All posts by Martin Hall

About Martin Hall

Martin offsets the day job in software development with a number of literary and musical efforts. He has written several books for children and school productions, which he writes to order (words and music) to cater for the different strengths of the cast. In addition to the ukulele, he plays mandolin, bouzouki and guitar. When he needs to get outside, he goes running (marathons and further).

Ukulele Shops – Guildford Music

Situated on Stoke Road, between The Tup and the top of North Street, this small shop is where Alberts Music used to be.  As the name implies, they sell more than ukuleles with a small stock of electric and acoustic guitars, song books and some amplification and effects devices as well (some new, some used).

But, they do have a reasonably large selection of ukes and at least one of the staff can play them as well.  Amongst their stock when I visited recently was a lovely 8 string (Monica has one, must get her to gig with it soon) and a more unusual 6 string (same 4 strings as a soprano, but two of them doubled).  They have a good selection of Eddy Fin ukes as well, they have a beautiful tone.  They also sell accessories: cases, tuners, chord books, plectrums).

A number of us have recommended Guilford Music and I haven’t heard that anyone’s been disappointed with the place.  It’s well worth a visit.

The iUke


This is the iUke and you wouldn’t need a very large screen to see this little beauty lifesize. I first heard about them in a conversation with a fellow ukejammer and then went and looked at them online at Omega Music. This is a piccolo ukulele, which means that it is tuned an octave higher than a soprano. To get an idea of what that sounds like, if you’re a uke player, then play your C string at the 12th fret. That’s the lowest note I can get from the iUke.

Two things to say at first: this is not a toy, it’s a working musical instrument that plays very well and it’s tiny. Pictures don’t do it justice, you have to hold it to realise how very, very small it is. Surprisingly, it’s not that tricky to play, four finger (and some three finger) chords can be a bit tricky because the everything is so close together, but barre chords are easy and can substitute quite well.

As part of ensemble playing, it stands out because it’s in a different part of the sound spectrum. But, you probably need a plectrum to get the most out of its limited volume (not a large body to resonate). I’ve played it at large ukejam evenings in the pub and in smaller group performances and it really holds its own against the larger cousins.

One caveat, this uke was designed with Aquila, the string manufacturer, and it needs special strings. That’s not necessarily an issue, except that they don’t supply single strings, only the full pack. So, when I broke an A string recently I had to buy three additional strings I didn’t need. If breaking strings becomes a habit, it could be quite an expensive one (not to say time consuming).

Oh and any questions about the CD collection behind the iUke are welcome 🙂

Left Handery

The more eagle eyed of you will have noticed that I play my uke the other way round to the rest of the group. As a long time guitar player, I’m used to hunting down the left handed models (and paying the inevitable extra). With the larger, steel strung, instruments it’s important to have the internal bracing set for left handed (not to mention scratch plates etc.) You could just reverse the strings like Hendrix, but his instruments didn’t survive long enough for the changes in stress to become evident.

Anyway, despite the fact that I had been playing left handed guitar for longer than I’d been married, my wife completely forgot and bought me a right handed ukulele for a present. At first, I thought this is not going to be a bother, there’s only four strings. How hard is it going to be to play it upside down? Well, years of reversing chord diagrams in my head have taken their toll and it’s something I now do automatically.   So, when it came to playing an upside down version of the instrument, I needed to take the diagram literally and that, very quickly, started to break my old brain.  So I did some research. Turns out, that we lefties are quite well off when it comes to ukes. Because the nylon string tension is so much lower, they’re made symmetrically, so you can reverse the strings without damaging the instrument. And since, you might want to get good strings instead of the supplied ones anyway, it’s no great bother. Some shops will supply you with a left handed strung uke for little more than the price of a new set of Aquila strings.

The only hassle is with electrics. I would love one of these as it would match my Ovation guitar, but when I turn it upside down, where are the controls going to be?  And would I have to play with a jack plug sticking into my armpit?

Ovation Ukulele

So, when I saw the pretty uke on ebay that had been wired up for a left hander with a volume control in the right place. It was going to be mine.

In the meantime, do remember, for the most part, ukuleles are very left hander friendly.

Our Big Gig Press

From getSurrey on 19th July:

Claudia Arnold, Cardboard Carousel, The Toniks and The Surrey Ukeaholics all played, with many taking part in the busk-a-long that took place at the end led by the Surrey Ukeaholics with voices, spare instruments and kazoos that were given away as part of the event. Grainne Walsh, who attended, said: “It was really lovely to have such great music in the town, it really made a lovely atmosphere and the performers were great – a friendly event.”

Our First Bit of Press!



Here we are in the Woking Ad.
Our first bit of press! The Woking Ad, 24th May 2013

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