I have a background of playing electric and acoustic guitars for many years, but if you told me I would be totally seduced by playing ukuleles, I would not have believed you!
As I mentioned on already the site, my first ukulele was purchased in New York from Zeke at Matt Umanov Guitars. This turned out to be an astute purchase and I still use this Collings concert ukulele for writing many of the songs for The Small Change Diaries. This particular ukulele is a pre-production instrument that Matt Umanov had brought back from The Namm trade show in Nashville.
The ukulele is of course tuned differently to standard 6 string guitar tuning, but there are some common factors in terms of note and chord awareness. Prior to meeting Jessica Bowie I was pretty clueless about how to play the instrument, but have quickly become really at ease with figuring out how to get a great sound from it. When I say “it” I should really say “them” as I now have nine of them, including three made by Collings Guitars in Texas.
I really like the simplicity of playing a small acoustic instrument with just four strings. I have also discovered that there is a massive difference in how many ukuleles sound and play and unsurprisingly the better constructed instruments are a world apart from what many folks would think of as a uke! As will learning all instruments regular practice is essential and before starting to write material for The Small Change Diaries I learned a bunch of songs with Jessica Bowie which has been highly useful in finding my way around the instrument.
The Kanilea I bought in Tokyo has a heart shaped sound hole and a wonderful tone. It also inspired me to write “Heart Shaped Music” which includes the following chorus
“This is heart shaped music, for this heartfelt world,
A flag hear for listening, possibilities unfurled
Hear to lift these spirits; hear to feel these sounds,
Four strings expressing this music all around”
Playing the ukulele has certainly lifted my spirits and even though I own a stack of high end electric and acoustic guitars, I have found the ukuleles to be an absolute joy to play and a brilliant writing tool.