home | history | playing | strings | songbook | buy/sell | discography | interviews | mailbag | myspace


Here's some facts, stories and comments that were mailed in. This site is a Ukelin Information Gathering Machine, so if you have anything to contribute, please don't hold back! ukelins@hotmail.com

Readers Write

I attempted to play it from sheet music, and I was able to play "Carnival in Venice" which sounded more like "Funeral in Iceland" the way I struggled with it on the Ukelin. I am a classically trained cellist, but it tried my patience. I ended up just improvising.

What first attracted me to the Ukelin was the sound of it, untuned, when I strummed one in an antique mall.  It sounded like the last dying breath of a vampire.  So after I bought one from you, and after I did "Golconda", I tried to do a piece incorporating that untuned sound.  But the scariness never came out in the finished piece, for some reason.

I've done a lot of stuff during the past few years, but nothing with the Ukelin.  The instrument is one of the focal points of my studio, however. I'm afraid to touch it.  Damn thing creeps me out.  I feel like some old attic ghost will sink his fangs in my neck or something.  Perhaps because it's coffin-shaped?

John Sandin

Bless your heart!

My mother handed me a heavy, wrapped gift at Christmas and said, "Here's a gift for you from the grave!" Huh? I thought. I unwrapped the present and found an unwieldy, bizarre stringed instrument.
Now, I own and play a nice violin, am a recorder and piano player, too, so I'm no stranger to musical performance. But this thing? I was less than enthused. It smells like an attic, the strings are rusty and of course way out of tune.

I just sat there wondering what it was, how it was played, how on earth would I tune it. Being a librarian I immediately did some research and found your website.

Thanks to you, I've gone from wondering how I was going to get rid of the thing to enthusiasm! I have an extra violin bow and will try to restring my ukelin. Oh, by the way, the gift is apparently from the estate of my deceased grandmother.

Jen [Ward] the musician

I purchased my Ukelin from an antique dealer who knew little about it. I figured that it was a good investment ( $50 Canadian ) and I would quickly sell it on E-bay for a good profit -- wrong. I just discovered your site and after reading so much about it and reading the letters from Ukelin owners who seem to have a love - hate thing with it , I have decided that it will be worth the effort to learn to tune it ( Mine has the original guarantee ( header says " Factory Workmanship Guarnty " --- weird spelling and the factory would tune it for you in the first year - busy place ) and perhaps play it.
It came with the full package -rosin , directions, bow, one page accessories catalogue, wire bow rest , thumb pick , a piece of twine, doubled and tied ?? a tuning key that does look [like a] key and not a handle and 39 pieces of sheet music.
I think what I find the most amusing is the production # on the back. - 0666 - Considerig the time period It would seem I have the devil's instrument.

Hi Bob. So I am now the proud possesor of a ukelin.

Ian Summers

Well, I must thank you for turning me into a monster, because after purchasing 12 ukelins, three tremoloas, a marxophone, and a mandolin harp, my "must-have" list continually grows and grows! I've already recorded a few songs using the ukelin for solos, and also multi-tracked harmonized string sections! I've either lost my mind completely, or have fallen head-over-heels-in-love with this instrument!!!

