Parts of the Ukulele Explained

Ukulele Anatomy

If you’re trying to figure out what all of the different parts of the ukulele are called, all will be revealed in this mega ukulele anatomy guide!

Throughout this guide, you will learn the names of all of the important parts that make up your uke. Furthermore, we will also take a deep dive into every individual part so that you know precisely what they all do.

Now that you’re a ukulele player it’s so handy to understand how all of these various parts come together to affect the sound and playability of your instrument, so please try and read the full guide to really juice up your expertise.

Let’s jump right in!

Basic Parts of the Ukulele

Before we take a look at all of the different ukulele parts names below, it’s important to first understand the 3 main sections of the instrument.

Ukulele Parts - Body Neck and Headstock
  • First up, we have the body of the ukulele. This is the part of the instrument where you will strum the strings with your picking hand.
  • Next, the neck is the section of the ukulele that you hold with your fretting hand.
  • Finally, the head (or headstock) is the area where you will tune your uke.

You will find these main areas on every type of ukulele, with the only exception being headless ukuleles. These special designs do not have a headstock.

Nice and easy so far, right?

Now that you know the basic areas of the ukulele, we can go ahead and look at all of the smaller parts which make up each of them.

Ukulele Parts Diagram

Below you’ll find a handy, dandy ukulele parts diagram that clearly identifies the majority of the main parts that make up the instrument.

parts of the ukulele diagram

Once you have learned all of the different names of the parts above, head to the next section of the page where I’ll explain the function of each part (plus a bunch more parts that aren’t in this worksheet!).

Ukulele Parts – The Headstock

For those of you who really want to geek out and learn what each part of the ukulele does, this next part of the guide is for you!

Let’s start with the pieces that make up the headstock, and then we’ll work our way down the instrument after that.

As we’ve already touched on above, the head of the ukulele is the section where you will tune the uke. This part is also commonly referred to as the headstock.

Ukulele Headstock Parts Diagram

Tuners

You will find the tuners on the headstock of almost all ukuleles, with the only exception being headless designs. These models do not have a headstock and will usually have tuners located on the body instead.

The tuners are actually made up of a bunch of smaller, individual parts such as tunings pegs and tuning posts. Most people will just simply refer to the full mechanism as the tuners however.

The majority of ukuleles have four strings, so you won’t be surprised to find that most ukuleles have four tuners! There are two main tuner layouts, 4 in-line (4 in a straight line), or 2+2 (that is 2 on the left and 2 on the right side). If you refer back to the diagram above, you’ll see that the Alvarez headstock on the left has a 2+2 layout, while the Fender on the right has the 4 in-line style.

Other less common layouts do exist, for example, a 5-string ukulele might have a 2+3, or 5 in-line configuration.

There are two main smaller parts of the tuner that I have highlighted above. The tuning peg (or tuning button) is the part that we rotate to either raise or lower the pitch of the string. The tuning post (or string post) is the tall, cylindrical part that we wrap the string around. Of course, there are other mechanisms that make up the whole tuner, but these two are the most important to know about.

If you’re new to ukulele why not check out my massive guide to guitar tuners to find out the best method to get your ukulele up to perfect pitch!

TOP TIP! When tuning your ukulele, always make sure to tune down first before tuning up to pitch. This helps to avoid over-stretching as well as string breakages.

Nut

Where the headstock meets the fretboard you will find the nut, a thin strip of plastic or bone that is designed to hold each string in the correct position. It also holds the strings at the correct height above the fretboard.

It is most usually made from materials such as Corian, Tusq, bone, plastic, graphite, or brass to name a few.

If you look closely at the nut you’ll notice a series of slots which is where the strings will sit. Each slot varies in width so that each individual string will fit perfectly and not excessively vibrate or sit proud of the nut.

The nut (along with the bridge which you can find out more about below) helps define the scale length of the instrument. In a nutshell (see what I did there?), the scale length is the vibrating length of an open string.

You can find out more about this in my complete guitar scale length guide!

Ukulele Parts – The Neck

Ukulele Neck Parts

If you were paying attention early on in this guide, you’ll know that the neck is the area of the uke that you hold with your fretting hand. But you probably knew that already, right?

In a playing position, your thumb will be situated at the rear of the neck. The front side of the neck is not visible because the fretboard is laid on top of it.

Many people get confused and mistakenly refer to the fretboard as the neck. It’s important to know that these are actually two separate parts of the uke.

Although other materials are also used for necks, most are built from some type of wood. Four kinds of wood that you will often see used in ukulele necks are mahogany, maple, koa, and rosewood. Higher-end ukes might use more exotic woods such as ebony or wenge. Cheaper models might even have plastic necks – try to avoid these!

Good quality necks will usually be made from a single solid piece of wood. Other times they might be built using several thinner strips of different woods.

Fretboard (also called the Fingerboard)

Glued to the top of the neck is the fretboard (or fingerboard), a thin strip of wood that contains the frets.

Various different types of woods are used here, affecting both the tone of the ukulele and the feel. The most common woods used are rosewood and ebony. Check out my fretboard wood guide to learn more about this topic.

Upon closer examination, you’ll probably notice that the fretboard on your ukulele isn’t completely flat, but actually has a slight curve to it. This curve is referred to as the fretboard radius and has a profound effect on the feel of the uke.

In a nutshell, the higher the radius value is, the flatter the fingerboard will feel under your fingers.

Frets

As we’ve already mentioned above, the fretboard contains the frets. These are short pieces of metal wire that are hammered into the wood at specific intervals. The distance between each fret gets smaller the closer you get to the body of the uke.

When you push down on the strings with your fingers they will contact the frets and effectively shorten the length of the string, resulting in a specific note being played.

