The month of October is nearing it’s close and if you live in the United States you know how much we love Halloween. My last couple posts have been about the spookiest time of the year, like how you can ‘Frankenstein’ an ukulele to learning to play catchy Halloween themes. But for this post I’m gonna switch gears as there is another huge event we celebrate all month long that I don’t want to miss. This being ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’. So if you’ve seen the flood of professional athletes wearing pink socks, and just pink ribbons everywhere, you now know what they are supporting. When I think about breast cancer awareness I think of the ladies in my life. My mom, wife, and soon to be born daughter (January 8, 2021). Then there are the many friends and family members that have had their lives changed by this disease. Whether they have fought the fight, or have lost someone to this horrible disease. This is why we at Leolani are donating parts of the proceeds from all our online sales to the BCRF, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, in the month of October. The BCRF is valiantly fighting the fight to find a cure for breast cancer. So for this post I wanted to spread joy by highlighting some of the ladies of ukulele. These women sure can jam on the ukulele. I can’t even hold a candle to them! Here we GO! Honoka and Azita Better known as Honoka and Azita, Honoka Katayama and Azita Ganjali stole the hearts of ukulele community and the world. They met each of other while learning the ukulele at Ukulele Studio in Honolulu under the tutelage of ukulele sensei Jody Kamisato. They became friends and realized that their skills complemented each other. When I say these ladies sure put on a show, that is a huge understatement! From their quick picking to their advanced strumming, these ladies will leave you smiling. And that‘s apart of their appeal, their magnetic smiles! Oh, and if you didn’t know—— they can sing as well. As of 2019, Honoka has moved on as a solo artist blazing a new path while Azita is currently pursuing her degree in medicine. But I’m not gonna lie if I said I’m already excited for their reunion and return! Maia Mayeshiro Maia Mayeshiro is a bright up and comer. I had the pleasure of getting to know her when she worked at the famous ukulele company KoAloha! She is sweet and full of positivity. But don’t let that give you the impression that she’s all sunshine and rainbows. Put a ukulele in her hand and the storm clouds roll in. Her playing is electric to watch! Maia found her inspiration to play the ukulele from her older brother TJ. Him too being an exceptional ukulele artist. A family that jams together stays together! Maia is not only known for her playing but also for her beauty having entered and winning beauty pageants. Try and guess what her talent was during the talent segment of the contest. Check her talent out here! Brittni Paiva Brittni Paiva has been enthralling audiences for almost 20 years. She started playing the ukulele at 11 years old and cut albums shortly after. It all started when her grandfather bought her an ukulele. Being classically trained on the piano since she was 4, Brittni transferred her passion to the ukulele and the rest is history! She’s even played on stage with legends Carlos Santa and Tommy Emmanuel. Brittni’s level of musical knowledge makes her an incredible artist to watch and listen to. Every note and strum being methodically chosen to make you feel the music! Bravo! numerous other awards and nominations throughout the years, Taimane Gardner Read my post on my current top 10 ukulele players and you will know what I feel about Taimane. An artist to the core of her being. Strong, feminine, and supremely talented! Taimane has been playing the ukulele since she was could ride a tricycle. Her name means ’diamond’ in Samoan and she truly is a diamond the rough. She plays many genres and lives her art. Karlie G Another amazing artist in my top 10 post! I‘m a huge fan of Karlie Goya and can‘t wait to see what she puts out into the universe. By the age of 18, she already has won numerous awards and competitions. She is not only a gifted ukulele player, but an amazing singer, songwriter, and producer! Grace Vanderwaal Grace Vanderwaal! The 16 year old phenom who stole the hearts of America on AGT. I mean she won the whole SHEbang! Hyper talented. She picked up the ukulele at young age (she’s still young) and secretly honed her craft posting videos of her original songs and covers on YouTube and performing at open mics. Then she entered the AGT at just 12 years old. Just her, her talent, and her ukulele. Thanks to Grace, the ukulele resurged amongst the younger generation, becoming the gateway instrument for a new generation. Thank you ladies for your incredible talent! I hope you all enjoyed this post showcasing some of the best ukulele players in the game. Let’s not forget to stand together and fight the good fight of ending breast cancer. Support the BCRF and love on the ladies in your life! Keep jamming and aloha!
It’s two weeks out till Halloween and the festivities are already in full swing. I try to fill the month with spooky Halloween movies. The main ones on the list are the original Ghostbusters 1 & 2 (even the 2016 reboot is a guilty pleasure), Casper, Hocus Pocus, Sleepy Hallow, The Addams Family 1 & 2, The Nightmare Before Christmas (is it a Halloween or Christmas movie, the debate at my house continues), and The Ring. I know, I know——all but one of these movies (The Ring) are not that scary but more family friendly. Well what can I say, I’m a dad of three young kids and I don’t want to stay up all night putting them to sleep, or worst yet, them sleeping in our bed. But I do like the really scary stuff too. I try to see if they can keep me up at night. Usually no, but they sure are fun to watch. Last year we watched The Hill House series on Netflix and it was great! Season 2 is out now and my wife and I just started watching. So far it’s good! Now we all know that the visuals of ghosts, demons, monsters, and knife wielding psychos give us the creeps. But I would wager that the score and soundtracks to these movies and tv shows are just as creepy. We are either covering our eyes, or plugging our ears to lessen the scares. I confess, I’m guilty of doing both of these things even though I try to hide it...haha! Many of these songs have become iconic over time and have become of anthems of Halloween. Below I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite “Halloweenie” songs that you can learn on the ukulele. If you are not easily frightened, have a go at some of them! Muahahahahaha! Stranger Things Theme Seeing Will Byers vanish in the shed during the opening of the first episode got me hooked. It was nostalgically perfect and hella creepy at the same time. Then the opening credits role and my oh my did I fall into a trance! That rhythmic 80‘s synth pulsed through my soul, teasing me of what was to come. By the end of the season the theme of Stranger Things became a character in the show. Now when you hear the first few seconds of this theme, your hairs of the back of your head begin to rise, and then you begin to wonder... am I in the Upside Down?!? Learn this pulse pounding theme below! Halloween Theme Believe or not I‘ve seen these movies a kid..... at my next door neighbors house. There were many famous slasher psychos in movies- Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and Jason. But it was Michael Myers who gave me heebie-jeebies! He just walked and stalked. No running, never even turning his neck! Haha! This theme song is iconic to it’s core. Almost sounds like a frantic beating heart. So good! Learn it below. Its not for the faint of heart... 🖤 The Addams Family Theme Okay so I just watched the new animated version with the kiddos last week. It made me want a live action reboot. Oscar Isaacs as Gomez and Anne Hathaway as Morticia Addams? I think it would be awesome! This theme song needs no introduction, you just need to know how to snap your fingers. I have two version below. One for beginners, and one that will have your friends impressed! Fun version: Lurch version: GhostBusters Theme I am literally watching this movie as I’m writing this. Classic Rick Moranis! This song is so dang catchy. We’ve all sang the “daaaanah, daaaanah, daaaanah, daaaanah, dan-dah-da-nuh-nah” part of the song! I just gotta say thank you Ray Parker Jr. You wrote one of the best theme songs in the world! Didn’t I mention this song will get stuck in your head. Sorry! Learn this classic theme below, and be sure to watch the movies! ZUUL! The Exorcist Theme You all knew this was coming! The theme for The Exorcist has been giving people nightmares for years. Even when I listen to this in the dark I get spooked! When this movie came out, people where leaving the theaters in droves. It was the most shocking movie in it’s time. Not only was this movie scary, but eerie things happened on set. I mean when you read the title, go figure! The tubular bells add a sense of dread as they are instruments usually played in cathedrals. But played in this melody they become a tune of the devil! Follow along with Matt Dahlberg if your up for a challenge. You may need to call a priest afterwards. “The power of Christ compels you!” Hopefully learning these songs add a little more fright to your Halloween season! I can’t wait to dress up and walk the streets (socially distanced of course 😉) ‘trick or treating’ with the kiddos. I‘m sure I‘ll be humming these tunes as I stroll along. Keep jamming and aloha!
