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Thread: Your story: how ukulele found you?

  1. #151
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Posts
    29

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    My mom has a lifelong desire to learn to play an instrument. She was having a hard time with chords on the guitar, so I asked if she’d considered a uke. At some point in my research for her I fell in love with it. My hubby bought us both a Luna Tattoo. This was 2 months ago, and we’re both still loving the uke and play daily. I’m waiting to see if I stay committed for a year and then I’ll get a nicer one.

    In May this year I’ll be traveling right by Uke Republic. I’m not sure if I can pass that opportunity up, and everyone knows I’ll walk out with one.
    Last edited by Ukulammy; 03-16-2018 at 05:21 AM.

  2. #152
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Portland, OR
    Posts
    7

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    Great thread! I started out very young (about 5) taking piano lessons, and by the time I was 12 I played pretty well but had also developed a severe dislike for the instrument (7 years of lessons had worn me down). I took a little break and got back into music around 14-15 by teaching myself guitar and relearning the piano on my own. I'm glad I had the lessons when I was young to develop a base from which to draw my skills, but when I came back to it I found more pleasure in writing my own songs and learning other songs by ear and not by reading music, which I didn't have the patience for.

    Fast forward many years - I got married, and my wife happened to be from Kona on Hawai'i island, so the first time we went back to visit I picked up my first ukulele, a Lanikai tenor for about $100 - of course not Hawaiian made but it was exciting to have bought it there. I was immediately taken by how nice even this inexpensive instrument could sound, and also the range of music you could play on it. When I had bought it it was kind of on a lark and I didn't expect to take to it like I have.

    I have picked up a few more since then, but I don't believe I am done by any stretch . I don't have much spare time these days, but joining this forum has been inspiring me to use more of it to take my ukulele technique up a few notches. I'm trying to remember to start pulling it out whenever I have a few minutes here and there that I otherwise would just be staring at my phone. Heretofore I've mainly used ukulele as a nice double to my guitar when recording - I'd like to learn well enough to record solo ukulele and have it sound halfway decent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerryc41 View Post
    My wife and I went to the Big Island in 2002, and I was impressed by all the ukulele activity. I bought a soprano, a case, and an instruction book in an ABC store. When I got home, I made an effort and then tucked it out of site.
    I didn't buy mine at an ABC store but I think I was right next door to one, and probably around the same time period
    Koaloha KSM-02
    Kamaka HB-2D White Label Concert
    Imua ITN Tenor
    Kala KA-SA-C Concert

  3. #153
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Posts
    5

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    I learned guitar in middle school. Moved to Nashville to sing and play country music after college. Went back to school to sing opera. Put the guitar away completely. Spent 10 years earning 3 more degrees in opera, then my voice gave out before I went professional. So I made a career switch to elementary music. I love it! Two years into teaching I discovered that the ukulele is a MUCH better first instrument for kids than the recorder. So I got funding for 25 ukuleles and I've been teaching and learning the past 4 years... I love it. So portable and fun. I bought a Flea first, then a Kala thinline tenor, and now I have a Blackbird eKoa Farrallon so I don't have to worry about the 10% humidity in the winters here...

  4. #154

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    I read with interest these fascinating stories. I'll share my own, but it seems mundane compared to some of yours!

