Susan bought me my first ukulele for Christmas of 2014. It was a Makala brand tenor uke. And from the very beginning, playing it was a blast.
I’ve been somewhat of a musical person my entire life. In elementary school, I took piano lessons. In middle school and high school, I sang in the choir. As a young adult, I dabbled with guitar and then with bass. I even wrote a song or two. However, as much as I enjoyed playing stringed instruments, I suffer from ridiculously poor flexibility in most of my joints…including my finger joints. As a result, trying to get my fingers to move the ways they needed to move to play guitar-sized instruments was a big problem.
Enter the ukulele. It’s got a much narrower neck than a guitar, which makes it easier (for me) to play. Plus, it’s got only four strings instead of six, which makes it easier (for me) to play. By the day after Christmas, I was playing tunes – not just chords but tunes – on my ukulele. I gathered my somewhat reluctant family around me and played what were certainly very sketchy renditions of popular Christmas carols but which sounded to me like the beginning of something wonderful.
Fast-forward almost a year. For my next birthday (October 4), Susan bought me a Kala U-base. If you haven’t seen or heard one they are awesome (if you like the sound of a bass guitar.) At about the same time, I learned about baritone ukuleles, which sound more like a guitar than a uke but still have a smaller neck and four strings, which makes it easier to play than a guitar.
As you can imagine, trying to teach my brain to play three instruments that look the same but are tuned differently is quite a challenge…but I’m and explorer, so I’m up to it, even if progress is slow.
In my ukulele entries, I’ll share stories about:
- my efforts to learn about ukes as a complete beginner
- my attempts to find instructional resources (books and online), along with reviews of each resource
- the different types of ukuleles
- my struggles with deciding between playing melodies and playing chords
- my experiments with something called “finger style” playing
- my quest to find a souvenir uke on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii
If you’re a regular person like me and not some kind of stringed instrument wizard and you’re looking for some help as you begin or think about beginning your journey as a uke player, read on.