That Hawaiian sound
Hawaii’s signature instrument, the ukelele, is popping up everywhere. Don’t have finger-callus cred yet? Get in on the action:
Listen to a master. From intricate picking and strumming to flat-out rocking, Hawaii’s Jake Shimabukuro is the ukulele master of our day. His latest album, Grand Ukulele, includes tracks with a 29-piece orchestra accompaniment. jakeshimabukuro.com
Get a uke. Good news: At $60 for a starter model, a uke is affordable for just about anyone. And music stores around the West are stocking them like crazy—from Pacific Winds in Eugene, Oregon, where you can choose from 78, to Ukulele Source, a uke-only mom-and-pop shop in San Jose’s Japantown (where we found the handcrafted Kamaka pictured here). pacificwindsmusic.com; ukulelesource.com
Learn to play. The uke is a cinch to learn. “Besides the kazoo, nothing is faster,” says Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld actress who teaches at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. Many of her students can play a dozen songs after just one lesson. On Ukulele Underground, Kauai instructor Aldrine Guerrero is your free online tutor. Swedberg: $60/hour; sukeyjumpmusic.com. Guerrero: ukuleleunderground.com.
Go to a festival. From Hayward, California, and Reno, to this year’s inaugural fest in Port Townsend, Washington, the West loves to throw uke parties. To take it to the source, though, hop a plane to the Annual Ukulele Festival near Oahu’s Waikiki Beach, with big-name masters and an orchestra of 700-plus eager uke students. Free; ukulelefestivalhawaii.org
More: Insider guide to Hawaii