Yes you read that right. Seven ways to Frankenstein the ukulele! MWAHAHA!!! “We are fashioned creatures, but half made up.” – Frankenstein As we are moving through the month of October, I wanted stick with the subject of Halloween and share with you 7 unique and interesting ways one can Frankenstein, or customize an ukulele. Some of these ways are pretty common but others are ’stranger things’. And if you have the courage, maybe you can have some of these features built into your next ukulele. Let the haunt.... I mean hunt.... begin! 1. Slotted Headstock One defining feature of the Frankenstein monster is his oversized, flat topped, nail punctured neck. Just one look at this creature’s head and you need no introduction. This feature on an ukulele is the slotted headstock. Taken from the stylings of the classical guitar, ukulele have been modified with this design for over 50 years. It is beefier in size, the strings are wound on ‘string rollers’, two gapping holes, with the tuning pegs sticking out the sides. A slotted headstock on an ukulele adds class and sophistication to the instrument. Some owners even have custom tuners such as Alessi and Rodger’s hand made for them. These tuners run up to $500 and over! If your looking to having an ukulele with a slotted headstock, your looking at a $250+ upgrade. If you ask me, its totally worth it! 2. Scalloped Nut and Saddle One of my favorite dishes in the world is sautéed scallops! Seared in a piping hot pan, olive oil, sea salt, and finished in brown butter. Hmmmmmm! Sorry if your drooling on your phone or keyboard... haha! This makes me think of the creature from the Black Lagoon. With all the oval shaped scales plating it‘s fish-like body. Maybe the creature can fetch some sea scallops out of the lagoon for us? This scallop motif brings us to our customized feature of scalloped ukulele nuts and saddles. Check it out! Even the overall design continues it’s ocean motif as it resembles a wave pattern. This bizarre customization is not only aesthetically pleasing but functional as well. Typically seen on guitars, scalloping the nut and saddle increases the bass. Don’t do this if you want more treble from your ukulele. This design got it’s name from resembling the shell structure of a sea scallop. This customization doesn’t end here, but they scallop frets as well. Google it! 3. Fanned Frets One of the easiest Halloween costumes to create requires only toilet paper. If you‘ve already guessed it, it is none other than The Mummy! Though this costume of wrapped toilet paper is easy to make, creating and fitting fanned frets on your ukulele is huge nightmare! Fanned frets, or multi-scale ukulele, place the frets on a calculated angle. This angle has to be perfectly precise in order for the ukulele to stay in tune. But doing this gives each string a different scale length. Fanned frets give ukulele a longer scale length on the lower strings and a shorter scale length on the higher strings. When done correctly, the layout of the frets look like mummy wrappings. Whether you're playing straight-fret or fanned, both have the same capabilities as far as tunings are concerned. On the higher frets in particular you may find that playing intricate solos is far easier on a fanned fretboard compared to straight simply your because your hand is more comfortable when playing on them. 4. Florentine Cutaway Its a full moon night and theres a mist rolling in. A ear splitting howl rings through the trees. Screams are head at nearby cabin. What fate has fallen on these innocent weekend glampers? No ones knows. All that was left in the morning was a clawed up Range Rover. Of course you figured it out at ’full moon’. It’s the savage on the list, The Wolfman! The CUTaway, like the slotted headstock, has been around along time. There are two main types of cutaways, the Venetian and the Florentine. In this particular post we will be focusing on the the Florentine style because it has a passing resemblance to a werewolf claw. That point it sharp! Cutaways are great since they allow for greater access to the higher frets on the fingerboard. If you love to shred on the upper frets, you gotta get this feature on your ukulele. AAAAAHHHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! 5. Armrest Bevel A newer innovation to ukulele has been the armrest bevel. The purpose of the bevel is to make playing the ukulele more comfortable. This is done through smoothing out the corners of the ukulele body where your forearm falls on the top corner. When executed properly, it is a thing of beauty. It makes the top corner of the ukulele disappear. The corner edge should be there..... but it isn’t! Using the bevel will eliminate forearm numbness. This invisible edge really doesn’t affect the sound so it is an awesome edition on any ukulele. There are two main types of arm bevels. The traditional Laskin, or the modernized Ryan. On a ukulele I prefer the Laskin, but on a guitar I gotta go with a Ryan. Feeling the difference is really noticeable. Now if only The Invisible Man wasn’t messing around with my post! Sheesh! Hehehehehe! 6. Sound Ports One of the strangest of all the monsters is London born Dr. Jekyll. Or better known by his other half...... Mr. Hyde. This mild mannered scientist who turns into a hulking murderer when not taking his medicine best exemplifies the ukulele sound port. Indeed, sometimes two are better than one. Or better yet, two in one! And this brings us to our next customized feature, sound ports. Since the beginning of the modern lutherie, guitar and ukulele were built with one “sound port”, or sound hole. Normally centered on the top of the soundboard. Recently though, the adding of a second sound port quickly gained momentum throughout the ukulele community making it an established new feature. A sound port is an added hole, or ”air pump”, on the side of the ukulele. It can be put in the upper or lower bout of the ukulele. Sometimes in both! They act as a personal monitor for the player. This allows them to hear the beauty of their own instruments. And you know what? It definitely works! There is a huge difference in volume and projection. Just like Mr. Hyde, pushing to be heard and experienced! 7. Cantilevered Fingerboard Now this list wouldn’t be complete if I didn‘t add the biggest baddie of them all. Can you guess who I’m talking about? It is none other than the Count of Transylvania.... Dracula! The last custom feature on this list is the cantilevered fingerboard, or the “floating neck”. If you already made the connection, bravo! Floating......NECK. Ouch! The cantilevered neck is an innovation in engineering where the tongue of the fingerboard hovers over the soundboard. Normally the tongue is glued down on traditional ukulele. Supporters of the cantilevered fingerboard believe that glueing down the fingerboard on the soundboard has a negative effect on acoustic vibration. The glued down tongue acts like a ‘break water’, breaking down sound vibration like a mound of boulders protecting ships in a harbor from large surf. In order to get around this they mounted the fingerboard over the body allowing the vibrations from the bridge to reach all the way up the soundboard. You have to see it to believe. It is so effective that many ukulele that use cantilevered fingerboards don’t even have a traditional sound hole but utilize a larger side port, ensuring maximum resonance! Wow, incredible! The cantilevered fingerboard is hands down the most monstrous customization on the ukulele! Just remember to lock these ukulele away in their coffins..... um, I mean cases! There you have it. The seven ways to Frankenstein the ukulele. Hopefully this post sparked your curiosity and inspires you to investigate further. But be warned.... you may want to hire Van Helsing so that he can protect your wallet! Keep and jamming and aloha! On second thought...... maybe not!🧛🏻
Today, as of this writing, is October 1st. The season of Fall is fully upon us! The temperature begins to cool and leaves start changing colors. The Halloween decorations are taken out of storage and pumpkin farms, pumpkin spiced lattes, and pumpkin pies are all the rage. For many, this is the start of what we here in America call “the Holiday Season”. The time where we go through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. And if your anything like me you live for this season all year round. I love Halloween. I know its a little crazy but my wife and I start decorating for Fall on September 1st! We know it’s early but time seems to be moving quicker by the year. And before you know it, there will be Christmas music playing everywhere. I’ve already seen Christmas decorations at the local Lowes and Home Depot. I’m not kidding they were up in September! And this may not be the best kept secret for people who know me personally, but as much as I love Halloween, I love Christmas way more! So here is a chance, looking ahead, to give yourself the best ukulele gift (other than a new ukulele) ever! I’m talking about getting a pickup installed on your ukulele. Sure you can get a new case, or a new set of strings. But deciding to install a pickup, thats the ultimate upgrade for any ukulele. Like an angel getting it‘s wings! Ukulele pickups are overwhelming to think about. There are different types such as UST, soundboard transducer, and internal mic. And each in either active or passive styles. Yeah, it can be confusing picking out a pickup. So I will make it easy for you and give you the my top 5 suggestions. 