Tuesday, January 8, 2008

An 'Ukulele Friend

Today I'm blogging from sunny Hawaii on the island of Oahu where I'm spending the week on vacation. Being a 'ukulele addict, it's natural I was extremely excited about this trip. I contacted Shawn Yacavone of Ukulele Friend to check out some of his ukes prior to the trip. If you look at his website, you can see that he carries a lot of unique high end 'ukuleles that are made by Hawaiian luthiers. I was interested in several of the ukes he had so I asked if I could try them out sometime. Shawn expressed that he enjoys meeting fellow uke lovers and he gets a kick out of meeting people who posts on the same 'ukulele forums, so we ended up scheduling to meet on my first full day on the island.

He invited me to his place and pulled quite a few tenor scaled ukes from his inventory. To say that I was like a kid in a candy store probably would be an understatement. I mean, this is like some of the best candies available anywhere! I got to play ukes made by Chuck Moore, Ko'olau, Koa Rhythms, Koa Works, Takahashi Shinji, Pahu Kani, Keith Ogata, and others. These are ukes that I have only read and dreamed about. Heck, some I didn't even dream about because I didn't know anything about them. What they had in common is that they are all high end ukes that are beautiful to look at and sounded great. While testing out these ukes, I had a great time chatting with Shawn about ukes and other things such as University of Hawaii football. He's a very nice guy and a very interesting person. I really wish I had more time to talk since there are so many things I could ask him about 'ukuleles. I spent two and a half hours there and the time really flew by quick. (Mahalo Shawn if you are reading!)

Toward the end, I had my eyes on a Pahu Kani super-concert and a Koa Works tenor. The Koa Works tenor was actually a bit over my upper limit, but Shawn was willing to work with me on that and he also told me he consider Koa Works his favorite builder. The Pahu Kani super-concert was really an awesome piece of art. It's so unique looking and so well put together that I really thought hard about taking it home. It sounded really good too, although the low-G string on it prevented me from finding out how it sounded with re-entrant tuning. The Koa Works tenor had a lower grade of koa visually (lightly curled), but otherwise looked first rate and well finished. I played it the longest out of all the ukes Shawn had brought out, and the more I played it, the more I heard what Shawn was saying. The thing has incredible tone and volume. It's strung with Ko'olau Golds and probably would sound even better with some Worth strings. After playing and listening to it for a while, it became clear to me that it's the one I want. So I'm going home with a new Koa Works tenor. And I couldn't be happier! I will post a review of it sometime soon, after I spend a bit of time with it.

I would say visiting with Shawn has certainly been a highlight on this trip so far. Sure, he showed me some amazing ukes, but I'm just really glad to have a chance to chat with him. Hopefully we can hook up again in my future trips to Oahu.

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