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Lord of the strings

Ukulele player rocks the tent

Jake Shimabukuro will be rockin' the ukulele at 8 p.m. today at Strings in the Mountain Music Festival Park.
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Jake Shimabukuro applies Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy to his innovative way of playing the ukulele.

“One of the ideas behind his whole thing is using your energy as efficient as possible,” Shimabukuro said. “His method can be applied to anything in life.”

Shimabukuro is able to play the ukulele at double and triple speed because he figured out that twisting his forearm to strum uses less energy than bending at the elbow.



“My arm is not moving up and down anymore, which uses less muscle and throws less weight around,” he said. “If a windshield wiper doesn’t have to extend to the backseat of your car, then maybe I don’t need to move my arm that much.”

Shimabukuro’s mother introduced him to the instrument when he was 4 years old.



“I can be really obsessive when there’s something I really want to do,” he said. “So if it’s a rock tune I’m hung up on, I would lock myself in my room and try to figure out ho’w to play that sound on the ukulele.”

Shimabukuro has experimented with rubber cement and has stuffed T-shirts into the inside of his ukulele to make it sound more like a solid bodied instrument.

“I would use my old T-shirts because they were the softest and easiest to stuff in the instrument,” he said. “And sometimes, I would cut them up.”

Now 29, Shimabukuro is still learning. He wants to know more about how to write music for soundtracks that can dictate different emotions. He recently had the opportunity to work on a couple of projects for film and television.

“It’s a tremendous experience, being in the recording studio and actually having to watch the scene of what’s going on and trying to create the emotion of what’s going on,” Shimabukuro said. “I was unaware of how much of an impact the music makes to a scene.”

Shimabukuro has developed a new appreciation for movie soundtracks and his favorite movies to watch are the classics.

“Like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘The Apartment,'” he said. “But then sometimes when you just want a good laugh, I will always watch something like ‘Old School’ or ‘Zoolander.'”

Like movies, Shimabukuro finds music therapeutic. And mastering the ukulele has made him efficient in other areas of his life, as well.

“I guess I could brush my teeth pretty quickly if I wanted to, but I’m really good at Shiatsu massage,” he said. “I’ve never had any formal training, but I think I’m pretty good from playing the instrument so intensely.”

Shimabukuro attributes this talent to the strength of his fingers.

“I can give really good massages and neck massages,” he said. “That’s one good thing that came out of playing the ukulele.”


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