5. Pono Passive Pickup Now here is the caveat with this amazing pickup. You can’t just buy the pickup, you have to buy a ukulele and get it installed from The Ukulele Site (ukulelesite.com). So if your in the market to buy a new ukulele with a pickup, the team and selection at The Ukulele Site is second to none. This pickup is a very clean, with great note articulation. It’s one of the best passive pickups I’ve ever played. Accompanied with a good preamp, the Pono passive pickup will meet all your needs. Get your new uke and Pono passive pickup here! 4. K&K Aloha Twin The Aloha Twin is an internal double-sensor pickup specially designed for the ukulele. Its based on the same technology as their award-winning Pure Pickup. The K&K Aloha Twin pickup system has a strong output signal and works nicely even without a preamp. The sound of this pickup is clear and bright! This is the most affordable option on the list. Please keep in mind when playing without a preamp, the result depends somewhat on the quality and type of the amplification equipment. You will need to get this installed at a music store because you will need to drill a hole at the bottom for the jack. Get your K&K Aloha Twin pickup here! 3. Fishman Matrix Infinity The Matrix Infinity pickup and preamp system is the newest version of the flagship Matrix Series and offers a clear transparent tone, dynamic string response, and ease of installation with solderless connections. Easily accessible soundhole-mounted Volume and Tone rotary controls allow the player to make effortless adjustments. It sports a redesigned active, endpin mounted preamp! Because this pickup is active, it needs a 9-volt battery to power the preamp. You will need to get this installed at a music store because you will need to drill a hole at the bottom for the jack, fit the under saddle sensor, and mount the sound hole rotary controls. Get the Fishman Matrix Infinity ukulele pickup here! 2. Mi-Si Acoustic Trio Uke Pickup The Mi-Si Acoustic Trio Uke system features an active, battery-free preamp designed specifically to work with the L.R. Baggs ukulele pickup. Yup, you heard me right...battery free! The preamp for this system uses Mi-Si’s custom piezo linearization scheme (whew, say that 5 times fast). This scheme brings the most truthful and accurate sound from the pickup. And boy is it powerful! And the secret weapon for Mi-Si pickups is the onboard charging. All you have to do is power up for 60 seconds using the Mi-Si power charger, and now you’ve got 16 hours of performing power! 60 seconds for 16 hours of plugged in play time? Did Marty bring this pickup back from the future? Get the Mi-Si Acoustic Trio for ukulele here! 1. LR Baggs Five O This pickup is the “King“ of ukulele pickups. It’s been around for almost a decade, but still delivers the most genuine sound of the ukulele. This is important since you want your ukulele to sound like... a ukulele! What a novel though! This powerhouse active pickup is designed specifically for ukulele, sporting a convenient volume control that’s mounted right in the soundhole for easy stealth access and a teeny tiny 3V battery that provides power for a minimum of 300 hours! It’s also very compact and light weight, so it wont add a lot weight to your ukulele. You will need to get this installed at a music store because you will need to drill a hole at the bottom for the jack, the fit the under saddle sensor, and mount the volume control. Its no wonder why this pickup is the most installed ukulele pickup for pros and serious hobbyists alike. Get the LR Baggs Five O pickup here! So now for a shameless plug! Honorable Mention: Leolani G1 Stick-On Transducer Pickup If you don’t want to take your ukulele in to a store for a professional installation, you can get the plugged in experience with the Leolani G1 stick-on transducer pickup. No ukulele surgery required. It utilizes a piezo contact system that just sticks onto your ukulele soundboard. The adhesive is non abrasive so it doesn‘t mess with your ukulele finish, and is reusable so it can be used over and over again. The Leolani G1 pickup sports three onboard control knobs that control volume, bass, and treble to help you fine tune your sound. It also has quarter in cable access so you don’t have to use a mini adapter. Just plug the same quarter inch cable that you use for your amp. It also comes with a spare adhesive pad and a dust protector plug for the port. This way you can protect the electronics when you not plugging in. Comes with a compact carrying case so you can store it in your case. It’s also an affordable option! Get your Leolani G1 stick on pickup here! Can I get a little ‘Mele Kalikimaka’? I know, I know.... it’s too early. Haha! But its never too early to plan ahead. Getting your ukulele amplified could be the gift that you never knew you needed. Trust me when I say its a game changer with you have a pickup installed. It’s like your ukulele is complete. I hope you check out the 6 six mentioned above and see which one is right for you. Keep jamming and aloha!
It had to be done, my list of the current top 10 ukulele players! I spent a few days thinking this list through, writing down names, moving them around, and cutting some when I remembered other players. This list has changed through the years and these artists are my current faves. I’m not gonna lie when I say that it was tough putting this list together since there are many amazing ukulele players out there. Now this list doesn’t include social media savvy ”ukers”. So this list doesn’t include YouTubers. That list will be coming soon! And I’m sure will be a little controversial as everyone has their favorites. Let me say that this is my personal top 10 so if your gonna fire up the comment section sling your stones at me! I would love to hear who your favorites are. Also this list is not a list of singers who play the ukulele, there are many amazing singers that use the ukulele. But a my list of ukulele players, emphasis on the ukulele! Some do sing though (haha)! 10. Tobias Elof Tobias is a musical nomad. He traces his roots to Denmark, with 20+ years of performing and composing on the ukulele, and a bachelor’s degree in traditional folk music from Denmark’s prestigious folk music academy. His style is melodic and relaxing. In fact so relaxing that I can’t write this post or drive while listening or else I’d drool on my keyboard or drive off the road! I love listening to his music when I wake up in the morning and drink my coffee. I’ve personally had the pleasure of hanging out with Tobias when he was helping out at The Ukulele Site. He’s super laid back and friendly. Check out his album Settle Down. Just be sure you are not operating machinery or behind the wheel... haha! Listen as Tobias walks you through the Nordic forest here! 9. Abe Lagrimas Jr. I remember hearing Abe play live at the Winter NAMM a few years ago. He was jamming with a guitar player. What struck me was his ability to play jazz on the ukulele. He sounded like Joe Pass. My mind was blown. He was doing things on the ukulele that I’ve never seen before. Abe resides in LA and has studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He pretty much is a musical prodigy, even mastering the drums! Watch him play in this jazz circle here! Can someone bring me a cigar and a Old Fashioned? 8. Kris Fuchigami Kris is probably the nicest guy you will ever meet! Well, he is from Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, where us ”Oahuians” go to slow down and relax. This shows in Kris‘ onstage persona as he’s always in his own little world, just him and his ukulele, smiling. Sometimes his eye’s roll back as he plays and that’s my cue that he’s transported somewhere else. Kris made the list because he plays the best version ever of my favorite ukulele song, Santana’s Europa. Jake had that spot for decades until Kris came and stole it. Not to mention that he plays with his equally awesome mom behind the keys. A family that jams together, stays together! Check out Kris playing Europa here! His mom on the keyboard and his eye rolls, love it! 7. Taimane Gardner Mysterious! That‘s what comes to mind when I think about Taimane! From her double low-G ukuleles, to her wide range in musical influences, you can’t pin her down. She plays traditional Hawaiian, jazz, flamenco, pop, rock, blues.... and the list goes on. I really love her take on bossa nova! She also has an eclectic style of fashion. If anything, to me she is an ukulele goddess. I first seen her play at the Hyatt hotel back in 2009. She was a teenager and took command of the stage! I remember everyone in the audience being entranced by her playing. I remember thinking “poor ukulele” as she was shredding up and down the fretboard. I think it even started smoking at one point...haha! Watch this ukulele enchantress put a spell on you here! 6. Sarah Maisel Not many ukulele players sing. Scratch that! All ukulele players can sing....... but only a few can sing well. Haha! This is the case for the uber talented Sarah Maisel. Her voice stylings and playing ability are superb, sweeping me away to my happy place. Sarah and her husband Craig Chee have a massive presence in the ukulele community. They even sponsor an annual ukulele boat cruise where they spend a week on the water teaching and entertaining ukulele aficionado’s. She’s high on the list because of how much she gives back to the ukulele community, and her amazing jazz chops, both singing and playing. Watch Sarah take you to your happy place here! 5. Kalei Gamiao Where do I start with Kalei? Well, we are distant cousins. His grandma and mine were first cousins. I first saw him play back in 2006 at the Red Elephant in Chinatown Oahu when he was barely a teen. And as you guessed it, could shred like no other all way back then! Saying Kalei is an amazing player is an understatement. His stylings and flourishes are uniquely his. You can hear it in his own composition of “The Unknown”. He’s is a pioneer of the modern wave of the ukulele renaissance started by Jake Shimabukuro in the mid 90’s. Watch Kalei take you to the unknown here! 4. Karlie G Not gonna lie, but my first experience of Karlie was comedic! I was delivering ukulele at a local store and I saw the artwork and title of her newest album and starting laughing. Get it? She didn’t look like she was having fun to me! So I judged the book by the cover and didn’t think twice. Then one day I was perusing around YouTube and got one of her videos in my recommended section. I clicked on it and and watched in amazement as she expressed herself with a cover of Radiohead’s Creep. Her voice... mesmerizing! So deep and rich. I couldn’t believe that voice was coming out of her. Another player that can really sing! I am a FAN! Watch