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View Full Version : Final (personal) thoughts on NAMM 2012!



anaka
01-24-2012, 03:04 PM
After four fun-filled days and sleepless nights of musical mayhem, the 2012 NAMM show (http://ukuleleunderground.com/namm/) is finally over. Thank goodness! Between wrestling with audio troubles and Aldrine completely losing his voice on Day 3 (http://ukuleleunderground.com/namm/category/day-3-2012/), the UU crew was able to cover pretty much all of the ukulele goodness showcased at NAMM (there are a few interviews we missed and a couple still rendering) for your viewing pleasure. Check out all of the videos over at the UU NAMM coverage page (http://ukuleleunderground.com/namm/)!

Before the ringing in my ears goes away and relaxation finally sets in, it’s probably best to jot down some of my personal highlights while they’re fresh in the old noggin’. As usual, please don’t take my opinions and random ramblings as any kind of reflection on Ukulele Underground and its views. That said, awww here it goes …

Most Interesting Ukulele – The Semi-Hollow and Hollow-Body Steel String Electric Ukes from Kamoa (http://youtu.be/q4BtGwWTcYw?t=5m49s)
The showing for Kamoa this year was incredible. Every single product in the Kamoa booth was either an upgrade from last year or a brand new item, which is amazing considering that that probably can’t be said for ANY of the returning exhibitors in all of NAMM-land. But the Kamoa electric ukuleles took the cake. With hand-carved arch tops, real electric guitar pickups, Paul Reed Smith-esque finishes, and an unmatched sound quality, these ukes are everything electric guitarists/ukulele players have ever dreamed of, and then some. For a long time the ukulele world has been waiting for someone to do the electric uke right and, after a long wait, it’s finally here. Not only that, but the bar that Kamoa set with this one is so high that even though every company and their mothers will undoubtedly want to copy it, few will be able to get anywhere close. Add to that the company’s commitment to constant improvement and quality and the Kamoa electric will most likely be the best in this class for a very long time.

Most Interesting Person – Kim Breedlove of Breedlove Guitars (http://youtu.be/y7XQvP4APiU)
We got to sit down with Kim for a bit on Day 3 and talk with him. His voice is a calm and soothing cross between James Taylor and Burl Ives (the snowman from the claymation Rudolph movie). Because Kim no longer owns Breedlove Guitars, it was really an interesting perspective to peek into – a luthier on the border between work and retirement who created a company based on hard work and craftsmanship, slowly letting go of the empire he created. Sort of like a loving father watching his kid go off into the world. Apparently the production line ukuleles that Breedlove makes are based on Kim’s designs from a few years ago and aren’t a true representation of what Kim currently makes in his garage today. But it’s up to Breedlove (the company) to ask him for advice when they need it and Kim is fine with that. In the meantime he continues to quietly refine his craft even though his job no longer depends on it. Very cool guy, great story. If you ever get a chance to meet him in person, do.

Favorite Ukulele – Islander Solid Mahogany Concert (http://www.islanderukulele.com/page111.aspx) (MSC-4)
Ha, this one is my default favorite only because Joe Souza is pretty much the nicest guy in the world. Islander ukuleles are the overseas-made ukes designed by Kanile’a. They’re a great value because you get Kanile’a dimensions and near Kanile’a sound for a fraction of the price. Aldrine told Joe that my favorite ukulele last year (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?41022-Final-%28personal%29-thoughts-on-NAMM-2011!) was his MC-4 (laminate mahogany concert). Joe immediately wanted to give me one, but only had the solid version available. I, of course, graciously accepted :D Been playing with it a lot lately and really love it. I’m not a big fan of Aquila strings, so I’ll probably change them up soon and report back with the results. Pure awesomeness.

Favorite Person(s) – Colin Coleman (http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69/featured) (CoLmes) and Mim of Mim’s Ukes (http://www.mimsukes.com/)
We met Colin a few years ago in New York. At the time he was an enthusiastic kid who loved strumming the uke and playing hip hop songs and didn’t have a care in the world. A lot has happened to him since then and Colin had to do a lot of growing up very quickly, but it was really great to hang out with him a little and see the ukulele player and man that he’s become. As far as life goes, Colin is poised, thoughtful, and has become a real leader. As far as his ukulele playing goes, he still has the same enthusiasm, but now his technical abilities and style shine through like light through a diamond that's been newly cut and lightly polished. If that doesn’t make sense, just check out his channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69 (http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69/featured) (and his new channel CoLmesUke (http://www.youtube.com/user/CoLmesUke)) to see what I mean.

