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Thread: My UAS Journey: One year and more than a dozen ukuleles later

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Post My UAS Journey: One year and more than a dozen ukuleles later

    Hello, UU friends.
    It has been exactly one year since I started playing the ukulele. Without exaggeration, it is a life changing music instrument for me. Prior to 2019, I’ve had a mild depression due to personal reasons, I could feel that I was drowning day by day. Playing the ukulele not only it “cured” my mental unhealthiness, I’ve also met some of the world most amazing people. Some of which I consider family now. I used to think aloha spirit is a “marketing thing” to attract tourist to Hawaii. After a year of playing the ukulele, I truly believe in the aloha spirit, I start to understand why Jake believes that ukulele is an instrument of peace, why he says if everyone plays the ukulele, the world would become a better place. How else would you explain why every single ukulele player that I’ve met so far is humble, passionate and positive.

    Enough with why I love playing ukuleles, let’s talk about UAS. Oh man it is a real problem. As I mentioned above, I’ve had some dark period over the past few years, playing the ukuleles brings me to my own utopia, I feel happy. In a way, it is like a drug, you have good experience then you want more. The more I play my ukuleles, the more I want to experience different tones. I know it is unhealthy, but I want more!

    I’m going to list the interesting ukuleles that I’ve had in chronological order. ( went through more than a dozen low-mid tier ukuleles as well) My opinions are highly subjective, I am simply telling my story and how I feel, do not take my word for anything haha:D.

    I don’t know how to upload individually photo, everything is in this Google Album, You’ll have to match the paragraphs with the pictures.:(
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/vcpDXdmJRTzzL4VS8

    February 2019, Kanile’a Platinum 2016

    My first real Tenor Ukulele. Prior to this ukulele, I’ve only played Amazon ukuleles, you can imagine my shock when I strum it for the first time in a music store. Back in my NUD post, I described the sound as an angel singing. That is truly how I felt back then, I felt this warmth from my head to my toes when I play this ukulele. The curl on this koa is unreal, it is mesmerizing to look at. The only downside is the overall design of this ukulele is slim, which means the neck is very thin, it is a little bit hard to play for me. I am 6’2 with big hands. Still, it is one of the best sounding koa instrument that I’ve played.:music:

    March 2019, Kamaka HF-4 Baritone

    I ordered this instrument in November 2018. I know nothing about ukulele back then, I simply think baritone is the loudest ukulele, I liked it, I wanted to be a baritone player. Google searched “ Best ukulele in the word”, ok, Kamaka it is. So I blindly ordered the hf4.
    I didn’t really connect with this instrument. The width between strings are huge, it was very hard to adjust to. I didn’t know that the baritone sound that I was looking for is spruce or cedar top baritone, koa didn’t work for me. It is an amazing instrument, but it was just not for me.:wallbash:

    April- August 2019, KoAloha KTM-00

    During this period, I found an internship in China. I didn’t bring my ukuleles with me because I thought I’d be too busy and have no time to play it. I was wrong, I really needed an ukulele after a long day of intense and stressful work.:music: I went through 3 low to mid tier ukulele, eventually got a KoAloha. I chose KoAloha over Kamaka because I knew KoAloha was the loudest among the K brands. Back then I thought loud= good.
    During this period, my skill improved dramatically. I went from strumming chords to “While my guitar gently weeps” and “Shut down”. I didn’t know that the ukulele community in China was booming, the community grows day by day, a lot of kids and teens start to play ukulele fingerstyle. I met a great mentor and a group of ukulele fingerstyle players. I was obsessed, I practice 10-12 hours a day during weekends.
    In October, I brought my ktm-00 to Las Vegas to see Jake’s show. I even played the entire “ While my guitar gently weeps” in front of him. It was my first time going to Las Vegas, also I went alone. So many epic stories happened in Vegas, and during the show. hope I’ll write it out one day, haha.
    Back to ktm-00, it has a very bright sound. It is very suitable for singing and playing slow melody. It is not the best when playing Jake’s stuff, which involves a lot of fast strumming, attacks, huge dynamics. ( very subjective opinion, don’t hate haha:)).