the video that instantly changed my mind here! 3. Feng E Dare I even say it! Can this 13 year old be the best ukulele player in the world? The more I watch, the more I tend to believe so. Feng E is simply a musical genius. He not only plays ukulele, but shreds on the guitar. This Taiwanese virtuoso is burning up the internet! You can see him on Ellen, AGT, and many more places wowing crowds with his prowess. I would have a successful musical career if I had 5% of his ukulele talent. He’s even visited Hawaii a few times and entered ukulele contests! If you haven’t seen this kid play, you must. I’ve seen him learn a new song, completely by ear, all of the parts, in just half an hour! I quit! Watch Feng E, be Feng E, here! 2. James Hill Canadian born James Hill is a legend. And for many years, even his hair was legendary. But if it were even possible, his hair cut made James ascend to Instinct (shout out to all Dragon Ball fans)! James Hill for me is like a scientist. He’s always experimenting with the ukulele. Adding percussion taps on his ukulele, as well as playing lead.... while thumping the baseline made him a one man band. It was nuts watching him do this. His approach to the ukulele always left me inspired. His ”discoveries” can be seen in other ukulele players repertoire. Even Feng E takes a page out James text book with Billie Jean! Watch the scientist at work here! 1. Jake Shimabukuro This guy really needs no introduction! Who else did you think was gonna be number one. I’m pretty sure without this guy there would be no list. I go way back with Jake. I learned of him through his band days with Pure Heart! This band played at my little Hawaiian church‘s benefit luau (the church was little but the luau would host 3,000 locals). We didn’t think much of them when they got on stage, but when they left everyone was quiet. If you know anything about a Hawaiian luau, it is never quiet. I remember people trying to pick their jaws off the ground. The singing, the percussion, and the ukulele playing was off the charts! Literally no one played the ukulele like Jake. It was crazy. Since then, this man has changed the course of the ukulele forever. But the most amazing part is that he is the most humble person. He’s played on network shows, TED and Google HQ, and for the Queen of England and Dalai Lama. He’s even been in a movie (Just Go With It), and been on countless world tours. What other ukulele player can claim that resume? Simply none. But you wouldn’t know this from him. He’s as down to earth as can be. And if you had the pleasure of meeting Jake you would know this as well. After being a fan of Jake since I was 10, I now call him friend. And whenever I meet with him, he makes me feel like I’m the special one. Sure his ukulele playing is masterful and all, but to me Jake’s character and heart supersedes it. It’s funny, he really does have a pure heart. Watch Jake the way I was introduced to him 15 years ago. Here! There it is! My current top 10 ukulele players. Whew! If you don’t see yours on the list let me know. Keep jamming and aloha!
You roll out of the car dealer’s lot. That new car smell wafting through the air. If you could bottle this smell, as well as the smell of a newborn baby, you‘d be a gazillionaire! Sadly as we know that new car smell lasts just a few weeks. Everyday getting less and less noticeable until it smells like you (or McDonalds...haha). And just as the scent of that new car smell is waning away, so is the cleanliness of both interior and exterior of your new car. So we all know that we have to wash and vacuum our cars to maintain them. Hopefully every week, but for some, at least once a year! As we have to maintain our vehicles to keep them in tip top shape, so too must we clean and maintain our ukulele—and not once a year either! Learning how to clean a ukulele is an essential skill every ukulele player should know how to do. Cleaning your ukulele is one of the most important aspects of proper ukulele maintenance other than your typical strings changes and weekly wipe downs (full gloss ukulele are major finger print magnets). Over time, with regular practice, your ukulele will naturally accumulate dust, sweat, grime, and corrosion. If not properly cleaned, your ukuleles overall performance may suffer. And if you want your ukulele to last a lifetime, then it is crucial that you clean it properly to ensure longevity. You remember seeing that old man down the street wiping and waxing his car under his garage. That car was probably at least 25 years old and still running like a dream! Your ukulele can play like a dream in 25 years with the right amount of commitment and care. How to Prepare Your Ukulele For Cleaning Before you start cleaning your ukulele, there are few things you’ll need to do in preparation. Start by choosing an area where you will work on your ukulele. Choose a well-lit area to do the “examination”. When we play and practice we are sometimes unaware of things happening to the ukulele. Corrosion on the frets, gunk build up on the fret board, and dust blanketing the on the headstock and gears. So finding a place with good lighting will help you find the areas that need the cleaning. You can choose to place the ukulele on a desk, workbench, or even your lap. When working on your ukulele it’s best to have the neck propped up at an angle at the nut. This makes it much easier to access the tuning pegs and other parts of the ukulele. It just makes the ukulele a lot easier to handle. I would also recommend resting your ukulele on a padded work mat to ensure that you don’t damage the finish. When you’re working with a ukulele, you’ll be lifting up, flipping over, and handling it a lot, so it’s important to make sure you don’t create any scuffs or scratches. And in the case you accidentally drop your ukulele, it will fall onto something soft. Ukulele dents are pretty impossible to fix, so this is important. Organize Your Workspace When cleaning the ukulele, it helps to have ample room to move and neatly organize your tools and cleaning supplies. You do not want to worry about your ukulele sliding, falling or banging into anything. So, clear your work desk or bench, clean off all the dust and gunk and then place your ukulele on the table. Arrange all other supplies right next to it. What you will need: A micro fiber towel Music Nomad’s premium ukulele care kit 0000 Super fine steel wool (for super corroded frets) Painters tape (once again for super corroded frets) Damp paper towel or vacuum. Wash your hands before handling your ukulele. Just in case you been snacking right before. Remove the strings Once you have your station and all the necessary tools and products for cleaning set up, remove the ukulele strings. Removing the strings is crucial as you do not want them to come into contact with cleaning products. It also makes cleaning your fretboard a lot easier. Here’s a pro tip: we highly recommend conducting your thorough ukulele cleans when you change your strings. How to Clean The Ukulele Fretboard The ukuleles fretboard is subjected to the most wear. A ukulele fretboard requires cleaning once or twice a year. Excessive dust and sweat build-up can cause permanent damage to your ukulele if not properly cleaned. Usually, when sweat buildup dries up, it evaporates and dehydrates the wood, leading to cracking, which can form permanent marks. After taking off the strings it’s important to use painters tape to tape of the sides of the fingerboard. You will be using oil that can stain the neck if they have a matte finish. Also you will be using steel wool so you don’t want to risk a polish to the neck as well. After you’ve masked the sides of the neck, your ready to go! First, take a small piece of 0000 super fine steel wool, about the size of dime, and gently go over the frets. This will take off any corrosion that built up over time. This will bring back the the shine and smoothness to your frets. Try and keep the passes over the frets. When your done, using a damp paper towel, or vacuum, remove the fine pieces of the steel wool. This will help clean and prep for the next step. Next we will use Music Nomad’s premium ukulele care kit. The kit comes with F-One Oil fretboard conditioner , body cleaner, and a cleaning cloth. Taking the bottle of the F-One Oil, drop a small bead of oil between each fret. Then with the cloth, you just rub the oil into the fretboard. Be sure to rub up to the frets to get complete coverage. If you get some on the frets don’t worry. It won’t damage them. When your done, remove the painters tape from the neck. Next we will clean and wipe down the body, neck, and headstock. Using Music Nomad’s body cleaner, first spray some on a separate microfiber cloth. Remember not to use the same cleaning cloth that was used to clean the fretboard, we don’t want to apply oil to the body. After you’ve sprayed the body cleaner on the micro fiber cleaning cloth, wipe down the body of the ukulele. This cleaner works great on both satin, matte, and full gloss finishes. Apply the same process to the neck and headstock. When you’re finished, restring your ukulele with a new set and your ready to go! You won’t smell the new ukulele smell, but it will feel like butter! (Not actual butter, but silky smooth, but not like real silk... you get the picture... haha!) You can pick up a Music Nomad‘s premium ukulele care kit 3 pack up here! You can also check out their video here to see how to use their products. Some of us are visual learners... right braddahs! And that’s it! Do this everything 6 months (or whenever you change your strings) and your ukulele will look and feel amazing. Now keep in mind your still encouraged to wipe down your ukulele every week (and if your Jake Shimabukuro, you will wipe/massage your ukulele before you play because it opens it up and helps it sound better). Seriously, that last part is true. Jake actually wipes and massages his ukulele. Whether it helps it sound better is unknown, but it’s Jake! My hope is that you clean and maintain your ukulele. Who knows, maybe you and your ukulele can experience a 50 year anniversary! Keep jamming and aloha!
