Aah, the humble Uke. Small, and so perfectly formed. Why though, is this staple of Hawaii and George Formby, so massively popular in TV music at the moment?
1. It’s Happy
The ukulele is the musical instrument equivalent of a fluffy puppy bounding through a meadow with it’s tongue lolling out to one side. Whether it’s an introduction segment on a home renovation show or a TV advert for just about anything, rest assured a light, happy ukulele track will give the uplifting feel you’re looking for – its small size lends itself to quick and agile strumming.
2. The Tone Doesn’t Interfere With The Human Voice
Ukuleles come in 5 sizes – from high to low are Sopranissimo, Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. I would say that the most used in TV music are probably Soprano and Concert.
If you play anything on these smaller sizes they are mainly higher than the tone of the human voice. Also, the essence of the sound is light, thin and unobtrusive. This makes the music less distracting and doesn’t interfere with the sound of the VO, presenter or talking heads.
3. It’s Universal
We don’t automatically associate the Uke with Hawaii anymore. It’s been used so much in many different contexts that now, we feel we can use it on anything. It’s become the magnolia paint of TV music – it’s been done before, it doesn’t break any barriers – but it works well in many circumstances.
So, if the Uke is used a lot and you fancy using something different, what are your options?
Try thinking outside the box. Write a brief for the composer or look for tracks which are light and happy, but use different or unusual instruments. A lot of instruments played in their higher ranges can sound light and whimsical – piano, marimba, mandolin and harmonica for example.