Aloha Reddit! I'm Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele player from Hawaii. AMA!
Ask me anything!
Edit: This was a great experience! Time sure flew by! Let's do this again soon :) Thank you for all the great questions. I will try to type faster next time so I can answer more questions. I don't think I even got through half of them. But thanks so much! Aloha and Mahalo! -Jake
You could definitely learn Gently Weeps fairly quickly. If you take it one section at a time and just practice, you could nail it in less than a week :) Promise!!
Hi Jake, I was nice meeting you in Natick this past weekend. My question: how do you structure your practice time? Specifically: how often do you practice, for how long, and what do you focus on (songs / riffs / scales / all / other)?
I usually practice for an hour or two at a time. I focus on songs, scales, riffs, all those things. I like to practice things at different tempos. That helps me a lot.
Hey Jake, I’m a huge fan. Thank you for inspiring me to pick up the ukulele. It has become one of my favorite instruments and has been there for me during the good times and bad. I played an original composition at my friend’s wedding, and another for my mother on her deathbed. It has been a key factor in being able to destress and unwind. Also, it’s just good fun.
My question: I am going to be at your show in Fayetteville, Arkansas on November 14th. Would you be able to sign my ukulele? I would be honored.
I would be honored to sign your uke!!
Hey, Jake! I saw you play in Madison, WI last year and it was awesome. How do you find the touring lifestyle? Exhausting? Exhilarating? Do you lose track of which town you're in on any given day? Does every town have a different feel, or do they all blur together?
I love touring! It's fun to play shows in different cities for a new audience every night. You can be experimental and try new things - make each show a little different. I love walking around town in the morning and getting a feel for the place.
What's a song that every ukulele player should know how to play?
"Kawika" by The Sunday Manoa Band or Ka'au Crater Boys :) That was my all-time favorite!
When are you coming to Melbourne, Australia? :)
I'll be there next year for Bluesfest :) April 2015!!
Glad to have you on Reddit Jake!! Your song Blue Roses Falling was the first piece I learned on the ukulele, and I still get tears in my eyes listening to it to this day. You're a fantastic musician and your music is beautiful.
Now, my question: what song of your own composition has the most meaning to you? I know you play pretty much everything, but I've always wondered if there was a particular song that just tugged at your heart strings?
Blue Roses Falling always makes me think of my grandma... I get choked up playing that every now and then. Thank you...
Aloha, Jake~ Your concert at the Aladdin was the first concert I have ever been to in my life. ♥ And when I was in school my mom got your autograph for me in Bank of Hawaii one time. :D You played with Pure Heart at my high school Superfair [Sacred Hearts Academy]. I was wondering, do you still keep in touch with Lopaka or Jon? Do you remember that Superfair with all those crazy girls? XD And, how did you like the Aladdin? I think my eyes were about to pop out of my head. Very starstruck~ Very proud to have been fortunate to see you play live and I wish you all the best~ Do you ever get homesick for the islands? Are you fluent in Japanese? [flails arms] Sorry! I am sorry for typing so much, but I hope you take care. Much aloha, Jake!
Thanks! Yes - I do remember those crazy girls!! Haha!! I still keep in touch with Jon and Lopaka - they are both doing very well. I get homesick from time to time, but performing music is my passion. I'm not fluent in Japanese - but I know a few phrases to get by.
Jake! You are my biggest musical inspiration! I saw you in Austin last year. My question is: How do you continue to write such great and unique melodies for your songs? I always end up playing things so similarly and it's difficult to create variety after awhile.
That's a tough one. I always write things that later sound familiar to me, so I have to trash it and start over. You just have to keep writing and creating. For every 25 songs you write, you'll usually land on something you're somewhat happy with. :)
Is it possible to play a sad song on an ukulele? I feel like I've only ever heard really up-beat songs.
Anything is possible. Sad songs, happy songs, angry songs - music is the language of human emotion :)
Huge fan. You're undoubtedly my favorite contemporary ukulele player, probably my favorite of all time too. I grew up on Maui and learned ukulele in elementary school. After moving to the mainland, playing ukulele has been such a powerful tool in keeping me connected to the islands. It truly is a magical instrument. Unfortunately though, my uke recently broke. So my question to you is:
Could you recommend a good quality ukelele that won't totally eviscerate my bank account?
Thanks so much!
There are so many brands out there today. Kamaka is my favorite of course, but they start at about $1100. But there are tons of options out there for every price range. It's best to go to a music shop and play each one until you find one that you love.
