Saturday, April 23, 2011

U is for Ukulele Lady

It's always fun learning something new.  You may have missed the boat for certain things, you have to accept that, but it's stimulating to take on a challenge at any age.... and we know a thing or two about challenges, don't we! (A to Z Challenge April)  Where there's a will, there really is a way.

As a complete non-musician, and a woman stubbornly hanging onto her very elasticated prime of life, I've started learning to play the ukulele. When I went to the shop to buy one I told the guy I was a complete beginner. 'There's no such thing as a beginner on the uke,' he said. 'Anyone can manage it.' I thought that was encouraging, and nice of him not to tell me my hands were too small or my fingernails too long. He didn't ask me was I nuts to contemplate annoying the neighbours at my time of life. He didn't forewarn me about the PAIN I'd suffer in my finger-tips.

He just sold me a very nice little blonde model that I fell in love with immediately. That's another thing he didn't tell me... that ukulele players are prone to suffer from UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome). There are so many styles and woods and many are just so PRETTY that it's easy to find yourself heading for the nearest music store in whichever town you find yourself. Anyway, back to me...  

A group of five like minded people gather at my house and we follow instructions from my husband, who plays well and spends hours on YouTube watching those who play better. He very patiently guides us through the tablature he's drawn up for us (and even transposed for one left-handed player) and we struggle through the pain barrier in an attempt to make the cheery, chirpy sounds we heard on stage when we went to see The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform. Of course, we're not
there yet. But I do have a few tunes under my belt.

I'm avoiding the George Formby sound. Not because I don't admire his skill, but because at my age I need to be taken more seriously if I'm ever going to convince the younger generation in the family that I might one day be able to join them in a jamming session.

I like some happy songs (oh, doesn't that sound sad) but I think the ukulele particularly lends itself to poignant and slightly mournful songs. Or maybe that's just because they're slower in tempo and therefore easier for me to keep up with everyone else.

So far I've mastered:     The Tennessee Waltz
                                       Yes Sir, That's My Baby
                                       Oh Won't You Stay... (from Dirty Dancing)
                                       The Peanut Vendor   (don't laugh!)
                                       Putting on the Style (Lonnie Donegan)
                                       Oh, Lonesome Me

And I'm working on:       A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation
                                       I'll See You in My Dreams
                                       Love Letters Straight from Your Heart
                                       Lover Come Back to Me
Plus, I have tickets to see The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain once again... so I have to work on Beethoven's Ode to Joy for the audience participation section. That's what started this whole thing in the first place.

I've only been strumming for a couple of months and I've never had so much fun in my own front room.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GLBI21X-aM    UOGB at the Proms

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02-gXysqDo8&feature=related  Jake Shimabukuro plays Michael Jackson's THRILLER

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqaYmQZgrB4     Jake Shimabukro's  Let's Dance


  1. I am SO impressed. I struggled to master the guitar as a young girl and now if I play I not only get painful finger-ends but it hurts my shoulder too. I'd love to hear you play The Tennessee Waltz!

  2. I'm very impressed too. Not just with taking up the ukelele but doing the A-Z challenge! Well Done Christine. I love the 'elasticated prime of life'. I think I'll try one of those.

  3. Encouraging post! Maybe I'll go brush some of the dust off my piano..... :)

  4. Very inspiring post....I'm so unmusical, and I desperately want to learn. But, I do not have the courage to try.

  5. There are step by step teaching posts on YouTube. You don't have to do anything in public. Go for it!