Why the ukulele?

2 Feb

Quick answer: Because it’s little, cute, and easy.

I asked for a ukulele for my birthday this past December, and my husband and kids wrapped up the Lanikai LU-21 that I’ve started playing in class this semester. How exciting! I learned to play the guitar as an adult — my husband and I took a 10-week class at the Montclair Adult School when our kids were three- and five-years-old, so that we were sure to have a weekly date night. Just in the past couple of years, I’ve started playing the guitar in class, usually for the lullaby and Goodbye Song. I play well enough to get by, but there are chords that I avoid like the plague, mostly because it’s hard to get my hands to stretch far and wide enough to hit all the right strings in all the right places. “Why, then,” thought I, “don’t I get a ukulele — my hands will surely stretch enough to get around the little neck of that instrument.” And, they do. And, I love it.

Here’s an unexpected bonus: My ten-year-old son was smitten with the uke as soon as I unwrapped it. And, because the neck is small, there are only four strings, and the fingerings for the basic chords are pretty easy, he was able to get “real” music out of the instrument after only a couple of tries. Immediate gratification is an excellent reward system: The more he was able to really play that thing, the more he wanted to play. Within a week, he knew more chords and played better than I did. (Another excellent reward system: Being better than your mom at her instrument.)

Now I’m thinking that the ukulele is a fantastic starter instrument for kids and grown-ups who might want to make a little music around the campfire (or anywhere else) but don’t want to invest in a guitar, lots of lessons, etc. Because the uke has a down-home kind of sound, you don’t have to do anything special to make an even halfway decent sound (as long as the darn thing’s in tune — eeshk). For less than $50, you can have an honest-to-goodness musical instrument that you can really play. And here’s the kicker — my son, having “mastered” the ukulele has now started fiddling around with my guitar, which before was way too overwhelming. The uke was his entry-level stringed instrument, it seems, and he’s almost better than me on the guitar now, too. That’s OK — I’m starting to learn from him, which even more exciting than opening that funny-shaped package on my birthday.

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