April 29, 2009 ~ Jake Shimabukuro is probably the most well known ukulele player in the world. His viral video of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” has done wonders to improve the status of the instrument (thank you!). You guys know the rest… I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask Jake some questions via email during one of his tours of Japan. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Jake.
Brad Bordessa: Many people who are picking up the ukulele for the first time want to play like you. What advice can you give to aspiring musicians about music and creating their own style?
Jake Shimabukuro: I would encourage them to just have fun and play songs that they enjoy.
BB: What do you think is the most important thing you have practiced, and how has it improved your playing?
JS: The basics are so important. You can never spend enough time on simple things like picking quarter notes or strumming straight eighths. Also, spend time working on your tone. That’s the key.
BB: Everyone seems to know you for your speed, but what is your favorite aspect of your own playing style?
JS: I always try to play what I feel. I always believed that human emotion is the magical ingredient in any form of music. To express yourself honestly is the greatest challenge.
BB: What are you doing at this moment to keep things fresh for you and your audiences?
JS: I’m constantly trying to workout new arrangements for songs that I’ve been playing for years. It helps to keep things fresh and exciting.
BB: I have to ask: Your record company has said that websites like mine can’t publish tabs for your songs. Do you or Sony have plans for making an official “Jake Shimabukuro Ukulele Tab Book”?
JS: I’m actually working on one right now. I didn’t realize how much time and effort it takes to notate your own playing. It has been a great exercise for me because it forces me to analyze everything that I’m doing in each tune. Once I started notating by playing, I realized that I was doing a lot of things just out of habit, without thinking. It actually has been helping me to improve my arrangements and approach the voicing of my chords in different ways.
[UPDATE: An official tab book has been released. It's called "Peace, Love, Ukulele."]
BB: In Hawai’i, artists (including yourself) are readily available after shows and such to interact with fans. How – or even can – you keep that level of contact during a big tour with someone like Jimmy Buffet?
JS: To me, the best part about playing a concert is meeting the audience after the show. I always enjoy hearing people’s comments and opinions about the music. Some people even bring vintage ukuleles to the concert for me to checkout. That’s always fun. When I’m touring with Jimmy Buffett, unfortunately, I don’t have the chance to meet anyone after the show. Besides, everyone there wants to talk to Jimmy, not little ol’ me. Hehe!
Thanks again to Jake Shimabukuro and his PR guy Michael Bloom for setting up the interview. We’ll be watching for that tab book! Jake also added that he will be releasing a Beatles tribute album around the end of summer.