The ukulele, from Hawaiian is a chordophone classified as a plucked lute; is a subset of the guitar family of instruments, generally with four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings. The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of the small guitar-like instruments taken to Hawaiiby Portuguese immigrants and gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century, and from there spread internationally.
Ukuleles are generally made of wood or composed partially or entirely of plastic. Cheaper ukuleles are generally made from ply or laminate woods, in some cases with a soundboard of an inexpensive but acoustically superior wood such as spruce and other more expensive ukuleles are made of solid hardwoods such as mahogany. Some of the most expensive ukuleles, which may cost thousands of dollars, are made from koa, also known as Acacia koa, a Hawaiian wood.
Typically ukuleles have a figure-eight body shape similar to that of a small acoustic guitar and they are also often seen in non-standard shapes, such as an oval, usually called a "pineapple" ukulele, invented by the Kamaka ukulele company, or a boat-paddle shape, and occasionally a square shape, often made out of an old wooden cigar box. These instruments may have just four strings and some strings may be paired in courses giving the instrument a total of eight strings.
Four sizes of ukuleles are common; they are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. There is also less common sopranino and bass ukuleles at the extreme ends of the size spectrum. The soprano, often called "standard" in Hawaii, it is the smallest, and the original size ukulele.
Buying a ukulele is not on the same level as buying a car, because there are some practices one should utilize before making a purchase. In this Internet age, the ability to select from a wide a range as one could imagine is both a boon and a bane. Here are few purchasing tips: