Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Thinking Man's Violin

Image result for ukuleleAs if I needed more reason to love my local library district, they are now offering a "gadgets and things" collection for check-out. Need a cake pan in the shape of a train? Or a birdwatching kit? Or a day pass to the the local discovery museum? If you have a library card, these things and more can be yours for free, at least on a temporary basis.

That's how I came to have a ukulele in my possession this week. Over the last few years, as ukulele music has become more mainstream, I've wondered if I might like to try it. Other than violin in junior high and high school, I don't have much experience with string instruments. But the ukulele seemed accessible. And happy. And fun!

(Full disclosure: as a child, I did have a cheap plastic ukulele with a hula dancer on it. I don't exactly remember the circumstances, but one time my older sister and I got in a fight, and I hit her over the head with the ukulele and broke it. The ukulele, not her head. She and I are very close as adults, so I assume all has been forgiven.)

After a week of ukulele practice, I can tell you that it indeed accessible and happy and fun. It is also--as are so many things--a bit harder than it looks. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For lessons on how to get started, I turned to YouTube, home of tutorials of all kinds, from installing a toilet to flying a kite and everything in between. I tried a few and ended up watching a very pleasant and knowledgeable British guy called Guitar Andy (*oops, sorry, it's Andy Guitar).

I won't bore you with the blow-by-blow. Suffice it to say that I learned a few chords and I learned a few strums. But I also discovered that much of that fun, happy ukulele music moves really fast. Guitar Andy made the chord changes look so easy, but my fingers have a lot of work to do to get there. (Judging from the comments below the videos, I'm not the only one.) The other thing about ukulele music is that the person playing usually sings along. Hmmm...trying to put my fingers in the right positions while simultaneously getting my dubious voice in tune? That's not likely to happen any time soon.

All in all though, this was a fun week, and since I don't have to return the ukulele for another 14 days, I think I'll keep at it. By then, I should be able to decide if this is a long-term Take It.


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