The UAS or ukulele acquisition syndrome is a problem touching ukulele players of all kind. It starts when people buy their first ukulele. Most of the time, the beginner's ukulele is good but there is room for improvement.
How the UAS starts
Once the beginners are getting better at playing the ukulele, the sound of the instrument needs to improve too. So the players start looking at new options available, most of the time through ukulele review on YouTube. They discover new brands, some that are settled in Hawaii, on the USA mainland, in Germany or even in Japan for the high-end ones.
For a first soprano ukulele, a Kala or a Flea are the ones that have a good sound for the price. They are praised among the community for their quality at a fair price. Then you discover that famous ukulele players use a tenor ukulele (Jake Skimabukuro, Aldrine Guerrero, Brittny Paiva, James Hill) and then you wonder if you should upgrade your ukulele.
Artists Will Influence You
Jake plays on a tenor Kamaka, Aldrine mostly uses a tenor Kanilea but has been known to play on a concert size a few years back. Brittny has a custom-made tenor Koaloha and James Hill has a tenor G-string but he has been experimenting a lot recently with different ukulele.
Then after browsing the internet for hours to watch them play, you wonder if you get the same ukulele, maybe you would play better. That is how it starts to obsess you.
There Are So Many Possibilities
You can choose different brands like Kamaka, Koaloha, Kanilea, Kiwaya, Kala, Pono, Flea, Risa and so many others. There are also different sizes from sopranino to baryton (sopranino, soprano, concert, tenor and baryton).
Some are variations from one to another like what people call the long necks. They have the body from one and the fretboard from the category that is above. For example, a soprano body with a concert neck. There are more frets to play with but the body is still small, resulting in a sound in between the categories.
The tuning can be with a high G (re-entrant) or with a low G. Some uses the Canadian tuning (A-D-F#-B) because of its use in the Canadian school system when they teach the ukulele.
New electric ukulele have also been created. There are the eleuke but also the solid body from Risa and their excellent Les Paul Risa Electric Ukulele with a tone that make the other ones sound weak.
And then there are many available kind of wood. From the Hawaiian ones like koa to mahogany and cedar. Just too many possibilities and so many sounds that you can have.
The Second Ukulele
At some point, your first ukulele will not be enough. You will try to upgrade it but the K-brands (Koaloha, Kamaka and Kanilea) may be too expensive at the moment so you try to settle for the next best thing.
You start going to forums, browsing and maybe finding some really good deals from people also having a UAS. That is right, it is highly contagious. People try to sell their earlier ukulele or guitars to get enough money for the next instrument. And those people have a small UAS because they have to get rid of another ukulele before buying a new one.
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Symptoms of UAS
Some people just save their money so they can complete their collection. You will probably hear "I had to keep it, it was my first one" or "this one is specific for that sound" or "I can change the tuning on this one all the time for that song ! It requires the Canadian tuning and I usually play other songs with the standard tuning". There are so many excuses that people will make up to cover their syndrome.
When you start building a rack to expose your ukulele in your living room or your room, you should be worried. After a while, you will almost have the equivalent of a ukulele shop at home without noticing.
The Best Advice for UAS People
If you feel a case of Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome coming at you, try to think. You will probably have to upgrade to another ukulele but if your goal is to get a high-end one, save money for it. Do not go for the one in between categories because you will end up spending more money than what would be necessary.
If you love playing the ukulele that much, focus on getting the best one possible that you will love and learn to play more often. As Jake Shimabukuro, you really only need one ukulele to sound great.
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My Own Experience with UAS
I have been playing the ukulele since 2007. My first one was a Blue Moon mahogany soprano ukulele. I wanted to play an instrument while I was doing an internship away form my home. I didn't have the internet so I needed something to keep me occupied. Since I was traveling a lot, I couldn't bring a piano with me and I thought that the ukulele was fun to play with.
I really fell in love with the instrument. It is small, you can carry it to the beach and play a few tunes without the hassle of a big guitar. Then I wanted something with a more beautiful sound and I started looking. After a year of work, I finally settled to buy a soprano Koaloha and the sound just blew my mind. I could never play with my Blue Moon again because even though it could hold a tune, it was nothing compared to the full and warm sound of the koa one.
By that time, I converted one of my friends to the ukulele. She realized that it was easier than the guitar she wasn't playing that much. So in the end, I just sold my old ukulele to her because an instrument that no one plays is not an instrument anymore.
I didn't stop there. With a Koaloha, I didn't want to carry my ukulele around because I didn't want to smash 500$ in a trip to the park. So I bought a Flea soprano. It has a really good sound and it doesn't give a feeling of fear when you carry it outside your home.
One for outside, one for my ears and then I had to buy the new Risa Electric Les Paul ukulele, just because it was so original. The sound is amazing so I do not have to buy anything else... or so I think: I still haven't tried a tenor ukulele but my UAS has been fine for at least 2 years.
Selling Your Ukulele
When you have an instrument that is sitting in the corner of your room, you sometimes feel guilty not playing it. You pick it up, strum a few chords and then put it back, abandoned. A good way to stop feeling guilty about it is to give it a new life. You can try to convert your friends by lending them a ukulele and then they can buy it from you later on or you can put an ad on Craigslist or on a specialized forum. This is where you can meet people who share the same passion you have. I did sell a beautiful ukulele that I was not playing anymore and the lady was as passionnate as I was, I ended up talking to her for almost 2 hours after the transaction.