    July 2019, RISA stick.
    I wanted to have something to play on the airplane back to Canada, 13 hours flight is tough without entertainment. This ukulele surprised me, I did think that it would sound so good plugged in, it plays like a real ukulele! On my way back to Canada, I plugged in a VOX mini amp, a Bose QC25 noise canceling headphone, I had a tons of fun.

    After getting back to Canada, I enrolled in a guitar class in my university, for the course ending group performance, I did the Hotel California solo on this little thing, people were surprised. Here is a little glimpse.
    https://youtu.be/65d2UMhH1z4

    October 2019, Godin MultiUke

    Same Guitar class, I wanted to do a presentation on ukulele, I wanted to promote this instrument. I thought it is a good idea to do a “While my guitar gently weeps” solo, because Jake’s rendition is what made me decide to play the ukulele. Problem is that all my ukuleles were acoustic, the classroom was huge. Google search again, best electric ukulele. 3 days later, I got it in my hands. The presentation was very successful. I could tell that they didn’t expect much from an ukulele, I don’t blame them, I didn’t know much about ukuleles either a year ago. During the song, a lot people took out their phone to film me. A guy even walked to my seat to tell me that I inspired him a little after the presentation, that meant the world to me. One more ukulele player is one more little step towards world peace right? Haha.

    The instrument itself is build with quality. It has huge potential and playability. Sadly I was a hardware noob, I did’t know what are pedals, loop stations, etc.

    October 2019, Martin Centennial Style 3 Soprano
    Still one of my favorites, I made a post back when I purchased it, I’ll repost it here.

    Hello UU friends, I got my first Soprano ever today, it is a Martin Style 3 Centennial.

    I first tried this ukulele back in September at a local music store, I didn't know what brand was it back then. When I strum it the first time, I was blown away by its volume and tone. Here's is a video I recorded playing it for the first time, you can hear the volume is so loud.
    https://youtu.be/qfWE_MTfugM
    I looked at the price, a sweat dripped down my forehead, I put it back.

    Now fast forward to last night, I dreamed about this ukulele . I couldn't fall back to sleep, I got up and did some research. When I saw a hundred years old martin soprano still sounds and looks amazing, I decide to get it!
    I haven't put it down since this morning, it sounds just so beautiful.

    Few months later, still one of my favorites, it is in the “Would never sell” list.

    November 2019, LFDM Sinker Redwood.
    A visit to DownUpDave opened my eye.
    I always knew that LFDM is a phenomenal instrument, I’ve listened to HMS sound samples over and over again. When I found out there is one on sale at UU Market, it was so tempting. But I didn’t jump on it immediately, what if, like the Kamaka hf-4, it is a good instrument but not for me?
    I’ve been lurking on this forum long enough to know there are a few LFDM collectors in Canada, one of them is not very far from me, DownUpDave. I hesitated to write to him, because, as you can tell, my written English is very informal, I don’t want him to have a bad impression on me. Finally, my UAS gave me the courage to write to him. I asked if I could try out one of his LFDM. After a few hours of anxious waiting, he said yes! That is what I was talking about the Aloha spirit. I used to collect and trade watches. I think if I asked a watch collector to come to his home and try on his watches, he would politely decline, haha.

    So I got to his home, he was so welcoming. After a brief chat, I hold a LFDM for the first time in my hand. Just from the look of it, it looks glowing, it might be reflection or psychological, but I swear it was glowing. It doesn’t have crazy inlay nor crazy koa curls ( it is a spruce top), but the LFDM screams high end for some reason. The first strum was surreal. At this point, I’ve played a few high end K brand, I know what to expect from a well build high end ukulele. But still, I was shocked, I strummed again to make sure that the sound came from this ukulele, because it sounded like a classical guitar. It was so different from what I’ve heard before. Since Grande Bouche Selmer LFDM has 20+ frets, I tried one of the high note on the first string. Oh man it rings, crystal clear and last forever. I played the high note over and over again, I remember I was repeatedly telling Dave that my mind could not process what was going on, is this even an ukulele anymore. I hope he was not annoyed by me, haha. Knowing that I was coming, he brought a lot of instrument from basement to the Livingroom prior to my arrival. Every single one of them, I’d be beyond excited to play any one of them in any other given day, but that day, holding his other beautiful custom luthier build ukuleles, all I can think of is his LFDM Tenor, and all I can hear is that crystal clear high note.

