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Plus I started playing harmonica again (see my harmonica review pages). I had heard buskers playing charango in Zihuatanejo at La Casa Cafe and I became very interested in the little instrument. I went to the local music stores for advice and to purchase (always shop local, first).

Towards the end of winter '08, I decided to add ukulele to my practice. I spoke at length (in my abysmal Spanish) to one of the performers, and he even let me try out his charango. I was shown some cheap -or-less knock-offs, and my inquiries for something of higher quality met with a shrug of the shoulders, and the presentation of a catalogue with a single "better" () uke listed.

I got the impression ukuleles weren't treated as "serious" instruments, not serious enough for either store to have a tuned one on hand at least.

And certainly not serious for anyone to want to take more of my money for one. I spent hours surfing uke-related forums, blogs and websites, trying to match my growing interests with my limited budget, trying to understand everything about ukulele brands, woods, strings, sizes and finishes, reading reviews and comparisons. I also spent time on You Tube and similar sites looking at the brilliant new performers - like Jake Shimabukuro and Mike Okouchi and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Brittni Paiva, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and others - musicians who have returned the uke from a novelty into a serious musical instrument for a new generation, and in turn helped spawn the ukulele renaissance.

I'm enjoying playing the 'old time' songs that have been resurrected with the ukulele renaissance, music from the 1920s through 40s.

Another is the fun challenge of trying to adapt favourite guitar songs for the uke.

But I've found that even a mediocre guitar player can sound pretty damn good on a ukulele.

And it surprises a lot of people who never knew a ukulele could sound or look that good. I have several good ukes now, and hope one day to own a truly premium model (as soon as I win the lottery...).

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Some string packages make note of these tunings because the strings can be used in standard or alternate tunings. In G tuning (except, apparently, in Nova Scotia where the A tuning reigns).I still have difficulty ordering ukulele strings, straps and accessories locally. And let us not forget Tiny Tim, whose novelty act hid a wealth of talent, and to whom most of us owe a debt because he kept the ukulele in vogue at a time when it had waned in popularity.

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