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The Ukulele and Me : How it all started
In 2007, my relationship with the ukulele began and I cannot believe I did not start playing it before. The ukulele is not a wide-spread famous instrument. Most of the time, people think it is cute and do not have high expectations when someone plays with is.
The thing is that the first time I saw one, it was on TV, on the equivalent of American Idol in France. One of the contestant, Julien Doré, who turned out to be the winner of the season, played the ukulele and brought it with him everywhere. It looks so easy to carry around and fun to play too. He used it to promote his own band by putting stickers on it because he didn't think he would be chosen during the audition process.
Little did he know that his quirky side and amazing voice would lend him every week a spot to sing on French television. That was my first introduction to the ukulele and a first step in its popularization in France.
Then I saw a youtube video of some guy that played the ukulele in Central Park. His technique and the range that his ukulele seemed to have blew my mind. How come an instrument so small with only 2 octaves can produce a rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" so spectacular ? By that time, I was hooked and Jake Shimabukuro became an inspiration to me.
But I didn't know anything about the ukulele. I did have a lot of music theory behind me and 5 years of classic piano but the ukulele was not easy to buy at the time. Some specialized websites with ukulele players existed so I joined a forum to read more about what is recommended or not. What website was trustworthy to sell an instrument and not a toy that you would play with a few days and then put it away ?
After a few weeks of browsing and thinking, I bought a Blue Moon Soprano. When it arrived, I quickly looked up some Youtube videos and found Ukulele Underground where Aldrine Guerrero teaches with great talent to beginners. After a few minutes, I was able to play 4 chords and I was hooked. So easy, so fun, so cute !
I played with it as much as possible, then changed the strings to Aquila Nylgut and it made a huge difference in the sound. The original strings didn't project the sound as well as the Aquila strings but I didn't notice that until I changed them.
2 years later, I played with some friends some rock tunes (two on guitars, one on drums) and decided to upgrade my ukulele. Plus, I introduced another friend to the instrument and she loved it more than her guitar. No wonder, the guitar has more strings than fingers you can use to fret whereas the ukulele seems made for our hands !
Since I started working by that time, I had enough to get myself a K-brand ukulele and splurged on a Koaloha Pikake Soprano. This is still my favorite instrument ever. It's light, well balanced, projects an incredible sound and feels so comfortable when playing it. Plus, the design looks beautiful and the koa wood really is marvelous.
After that, I did buy more ukulele but none compares to the Koaloha.