The Right Chord
Strang gets some of his best ideas while strumming a ukulele
The former lawyer and co-founder of the FlyOver flight simulation ride has a collection of 20 instruments
Hawaii, my wife and kids were shopping, and I wandered into a music store. The fellow took a ukulele off the wall, and I almost immediately fell in love with it. I grew up on the North Shore in a big family on a wooded acreage with lots of animals and music. Both my parents played the piano, and my father sang with the Vancouver Opera chorus. I tried piano, alto saxophone, oboe, all sorts of instruments, none of them successfully. The ukulele struck me as an instrument I could learn and play to my kids at bedtime, et cetera.
I quickly fell in love with the ukulele’s simplicity and elegance and began researching its history. I came across the world of vintage ukuleles. These amazing ukuleles built at the turn of the last century, they’re still around and still available and relatively reasonably priced compared to other vices. When you play them, they’re just such gorgeous instruments. It’s like being able to play a vintage violin, but these are only 100 years old and are still available.
I only have about 20—it’s not a crazy large collection. I try to keep it pared down. I switch in and out ukuleles because I like to play them all. I keep a few of my favourite ukuleles, including a 1931 Martin, hanging in my home office. I can pick one up and strum almost instantly. It almost serves as a work hack, giving me a break but by continuing to focus on something, almost like meditation. It leads me to a relaxed state and definitely fosters creativity and productivity. Some of my best ideas have come while strumming.
I don’t play much for others except for a few close friends and family who put up with it. I have a terrible voice. Probably the best thing about the ukulele is that whenever I pull the little instrument out, people smile. And who doesn’t need more smiles in their life?