Werner Sommer

I had just bought this strange looking instrument on ebay that I thought I was getting a great deal for. I started bidding for it, and raced someone to the end just to get it. I thought It was going to be  valuable, so of course my heart was racing til the very end, and ebay said I won the item. I jumped up and down about it and told everyone . I thought because it said Hawaiin Art violin that maybe somehow it would be related to the regular Art violins that were going for bundles of money. Well ya know what? Not!! When I recieved it through the mail and opened the package, my friend and I were stunned. We both looked at each other and started laughing. It was full of dust and there was also an old spider that was danglin off it. Probably as old as the hills. Anyways, there was also a little pile of bird doo in it as well, and it smelled like an old basement. Now my friend says to me, " Why in the hell would you want to buy something that looks like that. well I told her, that I thought it was worth alot of money, And told her I was going to look it up. So I did, and went right to your website. And then there it was ,the value. My mouth dropped, and I said to myself , Gawd Help the Poor! Well I thought geesh I need to give this thing away fast. So I gave it to my friend, and told her that it would suit her, and is for the musically uninclined. she just looked at me and raised one eyebrow. she says , I dont want it! I says No! You have to take it, It's a gift from my heart to yours. she said, no way! I said , Yes Way! I said, For goodness sakes take it, Or I,m moving out! She said I guess then I'll take it. SO now she just stares at it, with all its old clumps of varnish, and its' rusty old strings that are everywhere, And says to me , What ever posessed you for buying something that is as ugly as that. And I tell her that I felt sorry for it. We both still cant make out what it exactly is. Just a conversational piece we guess. But we sure got alot of laughs about it, and ya know I think my friend is a little attatched to it now, and kind of feels sorry for it like I did. I can say this, if we ever have the great depression again, we can count on it to keep us warm when were out in the cold, by using it for firewood! Thanks for the neat website. It has as well added to our laughter and our enjoyment to truly find out what these things really are and there origin. Sandy

[Thanks for writing in Sandy. Here's her follow up email:]

If the word keeps spreading about these, the price may go up a dollar more for them!! Haha ,, I still feel sorry for the darn thing,, so I guess I can talk my friend into hanging it up on the wall, and so we all can admire the clumps of grayish blackish, and I think Maroonish red varnish on a piece of old barnwood.. And thank you very much for getting back to me..Oh and by the way,, I 've been thinking about taking off the old strings, and replacing them with colored yarn, and as well ,, since it is a hawaiin art violin,, painting little palm trees on it,, and little hula dancers.. Nooo!! Just kidding,,, Take Care, and what a wonderful site!! Sandra

Holy Smokies, Bob, what a site you have! I salute you with my bow!!

Bernie in ND

At last! I found out what this thing is! I bought mine in an antique store years ago, just for the beauty of it.

It has some very beautiful decals of cherubs strumming stringed instruments. I just fell in love with it, but never knew what "it" was.

Thank you so much for your web site!!!!! Diane

Well, I guess I should be thankful that my brother is no longer obsessed with buying oil lamps on ebay! He has found a new hobby - ukelins.

About two weeks ago I got a call about his great new ebay find - a mint condition ukelin complete with original instructions. He mentioned your website as the authority on all things ukelin, but I didnt take the time to visit. We talked about my aged aunt's ukelin that she would pull down from the closet shelf every once in a while.

Today, I received a call about a wild scheme to produce a live ukelin CD that was a "sure money maker" and the untold riches that lay in the production of a ukelin "care and tuning" videotape that we could sell on ebay. Later, I received a commemorative photo of him playing the ukelin and even a WAV file of a virtuoso solo ukelin performance of "Rosin the Bow!"

Despite all of this, I have to admit that the damned thing has an eerie appeal! As a historian, I am pleased to see this small slice of musical history preserved. As a music lover, I am heading off to Wal-Mart to look for some earplugs!


Ukelin Cheesecake'Bob--  I've long admired your site.

I recently came across the attached photo on eBay.  Ukuleles have long been used as props for pinup photography, as I'm sure you know.  The attached was listed as such.  To my slack-jawed amazement, however, I found the prop in this case was not a ukulele, but a ukelin.  The mind reels of course.  Was it intentional?  A brilliant post modern statement about the awkward reality underlying cheesecake photography in general?  A bold, if failed effort to push the envelope of saucy exotica?  Or was it, as I suspect is more likely, a miscommunication that resulted in the dismissal of the poor set decorator's assistant who brought the props to that day's location and was berated before the rest of the crew with:  "No, you idiot!  I said a ukulele!  What the hell is this thing?!"  The show must go on as they say, and the attached was the result.