Hooray! The first post by me to come in under three minutes! This post will be short and sweet... I promise. Though it will be an easy read, prepare to hear something crucial to your ukulele journey. Practice ain’t easy! I get it. When I was a wee little lad at the age of 7, I decided that I wanted to learn the piano. Who in their right mind puts down their baseball bat, leaves their friends back at the field, and sits alone in front of a piano for hours? Well, I did! Ok, as I’ve started to write, I’ve been inspired to take you back in time... I thought this was gonna be a short blog but strap in. I promise this story will have relevance for you! So when I was 7, the idea of playing ‘The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera on the piano gave me delusions of grandeur. The musical came to Hawaii and everyone was excited to experience this block buster musical. Me included. I thought I was gonna pick it right up like playing soccer. Run, kick, and run some more. I soon found out that learning how to play soccer was 1000x easier than learning the piano. And what I didn’t factor in was the practice.....the hours and hours of practice! I practiced everyday of the week and took private lessons on Saturdays. Oomf! To be honest, I scorned every second of it. My poor dad paid for two years of lessons and all I knew how to play were “Indian songs”. The simple thumping of chords like the beating of Native American drums. These songs were fun to play but they were simple rhythmic patterns. And they were for beginners (2-4 month skill level). The play level equivalence to glorified Chopsticks! After two years stuck in the mud, I went back to playing sports. I went on to do well in sports and played through high school. I figured out what made the difference in me finding success in sports rather than piano. It was my enjoyment of practice! Playing the piano alone in my house while fully knowing that my friends were outside riding bikes, playing at the park, and enrolled in sports made practicing miserable. Being able to have fun while practicing made all the difference. So how would I recommend you practice to make it more enjoyable? I recommend you start recording yourself practicing. That’s it! When I was practicing the piano in the 90’s, digital cameras didn’t exist. Only a few people had camcorders and recording on blank VHS tapes wasn’t cheap. So doing this in the 90’s was a no go for me. Contrast that with today when everyone walks around with a phone/camera/camcorder/computer/GPS/music catalog in our pockets. By simply recording ourselves, we are able to experience our playing in a new way. And its exciting! Normally when we practice, we tend to be over critical. Making mistakes in the moment can be very discouraging. This can blind us, making it difficult to hear (or see) our actual progress. When we record our practices, we can take a step back and experience it as an audience member. Most times we sound better than we remember. This can be the encouragement to keep you grinding through. Recording your practices is also a way of critiquing yourself constructively. You can see your posture, finger positioning, and body mannerisms as you play. This can help you make physical adjustments that can aid your playing. Now if you are also a singer, this will help you truly hear yourself. The way you hear yourself in your head is different from how others hear you. I remember giving a speech once in front of my freshmen class and when I heard my voice through the gym speakers it threw me off. To me it didn’t sound like me. So hearing how you actually sound, whether it be ukulele or voice, will give you an enhanced self awareness. So there you have it! Next time you practice or learn a new song, bust out your phone and record it. You can choose to record only the audio, or capture all of it on video. Watch it back to experience how you really look and sound. Not gonna lie this could be strange at first but over time you will grow accustomed to it and maybe, just maybe, start your own music YouTube channel! Now get out there and have fun! Keep jamming and aloha!
Most ukulele players suffer from what is known as U.A.S. or “ukulele acquisition syndrome”. This is where you hunt for your first ukulele, study ads, YouTube reviews, and purchase your first ukulele. But as soon as you receive it, crazy thoughts start running through mind. Soon you realize you “need” something else. A different shape, a solid top, a customized wood combination, a low G, or whatever! Now off you go buying ukulele left and right “adding to your collection”. If this sounds like you, you are officially diagnosed with U.A.S. This disease is deadly.......on your wallet! But may I add that there is another ”disease“ out there. This sickness is called G.A.S.! G.A.S., or “gear acquisition syndrome”, is not as deadly on the wallet as U.A.S., but it is still pernicious. This can mean you end up with a ton of junk that you really didn’t need to buy. Checking out what other ukulele players are using, especially the pros, is likely responsible for triggering 90% of those ukulele gear purchases. So fair warning… the following 7 uber-popular ukulele accessories may very well be a dangerous proposition for those who have G.A.S problems, but hey, at least they’re all under $30 bucks! Here are the top 7 ukulele accessories every ukulele player needs in their ’tool box’, and where to find them from the best brands. This in hopes to ease your G.A.S. cravings! #1. Chromatic Tuner I recommend the KLIQ EcoTuner. It can tune your ukulele precisely... as well as your guitar, bass, mandolin...etc., etc. This specific tuner also features micro USB charging! Meaning you‘ll never have to go to store, hunting for those small disc shaped batteries ever again. Get the KLIQ EcoTuner here! #2. Capo I recommend D‘Addario’s Planet Waves Pro capo. A capo is small tool you can strap around the neck of your ukulele to keep all the strings down on the same fret. So essentially, you are barring the strings on that particular fret with a capo instead of your finger. This is a great accessory to have in your ukulele tool box when you want to sing songs in a different key. This capo will give you the precision needed to have keep adequate pressure on all of the strings of your ukulele. Spring loaded capo’s are quicker to use but lack the ability to control the pressure, resulting in fret buzz which is a deal breaker. This capo is compact and sleek, allowing it to take less room on your fingerboard. Get the D’Addario Planet Waves NS capo here! #3. Strap There are many out there that don’t believe the ukulele should be played using a strap. What do I say about it? Go for it! Straps aid in allowing your left hand (chording hand) to have total freedom and autonomy. Typically you’d have to focus on holding up the neck as you play, relying heavily on your thumb pressure. Straps enable you to throw caution to the wind, and just let your fingers do the talking. You can get straps that don’t require any altercations to the ukulele. They hang on to the sound hole. I recommend using a strap that utilizes strap buttons. If you have a drill gun, ruler, and 2 minutes, you can easily do this yourself. I recommend the CloudMusic cotton woven ukulele strap. It’s woven material is soft and comfortable to use. It also comes with all the parts for installation. Even a draw string for attaching the strap to the headstock, right above the nut. It’s also another way to customize your ukulele as it comes in many colors! Get the CloudMusic cotton woven ukulele strap here! #4. Stand I have spent years looking for the perfect ukulele stand. They are a great way to showcase your ukulele. But sadly I haven’t found one that adequately met all my needs. They were either too small, not supportive of the neck, and not built using quality materials. But guess what? I found the perfect ukulele stand.....and it was a violin stand! Seriously the best stand you can buy for your ukulele. I recommend Eastar’s violin stand. It meets all the requirements and it comes in black! Get the Eastar violin stand here! #5. String Winder I recommend Stringtec’s 3 in 1 string kit. It winds up strings, clips them, and pulls out pegs. I love this kit since the two pieces come apart and you use the tools separately. Usually they come in one piece. This makes using this tool cumbersome as you have parts dangling around that are not in use. The Stringtec kit gives you the ability to use the tools in the proper way. Every ukulele player needs one of these in their quivers! Trust me! Get the Stringtec string kit here! #6. Wall Hanger I recommend the brand String Swing. They are proudly made here in the USA using quality materials. Not to mention they’re affordable! They come in multiple solid wood finishes you can pick the right wood to match your homes aesthetics. I personally have used one for the past 3 years to hold my custom Rick Turner ukulele! Check here for the String Swing ukulele wall mount! #7. Thumb Pick Ukulele players rarely use picks, let alone thumbpicks for that matter. Though some do like the ukulele/guitar legend Ledward Ka’apana. I agree that regular guitars picks are not helpful since you lose most of your fingers just holding it. But I know some of you thinking that advanced players can use a guitar pick along with the last three digits to pick and strum. But is hard and complicated! But thumbpicks are something else! Thumbpicks can be used in multiple ways. You can hold it like a normal pick, but you can also use it with an opened hand. This allows you to play the ukulele traditionally if you want to. A thumbpick will also aid strumming. You will be able to strum loud and clear and the fleshy tip of your pointer finger will thank you. If your a skeptic, try one out. They are super affordable and can be kept “clipped” right above the nut when not in use. Every ukulele player needs one in their ukulele tool box! Get some here! There you have it! The top 7 must have ukulele accessories every ukulele player needs. I know I‘ve left some off the list but I figured you already own a case, have extra strings, and may or may not be interested in having a pickup installed. I hope I helped you find the ones missing from your list. Thank you for letting me, Dr. Keli’i, get rid of your G.A.S.! Now don’t ask me for the cure for U.A.S.. Cause there is none! Keep jamming and aloha!
