With my love and passion for building custom mandolins, I found my second passion. It’s still a stringed instrument, but a particular one at that. It is the ukulele.
The first time I came across a ukulele was when me and my family took a vacation in Hawaii. We stayed at a beautiful beach villa in Ko Olina. We went to a Hawaiian luau and they performed beautiful music with the ukulele. I was intrigued by the sound and music that was being made by it. Of course the mystical hula dances hypnotized me as well, but I was so focused on the music of the ukulele. I loved it.
There were several shops around the Ko Olina Resort and they happened to have a ukulele shop that I luckily came across. I was like a child that found a new toy in a toy store. I asked the salesperson everything that I could about the instrument, but he wasn’t the best of help as he was new.
I admired the Koa wood that the premium ukuleles were made from. The sound of the G-C-E-A strings of a guitar vibrated against the wood beautifully. I tested out the various sizes that they had from the standard (soprano) ukes (short for ukulele), concert, tenor, and the baritone. I also noticed the differences in the wood that the ukuleles were constructed with.
Over our month long vacation there on Oahu I made it a goal to explore and learn as much as I could about the ukulele. I took the time to admire performances that had the uke in the ensemble. I noticed the different styles of music that was played on the instrument from traditional to contemporary. I realized why the ukulele meant “jumping flea” as the fingers of the musician jumped off the smaller neck and and fret board.
In fact, I learned that the Ukulele isn’t native to Hawaii like what most people think (I initially thought this as well). The Portuguese sailors brought over the four stringed instrument called cavaquinhos. They not only influenced the Hawaii but Maderia with their Branguinha, and Brasil with their Brazilian Cavaquinhos.
Traditional Hawaiian music consists of more so strumming and contemporary “Hawaiian” music utilizes picking/plucking.
My experience in Hawaii and discovering ukuleles propelled me into another passion additional to the mandolin. I guess I just have a thing for stringed instruments and that foreign sound.
Stay tuned (pun intended) for more of your mandolin and ukulele resource from Carver Mandolins & Ukuleles.