Your hybrid fingerpicking style comes from disparate influences—everything from rock to classical to flamenco—and you opt for short fingernails instead of acrylic nails. Are you still approaching fingerpicking from that angle?
SHIMABUKURO I still keep my natural nails very short so I can feel the strings. I’m still searching, like most people, for that perfect tone. Sometimes you feel like you’re closing in on it, then, like a puff of smoke, it’s gone.
When you visited Acoustic Guitar in early 2010, you were playing a custom Casey Kamaka ukulele with a slotted headstock and some tasteful inlay on the fingerboard. Have you added any new instruments to your collection?
SHIMABUKURO I’m currently still playing the same tenor Kamaka ukulele. Casey did say that he’s working on a new one for me, though. He hasn’t filled me in on any details yet, but I absolutely can’t wait to see it. He’s truly a genius. Kamaka has been manufacturing ukuleles for almost 100 years—I absolutely love their instruments.
The ukulele continues to draw new players—are there new players on the scene who are grabbing your attention?
SHIMABUKURO I’m still excited about Eddie Vedder rocking out the uke. He makes the instrument cool!
Recently you conducted a ukulele lesson for about 300 sixth graders via Skype, and you regularly conduct workshops. How do you balance your desire to teach the instrument with your touring and recording schedule?
SHIMABUKURO There seems to be more and more people out there seeking ukulele lessons. It’s a great tool for anyone who hasn’t played an instrument before, because it’s so easy to get started. I love teaching people how to play, especially kids. It’s hard to keep a balance between touring, recording, practicing, and teaching. I love them all. So far, I think I’ve been lucky—things have been working out nicely.
If you could give one bit of advice to a new ukulele player, what would it be?
SHIMABUKURO The most important thing is to have fun. Just enjoy every note that you play and every chord that you strum. Break things down when they get too hard. Sometimes it helps to look at one song as a hundred different songs played very close together. View every note as if it were its own song.
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