The ukelin is essentially a bowed psaltery with chords. A play-by-number instrument, it was sold door-to-door. It has 16 open bowed strings, played along the sides of the instrument, plus four open chords for strumming, for a total of 32 strings. The bowed strings, when tuned as designed, provide 2 major octaves plus one whole step above. Because each note has its own open bowed string, the notes hang in the air, overlap, and set up sympathetic resonance. Although the ukelin been dissed on the Antiques Roadshow and in other circles, it has potential in the right hands!

It was patented in the 1920s and manufactured in Hoboken, NJ, just a block away from the address of the Marxophone producer. Similar instruments, like Neuber’s violin-zither (also in my collection), were also being made in the 1920s in Germany (Indeed, some are still made there today). Other related American variants included the violin-guitar, Hawaiian art violin, pianolin, Marxolin, and more.

ukelin seated vertical cropped


Here I play the ukelin to accompany the traditional Maine woods song The Lumberman’s Alphabet.

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