    (Thank you again Dave, for introducing me to a new ukulele world:shaka:)
    I'm a Ukulele newbie, one day I'll make my Ukuleles proud.

    Moore Bettah Master Koa Tenor #2002 "Tiki Time"
    LFDM Tenor Sinker redwood+ Cocobolo
    LFDM Tenor Bearclaw Spruce
    Martin Style 3 Centennial Soprano
    Risa stick Concert

  2. #2
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    That high note kept ringing in my head, I heard it when I drove home, I heard it when I wired the money to purchased the LFDM on the Market Place, I heard it when my own LFDM arrives. Then I strum my beautiful Sinker redwood LFDM for the first time, it sounded very different from Dave’s spruce top LFDM. I was disappointed, I thought I had a faulty unit or something. I strummed again, wait a second. Strummed again, holy cow! It is different but in a good way. It has the most beautiful bass, it sounds so mellow. After changing the strings to high G and spent a day with my LFDM. I can say that sinker redwood suits my playing style so unbelievably well.

    It has great highs, not the same high as the spruce top, in addition, it’s bass is unreal. I often feel that there is a guy playing drum next to me when I strum it. Which makes rhythmic melody so much better!
    I love this LFDM so much that I sold all my other Tenors. (Doesn’t mean that K brands are inferior instruments by any means. As you can tell, I was connecting with this LFDM on another level, its tonal characteristic
    fits my “musical aesthetic” so well, I simply don’t want to play anything else.

    December 2019, Blackbird Farallon
    Winter in Canada gets super dry, my room has 28% relative humidity while having two humidifiers blasting 24/7. It is a pain to put in and take out ukuleles out of the cabinet. I wanted something that I could put beside my desk, that I can play anytime.
    Blackbird is a superb instrument, it is THE loudest ukulele that I’ve played, it sounds good as well. When I first got it, I play it with my buddy guitarist. We had fun blasting chords at each other, and for the first time, I could here my uke clearly through a blasting guitar.

    Since I am a high G fingerstyle player, I switch it to nylon high G after having my few days of Low G fun. LFDM definitely made my ear picky, but even through my picky ears blackbird held up. I would say it is at least on par with the 4 Ks entry level tenors tone wise. Maybe it is “too good” in certain areas. For example, it is super responsive, I personally find it too responsive for fingerstyle. I don’t know how to say it, when I play it, I find it lacks that moment between your finger leaves the string after picking, to the sound produced. I am certain that it is just me lacking in skills, I don’t see players like Kalei and Corey complain about it.


    December 2019, Kamaka hf-3d4i Jake Blue Tenor
    When I first started playing the ukulele, this was my ultimate grail instrument. I didn’t rush to purchase knowing that it’ll always be there whenever I wanted to order. Then I watched the wait time got from 1 year to 1.5 year, now over 2 years. I’ve seen this happen when I was collecting watch, I had multiple opportunities of purchasing the Rolex Hulk for MSRP, decide to get them later, now they’ve almost doubled in value, and you can’t get them anymore. I need to seize this opportunity. Placed order on the last days of 2019. Hope you guys will check out my NUD post in two years.


    January 2020, LFDM Bearclaw Spruce top
    Even though I loved my sinker redwood LFDM more than anything, I always wanted a spruce top like Dave’s. An opportunity present itself in January, I seized it. Thank you Goerge ( theblackegg), he is a character, yet very humble, I’d give him a “Aloha spirit reward” as well, haha.
    I find the spruce top has insane good mids too. You know how I feel when I fast strum and attack on this spruce LFDM? I feel like I’m cutting very crisp celery with a very sharp knife, each piece of celery is cutted into exact identical pieces. I have that satisfaction of when an OCD is satisfied. Is musical OCD a thing? Each strum completely make my “musical OCD” satisfied over and over again. ( Don’t think dirty haaaaaa)
    Overall I love it. It is like a soul mate to my sinker redwood LFDM, they complement each other so well.
    I thought my UAS should be cured at this point, well, not yet.