    I played harmonicas for about 40 years, but never got very good...just straight up and down folk tunes, no blues, no jazz, no real world music. Just the keys stamped on the instrument, but fun in the car. I got hooked by concertinas at age 60, because I could play just like a "handful of harmonicas" and therefore got instant positive responses, which made me look for reliable musical sessions to play with others. That, in my area, meant mostly Irish, so I set out to learn that genre. Tough due to speed of most tunes, and keys and modes left me tuneless much of the time. Still, excellent and welcoming local sessions kept me going. Then...my beloved grandchildren had given me a simple soprano uke kit for a gift, and after a couple of years of delay, I put it together. Rather sloppy job on my part, unfinished and rough, but a sweet sound. I could not make head nor tail of chords, though, and just plucked it to let the kids know I had put it together and appreciated it and them. Then....I read somewhere that the Aquila string set for 5ths soprano tuning would make a "poor man's mandolin" so I might finally try to learn some tunes, and that was my "Aha" moment. All of a sudden, the logical and consistent design of that tuning made recognizable melodies a possibility for me, and I became a bit obsessed. I got a plain 50 dollar Kala mahogany soprano, tuned the same. It looked nicer, but didn't sound as sweet. I then got the Firefly banjo uke, and tuned it up the same. Now we're talking, for my Irish stuff. But, the tenor banjo range (octave below fiddle and mando) called to me, so I got a 39 dollar Rogue baritone, and tuned it an octave lower, with a combination of baritone uke strings and hard-tension classical guitar strings. I learned a lot about the lower scale and the attendant extra finger stretch, and it made me want to get my late Dad's old tenor banjo set up for Irish. I did that, and the baritone uke was a nice, quiet practice instrument for the banjo. But...I needed a better sound and feel in that range, and read (here?) that the tenor uke scale length of 16 or 17 inches could work with the octave mando range in fifths, so I did some research and focused on the Cordoba 24T. It is really pretty, with great woodworking quality, spalted maple back and solid cedar top. It really rings, if that's the word, and is much easier to play than the dirt-cheap baritone. I have it strung with two or three wound low classical guitar strings, and the original Aquila nylon as the high E. I say two or three guitar strings because they all came out of my string bag unlabeled, and the "A" string may in fact be a wound Aquila from an earlier soprano fifths set. At any rate, I am still stretching and settling this set, but am thrilled at the sound and feel of it. I am taking it to a good session this week, where I always ask the skilled GDAE pickers to try out my latest, so I can hear them played by good musicians.

    I plan to make some clips, to share, and really enjoy my new affiliations with this site!

    Thanks, and regards,

    David

  5. #155
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Vancouver, Canada
    Posts
    2

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    With no musical playing background at all, at age 49 some work colleagues talked me into joining them in signing up for group beginner ukulele classes. They ultimately jammed out, but I recklessly kept at it with my daughter for a few months. She had a violin background and took to the uke like a fish to water. I on the other hand mangled chords and transitions badly and my strumming brought the teacher to exasperated tears. With all that, my uke skills shone in comparison to my completely non-existent ability to sing.

    I was very critical of myself (which in retrospect was completely counterproductive) and impatient and put the ukulele aside for five years out of frustration until a couple of months ago when I was talked into picking it up and attending a monthly group session (around 75 people) by a couple of good friends from whom I learned the right relaxed attitude.

    For the time being, I am the one currently strumming quietly, faking chords occasionally and sometimes just whispering the lyrics in the group play and totally loving it, and since I am enjoying it now instead of beating myself up, I am practicing with enthusiasm and wild abandon every day (to the complete horror of my wife) and improving markedly all the time. Super glad I stumbled across this forum.

  6. #156
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Coachella Valley desert, California
    Posts
    12

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    I played and collected guitars for years and then was struck with Polymyalgia Rheumatica and could barely move my fingers. Sold my collection and didn't play anything for years. On an RV camping trip in '12, we met folks doing fireside ukulele and I was in love. My hands had gradually improved with medications, and I ran to the store and bought a uke the next day to be able to play with the camping group. I was hooked. The uke was small enough, light enough, and with only 4 strings, I could manage it very well. Now, I've been playing about 5 years and I lead/teach a sizeable group of 25 players at the resort we live in during winter.

    My efforts now are into finding more creative arrangements for group players. Multi-part arrangements, maybe some added instruments like a box drum or conga, etc.

  7. #157
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    20

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    Family bought me a banjo when I retired five years ago. Never played music since high school trombone training which I never did understand. Couldn't find a banjo teacher but picked up a leaflet for ukulele beginners class. