The ukulele is the iPad of instruments: small, portable and powerful.
Learn just a few chords and you can play hundreds of songs.
"It's one of the easiest string instruments to play," says Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele virtuoso, composer and subject of the documentary "Life on Four Strings," which has aired on PBS.
He brings his "Uke Nations" tour to Fresno, 8 p.m. Saturday at The Tower Theatre.
The 37-year-old musician started playing the four-string instrument (popular in his home state of Hawaii) at 4 years old. He quickly fell in love with the sound and lived with the instrument in his hands. Quite literally, he says. His parents would have to pry the instrument from him so he could do homework, or take a shower.
"Or eat," he says.
Because of the ukulele's quick learning curve, it often gets overlooked by musicians, who quickly give it up to pursue other instruments. Shimabukuro never did.
"I never really graduated from ukulele," he says.
The musician has defined ukulele music for a modern audience, composing complex arrangements on what many consider a "simple" instrument. His version of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" became a viral hit when a video was released on YouTube in 2006. He's also arranged uke versions of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and some Bach.
His music incorporates elements of jazz, blues, funk, bluegrass, classical, folk and flamenco. He's even experimented with effects pedals and digital processors as a means to expand the instrument's sound. He's collaborated with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Ziggy Marley, Cyndi Lauper and Yo-Yo Ma.
His latest album, "Grand Ukulele," was recorded with a 29-piece orchestra and rhythm section, live with no over dubs.
His shows tend to be stripped-down, solo performances, though for this tour Shimabukuro will have a bass player join him on stage. The addition changes the feel of the performance, for those who have seen him before, Shimabukuro says.
"It's a different energy."
And as far as he's taken the ukulele's sound, he doesn't see his music as anything overly radical. There are still boundaries left to explore, he says.
"Even the things I do, you can take it further than that."
He's excited to see where ukulele music will go in the next few decades, especially as the instrument is embraced by new generations of musicians.
"There are endless possibilities."
Jake Shimabukuro, 8 p.m. Saturday at Tower Theatre. Tickets are $34.50-$44.50. Details: (559) 485-9050, www.towertheatrefresno.com