    February 2020, Moore Bettah Tiki Time Koa Tenor

    I just got my certificate from Mr. Moore today, it still feels surreal.

    What is Art? I’ve seen artist frame a blanc piece of paper then call it art; I’ve seen Picasso’s abstract painting; I’ve seen Jacob&Co. astronomia tourbillon watch. They are all a form of art, but they are not very relevant to me. I understand they please a certain group of people, but I don’t care much for them, same way a lot of people do not care for ukuleles. I don’t want to bother to find the meaning behind a blanc piece of paper; I don’t have the opportunity to go to art school to understand painting; Even if I might have sentimental value attached to a watch, the watch doesn’t give me a feed back, there is no interaction. (Also I can’t afford it haha)

    The first time I heard MBU on HMS, I knew immediately this is an unusual ukulele. In addition the “painting” is so beautiful. After some research, I learned 1. It is expensive, 2. You can not just buy or order it. 3. Those aren’t painting, they are freaking inlays! I learned that to create some shadows on the face, you need to drill hundreds of little holes then fill them with inlays. For so long, I took the beautiful inlayed headstock of MBU for granted.

    Also the sound, oh the sound is so beautiful. I don’t even need to say anything, you all already know. Now, when I look each MBU inlay closely, and thinking of the amount of effort and genius put into the work, the time I am going to spend with a MBU, and the ukulele will change, open up, because of my playing, the fact that it gives me feedback by singing for me whenever I need it, that is art to me! ( Again, personal opinion, don't want to offend any Picasso lovers)

    I was in class Monday night, I suddenly have the urge of checking out MBU’s facebook page. I saw one MBU is available for sale, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I immediately left a message for Mr. Moore, followed by an email of expressing how much I wish to have this ukulele. I wasn’t the only one who wanted this ukulele, we put Mr. Moore in a very difficult situation. Yesterday morning, I dreamed that Mr. Moore decide to let me have the ukulele. I immediately woke up from excitement, my heart was racing. Then there’s this unread email on my phone, Mr. Moore decide to let me have the ukulele. ( Just pinched my face again, yap, it is not a dream!)
    My most sincere Mahalo goes to Mr. Moore and Ms. Sargent for letting me have this instrument.


    Now that I cooled down a little bit, I feel suddenly at peace. You know that Zen feeling when you don’t want anything else? I know, I know, there is thousands other amazing ukuleles that I haven’t tried yet. (like the Romeo Creations new DH-6 steel string) But I don’t have the urge to immediately purchase another ukulele anymore. It is the first time I have this feeling. Maybe my UAS is being cured?

    My goal in 2020 is to be able to jam freely in any key, I know it is a long way, but I have faith. A year ago I couldn’t even imagine to be able to play Jake’s stuff. Now I’ve learned all my favorite Jake’s song. (Weeps, Blue rose falling, Eleanor Rigby, Bohemian Rhapsody)

    I don’t think anyone could read my poorly written broken English this far. I originally only wanted to write a word or two then post bunch of pictures. But whenever I think of an ukulele, I think of our stories, I couldn't help but to write. ( 3028 words so far, oh my!) ]

    At this point you all must be thinking that I am this unhealthily ukulele dependent insane depressed person who is promoting an aloha spirit cult hahahah. I made it sound like it is almost a form of Chakra or something. If someone want me to define aloha spirit, I don’t even know where to start. All I know is, all the amazing ukulele players I’ve met so far are humble, passionate and positive, it can not be a coincidence. I am far from being a perfect human being, but I want to become like them. Or become this persona of the aloha spirit that I’ve projected onto them all along. If this idea makes me become more kind, humble and positive, it makes me want to become a better person, why not believe in it.

    I’ll post photos once my MBU is arrived. Thank you, ukulele, for being part of my life for the past year and for the many years to come. Thank you my UU friends for reading this far. I wish you all a great 2020.