Mim was one of my Most Interesting Person(s) at last year’s NAMM (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?41022-Final-%28personal%29-thoughts-on-NAMM-2011!), and this year had to be in my favorites. Over the past year she has been climbing the ranks of the world’s knowledgeable, honest, and helpful online ukulele retailers - all while staying true to her straightforward, likeable, and crazy-funny self (her stream of hilarious personal anecdotes were the highlight of my trip!). Mim was on a mission this year, with an updated arsenal of ukulele knowledge to fuel her dealer decisions so it’s going to be great to see what she has to offer up in her store (http://www.mimsukes.com/) soon.

Other Notables:
Moku Ukulele (http://youtu.be/Ym2RmANJD8I) was a surprise newcomer. Of all the new ukulele companies this year, this one seemed to be the only one really worth a good listen. For the price, Moku’s Islander Series seemed like a really good value with a great price-to-sound&looks ratio. The brand hasn’t even been officially released yet, but going to be exciting to see where Moku goes from here.

Tim (Ukeeku) was probably the hardest working and most uke-informed guy at NAMM this year. He and his team were all over the map, getting exclusive info before anyone else. If you want even more NAMM, for comprehensive coverage of the uke scene, look no further than Tim’s Ukeeku.com (http://ukeeku.com/).

Martin decided to release tenor and concert ukulele models (http://youtu.be/z-7HRkLi-YU) this year. I wasn’t impressed with last year’s High Pressure Laminate ukuleles, so the fact that they decided to expand their solid ukuleles to concert and tenor felt like a step back into the right direction. In true Martin’ style, the new ukes are simple, not flashy or extravagant, but surprisingly capture the essence of the Martin’ ukulele sound.

Say what you want about Kala (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g-cFplFXqQ), but the brand has got its heart in the right place. Watch the interview again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g-cFplFXqQ) and you’ll see how much they do (and have done) for the ukulele industry and how much they are in it to help the average ukulele player succeed and be happy. Hat’s off to them.

Taylor's ukulele (http://youtu.be/Vnu68EYkEWY) was a treat to see, touch, feel, and play. Over the years so many people have asked us if Taylor would actually produce a uke and the answer in years past has always been an underwhelming "no." So when the buzz started about the release of 30 Taylor ukes, naturally we planned to hit up the Taylor park at NAMM to witness the fabled beast. Aside from the action being a little too low on certain frets, the Taylors looked, felt, and sounded fantastic. But with such a high price point, unusual barrier of entry (you need to buy it along with a koa Taylor guitar, as a pair), and limited quantity, it's just not a realistic option even for relatively serious ukulele collectors. Still, it was great to see that dreams can come true.

Aside from that, everyone else performed pretty much as expected. The ukulele world is a frothy, foaming sea of products, ideas, and competing philosophies. All we can do now is wait for the ocean to calm down and hope that the great ones, the companies that stand for honesty, integrity, and quality, rise to the top. We have reached an interesting and volatile point in the timeline of ukulele history and it will be exciting to see how everyone adapts to the changes.

Special thanks to everyone who made our NAMM experience special – Kahai for all the help and late night editing, Kira for the rides & internet & food, Heather for all her encouragement and road rage, Joe and Kristen, Sam & Lulu, Gary, Rick, & Mark of Nalu, Kalei Gamiao, Tim, Mim, Nick, Colin, Sally, Rob, Mike & Tookta, Scot & Nancy Toomey, Melvin Gutierrez, Gabe Bondoc, Stevie-freaking-Wonder, Ukulele Bartt, Steven Espaniola, Brittni Paiva, Jim Beloff (we’re working on getting your interview up!), everyone we interviewed, the NAMM and Anaheim Convention Center staff, and anyone that I missed! (Speaking of missed, we really missed you at NAMM, Ken Middleton! Hope you're back up to traveling condition soon).

