Taking Up the Ukulele

by Andrea on April 18, 2012

It was April 2008, and I was sipping a glass of wine with some friends.  One of these friends is a Kiwi and was sharing how he’d taken up the ukulele as his New Year’s Challenge.  Hmm… interesting.  I’d never given much thought to playing an instrument after traumatic childhood piano lessons.  Nevertheless, he got me thinking.  It would be kind of cool to play the ukulele. I mentioned it to Brian that night and by the end of the week, he had a ukulele waiting for me at home with a pretty red bow on it!  Love that guy.

After a little research on my new instrument, I learned that Jake Shimabukuro is a young phenom who is doing ridiculous incredible things with the ukulele. You will not regret watching him play Bohemian Rhapsody.

With such a fun new toy, I was itching to figure out how to play it. Here in Seattle, we have a wonderful shop called Dusty Strings that offers classes, workshops, and instruments. They offered a beginner ukulele class over the course of four weeks. I enjoyed it so much, that I quickly followed it up with the beyond beginner class. I was having a ball… and then I suffered a ukulele injury.  No joke.  I had my strumming thumb in a full hand splint for several months.  (Ai, I will take a minute to stress the importance of proper form and technique. Ai ai ai, trust me, you really don’t want to wear a full hand splint or spend hours strengthening your thumb.)

Thumb is now healed, and I decided to include my sweet ukulele in my life list. More specifically, #94 has me playing ten songs on this little instrument by memory. Currently, I’m at zero, but this year I’m hoping to add a few to my repertoire.  The first one is All I Have to do is Dream by the Everly Brothers.  We learned it in my beginner class, and I have incredibly fond memories of performing it in my high school’s musical rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the 1950s. Next up will be Soon Forget by Pearl Jam.  I always love seeing them perform it live, and halfway through the first beginner class, it occurred to me that I, as in little old me, could play this!  Exciting. Not to mention any of the other songs from Eddie Vedder’s recent Ukulele Songs album.

After that, I will certainly master some of the classic Hawaiian songs and maybe throw in a kid’s song or two for little Mo.  Finally, I’ll learn Happy Birthday.  If nothing else, this song will come in handy for years to come.

So if you are musically inclined, go and add the ukulele to your collection of instruments.  AND, if you’ve never really played anything besides a triangle or tambourine, you won’t regret taking up the uke!

image via Jake Shimabukuro

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