Every professional ukulele player starts a session the same way, by warming up. So if it’s important for the pros, its important for everybody! Here are some technique and warm up exercises that can help you to gain fluency, speed and accuracy on the ukulele fingerboard. It's a good idea to do these exercises every day. If you are totally new to the ukulele, please don’t get discouraged when you start these drills. Your fingers will probably strain, fingertips burn, and your hand may freeze up like a mummy. But that’s okay! You gotta start somewhere. But I promise over time your skills level will increase and these drills will become effortless. Below are 3 drills that everyone can learn. I’ve given them names that will help you differentiate them. First... ladder drills. Drill #1 “Ladders” “Ladders” is just like it sounds. We are going to move from one end of the fingerboard to the other, nut to 12th fret. Starting with your index finger on the first fret, G String, you are going to continue moving up to the 12th fret note to note. You are going to do this using your index, middle, ring, and pinky finger just on the G-String. When you get to the 5th fret you are going to restart the sequence by playing it with your index finger... followed by playing the 6th fret with the middle finger, 7th fret with your ring finger, and 8th fret with your pinky. It then restarts with the index finger on the 9th fret and so on, until you get to the 12th fret. Then you’re all the way up the ladder. Then you repeat this pattern again on the C, E, and A string. If you want to make this drill more challenging, you can “climb” down the ladder from the 12th fret. Starting with your pinky on the 12th fret, you begin to move backwards back to the 1st fret. Drill #2 “Stairs” This drill is similar to ”Ladders”. But with “Stairs” we are gonna move vertically on the fingerboard. Starting on the 1st fret G String, we are going start like we did with ”Ladders” and move up the fingerboard to the 4th fret. But instead of restarting the sequence on the 5th fret on the G String, we are gonna move down to the 1st fret, C String. And then continuing the sequence up the C String, stopping on the 4th fret, and dropping down to the 1st fret E String. Then finishing the sequence on the A string. Remember that we are not playing up the fingerboard with a single finger, but are using a consecutive finger for each note. So index finger for 1st fret, middle finger for the 2nd, ring finger on the 3rd, and pinky for the 4th fret. After finishing the sequence on the A String, you are gonna restart the “Stairs” on the G String 5th fret. Then doing the final sequence on the 9th-12th frets. If you want to add another level of challenge, reverse the order back up the stairs from the bottom starting with you pinky finger on the 4th fret, A String. So your gonna go down the stairs and come back up. Then redo this sequence on the 5th and 9th frets. Drill #3 “The Caterpillar” This is a fun one! When I first saw this in my classical guitar class, I was amazed. My teacher’s fingers literally looked like a caterpillar crawling up the fingerboard. Though it was fun to look at, it was difficult to emulate. This is because your fingers can trip over themselves! So here’s how to do “The Caterpillar”. Starting on 1st fret G String, your gonna play this note with your index finger. Following the same sequence as “Ladders” and “Stairs”, you will move up the fret board to the 4th fret using consecutive fingers. This is where things are different. After playing the G String on the 4th fret with your pinky finger, your gonna restart the sequence but on the 2nd fret, G String. The sequence begins again and ends now on the 5th fret. It then restarts again on the 3rd fret. If you do this, you will see your moving fingers resemble a crawling caterpillar. Its so awesome! Continue the sequence till your pinky reaches the 12th fret. Repeat “The Caterpillar” on the C, E, and A Strings. If you want to take to the next level. Have the caterpillar come back down the fingerboard in reverse. This is a little tricky so take your time. There you have have it! Three drills you should practice everyday before you jam on your ukulele. Start s...l...o...w...l...y. It’s not a race (at least at the beginning, haha). Focus on your finger placement, and and finger pressure. You want to be able to hear each note played clearly. If you need to take a break due to your fingers straining, no problem. Take a quick break and start where you left off. An interesting feature of these drills is that they move up, (and down), the fingerboard. As you move from the nut toward the saddle the frets get closer together. This adds a challenge that your fingers have to navigate as you now have to deal with fret spacing. This same issue will come up when you learn songs so practicing these drills will help you with spatial awareness on the fingerboard. I hope these drills help you along your on ukulele journey. Deliberate practice makes perfect! Keep jamming and aloha!
This is a question I’ve had to answer ever since I started in this biz. So I figured I’d sit down and let you know about the state of laminates and their place in the ukulele marketplace. 11 years ago when I started out, saying the word laminate was like using a curse word. The use of the said word would send customers running for the hills. Fast forward to today and ukulele are constructed using all kinds of materials. Carbon fiber, fiberglass, plastics, and even recycled metal come to mind when I think of the current build materials in the market. Yeah, you heard me right... plastics (they actually sound pretty good and best of all you can play them in the rain)! But by far the most common building material is still good old fashioned wood. And with the majority being laminate! The top, back, and sides of professional grade ukulele are still made of meticulously crafted cuts of solid wood, while beginner and intermediate models are built partly – sometimes entirely with pressed plywood. Pressed plywood is laminate. Laminate wood is essentially multiple layers of thinly processed wood that has been pressed and bonded together with an adhesive for strength and stability. Many laminated boards today are made using three layers of wood. These layers are pressed together like a sandwich, with the outer layers have the grain direction flowing in the same direction with the center layer running cross (or opposite) greatly increasing it’s strength. Now a major difference between laminate and solid wood ukulele involves how the tonewood is sourced and processed. Where affordable ukulele tend to require less refined wood variations, today’s custom ukulele builders rely exclusively on the most resonant, heavy grained, and exclusive cuts of solid wood. This makes the production of laminate ukulele easier since the materials are more abundant and easy to acquire. Sourcing these high-end materials requires not only planning and connections but the ability to judge and assess the quality and potential resonance of raw, stockpiled wood. It is a skill that can quite literally take a lifetime to master. Common knowledge would suggest that beginner players would choose a laminate ukulele while professionals would still opt for a high-end, entirely solid wood instrument. But as you’ll see, there are more factors at play when looking at laminate ukulele. And many benefits of owning one over a solid wood ukulele may surprise you. Here’s a quick tease... there’s no wonder why many players are opting to play laminate ukulele. And why many solid bodied ukulele manufactures are designing laminate models that outsell their solid bodied ones 10 fold! Laminates Can Look Good Too! There is no doubt that aesthetics factor significantly into our everyday purchases, and ukulele are no exception. To be honest it‘s the main factor even over sound! I‘ve seen novice players, (and I say that lightly), pay out thousands of dollars for a high end ukulele and they don’t know how to play. They want to own these special woods because they look incredible. If the choice was between a Maple bodied ukulele, or a heavy curled Hawaiian Koa ukulele? Well, no contest. Custom builders will often utilize more exotic wood species such as Ziricote, Cocobolo, Redwood, ‘Moon’ Spruce, and Hawaiian Koa. But the limited supply of these materials means that these options, though visually striking, are simply not available to most because they in themselves are rare. Laminate ukulele on the other hand can produce more ukulele out of the same amount of wood making them far more accessible! And since laminate ukulele today are using high end wood with striking grain and appearance, more players who want to own beautiful exotic wood ukulele now can. This also extends to extras. In the past, low quality laminates were made to be simple. Simple shape, no bindings, no rosette, and matte finishes. Today, laminate ukulele are made with everything you can find on custom ukulele. From slotted head stocks, arm bevels, and cutaways. To fancy purflings and decorated rosettes. Durability Factor For the acoustic connoisseur, here is a category that is very important. Yes, your $3,000 solid wood, hand-built, fully loaded art piece of an instrument sounds phenomenal. The curl of the Hawaiian Koa ripples like a pebble skipping along a pond. And when stummed it sweeps you into a gorgeous scene from the The Lord of the Rings! But let’s say you live in Florida and travel regularly to Denver for business and your ukulele is your travel companion. Then what? What could possibly go wrong, right? Haha! Solid cuts of wood rely on their natural resins and the ukulele bracing for stability. Rapid changes in temperature and humidity can have a disastrous effects on your ukulele. The worst being cracks and warping. Warping can effect the sound and intonation. Without proper humidity your beautiful solid body ukulele will have issues. For laminate ukulele, due to the nature of their construction and their more complex patterns of overlapping grains, laminate ukulele are far less susceptible to cracking and warping in extreme heat. For this reason, they tend to be better suited for players who travel or for those individuals who simply require a more sturdy ukulele (like my three little bears at home..... I mean boys). If you want to learn more about the effects of humidity and how you can keep your solid bodied ukulele safe, read about it here. Tone (Oh My!) For many musicians, tone is everything. They are