Hi, I am in Wilmington, NC and wondering if there will be any meet and greet opportunities while you are here next month! Any chance to meet you and get an autograph on my Uke?
I'll be out in the lobby after the show - see you there!!
I assume when you are in Hawaii you have to travel to the different islands a lot for gigs. In general, what do you and other musicians generally consider the best island to have a gig on? Alternatively, what's the worst?
(I have a friend who is a golf pro over there and he travels a lot, he always remarks how he loves getting flown to Maui but hates having to go to Kauai for gigs)
I love all the islands. They are all different. Big Island is one of my favorites though because I love fishing and diving. Great fishing spots out there. My grandmother lives on Molokai so I spent a lot of my childhood there. But I was born and raised on Oahu - that's still home for me :) Love it there as well :) You should check them all out. I went to Lanai for my honeymoon - absolutely gorgeous. And Maui and Kauai are breathtaking as well. I'll be performing on Maui (MACC - Feb. 21, 2015)
How do you choose which songs to cover and how long does it take for you to learn a song?
It depends. I love songs that have nice melodic lines. Arrangements can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Bohemian Rhapsody took a while - in fact, it's still evolving. But I love it all!
Hi Jake! I met you about 3-4 years ago when you performed for the Lobby in Hawaii and you were jaw dropping to listen to in person. I was wondering if you ever thought about releasing a video series depicted technics you found useful in becoming a master of the ukelele? I recently picked it up over the summer and can play all of the basic chords, but I can't quite get to the more complicated finger picking. I love the ukelele and think it's a beautiful instrument and would love to improve!
tl;dr have you ever thought about releasing a video series depicting technics you found useful in becoming a master of the ukelele?
There are so many great techniques out there. I have some that I've been working on for a couple years and still can't execute it the way I want. But I'll keep working on them until I can do it. I always look to guitar players, especially classical guitarists. They are amazing - flawless technique and incredible tone.
Hi Jake, I went to your show back in Bellingham, WA and had a blast. Do you happen to have a favorite song among the ones you play? I happen to love to play Akaka Falls myself.
Akaka Falls is another on of my personal favorites. I haven't been playing it this year - but I've been playing Hi'ilawe on my baritone.
Man! I came to music late in my life, but I have you to thank for me picking up the ukulele one weekend and never looking back.
I love to jam with friends, but I find in most cases, I'll default to something like the bass rather than the ukulele. I find it easier to understand my role. When you are playing with others, what role do you feel the ukulele fits? As much as I love playing my uke, I have a hard time matching the energy/volume of an acoustic guitar.
Thanks for being awesome!
That's a tough one. It's always a challenge to find the right part to play in a band setting. Especially for the ukulele. Without a good pickup, it's hard to compete with other instruments in volume.
hi jake! I saw you play in maui last summer and in japan! whats your favorite part of japan?
I love the FOOD!!! Sushi, ramen, tonkatsu, unagi, etc.!!!
Do you have a favorite song to play, regardless of mood?
My favorite of yours is your rendition of "As my guitar gently weeps"
That's always a fun one for me to play. Hallelujah is another one that I love playing. But I'm always in the right mood to play a traditional Hawaiian piece - especially when I'm on tour :)
Aloha from Bozeman, Montana Jake. You are a huge inspiration to me and got me to start playing many years ago when I lived in Maui.
Any chance you'll ever come to Montana?
What are some of your favorite dishes and things to eat?
Hope to play in Montana someday. I love pizza and chicken wings - and bbq chips!! And sushi too!!
Hello Shimabukuro sensei!
I am a long time fan and student of your ukulele playing. I try to practice as much as a I can, but there's a limit to how much you can self-learn right? Should I find myself a real ukulele teacher? YouTube has been a great resource, but maybe I might be missing out on some important techniques and basics? Thanks and hopefully I'll see you in a live concert soon!
It's always great to study with people. But it doesn't have to be a uke teacher, it could be a guitar teacher as well. The right and left hand techniques are quite similar.
Dude, you inspired me to pick up the uke, thank you so much. Question: who have you learnt the most from in your years of playing? (also, come to England!)
Bruce Lee was probably one of my biggest influences. Though he was not a musician, he was a tremendous artist - so ahead of his time. I want to return to England soon - played the Royal Variety Performance show a few years ago.
Hey Jake! Saw you at the Birchmere on Tuesday for the second time. Thanks for an amazing show. I was on the segway. Does your wife play? And are you teaching your son?
