Jake Shimabukuro’s Ukulele

Here’s a random selection of emails I wake up to in the morning:

– What type of ukulele does Jake Shimabukuro play?
– What sort of uke is that Jake uses in While My Guitar Gently Weeps?
– Where can I buy a ukulele like Jake Shimabukuro plays?

OK, I’m exaggerating. But I get enough enquiries to make it easier just to write a post.

Jake Shimabukuro custom Kamaka ukuleleShimabukuro plays a custom Kamaka tenor ukulele by Casey Kamaka. His first ukulele, at the age of 4, was a Kamaka and he’s been using them ever since.

If you want to buy one, you’re pretty much out of luck. In 2006, Kamaka made 100 Jake Shimabukuro Signature Model ukuleles. These ukes were made to Jake’s specifications and individually inspected and signed by him.

Despite a hefty price tag of $5,500, demand for them was over whelming. So much so they decided to have a raffle to determine who could buy the ukuleles. By January 2007 they were all gone. If you manage to find one for sale, expect to pay much more than the original price (at least double would be my guess).

The Nerdy Stuff

Body: Curly Koa
Fingerboard: Ebony
Bridge Ebony: Ebony
Binding: Rosewood
Inlays: Mother of pearl and abalone
Tuners: Gold Schaller tuning keys
Pickup: Fishman Acoustic Matrix

Photo: BotheredByBees

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62 Comments

  1. Woodshed March 3rd, 2013 1:43 pm

    desmirage: Sorry to hear about the Martin.

  2. Bill March 15th, 2013 12:02 pm

    Bernie et al.:

    the original price for a 1954 Stratocaster was less that $300 USD (about $2,500.00 in 2013). Today that same instrument would be $40,000 for one that has been damages or modified. Their top of the line Uke’s go for #2K plus. I’ll bet one of Jake’s signed ukes will appreciate similar to other desirable vintage instruments – and the fact that these are limited supply – free market economics will drive that price perhaps even higher than an old Strat. IMHO

  3. Woodshed March 16th, 2013 8:15 am

    Bill: That depends on whether the ukulele stays popular. If it falls out of favour the prices will plummet again.

  4. Gregoire March 29th, 2013 1:39 pm

    As a custom luthier/instrument maker I’m often faced with the question of pricing my instruments. My ‘ukuleles are not “fucking ‘ukuleles” or toys or Waikiki souvenir crap, they are fine musical istruments that can take more than 350 hours to create by hand. $5500 price tag for a hand crafted, solid koa wood ‘ukulele is a bargain. Add the provenance of a celebrity signed ‘ukuelele and it’s a treasure!

  5. casey April 20th, 2013 10:49 pm

    It would be nice to have a Jake shimabukuro Uke but personally id rather have the skills. I have heard and know its true give him any uke he sounds like Jake if you have his uke I guarantee it wont make you sound like him

  6. Sun Tzu September 13th, 2013 2:42 am

    Um I think the original question was to get a Ukulele that was that good….. I doubt if you have to spend over $300 to get an excellent Ukulele….

  7. Barbara October 15th, 2013 10:11 pm

    Perhaps this has been mentioned somewhere else, the strings that Jake Shimabukuro uses are the d’Addario J71s.

    Some find them too mellow, others adore them; to each his own…

  8. Woodshed October 16th, 2013 7:19 am

    Barbara: Thanks very much for the info.

  9. Vic January 10th, 2014 8:18 pm

    A raffle just to buy a Kamaka uke? That’s nuts. Not even the Steinway piano people do that and they are in very high demand. I’ll never buy a Kamaka product because of this. I have a Martin Baritone; they aren’t made anymore either, but I don’t see Martin having freaking raffles. Get over yourselves, Kamaka. Train more people and employ more.

  10. Woodshed January 11th, 2014 5:03 pm

    Vic: They are ten times worse than Hitler.

  11. Greg August 19th, 2014 2:33 am

    Here is a nice little Collings Tenor Uke for just under $3000.00. All you need now is a signature on it!!!

    http://www.theukulelesite.com/collings-tenor-ut3k1503.html

  12. Rodney July 21st, 2015 9:58 pm

    I think the raffle was needed because of the high demand and fairness. You’re definitely not “out of luck” if you’d like a Kamaka. Besides the models they offer, you can contact them with special custom requests for materials and inlays. My wife and I ordered a “special” tenor for our anniversary and are completely blown away by the look, quality, playability, and sound of it. We just love it.

    If you’re ever on Oahu, take the factory tour with Fred Kamaka. It’s amazing. It sounds like their employees all have a long history with them and it really is a small family business.

    I’ve toured Kanile’a as well and Joe Souza and Fred Kamaka both talked about not being able to meet the demand for buyers world wide, but they’re the size businesses that they are, and still hand build all of their instruments. The tours definitely gave me a greater appreciation for their instruments, and it’s so worth it to make the time to try to meet these families and their businesses.

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