Ukulele relatives and variations are instruments that either have different forms or numbers of strings than the standard 4-string Ukuleles, or are similar to Ukuleles in some ways.

This post gives you a quick and brief overview of the instruments, the Ukulele relatives and variations. You will also find links in the text to more information.

The post starts with instruments with 3 strings, and end up with the ones with 8 and even more strings.

So, the post will be about 3-strings Ukulele, Lap Steel Ukulele, Banjolele, Cavaquinho/Braguinha/Machete/ Minhoto, Timple, Rajão, 5-strings Ukulele, Guitalele, 6-strings Ukulele, 8-strings Ukulele, Taropach, Harp Ukulele and Twin-neck Ukulele.

On the other hand, if you want to read about the regular 4 strings Ukulele, you can read the post Ukulele types. (Go to the link!) In addition to the normal sizes, some manufacturers also make variants of the standard types with longer necks, just so you know 🙂

First of all it must be said that most of the information in this post comes from Wikipedia, Live Ukulele, Electric Ukulele Review, Git hub, YouTube and suppliers, therefore there are links to more information on their sites where we have found the information, as mentioned. There are also some ads from Amazon.

3-string instruments

You can find 3-string instruments in different musical traditions, such as balalaikashamisen and sanxian. These instruments have a long neck and a distinctive body shape that can be triangular, rectangular or oval. A plectrum or fingers are used to play them, depending on the musical tradition. Another kind of 3-string instrument is the cigar box guitar, which uses a cigar box as a resonator. It is different from the ukulele, a four-stringed lute that originated in Hawaii. The size of the instrument is not the only factor that affects its suitability for children. Other aspects, such as the string tension, the fret spacing, the playing technique and the musical style, may also influence the difficulty of playing. For example, the shamisen requires a high level of skill and practice to master.

Some 3-string instruments have smaller sizes that resemble ukuleles. Examples: Donner 3-string guitar and Loog mini guitar. (The instrument in the video is a Loog.) #Ad Amazon!


Loog has GBE, so the transition to guitar shall be easier.

Another suggestion is: C4-G4-A4 – A simpler 3-string tuning for Ukulele. Play 25% of songs – with only two fingers!

There is also one that is called no G three string ukulele. Normally tuned, but without the G string.

Balalaika is another instrument in this category that can be a 3-strings tuned EEA, or 6-strings with 3 courses, but this is not directly related to Ukulele. The Balalaikas are tuned according to the size, but most of them are tuned EEA

Lap Steel Ukulele

Lap steel ukulele is not only a method of playing the ukulele, but also a type of ukulele. This kind of instrument is not very old. The strings are raised above the neck all the way, and the frets are just guides for the player, who uses a slide instead of pressing down the strings on the neck.

Wikipedia sorts the lap steel Ukuleles into three main types:

Lap slide and resonator ukuleles may also be fitted with pickups, but do not depend on electrical amplification to produce their sound.

The tuning can be as a normal Ukulele or FCFA as in the video at the link.

Lap steel ukulele Mya-Moe: Aaron Keim Artist Page
Mya-Moe: Aaron Keim Artist Page

The Lap Steel Ukuleles are produced in different sizes and shapes. Here is another type:


Banjolele, also known as banjo ukulele, ukulele banjo or banjo uke, is a type of ukulele with a banjo-type body. It can have 4, 5 or 6 strings, but the most common is 4 strings tuned like a regular ukulele. This is an instrument with a Banjo body and Ukulele neck, so you can call it a true hybrid. The first was first made in 1917, and was most popular in the 1920s and 1930s. For more information, click here. If you want to buy one or just look at the prices, follow this link: (#Ad)

The banjolele is usually tuned G–C–E–A (“C Tuning”) or A–D–F♯–B (“D Tuning”), like a normal ukulele.