willing to drop unbelievable amounts of money for this mystical quality within an instrument. Can a $200 beginner laminate ukulele “out tone” a custom, handcrafted solid wood ukulele? Many would say no, but the fact remains that tone is entirely subjective. (I know I triggered some of you collectors, haha). Truth be told, what makes a solid tone-wood sound good is not the fact that its solid, but it comes down to physics. SCIENCE! Density, weight, and shape are all factors in tone. And laminate manufacturing is becoming more sophisticated. The heat, pressure, adhesive, and process used in making the laminate wood is coming closer to the tonal qualities of solid wood tone-woods. But ultimately, a laminate ukulele simply cannot resonate as freely as an all solid wood instrument. This is due to the laminates added rigidity that aids in it’s durability. The added tactile strength does have an effect on tone, hampering it a little. But laminates are catching up! This is great news for those wanting to have an affordable great sounding ukulele! The Bottom Line This is the big one... Price is without a doubt the main determining factor when deciding which ukulele to buy, but it has now become really complex. There was a time when a cheap ukulele sounded like a cheap ukulele. We called them ‘toys’. Mainly souvenirs from your trip from Hawaii. When it was played next to an instrument that was two, three, or four times its price, you would be embarrassed you paid for it. Banishing it away to EBay...haha! However, those days are long gone! Within the last 10 years or so, modernized building techniques and new, more sustainable methods of harvesting wood have brought about an increase in the number of high quality (and ultimately inexpensive) ukulele. This has certainly skewed the playing field with regard to what we can get for our money. Currently the market has shifted to ukulele under $200 being the highest selling market. I don’t think you can find a quality solid body ukulele for under that price. Today, solid top ukulele, with a laminate back and sides are essentially an industry standard. A ukulele’s soundboard, being the most important factor with regards to the ukulele’s overall tone and projection profits the most from the resonant qualities of being a solid top. But the back and sides being made with a quality laminate greatly reduces the price. For starters, a quality all laminate ukulele can be found for $150. One you could play for the rest of your life without the need to upgrade. A quality solid top, laminate back and sides ukulele could be found for around $250 or less. While a quality, all solid ukulele starts around $400, and goes up to $1,200. As you can see, the cost savings are meaningful! So the secrets out! Laminate ukulele are amazing too! I hope this post gives you the confidence to purchase a laminate ukulele. You can always upgrade later! Keep Jamming and aloha!
Ukulele players love the ukulele. It’s a pretty simple formula, isn’t it? Few hobbies have quite so many options for gifts, but here I’ve compiled the best gifts for ukulele players, ranging from the super practical to the humorous. Now when I say gift... I do mean for birthdays and the holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas). But I’m also writing about gifting to yourself! For me I love getting gifts for others. I plan on my Christmas purchases starting in the summer and I finish by November. I know, I know! Crazy right? Strange enough though I do have a hard time buying gifts for myself. Especially things ukulele related. So maybe you’re like me and its been a while since you purchased something for yourself. Maybe you haven’t gotten anything since you got your first ukulele, other than maybe a ukulele gig bag. No worries, I’ve got you covered! Here I’ve compiled a list of the 7 best gift ideas for ukulele players. You can already get a head start on the holiday season, find the perfect birthday present for that uke lover in your life... or maybe treat yourself with something special. Look at it as a “investment” for your ukulele journey (that’s what keep telling myself when I buy all my running shoes). It’s an investment... right? Haha! My wife would beg to differ. Quality Case If you’re a ukulele player, you should have a ukulele case to protect your instrument. You may already have a simple gig bag or foam case, so maybe its time for an upgrade. I’m sure a ukulele player being recipient of a beautiful new case will bring a “case” of the giggles. Here is an example of a protective wood hardcase. The Gatorcase Journey Man series offers traditional craftsmanship, modern engineering, and distinct vintage style. Dressed up in pebble weave burlap, accented with espresso trim, and outfitted with antique brass hardware, its a beautiful case. Heavy-duty plywood panels create a sturdy outer shell while royal blue crushed velvet and thick foam padding cradle your tenor style ukulele securely in place. A single interior storage compartment provides ample space for your favorite strings, picks, and accessories. Check out this Gatorcase here! If your wanting to gift something a little more unique, look no further than the new Leolani Showcase wood hardcase. What makes this hardcase unique? Well take a look at this... This case is built from heavy-duty plywood panels with a thick plush foam. It sports a interior storage compartment to store your accessories. Two way carrying system with briefcase handle or shoulder sling carrying strap. But whoa! There is a clear impact resistant acrylic cover to ’showcase’ your ukulele. Now you can both protect and swoon over your ukulele at the same time! Pick one up here! Wall Mount A ukulele wall hanger protects the instrument from damage while putting it in easy reach. I am a dad with 3 little ankle biters scurrying around. Any ukulele on the ground, in a case, or on a stand is free game for utter destruction! Unless my kids can reach above 5 feet than my ukulele is safe. Wall hangers are also a great way to show off your ukulele. So if you rarely play your ukulele at least you can still enjoy it’s beauty. A quality wall mount would make the perfect gift for you or someone who loves their ukulele. I recommend the brand String Swing. They are proudly made here in the USA using quality materials. Not to mention they’re affordable! They come in multiple solid wood finishes you can pick the right wood to match your homes aesthetics. I personally have used one for that past 3 years to hold my custom Rick Turner ukulele! Check here for the String Swing ukulele wall mount! Chromatic Tuner Can you say rechargeable! Finally a clip on chromatic tuner you don’t have to buy those disc shaped batteries for. All you need is a micro USB charger, and we all have those all over our homes. If you don’t already have a tuner the KLIQ EcoTuner would be an amazing one to get. It can tune your ukulele precisely... as well as your guitar, bass, mandolin...etc., etc. If your getting this as a gift, I’m sure you uke loving recipient will be more than happy to upgrade! If you know me personally, and don’t know what to get me for Christmas... look no further. Mahalo in advance! Get this little lifesaver here! Plug and Play Pickup Here is a shameless plug! Here is a great gift if you know someone who wants to be able to plug their ukulele into an amp without doing any ukulele surgery. Installing a pickup can be scary. A slip of a hand can damage your ukulele forever. So here is an option and takes literally a minute to set up. Once the pickup is on the ukulele you just have to turn it on, plug in, and play! Simple as that. Three knobs on the pickup control volume, bass, and treble. Allowing you to get the sound you want. It also runs on a CR2025 bartery. Well designed circuits block out noise interference and a high-tech vinyl allows for repeated use on sticking the pickup to the ukulele. And if you have multiple ukulele, you can put our pickup on all of them (of course not at the same time, haha). And the battery life is whopping 30-40 hours. Check it out here... watch the overview video to see how to use it. Online Lessons Most ukulele players want to improve their skills, and online ukulele courses make a fantastic gift that keeps on giving! I recommend taking online lessons from Uke Like The Pros! Terry is a fabulous musician and has been in the biz over 25 years. He offers different subscription level tiers with loads of live content! Good online ukulele courses are almost as nice as in-person lessons, while being more affordable and a whole lot easier to fit into a busy schedule. This would make a perfect gift someone wanting to get into the ukulele. Maybe the perfect gift for your kid(s). Remember it’s an “investment”. Haha! Your kid could be the future Billie Eilish, (she jams on the uke)! Just remind them that you’re owed 50% of their earnings...haha! It’s part of the investment right?! Check out Uke Like The Pros and gift online lessons here! Ukulele Chord Chart This is the most beautiful ukulele chord chart to ever exist. Try and find one better. Most chord chart posters are not worthy enough to be framed and hung on a wall. They usually remain folded and buried in the corner of your desk. This is both a work of art as well as being extremely practical. If your ever in a rut and forget a chord, just stroll by this poster and take a look. This work of art was created by the artist Taylor Waldman. This would be a great gift alongside a wall hanger. Get one before it’s gone... Get this masterpiece here. Tablet/Phone Holder Many ukulele players rely on their phones or tablets for viewing lessons, play-alongs, and more. This cool tripod has an adjustable mount that accommodates most phones and tablets. This can be used at home while jamming or on the road when you visit your local ukulele club. If you gig, or know someone who does, this would be an excellent gift for them. Musicians using iPads/tablets on stage as they perform risks them falling on the floor since they use a normal music stand. These stands offer more protection as they are more sturdy and clamp to hold the device. This stand is so versatile and stows away in a small compact form. While it’s not a traditional gift, it’s sure to be a hit. Get one here. There you have it! 7 gifts ideas for ukulele players. Hopefully you find something for that uke lover in your life..... or better yet, for yourself. As I think about, I know what gift ideas I want to send to my friends and family....... for me! Keep jamming and aloha!