On average, a ukulele will usually have between 12 and 20 frets depending on the size. You can learn more about the different ukulele sizes available in my beginner ukulele guide.

Higher-end ukuleles might have frets made of hard-wearing (and expensive!) stainless steel. However, most will be a mix of various different metals including copper, nickel, and zinc. These are often just referred to as nickel frets.

Fret wire is available in a range of different sizes (for example narrow, medium, or jumbo), and this will affect the feel of your ukulele whilst playing.

Inlays (also called Fret Markers)

To help indicate where each fret is, you will notice a number of dots, blocks, or other markings on the fingerboard. These are called the inlays, although they are also commonly known as position markers or fret markers.

On most ukuleles, you will find the inlays on specific frets – 5, 7, 10, and 12. This is not set in stone, as depending on the brand some of these may be missed, or additional markers might be added at other frets.

Oftentimes the inlay at the 12th fret will be a different design to the rest (for example 2 dots) to help indicate the octave position.

Some ukuleles might have no inlays at all! But fear not, because there are also fret markers located on the side of the fingerboard to help you find your position. These are almost always very small black or white dots.

The most commonly used materials for fretboard inlays are plastic, mother of pearl, wood, and abalone.

Heel

The area that connects the neck to the body of your ukulele is called the Heel (or the neck joint). In most cases, it will be glued in place to provide excellent strength and support.

Ukulele Parts – The Body

The ukulele body consists of a lot of different parts, and is the section of the instrument where you will pick or strum the strings.

Ukulele Body Parts Diagram

Body Top, Back, and Sides

The top, back, and sides are the three sections of wood that form the shape of your uke’s body. I will be handing out no prizes for guessing which is which!

On budget instruments, all of these parts will likely be made from laminated woods, i.e. a mix of several different kinds of wood. Laminated wood parts are harder wearing and less expensive, but they generally don’t sound as good as solid woods.

On more expensive models you will begin to find instruments where the top (also referred to as the soundboard) is constructed of solid wood.

Very high-quality ukuleles will feature an all-solid construction, i.e. the top, back, and sides are all made from solid wood.

Solid wood ukuleles are more desirable as they tend to resonate better, resulting in a warmer, more pleasing tone. In addition, they also age well and tend to sound better the longer you have them.

Common ukulele body woods include koa, mahogany, rosewood, and spruce.

Bridge

The bridge is a strip of wood glued to the soundboard and is where the strings meet the body of the ukulele. As a ukulele uses nylon strings that don’t exert much tension, the strings are usually just tied to the bridge using a special knot.

This part also helps to transfer the vibration from the strings to the soundboard of the uke.

The most popular woods from which a bridge can be constructed are rosewood and ebony as these are very hard, dense woods, while also being fairly lightweight.

Saddle

The saddle is a thin strip of white material that sits inside the bridge. It is usually made from either plastic or bone.

It helps to transfer vibrations from the strings through the bridge and into the body of the ukulele.

It also aids in determining how high or low the strings are from the top of the fretboard.

String height (also known as the action) can be raised by inserting plastic shims beneath the saddle, or material can be removed (usually by sanding) to lower the strings.

In addition to the nut, the saddle is the other point that dictates where the length of the vibrating string terminates. This is very important as if the length of the string is wrong then the intonation will be out, causing the uke to sound out of tune.

Sound Hole

The large circular opening on the top (soundboard) of the ukulele is referred to as the soundhole. If the ukulele had no sound hole then the sound vibrations would be trapped inside the instrument – not so good!

So the purpose of this design feature is to open up the ukulele body so that the internal sound vibrations can be released.

And if you like to play with a pick, it also loves nothing more than to swallow them for all of eternity…

Rosette

Notice the fancy circle of material that goes around the edge of the sound hole? That’s called the rosette.

These days, they are just a decorative feature, and a remnant of days gone by! In the past, they were actually used to prevent the wood around the sound hole from cracking, but this isn’t an issue with modern construction techniques.

Binding

On some ukuleles, you might find these thin decorative strips of material where the body top, back, and sides meet. Binding is mainly an aesthetic feature, but it does also provide some impact protection for the edges of the body.

You may also find binding on the fretboard and/or headstock.

Electronics

Some ukulele models may come equipped with electronics so that you can connect the instrument to an amp or recording device.

In the example in the diagram above you can see that the electronics control panel is generally located on the side of the ukulele.

Usually, the panel will contain an EQ (equalizer) section that will allow you to shape the amplified tone of the uke.

Some models may also include a built-in tuner, eliminating the need for an extra purchase. If yours doesn’t have a tuner, make sure to check out my guitar tuner guide for some recommendations.

Strap Buttons

If you want to use a strap with your ukulele you will probably need some strap buttons! These are small metal pieces that you slide your strap ends over so that you can play standing up.

Many ukuleles do not come with strap buttons from the factory, so it may be the case that you need to purchase them separately and install them yourself.

Don’t worry, it’s a simple job!

On ukuleles equipped with electronics, the bottom strap button may also function as an output jack, i.e. where you insert a cable to connect the uke to an amp or recording device.

Cutaway

On some ukuleles, you might find that a portion of the instrument’s body has been removed (or cut away). This helps to give players better access to the higher frets, as well as adding a more modern aesthetic that some players may prefer.

Taylor guitars have a great guide to cutaways if you would like to learn more.

Congratulations!

You made it all the way to the end of the guide! I hope that you’re now better acquainted with the various parts of the ukulele.

Almost all of these parts serve an important role in determining the sound and feel of your instrument.

Why not share this information with friends if you feel that it may also interest them!

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