The Ukulele & Popular Culture: From Movies to TV Shows

Multiple Ukuleles


The ukulele, with its charming sound and compact size, has captivated hearts around the world and carved out a special place in popular culture. From its humble origins in Hawaii to its prominent role in movies and TV shows, the ukulele has become an iconic instrument that embodies joy, nostalgia, and a sense of whimsy. This article explores the ukulele’s enduring presence in various forms of media, highlighting its cultural significance and influence.

Ukulele in Movies

The ukulele has been a common sound in films since the beginning of Hollywood. The popularity of the ukulele increased during the 1920s and 1930s with the appearance of ukulele bands and musicians in several films. One notable example is the film “The Flapper” (1920), featuring the ukulele as a symbol of youthful rebellion and carefree spirit.

The ukulele has recently appeared in well-known movie moments that have made an enduring impression on fans. Movies like “Shallow Hal”, “Get Out”, “The Thing” remake and “A Boy Called Sailboat” are good examples of this. These scenes demonstrate how the ukulele can evoke emotions and enhance storytelling through its melodic tones.

Ukulele in TV Shows

Television shows have also embraced the ukulele as a recurring theme or musical motif. In popular shows like “The Good Place” and “How I Met Your Mother,” characters often pick up a ukulele to express their emotions or create comedic moments. Kate Micucci appeared in five episodes of Scrubs as Stephanie Gooch, a ukulele player that begins a relationship with Ted Buckland. She performs her song, an adapted version of a song she normally performs as part of the musical duo Garfunkel and Oates. The ukulele’s inclusion in these TV shows showcases its ability to connect with viewers on an emotional level and contribute to character development.

Moreover, the ukulele’s accessibility and simplicity make it an ideal instrument for characters to bond over. It can serve as a catalyst for forming relationships or deepening existing ones, as seen in shows like “Steven Universe,” where the ukulele becomes a means of connection among the characters.

Ukulele in Music

The ukulele’s popularity in popular culture is closely tied to its presence in mainstream music. With musicians like Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz, Eddie Vedder, and Vance Joy adding the instrument to their songs, there has been a revival of ukulele-driven music in recent years. The ukulele’s cheerful sound and catchy melodies have made it a favourite among musicians exploring various genres, including pop, folk, and indie.

Beyond its association with specific artists, the ukulele has also influenced contemporary music as a whole. Its unique tonality has found its way into arrangements and production techniques, adding a distinct flavour to many compositions. The ukulele’s versatility allows musicians to experiment and create diverse sounds, contributing to the instrument’s continued relevance in the music industry.

Ukulele as a Cultural Symbol

Hawaii Ukulele Player Strumming

Originating from Hawaii, the ukulele is deeply connected to the islands’ rich cultural heritage. It serves as a symbol of Hawaiian music and is often associated with tropical paradise and laid-back vibes. When people hear the ukulele, they are transported to a place of warmth and relaxation, evoking images of swaying palm trees and pristine beaches.

Beyond its Hawaiian roots, the ukulele has become a universal symbol of joy and happiness. Its cheerful melodies can brighten moods and bring people together. Ukulele gatherings, known as “ukulele circles” or “jam sessions,” have sprouted worldwide, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds.

Ukulele’s Popularity in Social Media

In the age of social media, the ukulele has experienced a surge in popularity, thanks to platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Talented ukulele players have gained substantial followings by sharing their covers, tutorials, and original compositions online. The ukulele’s accessibility and relatively easy learning curve make it an attractive instrument for aspiring musicians seeking to showcase their skills to a global audience.

YouTube, in particular, has witnessed a proliferation of ukulele-centric channels, offering tutorials, reviews, and entertaining performances. This online presence has further contributed to the ukulele’s growth and ensured its relevance among younger generations.

Future of the Ukulele in Popular Culture

As the ukulele continues to captivate audiences and artists alike, its future in popular culture looks promising. The instrument’s popularity has transcended boundaries, with musicians from diverse backgrounds embracing its unique charm. This inclusivity brings forth a wealth of creativity and innovation, paving the way for new musical expressions and genres.

With its versatility and adaptability, the ukulele holds the potential for further experimentation and exploration. Artists are constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with the instrument, combining it with modern technology and unconventional playing techniques. This ongoing evolution ensures that the ukulele will remain a relevant and exciting part of popular culture.

The ukulele’s influence on popular culture is undeniable. From its early appearances in Hollywood films to its integral role in TV shows and contemporary music, the ukulele has left an indelible mark. It represents more than just an instrument; it symbolizes joy, community, and creativity.

As the ukulele continues to captivate audiences around the world, its cultural significance will undoubtedly grow. Whether in movies, TV shows, music, or online platforms, the ukulele will continue to inspire and bring people together. So why not grab a ukulele, strum a few chords, and experience the magic of this beloved instrument for yourself? You can check out a list of simple songs for the ukulele in one of our other articles



Q1: Is it difficult to learn how to play the ukulele?
Learning the ukulele can be relatively easy compared to other instruments. Its four strings and small size make it approachable for beginners. With dedication and practice, anyone can learn to play the ukulele.

Q2: Can I play different genres of music on the ukulele?
Absolutely! The ukulele is an instrument that can be used to play all types of music, including pop, rock, jazz, and more.

Q3: Are there different sizes of ukuleles?
Yes, ukuleles come in different sizes, including soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each size has its unique sound and playability, allowing musicians to choose the one that suits their preferences.

Q4: How long does it take to become proficient in playing the ukulele?
The time it takes to become proficient in playing the ukulele varies from person to person. It depends on factors such as practice time, dedication, and previous musical experience. With consistent practice, progress can be made relatively quickly.

Q5: Where can I find ukulele tutorials and resources online?
There are numerous online platforms where you can find ukulele tutorials, chord charts, and sheet music. YouTube, websites dedicated to ukulele lessons, and online communities are great places to start your ukulele journey.

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