I travel with two Ukes, and this one is my very dear 'bigger' Uke.
The Tenor Oscar Schmidt OU8T travelled with me the whole adventure in Eastern Europe, and I feel very lucky to have had its lovely sound with me. It helped me develop my ukulele playing in a way a little soprano Uke never would have, and it even changed the way I wrote certain songs. I'll explain why a bit further down.
But first, here's a to-the-point illustration of what it looks and sounds like. Straight from Transylvania's Sibiu.
For those who might not know, a tenor ukulele is one of the bigger kind of ukuleles. The strings still play the same notes as on the other regular ukes (GCEA) but the body is larger. Which means you can't shove it in your backpack as easily but it comes with a lot of musical bonuses.
I want to be perfectly transparent with you here, and want you to know that Oscar Schmidt sent me this uke as I was about to embark on the adventure. I had sent a few emails around the month before leaving home and Oscar Schmidt were very happy to just send me on my way with one of their own. Which I duly did, and am very glad I did too, as you'll read.
This Ukulele has a very rich sound, and a strong resonance, which you simply will never get from little soprano ukes. Just playing an simple C chord makes you realise how openly it rings.
And the song above is a good example of this, because my inspiration for the chords and the playing style in "See You in Sibiu", really feeds off of the openness of the sound of the OU8T.
I'll get technical briefly but I play a C5 here (GCG highC). I tapped into its resonance, and starting to improvise on the last string, keeping the beautiful openness of the C5 going. And that's how I came up with the riff.
I would have ended up frustrated if I couldn't switch from fooling around with the little uke to the much richer sound of this one. As you can see in the video however, one of my T-shirts is stuffed into the sound hole of my OU8T. And that's because it is quite loud, and when I use it to accompany my singing voice, the balance is altered slightly. So when I'm singing with it, and especially when I'm recording, I dampen the sound a bit that way.
Because of it's resonance and of the bigger size of the frets, I was able to improvise and write songs with more finger picking, and subtle things like pulling and tapping the strings with the left hand's fingers.
A song like Sighisoara, for example, is completely influenced by the musical comfort that comes with this ukulele. In chords that use open strings a lot (here, in A minor) you don't have to play ceaselessly like you would a tiny banjo on cocaine. Instead, the ringing can accompany a bit more freedom in your singing. Your musicality then becomes free, and a song like that one can truly bloom.
The OU8T is also the Ukulele I used the most during the recording sessions for the various albums. My sopranos had an instantly "cheap" feel once passed through the mics, while this one really filled the sound scope.
All in all,
As I was travelling through Eastern Europe for more than 9 months, this Uke had its own bag, while the tiny blue soprano of mine was shoved (lovingly, of course) in the front pouch of my Backpack.
Which is fitting, because I had always tended to see cheap little ukes as half toys/half intrument hybrids, but with the OU8T, I really felt like I was carrying a real musical instrument. And its expanding sound, expanded in turn my playing and my musical ideas, throughout the whole adventure.
And the "shoving T-shirts or underwear in the soundwhole" meant I could adjust its loudness for different situations (jamming with other musicians, recodring uke+voice, recording the uke solo...).
For the seasoned Ukers
I'm very grateful it's part of these adventures, and I'd definitely recommend it, not as a very first uke, but for those looking to expand their playing, their musicality. It's an instrument you don't just play, but that you also really listen to.
And a last little melody, here's a video of us (Ben+OU8T), without socks or T-shirts in use in the sound hole, straight from Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria: