ukulele: fun and friends

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Little did I know on that snowy January day when I wandered into the music shop that the ukulele would come to figure significantly for me. And I am so glad it has.

I have faithfully been attending my ukulele club every week. I’ve gotten to know several wonderful people as a result, and enjoyed many awesome evenings strumming and learning together.

As the months go by, folks experience the ups and downs that life delivers. At ukulele club, we are able to share some of that and then set it all aside while we get lost in the music. We are always all smiles at the end of an evening playing together.

We have a fantastic leader and teacher who is just as excited about our progress as we are. He always brings us some challenges and theory along with some music we can jump right in with and party. I have learned immensely.

As the weeks have passed, we’ve gone everywhere from The Beatles to Phil Ochs, the Grateful Dead to the blues (ridiculously awesome!).

Last night, we played songs ranging from Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” to The Band’s “The Weight.” Our wonderful teacher also has us working on The Beach Boys’  “God Only Knows.”

The other delight from last night was a finger-picking version of Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.”  Wow, is this fun! I’m still amazed I can even read the tablature and make sense of it, much less play it. This one’s going to take some practice though.

Other perks that resulted from landing in the world of ukuleles include my first-ever attendance at a drumming circle and a dulcimer-led jam session, and multiple invitations to camps and festivals — hopefully I’ll actually attend one before the summer’s over!

I’ve been inspired by the people in my group. I love their many interests and the way they fuel themselves on music. No one can walk through the music shop on club night without testing out a new instrument. Last night, one of our club members showed up a little late because his cello lesson ran long. Several members are also very active in harmonica groups.

I admit, lately, I find myself drawn to percussion, too. We’ll see where that leads.

I am so grateful for this group and the ukulele. During a few stressful months, it remained a beacon of joy for me. Fun, learning, friends. What could be better?

still strummin’

veru3_3_19The ukulele adventure continues. Thanks to faithful practice, my uke now sports a veritable rainbow of ribbons.

I have learned a lot!!

One of my friends seemed baffled that the class is taking this long. They seem to think of the ukulele as a very limited instrument which manages to eke out just a few chords using a basic strum.

Turns out, though, that there is much one can do with a ukulele. I am having fun learning new chords every week, as well as learning different strumming patterns. I also eventually want to learn to pick. A brief sojourn around the internet reveals the versatility and breadth of the instrument.

I am also learning songs. Several of the songs that I can now play, I had to look up and listen to before I could even begin to learn to play them.

I find that as the pieces get more challenging, the introvert in me (of which there is a whole lot) becomes a tad distressed about performing for the instructor in front of the rest of the class. It’s the singing, not the strumming.

I notice that the younger people in the class seem to have zero qualms about playing and singing in front of everyone else. Well, actually, now that I think about it, everyone else in the class seems that way. So, I try to be inspired by them and shed my inhibitions long enough to pass the test for which I’ve practiced so much. After all, eventually, I would like to play my ukulele with confidence in the company of others.

So, onward and upward. I am super happy I decided to venture down this path. My ukulele is my friend.

on the lookout for my inner singer

veru2_7_19I can see where this whole ukulele thing is going.

I successfully mastered “Hallelujah.” In order to earn my ribbon and all, of course, I had to perform it. I quickly discovered there is no performing the song just by sitting there and quietly strumming it. Nope, you’ve actually got to strum loud enough for other people to hear. And, the fact of the matter is that you’ve really got to sing, too.

Thing is, just strumming, you could be playing anything. You’ve got to hear the melody for the strumming to make sense.

Lucky for me, my ukulele group is a supportive bunch, and no one laughed. Everyone listened intently, smiling. The instructor warmly told me what a great job I did.

So, after graduating from “Hallelujah,” I quickly mastered “All My Loving.” The main challenge here was the B flat chord. I got this piece under my belt in fairly short order.

The key was not in a comfortable range for my voice, but I struggled through the performance anyway. Again, I saw nothing but appreciation and support.

Then, I listened as an instructor played part of a piece to demonstrate to a fellow student how to strum it. She strummed loudly, with absolute authority. Her voice rang out, singing fearlessly. The music filled the room.

Okay, then.

I came home with a very challenging (for me) piece to learn. It is an arrangement which combines “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with “What a Wonderful World.” The medley was created by the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

The chords are not the problem. It’s the melody and the words. There’s a lot to it.

I watched the musician perform the song on YouTube, and it’s beautiful. I realized it was worth figuring out. The trick, ultimately, is going to be releasing my inner singer. First step, I suppose, is to find her.

Yeah. I’ve got my work cut out for me.