With Thanksgiving under our belts (barely!), it’s time to start thinking about the giving month of December. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other ‘ukulele players in my family to shop for, but if I did, here are some of the great things I would want to share with them.
Savarez Alliance Strings – $16
When I got my new ‘ukulele in August I was on a frantic search to find a set of strings that worked with the spruce top; the Worths that I had relied on for so many years were now too bright. I received a pack of Savarez Alliance strings from Bryan Tolentino to try out. As soon as I put them on I knew they were the the answer to my problem – more warm than flurocarbon, but still with enough tension and pop to be articulate. They are guitar strings so you just use the four smallest on your ‘ukulele. Choose from medium or high tension and a normal or Corum (aka “less squeaky”) low G.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 – $175
My project for the rest of the year and beginning of the next is to record an EP. The Focusrite 2i4 is one of the main pieces of the puzzle I chose to invest in. It’s a solid little recording interface with two input preamps and four outputs (hence the “2i4″). There is a headphone output, direct/playback knob for balancing your monitoring, phantom power, MIDI ins/outs, and more. The best part is that it’s reliable and the sound is clean.
Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting by Jimmy Webb – $13
I haven’t even finished this book yet and I’m already totally convinced it is the coolest reading I’ve done this year. A look into the trade that is songwriting with tips and detailed advice on everything that makes up the craft. It’s as meaty as you wish. If you’re a casual songwriter it might be a little too intense, but for those wishing to hone their craft it’s one to put on the “reread” shelf.
Etymotic ER20 Earplugs – $12
These made the list last year, but have been so invaluable that they are worth a revisit. Since the foam “construction” earplugs that my dad has boxes and boxes of suck for playing music, I ended up buying a couple pairs of these to protect my hearing. They’ve served me from band practice with a loud drummer to a Santana concert. They preserve the EQ spectrum pretty well and just make things quieter. There is no excuse not to protect your ears. I keep a pair in my case at all times. They come in standard and large fit.
Mobius ‘Ukulele Strap – $17
For those who are determined to keep their instrument hole-free (well, except for the big one), but want a strap, there is an answer. It’s called the Mobius Strap – a simple loop of polypropylene webbing with a twist in it that goes around your ‘ukulele and under the strings. Once you figure out how to get it on (it seems simple, but the magic is in its brain-bending physics) it holds any ‘ukulele with a “waist” as well – or better – than any guitar strap.
Grand ‘Ukulele by Jake Shimabukuro – $12
Good Ol’ Jake. He just keeps on making that ‘ukulele music. Grand ‘Ukulele is his newest offering featuring original tunes from all over the map plus a few covers of songs by Adele, Sting, and yes, even Judy Garland (sigh)…
Tuning Fork – $8
Earn street cred, train your ear, never run out of batteries – the list of benefits goes on and on for tuning forks. No school like the old school. Either you love the idea or think tuning fork users should move into the 21st century. Might be a fun “just because” gift.
LR Baggs Five-O – $150
Nothing is more pleasing than practicing hard, stepping up on stage to perform, and sounding good. The Five-O is LR Baggs’ new ‘ukulele-specific pickup and it sounds good. Out of all the new gear I have gotten this year I’d have to say the Baggs is the one I take the most for granted because it eliminates any worry of what my ‘ukulele might sound like when I plug in. You’d never even know it was there – until it’s not. The pickup response is very even and warm – punchy without sounding harsh in any frequency. The Five-O operates off of a coin battery and has a little sound hole mount volume control for those times when you need to tune.