Overall, the 2012 NAMM was a success. Aldrine, Kahai, and I met a lot of cool people and made some contacts with a few really great companies, so look out for more quality ukulele accessories in the UU Store (http://ukeunderground.bigcartel.com) coming soon!

Thanks for the memories, NAMM. See you again next year!

Hiddencross
01-24-2012, 03:26 PM
Awesome, thank you for this.

Ronnie Aloha
01-24-2012, 03:43 PM
Sorry I missed you Aaron. I was there Sunday and my friend said you were at the OS booth doing an interview but you were gone when I got there. Hope you had a safe trip home.

itsme
01-24-2012, 04:29 PM
Thanks for the round up and your thoughts. Definitely an interesting read. :)

I've love to hear what other attendees have to say about the experience.

Too bad Ken Middleton (Ohana rep) wasn't able to make it this year. I always enjoy his perspective on things.

salukulady
01-24-2012, 04:52 PM
Aaron, my very favorite moment at NAMM was when I was standing at the Kamaka booth and saw you sprinting with a huge smile on your face to hug me with Aldrine behind you. That was awesome. You boys are the best. And Kahai is a great addition to the family.

I can't agree more with your choice of favorite person, Colin Colman. He's mine too.

ricdoug
01-24-2012, 05:10 PM
Thanks for the update, Aaron. I had too much on my plate to attend this year (hopefully I'll have the time next year). Colin (Colmes) is special. I had the pleasure of watching him perform 2 years ago at the Southern California Ukulele Festival, and also with the fantabulous Barefoot Wahines (Sally's a BABE!). He was there with Ronin and performed an awesome set. Ric

Nickie
01-24-2012, 05:18 PM
Very intersting review. I do have to ask a dumb question, though. I don't know what NAMM stands for??? It does sound like something I would enjoy.

anaka
01-24-2012, 05:41 PM
Thanks! NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants. It's a huge trade show that brings together hundreds of the most important music manufacturers and brands from around the world, allowing music shop owners and distributors meet and speak directly with the brands that they carry or would like to carry. The show is not open to the public, which is why we try our best to get in every year as press so that everyone here in the Underground can see what the ukulele companies have in store for us in the coming year.

salukulady
01-24-2012, 05:46 PM
On Sunday every year for a $25 entrance fee, the public can enter and see the show.

Mim
01-25-2012, 05:55 AM
I honestly had such a good time this year!!! But man am I exhausted! Thanks for your support Aaron! Seriously, guys, Aaron is awesome!!! He has a great ear and heart for the ukulele and he gets what it is all about. Making music that you love!

So awesome to play along side Colin as well and he even showed me some pointers! He has grown so much. Just since I first saw him on the minijams. He is a great player and a great friend!

I will do a list of my most notable ukes, people, etc. later when I get caught up on orders, but I got to agree with your #1 uke, those Kamoas are fantastic. I saw them from the door before I even went into the show and they took my breath away. And they feel and play as good as they look. And you will not see a more enthusiastic person at their booth than Sam and Lulu of Kamoa.

manapualabs
01-25-2012, 06:38 AM
Aaron, mahalo for your wonderful post of NAMM musings. Mahalo also for all the hard work you and the rest of the UU ohana do, we really appreciate it!

After avidly watching all the videos from this year's NAMM I want to say YES to your Kala mention. Aldrine asked everyone, "What is your goal for the `ukulele community?" and Mike Upton was the only one to mention giving back to the community; donating ukes to schools, Haiti, education in general. Good for them!

ukeeku
01-25-2012, 06:58 AM
I had pedometer on he first day and walked 25,000 steps (11 miles?) and I was just in one hall the whole day. it was amazing. thanks for the link to the site. Colin and Nick made it so much more fun and easier since they had a different perspective and really helped to make this years coverage so much better and sucessful than last years.

anaka
01-25-2012, 10:46 AM
Ooh, also forgot to thank and mention Jason Arimoto (facemeltingukulele (http://www.youtube.com/user/facemeltingukulele)) and Daniel Ho! The two of them have released and been promoting their new PhD (Premium high Density) Ukulele Strings. They're clear and made of PVDF instead of nylon. I strung up the new Islander MSC-4 with the Tenor Low G (unwound!) set - still evaluating the sound, but so far I'm liking what I hear!