#Ad Amazon Banjo Ukulele

The Ukulele relatives – Cavaquinho/Braguinha/Machete/ Minhoto

This group of instruments has 4 strings and belongs to the traditional music and culture of different regions. They are very similar to each other and to the ukulele in shape and size, as well as they are ukulele relatives and ancestors. In fact, the ukulele was modeled after the Braguinha. Read the ukulele history on the link. Read the Ukulele history on the link.

Two cavquinhos Minho cavaquinho at left; Brazilian cavaquinho at right. Foto TenIslands
Two cavquinhos. Minho cavaquinho at left and Brazilian cavaquinho at right.

Machete from Madeira with steel strings, and a model for the Ukulele.

Braguinha is another version of the Machete, and considered as the direct forefather to the Ukulele.

Minhoto from the Minho region in Portugal

Cavaquinho is from Portugal and Madeira.  Venezuelan concert cuatro is about the same, but the Brazilian version of Cavaquinho is, in fact, a bit bigger with a smaller version called Cavaco.


Normal tuning in Portugal: C G A D

Brazil: D G B D

Other tunings:

  • D A B E – Portuguese ancient tuning, made popular by Júlio Pereira
  • G G B D
  • A A C E
  • D G B E – used for solo parts in Brazil
  • G D A E – mandolin tuning
  • G C E A – ‘cavacolele’ tuning, the same as the soprano/tenor Ukulele
  • D G B E – the same as the highest four strings in standard guitar tuning and for Baritone Ukulele.

Read more Wikipedia: Link


The Timple is a 5 strings traditional instrument from the Spanish Canary Islands outside Afrika, from the 19th century. So, this is an Ukulele relative from Spain, and not from Portugal.

Timple from Gran Canary

On two of the Canary Islands, La Palma and in the north of Tenerife, they took away the fifth string and played them as a four-stringed Ukulele. Some says that it originally had just four stings.

GCEAD is the normal tuning of a Timpel.

Rajão – an ukulele relative

The Rajão is a 5-string instrument from the island of Madeira/Portugal, and one of the Ukulele relatives. You can also find them with 6 strings. The Rajão is also one of the instruments that was brought to Hawaii by the immigrants from Madeira, and inspired the development of the Ukulele.

The rajão is tuned to D4-G4-C4-E4-A4, but the 6 strings versions have the tuning D4-G4-C4-E4-A4-A4.

Rajao Ukulele relatives Foto:By MatthewVanitas - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Rajão from Madeira and Portugal

So, then we leave the Ukulele relatives, and continue with the Ukulele variations.

5-strings Ukulele

This is a Ukulele with double up of G strings, the fourth course have two strings. A low and a high together. gG C E A

(A course with two strings has two string put close to each other, and plays as one. Read more about courses at Ukulele Types.)

5 string ukulele Foto Got A Ukulele
5 string ukulele Foto Got A Ukulele


Guitalele is also called Guilele, Ukitar, Kīkū or Ukulele Guitar. It is a small guitar “a 1/4size”. About the same size as the larger ukuleles. This is a perfect guitar for traveling due to its size.

The tuning are ADGCEA, like the tuning of the requinto guitar. It is played as a guitar transposed to A.

If you are interested, this guy has several videos about guitalele on YouTube.

6-string Ukulele

The 6-stings Ukulele must not be compared with the Guitalele, because this is a “normal” Ukulele but with 6 string.

A Guitalele is actually a small 6-string guitar, and a 6-string Ukulele is a Ukulele with double up on two of the strings. A four-course instrument where two of the courses have two strings. They can be tuned like this: g cC E Aa, or without the variation with low and high strings mostly for A.

The size is often like a Tenor.

8-stings Ukulele

8-strings Ukuleles are Ukuleles with double up of strings. Two of each. Four courses of two strings.

Most common tuned like this: gG cC EE AA (High and low G and C) Link

The size is like a Tenor or a Baritone. (#Ad) ( 8-string from Amazon on the link.)