This having been said, I suppose given your interest, you may actually find the attached kind of steamy.  Whatever your reaction, I thought you might enjoy it.

Though I don't play one, the thing I find so interesting about the ukelin is the contrast between the haunting, delicate sadness of its sound and the clumsiness of its physical reality.  There's a metaphor in there, I suppose.

William Preston Robertson, co-director
Rock That Uke

Here's another pinup photo with Lili St. Cyr and a ukelin.  Enjoy!  Jim

bonjour  à vous
je suis une passionnée de l instrument..
qui s appelle ukelin......
c est un instrument très rare....
j aimerais savoir sa valeur aujourd hui......
j attend une réponse tres bientôt.
merci à vous................... Nicole Tremblay

I will play the ukelin. With my teeth. Naked. Sounds too hot to be true, eh? Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't. All I know is that in order for me to play at my peak performaning level I must be a bit tipsy. Not only that but I tell really great jokes when I'm tipsy.

I want to start a nerd band called "Eaten by Grues." Serious. Anyone can join, but you'd have to play a nerdy instrument, like the bagpipes or concertina.

[Note found on internet.
Name omitted to protect the guilty.]

Praise God for yor web site!

Me and my friend who refinish and repaint furniture were here laughing because we had two crazy instruments here. I can not tell you what the hell we thought it was. Every thing from sexual aids to artifacts from King Tut's tomb. She blew on it the two instruments I mean and a pound or two of dust came out. We laughed so hard as she thought it was worth thusands and your web site said $50.00. She said it was from one of Tut's menstrals. As in cycles. I larghed so much! I think she meant minstrals. Even the dog got horny with it. He wanted to pump Marsha's leg! We kept looking up dulcimers on line as I thought that was what it was. Marsha kept saying the words inside are ukelin. I said it is a good thing yur not a translator. It is ukeleilei as in Tiny Tim. Rember Him? I am telling you Bob you sure did take the wind out of her sails because she all ready had it auctioning off at Christies in New York. I guess we needed to laugh. She started to play the instrument and sing "If you got the money honey I've got the time", She honestly looks like Granny on the beverly Hillbillies and is around that age and mentality. I love her she is so cute. Anyway I just had to thank you for clearing up this mystery. My original recomendation was no doubt correct. Sell it I said for $65 dollars or go pawn em'.

Thanks Bob. Sincerly, Sandy.

P.S. I am not kidding about the dog though. He is still running loose and crazy in the front room. Bye!

I actually started with a simple guitar-zither found at a yard sale, discovered Kelly Williams' wonderful site and was sucked into the entire zitheroid thing. Then I took a look at Ebay, just to see pictures of the silly things, and the next thing you know...

I've been inflicting my collection on friends and family throughout the holiday season, and I have to tell you that the Ukelin has been a HUGE hit. I really don't know why it got the reputation of being so hard to play. Pretty much anybody can pick out a tune on the thing within a few minutes. I suppose that if you insist on strumming the chords as well it gets a little harder, but I don't see the point. The really cool thing about the Ukelin is the way the chord strings sing by themselves in response to the bowed strings.

Kahn Home Bowed Zithers

Yuke practice continues to inch toward budding. We've been exploring what these things can do with fast (fiddle tune-paced) pieces, and it looks like they are very good tools for certain of such tunes. We did a little recording just on a little tiny cassette recorder, and these instruments really sound nice! It's such a big, fat, and foreign sound. As a picker buddy of mine I played the tape for commented, "How do YOU spell SUSTAIN?"

Bye for now,
Garry Harrison

What a wonderul web page! I am a newbie to strings, a long time recorder player, Only have two psaltries and three ukelins. Have tuned my best ukelin and hope to play Rock of Ages soon {I'm only 79}

Ralph Flinchbaugh

I'm Koo-Koo for Ukelins!


