A Ukulele with Too Many Strings

When is a Ukulele not a Ukulele? Apparently when it has more than four strings.

Then it becomes a little guitar-like thingy.

I mention this because I was reading a review of Raul Malo’s performance in Port Washington, NY the other night. He usually brings out his Kala uBass for one or two songs during his performances. But on this night, he trotted out his six-string Ukulele for the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile.”

But according to one reviewer, the six-string Uke was confusing. How could it be a Uke if it had six strings? Don’t Ukuleles have only four strings?

The reviewer noted:

Towards the end of the show, Malo traded in his guitar for what appeared to be a ukulele, but was actually a miniature six-string guitar-like instrument. On stage by himself for a brief while, he treated the audience to his rendition of “Smile,” originally a Charlie Chaplin instrumental from the film “Modern Times.”

“A miniature six-string guitar-like instrument.” That one made me laugh. Particularly since every time he brings out one of his Ukes–either the uBass or his six string–someone in the audience will yell out “What the hell is that thing?” and he’ll have to explain it’s a Ukulele bass or a Uke–as someone does in this video. (scroll up to 1:42 in the video)

Maybe the reviewer should have paid a little more attention during the performance.


He’s Hot, He Plays the Ukulele and He’s Dead

Apologies to that great Rolling Stone cover of September 17, 1981 featuring Jim Morrison of the Doors (He’s Hot, He’s Sexy and He’s Dead.).

Possibly the greatest headline of all time comes to us from Agence France Press (AFP), the International wire service, and features the much beloved Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – better known as just Iz or Bruddah Iz. It seems that Iz’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has been topping the charts in Germany lately after appearing in a television commercial.

Hence this great recent headline: “Dead ukulele-playing Hawaiian tops German charts.”

The story itself is straightforward enough and begins like this:

With the body of a sumo wrestler and the voice of an angel, a ukulele-playing Hawaiian named Israel Kamakawiwo’ole has stormed to number one on Germany’s music charts — 13 years after he died.

But apparently they don’t want you to forget that Iz is no longer with us.

Comparing him to unlikely British pop stars Paul Potts and Susan Boyle, the Tagesspiegel daily said: “The Germans love the captivating song of the dead Hawaiian, which floats peacefully like an ocean.”

Iz died in 1997 at the age of 38 from complications brought on by his excessive weight. At one point in is life he tipped the scales at 757 pounds.

He may be gone, but his great music and amazing voice will live forever.

“Duke of Uke” Going Strong at 102

The “Duke of Uke” Bill Tapia turned 102 years old this year. And he’s still going strong. Flying all over the place to play concerts. Bringing the joy of the Ukulele to audiences the world over.

CBS News did a nice little piece on him recently. Check it out here.

Ignore the idiot reporter who says he was born in 1910. That would make Tappy 100, not 102. He obviously was born in 1908. I guess the reporter failed math in third grade.

Do Not Try This at Home

This has got to be the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

There are many methods available to make your own Ukulele strap. The method illustrated in This Video is not one I would recommend.

Using string as a Ukulele strap probably would work. The Uke doesn’t weigh that much after all. And I’ve seen people using shoe laces as straps. But Scotch-taping the string to the back of your Uke to hold it from slipping is just a bit too much for my taste. And wrapping the string around the entire body of the Uke probably is not such a good idea.

If you need a strap for your Uke, just go out and buy yourself a Uke Leash.

Just don’t Scotch Tape it to the back of your Uke.

Fix That Broken uBass Tuning Peg

Lets’s face it, not matter how well made something is, it could break. It could break from overuse, it could break from abuse, or it could break from faulty materials.

While the Kala uBass is a very well-made Ukulele, things can break. Particularly things that get a lot of use, like strings and tuning pegs. Replacing a broken string is not very complicated. But replacing a broken tuning peg is a little more involved. The uBass uses custom made Hipshot Tuners.

To guide you on your journey to full tuning peg functionality, Kala Brand Music Co. and kindly provided a video entitled “Assembling a Ubass2 Tuner” outlining the steps need to remove a broken tuning peg and replace it with a new fully functioning one.

Watch the video. And hope you never have to use its advice.

Zing Went the Strings…

Those Pahoehoe strings for the Kala uBass sure are expensive.

They list for $24.99 for a full set of four. That’s a whopping $6.25 for each string.

You can buy them through Kala Brand Music Co. at full price. One advantage is they generally are always in stock. Or, you can buy them through Road Toad Music for $24.00, with shipping included.

Still, that’s a good chunk of change.

The cheapest I’ve found a set of Pahoehoe strings for is $19.95 at Elderly Instruments. However, while a set is $20, you have to pay shipping, so it may not be the cheapest after all. But it’s a good price. Particularly if they’re in stock.