My wife used to play the guitar (kiho'alu - slack key) and she knows how to play "Yellow Bird" on the uke :)
Thanks so much for doing this! 1) Favorite jazz artists? 2)How do you like playing at the Pabst theater in Milwaukee, WI? What's your favorite venue to play in? I'm going to see you for the first time in November and I'm so excited!
1) Louis Armstrong 2) I love the Pabst - great vibe and acoustics!! Nice greenroom :)
Favorite venue: too many to mention :)
Hey Jake! I'm a big fan of yours. I have two questions:
What's your favorite song to play?
What song(s) would you recommend for someone just learning to fingerpick?
My favorite is still probably "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." For fingerpicking, I would suggest "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" - Bob Dylan :) Try it in the key of G on the uke.
Hi Jake! I started playing ukulele after seeing your arrangement of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Since then I've been lucky enough to make music full time. Lately I've noticed a trend of people using the uke for "festivals" where the uke players have to teach a workshop as well as perform. Do you feel that these festivals hurt the musicians more than they help the attendees?
I don't think they hurt anyone - I've done a few of those and really enjoyed it. They really are a lot of fun! I think it's a good thing and I hope to do more in the future :)
Hi Jake, me and my brother love your music, he went into the army and your music always remind me of him. My question is: Do you have any relatives in the military, and have you written any songs for them?
My grandfather served in the military. I wrote a song a few years ago called "Go For Broke" in honor of him and all the Japanese-American nisei veterans.
I'm a huge fan! I've seen you a lot, but my most memorable performances of yours were in a very intimate venue in Newport Beach (where you actually gave me a shoutout on my birthday!), the Coach House in San Juan, and of course, the Segerstrom Center. In addition, you always stay for hours and meet fans which says a lot about your character.
I love when you initially hit the stage and roar an "Alooooohaa!" and when you used to come back out for your encore and play "Crazy G."
I have a couple questions:
- What do you love outside of the ukulele?
- Can you give me some insight into how your progression of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" took place?(We've all seen the video of you in New York, but the song has developed into something absolutely unique and original).
- And how much for a private lesson? Haha!
- Fishing and cooking (but I'm terrible at it)
- It's always changing - but that's the beauty of music.
- I haven't done a private lesson in years. I was a senior in high school when I started teaching ukulele out of my apartment. I charged $15 an hour :)
Jake...I've seen you perform and you are f-ing amazing!
Do you ever give player clinics? or private lessons?
A few times a year, I'll take part in a workshop of some sort. Usually at a music festival. Those are fun! I would love to do more of that
Hi Jake, have had the fortune of seeing you play several times on the east coast! The uke has come quite a long way in the past few years and I was wondering what are your thoughts on the growth of the uke as a more mainstream instrument?
It's so exciting! I love that artists like Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, Taylor Swift, Jimmy Buffett, etc. are all incorporating the ukulele in their music. Iz's Over The Rainbow made a tremendous impact. One of my favorite ukulele tracks of all-time!
What's the biggest motivator in continuing your craft? Are covers or originals more dear to your heart? BTW, you have melted countless ears of those I've enlightened with your music. My mother's all-time favorite movie is Wizard of Oz. However morbid, your cover of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' will continue to be celebrated now and until her funeral. Thanks for your commitment!
That's a tough one. I love playing - I've never ever felt tired of playing the uke. I love covers... one of my favorites is In My Life. And Over The Rainbow of course :)
BIG hello from Tampa, FL! I've only just recently been introduced to your works, and must admit I'm already a big fan!
What is currently your most favorite band/artist(s)?
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones :)
Hi Jake! Big fan of your music. How old were you when you first started playing and what inspired you to start? Also who are your musical idols? Thanks for doing this :)
I started playing at 4 years old - my mom was my first teacher. My favorite ukulele players are Eddie Kamae, Ohta-san, Peter Moon, Troy Fernandez, just to name a few.
Hey Jake! You were (and are) one of my main inspirations and reasons to start playing the uke! Is there any reason that you like Kamaka ukes more than, let's say, Kanile'a? Also, when's the next time you're coming to Toronto? :)
Kamaka was what all of my heroes in Hawaii played. They were the first family to start manufacturing ukuleles in the world. 2016 will be their 100th anniversary! But today, there are lots of great manufacturers. You just have to find the one that speaks to you :)
How long would it take you to bring a person from average ukulele player to a "Gently Weeps" level?
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