Holy moly, Bob...if you keep this up the ukelin will get all famous, and people who long since ran out of bagpipe jokes will have a fresh lamb for the slaughter.


I guess someone had to do it . . .:-)


I was "sent" to live with relatives at the age of 15 because I thought I was too much of an adult to be "controlled" by adults. In a similar "On Golden Pond" story, I ended up at my cousin's great grandfather's house so he could "tame me" for the summer. Somehow, during our conversations, he learned that I played several instruments and could read music.

One afternoon, after a typical morning of my testing the adult species, Grampa Lars took me by the hand and lead me to a back room of the house. He said "Here, you think you're so smart, practice with this (his ukelin - he called it a zither) and don't come down stairs until you've learned to play Amazing Grace". He closed the door, went down stairs and waited.

SIX HOURS later I proudly came down, played the song and was greeted with slaps on the back and a big hug... we spent the rest of the summer learning to play the rest of the songs in his hymnal.

I forgot to mention that the summer at Grampa Lars was 30 yrs ago...

My mom had one for awhile when we were little and I used to tell ghost stories to my kid brothers while twanging away on the ukelin/zither. Just thinking about those days makes me smile... thanks for the jolt bringing me down memory lane..... Have a great evening!


I own a ukelin which I got from a friend by trade. He liked a piece of wood I had that had been the decorative back piece of a dresser, placed so it kept things from falling off the top behind the dresser. He offered to trade when I ogled the ukelin. DONE! I said. I have only performed on it once with a friend who owns a much smaller ukelin. For an audience of about 100 we did that theme from the old Masterpiece Theater TV show and Row, Row, Row Your Boat.


If you play a Marxophone or any of the other "Marx-" instruments, can you then consider yourself a "Marxist"?

Jeremy C. Feldman

Just an observation for now - As a Ukulele player and recent purchaser of a Marxochime violin-uke or ukelin, I want to comment that the ukelin lacks all essential elements of the ukulele. I think the lack of frets on the ukelin is fatal to any claim it may have as a relative of the uke. In fact, I'm considering installing frets on my ukelin together with elbow operated tuning levers like the foot pedals on a concert harp. That way I will have a fully chromatic instrument easily playable by two people at once!

George Roberts

Collectibles colmunist Harry Rinker of Lehigh Valley, Pa. and I are working on a fun project. We are trying to accumulate, at little expense, the ten worst musical instruments ever invented. The Ukelin is undoubtedly #1.

Mike Longworth

Hi Bob,
You have done a truly wonderful thing and my mind set regarding the ukelin has altered substantially.

David C. Hurd aka Kawika


Thanks for directing me to photos of an instrument that i did not know existed! You got any recordings of that thing?!?

Now get out there and UKE!

Mark Scott


Dear Bob,

Thank you for the information about the ukelin. We have one in my family, though it is in a very deteriorated condition. It was given to my mother and her twin sister (my aunt) when they where 12 years old [in 1930]. They are 80 this year. I am pleased my cousin Erlene has it now and told us of your Web page. My mother played it some in her youth, but my generation does not remember ever hearing it played.

I visited my mother yesterday and quizzed her like a "detective" giving her no information to lead her memory. It was fascinating!

She remembered a salesman coming by the upholstery shop her parents owned. She and her twin sister wanted a ukelin in the worst way. They had saved money from picking tomatoes in Westminster. She couldn't remember if they had saved $17.50 or if that was the price and perhaps Grandpa had added some to their savings. I told her AFTER she said $17.50 what we had read on your Web page and believe that must have been the purchase price.

She remembered the many, many hours she spent playing the ukelin. She told of the "numbered" music. They were fortunate to receive about 50 pieces of music. She told of using the "short" bow with her right hand and of chording with her left hand. She said that is where she learned about chords and was later able to use the chording background in playing the piano. It is nice to know not all Ukelins sold were a waist of money. This one was well used and the basis for even further enjoyment in playing the piano.