Follow the link to Live Ukulele for information about tuning 5, 6 and 8-strings Ukuleles.


Another special ukulele is the Taropatch Ukulele, an eight-string instrument set in four courses of two strings each, which came out in 1916. The size is like a concert ukulele.

(Electric ukulele description of Tarapach))

Tahitian Ukulele

The Tahitian Ukulele, also called Polynesian Ukulele or Tahitian Banjo,  is a relatively recent invention. They are popular in Tahiti and eastern Polynesia (French Polynesia), Cook Islands and in the Marquesas Islands. It is 8 strings (fishing line) in four courses, tuned GCEA. (C and A are tuned one octave higher than a normal ukulele.)  

Builder and photo Rob Porras
Tahitian ukulele

The difference between Tahitian ukulele and other ukuleles is that it does not have a hollow soundbox. The body, the head and the neck is usually carved from a single piece of wood. It also have a wide conical hole bored through the middle. Alternatively they can be of three (or more) pieces of wood with the sides being made from different woods, for decoration.

The hole through the body is about 4 cm in diameter on the back and at the front it is about 10 cm in diameter. This hole is topped with a thin piece of wood, on which the bridge sits. In this way it is rather like a banjo with a wood-top.


In a way, the mandolin is somewhat similar to an eight-string ukulele, but it’s not a Ukulele. Mandolins normally have eight strings in four courses. The big difference is that there are steel strings, and the mandolin is tuned differently. GDAE. It is completely unlike any ukulele. The steel strings produce more sound than the ukulele’s nylon strings, and since there are steel strings, the mandolin is played with plectrums.

There are two main types of mandolins. Either with a round bottom (classic mandolin or Neapolitan mandolin), or with a flat bottom. They are designed after the larger mandola of the early 17th century.
In terms of price, a mandolin is usually more expensive than a ukulele.

You can see pictures at Amazon on the link: #Ad

Harp Ukulele

This Ukulele can be with 4 + 2 strings, or 4 + 4 bass strings. The first versions came in the 1910s.

Harp Ukulele by Wailua Instruments
Harp Ukulele by Wailua Instruments

Or this aNueNue Harp Ukulele III E

aNueNue Harp Ukulele III E
aNueNue Harp Ukulele III E

Or this with 8 from Emerald Guitars:

Read more at Wikipedia at the link.

There are two types of harp ukulele according to Wikipedia:

  • an ukulele with unfretted strings extending from the body, essentially forming a miniature harp guitar. (Not so common?) 
  • an ukulele with an “arm” extending from the upper part like them on the pictures over.

A very special combination is this from Blueberry GUITHARPULELE, that is a combined harp, guitar and Ukulele, with 2 necks and one arm.


Twin neck Ukulele

Twin neck, or double neck, is a type of ukulele that is actually two ukuleles that come together as one with two necks. This one in the picture is an 8-string and a 4-string together.

The necks can be parallel or with an angle between them, as it is in the picture.

Ortega Hydra Twin-neck Tenor ukulele

Furthermore, other combinations can be a Bass Ukulele and a four-string Tenor Ukulele, or two four-string Ukuleles. (The last link explains the advantage of this constellation.) It can be electric or acoustic and also be a combination of a ukulele and a guitar.

Other different handmade Ukuleles

Bass guitar ukulele Foto Uke hunt
Foto: Uke hunt

Finally, Basic Ukulele hope by this post you are a little more enlightened about the Ukulele relatives and different instruments that you can find around our dear normal Ukulele. As said before, follow the links for more information.

Other instruments that are a bit like Ukulele.

This is a Pipa. A Chinese four-string instrument with steel strings tuned AEDA. It can be dated back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC).

A slightly larger instrument that you can see in the subsequent videos with a round body is called the Yueqin.

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Finally, Basic Ukulele was founded in 2015 with the aim of making it easier for anyone who wants to learn or find out more about this wonderful instrument.

Yes, we love the Ukulele! 


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