Ukulele are wonderfully simple instruments. In fact, that’s one reason why they’re more popular than ever. They are so simple in fact that many don’t know about moisture maintenance and how important it is. I’ve heard it many times before. Testimonies of people purchasing ukulele here in Hawaii, only to find their precious instruments cracked and splitting a month after getting home. Oh no! This is due to a lack of moisture maintenance, or maintaining the proper humidity around your ukulele. As someone who plays the ukulele you should already know that your ukulele is made of wood. “Wait... what? Ukulele are made out of wood?!?” Okay, I know, so basic. I did start by saying the ukulele was a simple, right? Haha! But follow me on this, its gonna make sense when we get into the topic. So yes, ukulele are made of wood, so now lets go down the rabbit hole. This is gonna get weird! Zombie-Wood? Just because your tone-wood is cut, dried, shaped, sanded, glued, and made into a ukulele, it still thinks its a tree. Yes, your wood is ‘zombified’! The wood is technically dead, but it is still moving. Get it. Zombie-wood? So just like a tree, the wood in your ukulele will continue to try to acclimate to it’s surroundings. And if your surrounding area isn’t suitable for your ukulele, then destruction is inevitable. “Why will my ukulele fall apart?” Great question! It all comes down to humidity. For example, if the air around your ukulele is too dry, it will eventually dry out the wood causing it to shrink. When this happens, the wood in your ukulele will crack. And this humidity issue goes both ways. If the surrounding area is too humid, the wood on your ukulele will absorb the moisture making it expand. The wood will start warping, taking on new angles and shapes. Either way, having too little or too much humidity can hurt your ukulele. These negative effects can take months but I have seen things happen in days! Scary right? “So What can I do to protect my ukulele from the humidity?” Well, get a humidifier! What the heck is a ukulele humidifier? Ukulele humidifiers are small moisture-filled containers that fit inside your ukulele case or hung on the ukulele itself (while in it’s case). It works by gradually releasing moisture into the environment as needed. It does this without over-humidifying the environment. A consistent humidity level between 40 and 50 percent is ideal. In Hawaii, the birthplace of ukulele, many builders construct their ukulele in humidity controlled rooms. They lower the humidity using dehumidifiers and air conditioners in order to maintain a room humidity of 50%, though Hawaii’s normal humidity vacillates between 55-80%. This helps decrease the chances of cracking when the ukulele is sent to places that are too dry. Some ukulele humidifiers protect your instrument from over-humidification too – that’s a win-win! Particularly if you live in an area where humidity tends to rise and fall as the weather changes. Denver Colorado has the lowest humidity in the United States, as low as 12%! If you send a ukulele made in Hawaii to Denver it could crack in day! 70% down to 12%. Yikes! Does my ukulele need one? Probably! All the best ukuleles are made with wood, which is composed of cells that react to atmospheric changes. Especially if your ukulele is made using solid woods and not laminate. Sure when a ukulele splits, or the top ”bows” it can be easily seen. But like terminates eating in the walls of a house, humidity can also cause damage that’s hard to see. It can manifest as problems such as fret buzz, bad intonation, or high (or too low) action height. These can pretty much make the ukulele unplayable so it’s pretty serious. It’s also very expensive to fix and repair these issues. So it’s the humidifiers job to keep the ukulele environment at the right level of humidity so those changes, and the damage they can cause, don’t happen. If your room is at the right humidity, you can store your ukulele out of it’s humidified case. Hang it on the wall, display it on a stand. It’s all good! Nothing is going to happen to the instrument. Now when you take it from that room to somewhere else... well, now you need to keep your ukulele humidified. Every time you take your ukulele on the road, going from a cool house to a hot car or vice-versa, you want keep the humidity level around your ukulele consistent. Or else... CRAAAAACK! Your climate can help you decide if you need a ukulele humidifier or not. If you live in a warm, humid environment and you don’t use a ton of air conditioning inside your home, your instrument should be fine. If you purchased your ukulele from a local luthier then your ukulele should be fine, just watch out for the seasons! As the temperatures drop, so does moisture. So like chaining up your tires when there’s heavy snow, you need to humidify your ukulele during winter months. If you live in a hot, dry region, then you might need to use a ukulele humidifier year-round to keep your instrument from drying out. When using a ukulele humidifier you must use it in a case. This way it can regulate the humidity in a small contained area. If using a room humidifier, theres no need to worry about keeping it in a case since the room will be humidity controlled. Below are some humidifier recommendations! Best Humidifiers... Oasis Humidifier The Oasis OH-18 ukulele humidifier protects your instrument from the inside out. I really like the fact that it goes right inside your uke and stays put even when you’re traveling. If you forget to fill it up and it runs out, no worries, you can just fill it up again. It’s so user friendly! When it’s time to refill your Oasis humidifier you will notice the ‘humigel’ beads making a sound. This is because they are drying out. Just add water and the beads will swell back up with moisture, and your ready to go. These beads don’t last forever so they recommend you change them out every year. You can purchase these refill packs here. The drying out and shrinking of the humigel beads also affects the tube. The tube also shrinks, crunches up, and starts bending. This is another sign that your humidifier needs more water. We love the father and son duo (the Hepple’s) from Oasis! It’s always great to see them at the Winter NAMM every year. Mahalo for letting use your vacuum for our booth! Geniani Mist Humidifier The Geniani Top Fill Cool Mist Humidifier is a great choice to humidify your ukulele. This way you don’t have to keep your ukulele in a humidified case. You can display it for all to see (or just you...especially if you own a work of art). It is also quite affordable at around $45. It runs silent and boast a large water capacity at 4 liters! If you have multiple instruments, this is the humidifier for you. You can also use in any room of the house. Check it out here and see it’s full list of features! Last but not least........BOVEDA! I have a confession to make... please don’t judge me. I am a connoisseur of the finer things. I collect whiskey, mid century furniture, and pipes and cigars. If you know anything about pipes and cigars, you know you need to humidify your tobacco leaf. With cigars, optimally they should be kept at 69-72% humidity. Yeah, that precise! This is where Boveda Humidipaks save the day. Boveda Humidipaks use a patented, all natural salt solution to precisely protect cigars, musical instruments, and food. They are able to keep your items at precise humidity levels... like at exactly 68%. For guitars and ukulele, they have packets in the 30-50% range. Boveda Humidipaks also control humidity both ways. They can either lower humidity or raise it. Which takes the guessing out of the everything. Just throw a 49% packet in your ukulele case and you’re good! You will need to change them over time. The packet will get hard when you need to change it out. If your regulating humidity is already near 50% you may never have to change it out. If humidity is really low you may have to change it out every month. Get them here! I love these things! So are humidifiers important? Well, yeah! Now if you have a laminated ukulele humidity maintenance is not as necessary. This is actually a reason you should consider a laminated ukulele. They are not only affordable, with construction quality now matching solid body ukulele, but they are practically humidity proof. But if you want a solid body ukulele, or already own one, getting a humidifier is the cheapest insurance for your instrument! The last thing I want for your ukulele is for it to crack or warp beyond repair. So I hope this post helped you out. And if at night you hear a rattling sound coming from your ukulele case... RUN!!! Keep jamming and aloha!