It's something that you will see mentioned a LOT on social media. UAS or 'Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome'. A tag name given to the fact that there is an assumption that all uke players can't stop buying new ukuleles... Well, a confession. I used to suffer from this, but strangely not any more..
The concept is not new, and in the world of guitars the term 'Guitar Acquisition Syndrome' (with a far funnier acronym of GAS) has been talked about for years. I suspect it actually happens with all sorts of instruments, or in fact anything that had a community side to it.
Yet we have all seen the endless memes and graphics on various social media outlets. You know the sort, the ones that say, jokingly that you 'can't have too many', or the endlessly shared graphic of Batman slapping Robin edited to read something like 'no, that's not enough ukuleles.. Or how about the image of the confused child coupled with a line like, 'so then she says no, you have to many ukuleles...' You know the sort of thing because they are endless. They seem to perpetuate the myth that 'more is good' and by doing so, come with an additional layer (unintentional perhaps, but by deduction, an additional layer nonetheless) that fewer instruments in ones collection is in some way bad or sub-standard. That worries me. Not only do I think it is a flawed concept, but who the hell came up with this?
So what is it? Well, as simple as the name suggests, it's the compulsive buying of more and more instruments, just because they are there. Think of it like mountain climbers or bird spotters who have to bag more and more of them just because 'they are there'.. (well like mountain climbers and bird spotters but with the added bonus of them costing lots of money..)
To be clear from the off (to save those who only skip to the end of these rants in order to express their offence without actually reading the words..), how many ukuleles you buy is entirely up to you. As far as I am concerned, if you buy one or you buy one hundred, it doesn't matter to me. You should o what makes you happy. In fact it doesn't (or shouldn't) matter to anyone, as how many instruments you have is no indication of either how well you play or how much you love the instrument. It is merely an indication of, well, how many you bought. Nothing else.
So I said earlier that I was afflicted. First things first, many people still seem to assume that because I review so many instruments that my house must be full of them. Not so. Firstly, my wife would have words about that, and secondly most instruments that appear on this site are loaned to me only. (It's partly fear of the wife, but mainly to ensure I don't take any payment in kind or otherwise for reviews). But... I have owned far too many instruments over the years. At one point I owned nearly 50 ukes in this house. You may gasp, but I know people who own many more. MANY more. Seriously.
But I started to think it was all a bit pointless really. These things are for playing and I could never play all of the ukes I had, so they started to get sold off. I'm still doing that and now there are about 15 in my house. You see, I came to the conclusion that what would be a better plan would be to focus on a handful of really GOOD instruments that suited every need for me. So why did I call this blog post, 'I Don't Really Get Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome'?. Well it was a bit cheeky really, I DO get it, TOTALLY. What I mean though (more accurately) is that there are some parts of the whole idea that I don't buy into. And like all other posts on this blog that have enraged some people - I assure you, this is not me telling anyone what to do. You can spend your pennies however you want. It's just an opinion piece...
What confuses me is when people start buying and collecting them for the sake of it, often buying many instruments which are extremely similar to each other just to swell the numbers. You know the sort of thing - owners of five different laminate mahogany concert ukuleles from a Chinese factory (probably all made in the same factory at that) and still hankering for a sixth. And I have seen some collections that are extremely large and full of mainly low end instruments from people who say 'oh I can't afford a high end ukulele'. Ahem... Ever seen such a collection where if you totalled it up you see an amount that would buy say two or three superb grade instruments instead?
Owning more ukuleles that the next person is nothing I think to be proud of. It's not a competition. Having more doesn't make you a better player. It means nothing at all. Surely it's what you do with it that counts first, and secondly what makes you happy. If owning more than you can possibly ever play genuinely makes you happy I would love to hear your thoughts.
And I am not saying this to put the shops and brands out of business either - I am sure that they would be just as happy selling better quality ukes in slightly smaller numbers than endless $30 instruments....
So what DO I 'get' about having multiple instruments? Well for a start there are the multiple sizes to consider. For me (and I own ukes in all sizes) I despair at those who claim one size is better than any other (or heaven forbid, the blogger I once saw write that a concert and tenor is an 'upgrade' to a soprano...). They all have their place, all have distinctive voices, all have their pros and cons. I totally 'Get' owning multiples sizes. I know tastes differ, but to write one ukulele scale off against another just doesn't make any sense to me. And don't get me started on some of them being easier to play because they are bigger.. please.
Then we have different woods, different tones. Yep - that can be a reason to have different ukes too.
Add into the mix 5 strings, 6 strings, 8 strings, Taropatchs, electrics, sopraninos, long neck sopranos, jumbo concerts, and.. and you can see where we are heading here...
There is so much variety out there, perhaps I was too quick to comment on this? There is plenty of reason (or temptation) out there to have multiple instruments. And I suppose that the 'collecting' bug applies to far worse things than ukuleles.. (I mean, stamps? really???).
No, come on Baz, back on track, you started this post. Stand by it... OK. I 'get' that there is so much choice out there, but I suppose I would just suggest asking yourself, do you really need those ten concert ukes which are all pretty much the same kind of thing, all made in China (most likely in the same factories). Ask yourself about the variety in your collections. Have you ruled out sizes for no good reason in favour of collecting a bunch of very similar instruments? Perhaps it's time to branch out a little then.
My conclusion is that the concept is indeed one of a community herd mentality. 'All the people in my ukulele group collect ukuleles so I too must have one more'. I think it is also assisted by the massive number of instruments on the market today. When I started playing the ukulele you would struggle to find ten ukuleles on line that were any good, let alone hundreds.
Choice is good, collecting is fun I guess, but this ukulele player would recommend a more considered approach to choosing the instruments you own. Of course, if your budget allows you to collect hundreds of vintage Kamaka instruments, who am I to stop you - even if it does make me a little green eyed. Personally though, one would do me.
(As a final point, I once had some business dealings with a lead guitarist for a very famous metal band and had a meeting in his studio room filled with about 100 electric guitars. Think of that scene in Spinal Tap with Nigel Tufnel and you get the idea. I asked him which was his favourite and he said, 'Only about three of them. Why the hell do I own so many guitars?'...)
© Barry Maz