Tiple Ukulele

Martin T45 Tiple Ukulele
1922 Martin T45
1972 K Yusuma Tiple Ukulele Corner
1972 K Yasuma
Ohana Tiple Ukulele
2012 Ohana
The Tiple Ukulele, (or North American Tiple), is a bit of a hybrid instrument in its history. We know the Ukulele history and the Tiple, (means treble in Spanish and is pronounced ti-plee with the last e sounding), was one of those instruments from the Spanish part of the Iberian peninsula that was very similar to things on the Portuguese side, but with a different name, (in this case the Rajão). Then, as was often the case, when taken to the colonies in South America the Tiple changed into a number of new instruments, with in some places the addition of extra courses of strings, (in some places it reduced the number of strings to 4 or even just 3). The final step was taken by Martin on behalf of Wm Smith & Co. in 1919 when they took the Colombian Tiple, (so this is not really a Hawaiian derivative from the Taropatch), shrank it a little and lost 2 strings to produce Tiple Ukuleles. This idea was then copied by others like Lyon & Healy, Regal and Oscar Schmidt. Martin stopped making them in the 60's, (the others had stopped before WWII, apart from some Japanese made ones in the 60's and 70's and Kamaka who have made the occasional custom one over the years), when they stopped making Ukuleles for a while and have not restarted, (I believe they will make a custom one on request?), but the Instrument has been revived by Ohana and some current Luthiers.

To the Instrument itself. The Tiple Ukulele is the same size as a Tenor, (in fact it was from the Tiple Ukulele that Martin got the inspiration for today's 17in Tenor scale), but it has 10 strings, usually steel and usually with Ukulele D Tuning, a~D~F#~B. The a and B note are made up of 2 strings and the D and F# notes are made of 3 strings, with the 2 outer strings being 1 octave higher than the middle one. So the full line-up is a~A~d~D~d~f#~F#~f#~B~B ! - fun to tune too. And because the Tiple Ukulele has 10 steel strings it puts a lot of pressure on the fixing of the bridge; this is why it is often damaged or missing on older models or replaced with some kind of tailpiece and base attachment on refurbished ones.

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