Today, discover the interview we had with Sébastien, professional photographer and passionate ukulele player. If you are a beginner or want to get started, many tips will be revealed to you... Meet!
Hello Sebastian! Can you start this interview with introduce you to our readers ?
With pleasure ! My name is Sébastien HERRMANN. I am 40 years old and a bit old and I live in France in the Grand-Est, straddling Alsace and Lorraine. In life, I have been a professional photographer for 14 years. I also have an Instagram account dedicated to the ukulele.
Quwhat are yougave the taste for music?
Music has been with me in my life since childhood. I've always liked what music manages to bring in terms of emotions, imagination. I also listen to it a lot. And being able to create it, I think it's something super strong: I've been doing it for years.
What is your musical background?
When I was little, I took music lessons and played the trumpet. Thereafter, I stopped the music and I lost all theoretical and practical notion. But in high school, I discovered a passion for the electric guitar. I was influenced by rather rock music and with friends I created a band. We toured a lot in bars and on small local stages: close to 150 concerts!
Over time we calmed down and I ended up letting go of the saturated guitar a little to discover folk guitar, then the magic of the ukulele, which I have been practicing for more than 4 years now. I bought my first ukulele in the summer of 2017!
And today, what place does music occupy in your life?
I play a lot for fun, alone at home, but I regularly share small excerpts on social networks, especially on Instagram.
Sometimes the idea of doing concerts again tickles me, just like the fact of playing live… I keep these projects in the back of my mind.
Do you have musical inspirations ?
I have a lot of inspirations, which vary according to periods and events.
For several years now, it's mainly American folk that has influenced me a lot. And in general, the music and melodies of songwriters, as they are called.
There is one in particular, The Tallest Man on Earth, who has given me a lot of things technically since I learned to play his songs on the guitar. I love his way of playing and his technique. It is a great source of inspiration for me.
For the ukulele, I have a lot of idols around Hawaii, the birthplace of the instrument.
The one who inspires me the most is Corey Fujimoto. I love the way he plays, his techniques and the way he makes any instrument sound wonderful with disconcerting ease and ease!
Kalei Gamiao also of course, without a doubt one of the best ukulele players in the world!
But I also love Kimo Hussey's style, very inspiring. Andrew Molina, Brittni Paiva, without forgetting the one who democratized and made the ukulele famous in the world: Jake Shimabukuro!
Do you compose your own songs?
On social networks I publish a lot of excerpts from covers, but in fact I also compose a lot. My plan is to make and self-produce a first album, because I have lots of little pieces of music just waiting to be recorded! It's in progress, I just need a little time...
Is the ukulele your favorite instrument?
Today yes, completely.
Like many people, before discovering the true potential of the ukulele, I considered this instrument a bit like a toy or an accessory.
But seeing what you can do with these 4 little strings, how you can make them sound and the happiness that this little thing can bring, I can't get enough of it!
I discovered the ukulele in a somewhat complicated period of my life and I have no embarrassment to say that this instrument somehow managed to pull me up and really brought me a form of joy which I needed at that time. He continues to bring me happiness every day. It is an excellent anti-stress and anti-depressant. It allows connections between people, everyone loves the sound of this little piece of wood. It is unifying and the whole community around this instrument is inspiring. Just see the enthusiasm he has especially on Instagram.
Tfavorite song to play?
Hard to choose just one. In typical Hawaiian style: "Pua Lililehua" or "White Sandy Beach" by Izrael Kamakawiwi'ole. Or in a completely different register, “Saman” by Ólafur Arnalds (I told you that I had a lot of influences), of which I created an arrangement on the ukulele that I love to play!
How did you learn to play the ukulele ?
I am self-taught, as for my profession, photography.
For the ukulele, I learned alone but with the help of video tutorials on the internet. For beginners, I particularly recommend those of “Bernadette Teaches Music” (available in English).
I'm not patient enough to read tablatures, I learn very quickly by watching others.
Do you have any advice for beginners who would like to learn to play the ukulele?
I'm not the best example to follow, since I skipped a lot of steps in my learning process: for example, I don't know the names of notes and chords at all...
I play everything by ear and it can be particularly complicated, even problematic, when playing with someone else.
But the advice I would give would be to start by learning the position of the basic chords first (with their name helps). Then gradually working on the technique of the hand that strums the strings. We don't give it enough importance but it is just as important as the hand that holds the chords. Work on the flexibility of the hand and above all persevere until it sounds good.
Using tutorials or tablatures that can be easily found, try to find the chords of the songs you love. Don't play a song you don't enjoy listening to, or you won't enjoy it and you won't be able to persevere. And there is a good chance that you will then give up.
Once you are comfortable with the positions of the chords, you must also work on changing chords to learn how to avoid strings that curl or sound out of tune between two chords.
Then, the basics: learn to tune your ukulele properly. Tuners are not very expensive (I use clip-on tuners, it's very convenient and the price is affordable). A string that rings false is awful, as much to listen to as to play...
Finally, I read a lot of people complaining that their brand new ukulele keeps going out of tune and is probably failing. Unless the machine heads are of poor quality, it is normal for new strings to take time to stretch properly. Depending on the material (nylon, carbon, nylgut), they can sometimes take several days, even a good week, to hold the tuning. And some are sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity. It can work too, so don't worry.
What advice would you give to someone'one to choose his first ukulele ?
First of all, don't neglect the budget. Because an instrument that is not excessively expensive is rarely well made and well assembled. Usually it won't sound very good and will be difficult to play. It may not make you want to persevere and progress.
Sound is important too.
If you like fresh, joyful sounds, to accompany yourself on vocals, you can opt for a Soprano. But if you have big fingers, it's not easy to tame it because the fingerboard and the neck are very small.
If you have big hands and prefer richer, deeper sounds with more bass and longer-sounding notes, the Tenor may be the right choice.
And if not, there's the Concert-sized ukulele, the right compromise to start with more sustain and easier playability than with a Soprano.
Also, don't hesitate to try different types of strings, as they can also make a real difference to the sound of the instrument.
And you, do you have a modfavorite ele?
I tried everything: Sopranos, Concerts, Tenors… I have all kinds. But it's the Tenors that I prefer.
They're more versatile, they have more sustain, more depth, and when it comes to sound, they're my absolute favorites.
Thank you very much Sébastien for this interview! Where can we find you?
For the moment I am on Instagram, under the nickname @uke.seb. Thank you Upa Upa Tahiti!