Friday, February 27, 2015

Why not?

I participated in my first ukulele music jam!

It should be noted that I literally just ‘picked up’ the ukulele the day before, looked at it and strummed a C chord by copying finger positions on a tab chart, so I am definitely no expert. However, that didn’t stop me from attending the jam, and I’m glad I went.

The ukulele in question was actually a gift from Alex to Rob a couple of Christmases ago. A fire engine red enamel Blue Diamond soprano. I brought it along to the Olde Stone Cottage Pub to play with the Scarborough Ukes. The website is right describing their event as a fun, low-pressure workshop focusing on playing and singing real songs with real people.

We played Closing Time, Turn the Page and several other tunes with handily projected tabs on a screen so people could play along. During the second half of the evening, more experienced players took to the stage to perform their solos. 

That night I learned how to New York Strum (NYS). The experienced player sitting next to me didn’t get up and leave, although maybe I should have bought him a beer as a reward for being so tolerant. Doing the NYS is a bit of a fake, because you are muffling the strings while working on your strumming technique and getting down the rhythm pattern and up/down strokes. The NYS also keeps you in the jam and you can use it when you don’t know a chord. Fun!

We have occasional Open Mics down at BPYC and some beginner uke players talked Rob and I into joining their cadre and got us out to the Jam. The  debut performance of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Sail Away” is coming up at the club, and I’ll be strummin’.  Our hope is that everyone there will join in the singing and cover up any mistakes in our playing.
I still have my violin in the closet from when I tried to learn how to play more than 20 years ago. I sure picked a difficult – if not the most – difficult instrument to learn as an adult. The ukulele is a bit easier and I think I will enjoy getting plucky.
The truth is, the ukulele is the perfect outsider instrument, one for musical misfits everywhere….
For me, the beauty of the ukulele is that it’s for everybody, with no elitist connotations. It’s quick to learn, inexpensive to buy and one of the most portable instruments you can find…
The most important thing to know about music, and learning how to play music, is that it should be fun. From this point of view, the ukulele is the perfect instrument to get started on: if you approach it in the right frame of mind, you’ll make fast progress, and very soon you’ll be strumming some groovy tunes.
The ukulele comes with a certain amount of baggage. You must always be on your guard, because:

  • The ukulele can lead to an interest in other instruments 
  • There is no such thing as owning just one ukulele 
  • The ukulele is irrepressibly cheerful, and sometimes you just don’t want to be cheerful.
   Get Plucky with the Ukulele, by Will Grove-White
This is a great book, full of history, tidbits, motivation and useful advice. The author is one of the players in the Great Britain Ukulele Orchestra, a group that clearly has fun doing what they do:


1 comment:

Dick Grannan said...


Looking forward o the 13th at the club. The video was very entertaining. Keep on Plucking.

Looking forward