Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I first learned about Jake when I was browsing Youtube looking for ukulele related videos and lessons. I think it was maybe a month or two after I started learning the ukulele when I came across this video, which had already been seen by millions of people:
I was so completely blown away by it I searched iTunes store and downloaded his "Gently Weeps" album almost immediately. For me, the album showed me just what can be done on the humble instrument that is the ukulele. I dreamed of one day learning to play "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". I was listening to the song in my car constantly, over and over again. I thought I would never be able to play it or any of the other Jake songs.
After learning various chords and being somewhat adapt at chord changes in the first position during the first few months of my ukulele playing, I thought I'd try for more of a challenge. In May of this year, I contacted Dominator about obtaining the tabs for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". I had searched high and low for it and it seemed like he was the only one who had these tabs but was asked to remove them from his site. I thought it was worth a shot to ask him for it, and he was very generous in sharing it with me. I was really excited about trying to learn it and got to work on it right away. To my surprise, the gist of the song wasn't all that difficult. I was playing something that resembles the song within a few days. Maybe because I already knew what the song sounded like forwards and backwards, but it wasn't the impossible song to learn as I had previously thought. So after getting to the point where I can play it from memory, I asked Dominator for another one of Jake's tabs. He asked me to send him a video or MP3 of me playing the song to make sure I had put forth enough effort in learning it before sending me another set of tabs. I thought this was very good of him as it kept me working on one song at a time.
So lately, these Jake songs I've learned are all I've been playing on my spare time, as you can deduce from my Youtube postings. These songs are fairly challenging but not at all impossible to learn, even for a relative novice like me. It is so much fun playing these songs and thanks to these songs, my ukulele experience has been exponentially more enjoyable than it had been before. And it wasn't bad before.:)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
When it arrived to me, I wasn't all that impressed with the sound. It looked like a million bucks and the workmanship was flawless, but the sound didn't really impress me too much. It was a bit thin and quiet. Now keep in mind that since the uke I got right before this was a KoAloha Pineapple Sunday, which is in a class by itself, it probably would have taken something truly special to impress me at that point. After a day or two, I changed the stock Aquila strings to some Worth BM's (Brown Medium). It made the uke sound quite a bit better, especially at the higher frets, where it made a really nice and extremely clear sound. I also noticed that this uke has some serious sustain. Where all my other ukes, including the Pineapple Sunday, would sustain a picked note for about 4-5 seconds, the Honu would easily reach 6 seconds or more. It also had a 1.5" nut width with very wide string spacing, which makes it an excellent uke for fingerpicking. The sound still seemed a bit quiet and thin, but I was much happier with it and determined that it was a worthy purchase.
A month or so after getting the Honu, I ordered some new Worth strings, which included some CD's (Clear Dense) that I have not tried before. I decided to try those CD on the Honu. These worked very well and I thought I liked them on the Honu even better than the BM's. While the tone with the BM's sounded very nice, the uke felt a bit "slappy" sounding. With the CD's, that "slappy" sound seem to be minimized and the uke retained a nice crystal clear sound. By that time, however, I had acquired a Kanile'a super soprano and was very much enjoying that uke and the Honu was not played much.
So it has taken me a while to truly apprieciate what I had in the Honu concert uke, but I'd say it's never too late to apprieciate your ukes.
Here is a sound file of me playing Blue Roses Falling on the Honu concert.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
The first one I ordered, about 3 months into uke playing, was a Glyph mezzo-soprano uke built by Dave Means. Dave does some outstanding work as you can see from his uke gallery and has one of the best reputations among custom builders. The result of that is a waiting list close to 3 years long. When I placed my order in May of '07, my uke was scheduled to be completed around March of 2010! I just figured I'd better place an order sooner rather than later or I may never be able to get a Glyph. Choosing the mezzo-soprano size was partly influenced by economics and partly influenced by the desire for something different. I knew I wanted something bigger than a soprano but not quite a tenor at the time, so it was either a concert or the mezzo-soprano. Since the mezzo-soprano is a custom size Dave had dreamed up, I thought it would make for a great custom ukulele.
The second custom uke I ordered was from Kepasa Ukuleles, built by Kevin Crossett. Kevin is a relatively new builder who has been repairing instruments for many many years. Some of his customers had posted on various forums about how wonderful his ukes are so I checked out his website. One uke in particular caught my eyes. It was his Little Mac model. Previously I had seen an Po-Mahina Island Jazz uke from the cover of Mel Bay's Fingerstyle Solos and thought it was really nifty. I liked the looks of the Selmer/Maccaferri guitar design and these ukes looked very interesting to me. So I contacted Kevin about the Little Mac and learned that his prices were very affordable for custom built instruments. In addition, he would be able to accommodate my request to add a D-shaped soundhole and a cutaway body style. That made it a no-brainer. This uke is scheduled to start building in January of '08 and should be done by March. It'll be a nice birthday present for myself next April. :)
Even though I have not even received my first custom ukulele yet, I've been thinking about getting a custom built long scale (18 inch scale) tenor. I know I want one made with a spruce top and possibly koa sides and backs. I also want it to have a slotted headstock. The builder I'm most intrigued with is William King of Chantus Music. People who has played his ukes rave at the sound and playability. He also doesn't appear to have quite the long wait list as Dave Means, which is a big plus since I'm already going to wait over 2 years for a uke. The afore mentioned Po Mahina is another possibility to have a good custom tenor built. Other highly reputable custom builders include Mike DaSilva, and Dave Talsma. I guess by the time I am ready to pull the trigger on an order, I'll have decided which one to go with. If I had to choose right now, it'd probably be William King.
Anyway, as you can see, I have some rampant UAS going on here. I do plan to sell off ukes for each new one I acquire, but it only becomes harder and harder as each remaining uke becomes more and more indispensable. Or something.