The Ukulele Goneaway?: Friday Links

I think we can all agree that ‘ukulele comeback’ news like this piece in the Wall Street Journal is hopelessly out of touch. The comeback is old news, but recently I’ve been wondering if we’ve passed the high-tide mark. Certainly some of the people originally attracted to the uke for its uniqueness are moving away from it. Jens Lekman has vowed never to play it again, Stephin Merritt has moved on to bouzouki, the last Beirut album was uke-absent. Now even Ingrid Michaelson is ditching it for her next album because of its association with Hey, Soul Sister.

Volume 2 of Jim D’Ville’s Play Ukulele by Ear is out now.

There’s a ukulele group starting Nottingham. I’m considering going so if you’re planning on signing up, let me know.

Shigeto has some ukulele lessons in Japanese – but there are videos and tabs for the monolingual.

Ukes at the movies: Megamind and Giant Gila Monster.

MP3s: Free bandcamp tracks from Michelle Blades and entertainment for the braindead.

Pictures: Sharpie Pirate Wench Ukulele, Ukulele 2, but no good, uke4, Ukulele Jamboree poster (NSFW) and Ukulele Inferno poster.

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  1. Bruce Benedict September 24th, 2010 2:23 pm

    Maybe I’m just a day late or whatever but the Ukulele is just catching on where I live (the Florida Gulf Coast). I have started a monthly uke night and have started accumulating ukuleles to give children or folks in poverty who want to learn/play an instrument but can’t afford one. I display ukes in my business (restaurant) to stimulate interest and discussion. We’re just getting started. Long Live the Ukulele!

  2. Gordon Mayer September 24th, 2010 2:31 pm

    Of course we’re biased, but we don’t think the uke comeback has peaked. Certainly all the statistical factors we look at (sales) are continuing to grow, even in a dismal economy.

    The previous two ukulele fad faded for predictable reasons. They were fads, and the instrument wasn’t of high enough quality to attract serious musicians.

    Now the instrument has moved into a different category. It is now a tool, and is used like one. Very different from a fad. And, I think what you’re seeing from certain musicians is that they are treating it like they would their guitar. It isn’t used everywhere on everything, but instead, it is used where it best applies. This is a good thing. Fads are not sustainable, and the current ukulele boom seems to have less fad-like symptoms. We’ll see.

    What we see is less professional musicians who are “uke-only.” We see more (like The Weepies, or The Rescues) who use it where appropriate.

    And, the main drivers fueling the resurgence are pretty sustainable–it is the best instrument to teach music to young children (kid-sized, sing while playing, fully chromatic). And, adults who regret having given up music at an early age find the ukulele to be instantly approachable.

    By the way, I think you’ve misquoted Ingrid Michaelson. I can’t find anywhere where she says she’s “ditching” it.

  3. Woodshed September 24th, 2010 3:04 pm

    Bruce: Glad to hear the group is going well.

    Gordon: I’m sure it is still on the grow in terms of sales, but I was thinking of it in a different way. I do think it’s significant that the indie types who were there at the start are drifting away from the uke.

    I think you might be right out it moving into a different category. I’d be happy if it settled down to the point where the ukulele was used where it’s most effective.

    I wasn’t quoting, but I take your point I did rather up the emotional intensity with, “ditcheing”.

  4. zym September 24th, 2010 3:08 pm

    im hoping the uke boom has peaked and that they become incredibly unfashionable again. It’ll mean there are less people better than me around – Bastards!

  5. Gordon Mayer September 24th, 2010 3:10 pm

    LOL with your comment about “up the emotional intensity”.

    We agree with your point about the indie types drifting away. We know a number of them, and there reasons are interesting. They attached to the uke because it differentiated them. Now they are detaching for the same reason. It is *too* mainstream for them.

    The uke is following a rather standard market adoption curve (innovators, early adoptors, early majority, late majority, laggards). And, it is very typical for the innovators to move away as a product goes into the early majority.

  6. Josh September 24th, 2010 7:58 pm

    Good to see you back Woodshed.
    To be honest, I’m not too bothered about the ukulele hype fading. If it means that some of the noob ukers that only got one to play ‘I’m yours’ or ‘Hey soul sister stop playing, then that’s fine by me. I’ll certainly keep playing and I reckon a lot of other dedicated players will too.

  7. Dan September 24th, 2010 8:41 pm

    Welcome back!

    More nsfw uke pics, please. I am quitting my job today :)

  8. Armelle September 24th, 2010 9:24 pm

    Welcome back, Al!
    I entirely agree with Josh and I couldn’t care less whether the uke is fashionable or not.
    I just play it because I love it and I don’t see any reasons why this should change.

  9. Emily September 24th, 2010 9:47 pm

    I may be a slave to fashion but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy playing ukulele long after it goes out of style. Such camaraderie, such a good excuse to hang out and drink!

