Is it time to expand the sonic range with the ukulele? Part 2

The first article on this subject generated some useful and interesting discussion. Since setting up OUS a few years ago I have noticed that there are often two very polarised views when it comes to “ukulele music” Some people love to play cover songs and strum and its more of a social interaction which is fine. I have regularly supported running a PA for such groups and my wife attends a weekly strum along group.

My point is that as well as this, there is an opportunity for more diverse and ambitious sonic exploration. Good musical development means a willingness for critical evaluation. Of course, you never please everyone, but I’d like to think that its possible to aspire to greater creativity and OUS is a testament to that being totally possible. Without critical thinking, we never really develop as artists.

Developing your sound

One of the things I have learned from setting up bands is the importance of investing time and money. This means setting aside time for rehearsals and ensuring that you mean getting the best possible sound. Of course, will have time and money constraints but often a well-considered investment into a musical instrument rather than a “ukulele shaped object” can make a massive difference to your sound and enjoyment of playing. String choice can make a major difference and even a DI box choice can make all the difference between a sound and a really good sound. I have always promoted Fire Eye Development’s products for this.

Some artists use a multitude of effects but don’t explore how to set the effect parameters. This can result in effect saturation to the point where the sound loses any kind of dynamics. Of course, there is always the argument that people can have whatever they want, but a good musician knows the capability and limitations of equipment and s always seeking to refine and improve what they do.

The challenge with any instrument is that on its own there is a limit to its sonic range. Of course with a guitar there’s is the possibility of altered tunings and of course, typically a guitar is at least six strings. Ultimately its all about exploration and innovation. One of the best bands I ever saw was Morphine at The Pink Pop festival. The lead singer had a two-string bass and was accompanied by a saxophonist and a drummer. They opened the festival and blew everyone else away including Bjork, Crowded House, and The Orb.

As I mentioned in the first article, I absolutely love the ukulele as a musical instrument and even after a recent cull still own 20 ukes. I’ve written recorded 36 original songs on the uke and played this material all over the world. I admit to not being a fan of the quirky comedic uke image, but that’s a personal view. There are a few artists that have enough imagination and musical skills to connect with the wider public. These include Victoria Vox and James Hill among others.


2 Responses to Is it time to expand the sonic range with the ukulele? Part 2

  1. Derek Reynolds 23rd July 2018 at 9:58 pm #

    Thanks again for a truthful perspective Nick! All so true, and here in my neck of the woods (Pacific Northwest USA) I feel like the lone voice. I play out a LOT and people often think I am not playing a uke because what I do doesn’t fit the pre-conceived notions of Ukulele music. I think the what is most missed in the Uke Community is “being a musician” first… it is not even considered. Playing endless 55 second covers on Instagram does not a musician make. Sorry, I could write all day on this. What I want to say is thanks for being a kindred spirit on this keep up the good fight. I wish we could sit down over a pint someday.

    • nick cody 24th July 2018 at 7:07 am #

      Hi Derek

      I could not agree more. Since setting up OUS I have been amazed by some of the kickback from some uke diehards. There was even one comment “We don’t want any non ukers at our festival” This kind of small world thinking reinforces the unfortunate stereotypical view that many have of the instrument and those who play it. Many festival organizers (not all) also reinforce this image which limits wider public interest. I think this is a shame as there is so much more potential from the mighty uke and many on the OUS platform give me some hope. It seems that there are many excellent musicians who appreciate that the uke can be used to create all manner of great and fascinating music beyond simply doing Bowie and Radiohead cover versions. There’s nothing wrong with covers, BUT without anything original, even these would not exist. Thanks for the reply, its encouraging to read that I am not the only person thinking this way!

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