, especially friends of Sams like Johnny Lai, and Louis Gaspar, but it didn't really catch on on the mainland, where they were viewed as tourist novelty items, until after WWII. Even then it spread first to Japan and the boom in making Ukuleles there for export, before coming to the Mainland US and Europe. It is now a widely accepted and regular Ukulele body shape though with most major Ukulele manufacturers including Pineapples in their catalogue and a number of luthiers around the world too.

Originally, and by far still the most common scale length for a Pineapple is Soprano but you do get them in larger sizes; the rarity increasing as the size goes up. One thing about scale lengths though is it has been found to be a good body shape for the long necked super scale types of Ukulele with a lot of pineapple designs featuring super scales. Another modern design feature is the idea of an more "leafy" spiked headstock shape to enhance the pineapple look of the Ukulele.

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