Sunday, February 26, 2012

What the Pros Play: James Hill

James Hill is certainly one of the more respected of the younger ukulele set. Canada's foremost ukulele player, James Hill is well known for his technical expertise playing jazz, bluegrass, and folk—but his ability as a songwriter is something that helps to set him apart.

Pinning down what styles he plays is almost as difficult as pinning down what instrument he plays. James has apparently been bitten by the U.A.S. bug (that's Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome, a common disease among uke players). He's played instruments by Mya Moe, G-String, Ko'olau Ukulele & Guitar Co., Kamaka Ukulele, KoAloha Ukulele, Talsma String Instruments, and Tony Graziano Ukuleles. At one point James had a signature model on offer from Mike DaSilva, a boutique ukulele luthier. It's no longer listed on the DaSilva site, but you occasionally see them come up for sale.

What is probably more definitive for James's sound is his tuning. This comes from James's website:

 I grew up playing in D6 tuning (a, d, f#, b) with a low A string like all students of the Doane ukulele method. It wasn't until my late-teens that I started to fool around with other tunings. Nowadays I travel with four ukes: one with a high 4th string and another with a low 4th string, the Beltona slide which I tune either a, d, g, b or g, c, f, a depending on the song, and the beansprout banjo which I always have in high 4th tuning.
Here's a great clip of James playing Hand Over My Heart, one of his own compositions. Very Canadian!

1 comment:

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