Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Talk by David Iriguchi

In the spring of 2012 a few Yukes, then brand new to ukulele, attended the Reno Uke Fest in Nevada. Unbeknownst to us, it was also the first ukulele festival for luthier David Iriguchi of The Happy Ukulele. We were all still playing entry-level instruments, so picking up his beautiful ukuleles was a revelation.

We've stayed in touch with Dave through twitter and other festivals, and it was a privilege to be able to hear him present last month at The Davis Makerspace while he was recovering from wrist surgery.

Dave's instruments are all handmade, but they are also each completely unique pieces—so much so that every instrument receives a name, not a number. If you look closely at the small sample he brought to the presentation, below, you can see that none of them look the same. Wood, shape, and even technique change from piece to piece. They are created like works of art.

Only part of this is based on aesthetics. Dave also experiments constantly with materials (rather than endangered tropical hardwoods, he works with easily renewable woods), with playability (changing the shape of a neck, for example) and with sound. He told us that when he hears something can't work, he often tries it and finds that it can.

Here is Lisa playing the quilted maple Mutant ukulele:

And here is Bruce testing the Cthukulele, an electric ukulele bass:

These names seem to suggest that Dave finds his instruments strange looking, but in fact they are stunningly beautiful, as well as comfortable and easy to play. And playing is encouraged, as wood instruments sound better the more they are played. For this reason, Dave rarely does custom orders but instead invites customers to play as many of his ukuleles as they can before purchasing. Dave wants you to love your instrument, and that can only be discovered by holding it in your arms.

More on Dave's instruments and philosophy at:

photo courtesy of The Happy Ukulele

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