    Edit 02-20-2020

    I’ve been lazy, didn’t write a review for my MBU. I haven’t put it down since I got it.
    Here is a video if you want to see it. The audio of the ukulele is unedited
    https://youtu.be/frxlVn1AeHY
    Last edited by Ukujiji; 02-20-2020 at 05:26 AM.
    I'm a Ukulele newbie, one day I'll make my Ukuleles proud.

    Moore Bettah Master Koa Tenor #2002 "Tiki Time"
    LFDM Tenor Sinker redwood+ Cocobolo
    LFDM Tenor Bearclaw Spruce
    Martin Style 3 Centennial Soprano
    Risa stick Concert

  3. #3
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    Sorry for the long paragraphs, and the lack of smileys haha. Apparently smileys along with links count as an image, we could only have 10 of them.
    I'm a Ukulele newbie, one day I'll make my Ukuleles proud.

    Moore Bettah Master Koa Tenor #2002 "Tiki Time"
    LFDM Tenor Sinker redwood+ Cocobolo
    LFDM Tenor Bearclaw Spruce
    Martin Style 3 Centennial Soprano
    Risa stick Concert

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
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    Corvallis, Oregon
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    Ukujiji, your post(s) is the most beautifully expressed, heartfelt tribute to the ukulele that I have ever read. Thank you so very much for sharing your journey with us. It is such a treat to hear your story and to observe the peace and joy you have found with these simple, but powerful, instruments. I’m quite sure many of us here on the Forum will be able to relate to your experience. It is also profoundly obvious that the aloha spirit is alive and well in you.

    By the way, I don’t think UAS is necessarily a bad thing. I prefer to think of it as building beautiful relationships, one ukulele at a time. :-)

    Aloha,
    Jan
    KoAloha KCM-00 (koa concert)
    KoAloha Opio KCO-10 (acacia concert)
    Thormahlen Yew-kulele (yew concert)
    Kala KA-SLNG (long neck soprano)
    Flight TUS35 (blue soprano)

  5. #5
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    Portland OR
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    Hi Ukujiji,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I don't have time tonight to read it all but I will this weekend
    "Everyone I know who is into the Ukulele is 'crackers' so get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves" - George Harrison

    I'm still trying to determine how many George meant when he said "few"..

    Pono RTSH-C-PC Cedar/Rosewood tenor
    Koaloha KSM-02 Koa longneck soprano
    Blackbird Farallon
    2008 Kiwaya KTC-02 Mahogany concert
    aNueNue Moonbird Spruce/Rosewood concert
    2012 Koaloha D-VI Guitalele
    2000 Larrivée U-01 Koa soprano

  6. #6
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    Ukujiji,

    Congratulations on your journey so far. And thank you for sharing it with us.

    You are indeed fortunate to have some wonderful ukuleles in your possession, and to have experienced many more.

    I'm sure you are already making them proud with your playing. We are our own worst critics.

    Enjoy them and your time exploring your music and playing.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Bay Area
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    Awesome post, really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing. What was your musical background before the ukulele?
    Kanile’a Premium KSR-T - Uke Logic High G Hard Tension
    Flea Concert - High G - Living Water
    Aiersi OU-31M - High G - Worth

    If you Uke easy, life will be hard. If you Uke hard, life will be easy.

  8. #8
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    London
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    I'm impressed that you found your 'playing style' after less than a year of playing. It took the rest of us many years before we could claim that!
    Kamaka HF-3DC - Kamaka HF-2LD - Kanile'a Custom 5 string Super Tenor - KoAloha Special Issue Tenor - Pono MGTP5-PC

  9. #9
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    Nice collection, and it's nice being able to see them online. I do the same thing.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  10. #10
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    Heck of a story, thanks for sharing! Reading through your entire manifesto of Aloha really lifted my spirit.
    Enjoying instruments by - Beau Hannam - Jay Lichty - Jerry Hoffmann - Luis Feu de Mesquita - Kala - Kamaka - Kanile'a - KoAloha - Ko'olau - Moore Bettah - Pono - Romero Creations - and others

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