CoLmes
01-25-2012, 11:09 AM
Favorite Person(s)[/B] Ė Colin Coleman (http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69/featured) (CoLmes) and Mim of Mimís Ukes (http://www.mimsukes.com/)
We met Colin a few years ago in New York. At the time he was an enthusiastic kid who loved strumming the uke and playing hip hop songs and didnít have a care in the world. A lot has happened to him since then and Colin had to do a lot of growing up very quickly, but it was really great to hang out with him a little and see the ukulele player and man that heís become. As far as life goes, Colin is poised, thoughtful, and has become a real leader. As far as his ukulele playing goes, he still has the same enthusiasm, but now his technical abilities and style shine through like light through a diamond that's been newly cut and lightly polished. If that doesnít make sense, just check out his channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69 (http://www.youtube.com/user/colmes69/featured) (and his new channel CoLmesUke (http://www.youtube.com/user/CoLmesUke)) to see what I mean.















I can't agree more with your choice of favorite person, Colin Colman. He's mine too.


Thanks for the update, Aaron. I had too much on my plate to attend this year (hopefully I'll have the time next year). Colin (Colmes) is special. I had the pleasure of watching him perform 2 years ago at the Southern California Ukulele Festival, and also with the fantabulous Barefoot Wahines (Sally's a BABE!). He was there with Ronin and performed an awesome set. Ric




So awesome to play along side Colin as well and he even showed me some pointers! He has grown so much. Just since I first saw him on the minijams. He is a great player and a great friend!



I read this all before going to sleep last night. I didn't want to comment at first because I just didn't know what to say at all. I had no idea I made that much of an impression on anybody. I try to stay out of the picture a lot because I want others to do what they have to do. It means a lot that the guys at UU keep that close of an eye on me, I really didn't know. All I do know is I want to continue on my path and make people around me proud, especially UU because they are the ones that got me to where I've been along with keeping me sane.

Thanks for this, I really appreciate everything.

Mouthy1
01-25-2012, 11:51 AM
Great review of an event that most of us can't truly attend. Sounds like it was a blast and you certainly have a great way of writing about it. Nice work.

Gadzukes!
01-25-2012, 02:46 PM
CoLmes, I don't know anything about you but what I've read here, but I bet you'll go far in life. You sound like a stand-up guy.

UncleElvis
01-25-2012, 03:10 PM
CoLmes, I don't know anything about you but what I've read here, but I bet you'll go far in life. You sound like a stand-up guy.

You got it in one, sir. Colin is good, good people.

UncleElvis
01-25-2012, 03:11 PM
I read this all before going to sleep last night. I didn't want to comment at first because I just didn't know what to say at all. I had no idea I made that much of an impression on anybody. I try to stay out of the picture a lot because I want others to do what they have to do. It means a lot that the guys at UU keep that close of an eye on me, I really didn't know. All I do know is I want to continue on my path and make people around me proud, especially UU because they are the ones that got me to where I've been along with keeping me sane.

Thanks for this, I really appreciate everything.

And this is exactly why we love you, brother.

salukulady
01-26-2012, 11:46 AM
bump .

Pueo
01-26-2012, 12:11 PM
I really really really missed not being able to go to NAMM this year and hang out with the UU crew. Thanks for the summary Ryan, and I agree with all your choices 100%.

Colin, both the well-deserved accolades you received and the classy way you handled it speak volumes about you. Looking forward to the next time we meet.

Mim, same goes for you too! :)

Oh, and Ryan, if there is anything I can do for UU on Oahu, let me know! Hope to see you guys soon - are you coming to the Ukulele Picnic?

salukulady
01-26-2012, 12:15 PM
I really really really missed not being able to go to NAMM this year and hang out with the UU crew. Thanks for the summary Ryan, and I agree with all your choices 100%.

Colin, both the well-deserved accolades you received and the classy way you handled it speak volumes about you. Looking forward to the next time we meet.

Mim, same goes for you too! :)

Oh, and Ryan, if there is anything I can do for UU on Oahu, let me know! Hope to see you guys soon - are you coming to the Ukulele Picnic?Pssst, Damon.....it's Aaron.

salukulady
01-26-2012, 12:18 PM
.

Colin, both the well-deserved accolades you received and the classy way you handled it speak volumes about you. Ditto this.