Thank you,

Mother also remembered there being a "wire music rack" that attached to the bowing end of the ukelin through a hole in the ukelin.

My wife found your page and showed me. Her grandmother has an old ukelin in good shape and I hope to persuade her to give it to me if I can convince her that it isn't a priceless rarity.

You have a great page. A little humor with a lot of well organized information. Unfortunately i think it will be under appreciated by the masses. But some of us who do appreciate the unusual and interesting (and who are largely misunderstood) applaud your efforts.


I acquired my Ukelin from children of a friend who had died, she had one and they didn't know what it was so were going to give it to their kids as a toy. I thought that whatever it was, it deserved more than little kids beating each other over the head with it. So, I bought it for $ 5.00.


My piece came as a gift in 1962, while I was still in New Orleans. It was purchased in a pawn shop in Denver. I was a music major at LSU then, and tried hard to find out something about the thing. One old salesman at a local music store claimed to remember them, but could offer no details. The label was legible inside then, and I sent a letter of inquiry to (? can't remember who) in Philadelphia. They curtly responded that they were publishers and not instrument manufacturers. No one at the LSU music school had any idea (or interest) in it, but I did find one in the attic of the building. Otherwise, I've lost the bow years ago, and it just sits in a corner looking pretty.


The only information I have [on the tremoloa] came from an old timer who told me the instrument was used in gold camps in the 1930's in Colorado. It has sixteen strings on the left side and five strings on the right side (which are missing), an arm the moves across the instrument.

Jim Valenta


Thanks for your comments on my Cliff Edwards website. I visited your ukelin site and found it to be very comprehensive and informative. I was not aware of this unique musical instrument. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I will be on the lookout for it.

Do you know anything about the tenortrope mentioned on my website? I am trying to find out about its availability, value, and popularity (if any).

Thanks again,
David Garrick

Visit my Cliff Edwards website at

Hi. I was amazed to hear that there is a real ukelin web site. You've done a great job on your web design and content. My wife (who can actually play the thing) and I enjoyed reading through your pages. Keep up the good work.

Ron "Coog" Cook

This is SO great! Lovely site. I'm happy!
I used to have a Ukelin- lost to the sands of time now.
My friend Steve Gould, the paleontologist, has a ukelin...
My marxophone is a big one-of-a-kind chromatic one.
Hmmm... maybe I SHOULD get a ukelin again...
Well, thanks for the truly wonderful web site.
Completely delightful!

All the best,
Jaron Lanier
Jaron's Home Page

Around 1930, when I was about 13 years old, I saw one of these instruments in the window of a pawn shop in Beaumont, Texas. The proprietor came out and said "Aren't you Judge Duffie's grandson?" when I said I was, he asked if I wanted the instrument, and gave it to me, complete with its price tag of $2.00.

I played one on the Original Major Bowes Amateur Hour (radio) in 1937, playing "La Paloma." The company that made them was still in existence at that time, and, saying that I was the first person to play one on a coast-to-coast broadcast, they sent me a nice new one. I later tuned it with minor chords and a special "Gypsy" tuning of the treble strings, and played "O Tchitchornya." No matter what I played, it sounded like hell. Still does!

Sam Hinton
La Jolla, CA

There was one, an old one, hanging in a barbecue joint near Houston about 5 years ago. I suspect that it is still there. I thought it was a joke, so I asked the owner and he said that it was a real instrument, but he didn't know the name. It had been in the store when he bought it (the store) as I remember his story.

Donald Carron
clan MacDonnell of Glengarry

Looks great. Very impressive.
Very interesting also.





home | history | playing | strings | songbook | buy/sell | discography | interviews | mailbag | myspace

Ukelin photo in upper left courtesy of Ulf Skogsbergh. http://www.ulf-photo.com

The information presented on this site represents my exhaustive search for ukelin information If you have anything to add to this site, or if you find any information in this site to be in error, please notify me at ukelins@hotmail.com