    Welcome back, Al.

  10. Lyndsey September 24th, 2010 10:06 pm

    WELCOME BACK, WOODSHED! I hope your vacation was awesome!
    I can’t help but to laugh at the Ingrid Michaelson thing. I didn’t think Hey Soul Sister was so bad, but that’s just my opinion.
    And about the whole ukulele fading thing, I don’t think I would ever abandon the ukulele solely because the popularity of it is growing. The only reason I would abandon my ukulele would be if I didn’t find time to play it. For instance, I’m attempting to write a book at the moment, so I find less and less time to devote to playing the ukulele which is a shame because I just got my first tenor for my birthday!
    Though, I still squeeze in a few times every now and then.

  11. Ron Hale September 25th, 2010 2:33 am

    Indie types once made the ukulele world new and exciting, Al (think of it as our version of the
    Beatles injecting life and innovation into pop/rock music). Now that newness and excitement is getting harder and harder to find. The status quo in the ukulele world now is stale, tired, old acts putting on the same shows over and over and over and over. We have an old-boys (and girls) network that needs a good swift kick in the arse.

    I see us as being at the point where we need our own punk revolution or we’re in serious danger of petrifying. We need new, young, fresh, innovative blood circulating through our veins again or our arteries clog and we die. Our mummified movers and shakers can just move and shake themselves out of the way and stop impeding progress, as far as I’m concerned.

  12. Ian Emmerson September 25th, 2010 10:19 am

    Just spotted that Patti Plinko is also renaming and rebranding, and there’s no mention of the uke in her new lineup any more. The hipsters are deserting! Your beloved hipsters! On the plus side, Amanda Palmer’s uke days may be numbered then! (though I won’t believe it until the McGees trade the ukes for synths!)

  13. SamD September 25th, 2010 1:22 pm

    Welcome back Woodshed :) Did you take a uke with you?

    When I started playing, I was unaware that it was a “cool” instrument (I knew it was cool, just not “cool”).

    Like everything, there are always going to be peaks and troughs. The real ukers will carry on playing, regardless of the fickle tides of fashion.

  14. Woodshed September 25th, 2010 2:52 pm

    Gordon: I do agree with a lot of what you say. I think we agree that the ukulele boom isn’t in its early stages any more.

    Josh: Thanks. Glad to be back.

    Dan: Welcome to the happy world of the jobless!

    Armelle and Emily: I think most people would say the same thing. But it isn’t always true. There have been a few things I’ve decided I’d love forever then just ditched.

    Lyndsey: I’m in a similar position. I’m writing a book and it’s giving me less uke time. And I’m writing a book about the uke.

    Ron: And I thought I was upping the emotional intensity.

    Ian: You just reminded me that Dent May has ditched the ‘and His Magnificent Ukulele’ part. And there’s no uke on what I’ve heard of his new stuff.

    SamD: No I didn’t take a uke. I needed a break.

  15. Howlin' Hobbit September 25th, 2010 5:12 pm

    I found it amusing that Ingrid thought she was some sort of forerunner being copied by these upstarts.

    Let the fad shit fail. Please. Then I can be a little fish in a medium pond again. :-p

  16. Marcelo September 25th, 2010 10:28 pm

    Hi Woodshed! I think this indie types have introduced a lot of people to the ukulele, and that is a good thing. One of the reasons I started playing it was Mr. Lekman – but after that I felt in love with my uke, and I don’t even remember Lekman’s song. But, anyway… let them move on and leave us behind, having fun with our ukes.

    Thank you for the free traks. Loved entertainment for the braindead – it suits me!

  17. oaky September 26th, 2010 2:49 am

    I really hope Ingrid doesn’t give up on the uke! She is the reason why I picked ukulele over guitar!

  18. L.Bo Marie September 26th, 2010 1:37 pm

    re: the Wall Street piece…
    I’ve yet to find a good instrument for under $40.
    I’ve found lots of pretty ones (mmm, sparkles) but dear fleas in heaven! they don’t sound good, or encourage me to play in the least!

  19. wheels September 27th, 2010 3:50 am

    With respect to the Shigeto website, Google Translate is your friend.

  20. Woodshed September 27th, 2010 3:34 pm

    Hobbit: I’m sure there are many who feel the same way.

    oaky: She’s done some good then.

    L.Bo: I would agree with you.

    wheels: Thanks for the link. I find Google Translate doesn’t handle Japanese too well.

  21. Brian September 28th, 2010 1:27 am

    The uke’s current popularity may be a fad, but at heart is something that makes people happy. It will survive past when hipsters move on. I like that Warren Buffet is a longtime uke player, and he’s neither bearded nor stylish. (Hey Bruce Benedict! Where’s your restaurant? I also live in Florida and would like to check it out.)

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