You could easily learn to play without knowing the parts of an ‘ukulele. However, once you start getting into setups or shopping for different instruments, it’s important to know what the different parts of the ‘ukulele are called and used for.
Back – The piece of wood that forms the back of the body. Often the back is “bookmatched” – cut symmetrical so that a piece of wood lays open like butterfly wings to display matching grain patterns.
Body – The wooden box including the back, top, and sides that makes up the main part of the ‘ukulele. These pieces of wood work together to project the sound out of the instrument. (also: soundbox)
Bout – Usually of the “upper” or “lower” variety. This is the curve of the side. The upper bout is where you rest your arm. The lower bout is where you’d put a cutaway.
Bracing – Thin strips of wood that are glued to the underside of the sound board and the back. They help strengthen the ‘ukulele and keep the top from warping under the pressure of the strings. (Internal.)
Bridge – The bridge holds the strings onto the top and transfers string vibration to the ‘ukulele’s body. It’s glued on and put under lots of tension making it the most common failure-point of an instrument. Usually a simple fix.
Cutaway – (not shown) Part of the body is “cut away” on the ground-side of the fretboard to let players access the higher frets easier.
Fretboard – The fretboard is the piece of wood glued onto the top of the neck that holds the frets in place. It’s usually made from ebony or rosewood to contrast the body.
Fret dots/markers – Little markers on the fretboard that are made out of plastic, abalone, or other materials and give you an idea of where you are at when you are playing. Usually markers go on the 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th frets. Sometimes they are placed on the side of the neck so you don’t have to look over at the fretboard.
Frets – Little strips of metal that are placed in slots on the fretboard. When you finger a note the fret makes the vibrating length of the string shorter so that the pitch is raised up a certain amount.
Headstock – The end of the neck that holds the machine heads in place. You usually find the brand logo on the headstock.
Heel – The deepest part of the neck where it joins the body. The heel usually curves out from the normal path of the neck to end flush with the back of the instrument. (Not shown.)
Kerfing – Thin bands of wood that help bind the sides to the top and back. They are often cut at small intervals to allow the wood to bend easier. This gives a piece of kerfing a sawtooth look.
Label – The label is located inside the soundhole and shows info about maker, model, date, serial number, etc.
Machine Heads – Holds and controls the pitch of each string. A knob turns to control the note the string is tuned to. (also: tuning peg, tuning key, peghead, tuner)
Neck – The neck of the ‘ukulele is the piece of wood that suspends the headstock, tuners, fretboard, and frets in a manner that allows the players’ hand to go around it and fret notes on the strings.
Nut – The nut holds the ‘ukulele’s strings in their correct positions on the headstock-side of the fretboard.
Pickup Jack – located on the bottom (not shown), this is where you would plug in an instrument cable to amplify the ‘ukulele. It often doubles as a strap button.
Rosette – The fancy inlay around the soundhole.
Sides – The pieces of wood that make up the sides of the ‘ukulele’s body.
Soundboard – The soundboard is the top of the ‘ukulele’s body. It holds the bridge and has a hole cut in it to allow the sound vibrations out. (also: top)
Sound Hole – The sound hole is an opening in the ‘ukulele’s soundboard that lets vibrations in the body out into sound.
Sound Port – A new-age sound hole that is put on the upper bout of the ‘ukulele near the player’s face to allow for better monitoring and create a less “trapped” sound.
Strap Button – This is used to fasten a strap to the ‘ukulele. One goes on the heel of the neck and one goes on the opposite side of the body where it can be mounted on the tailblock.
Strings – The strings are the ‘ukulele’s source of sound, they vibrate at various pitches when picked or strummed.
Saddle – The saddle sits on top of the bridge and holds the strings above the fretboard.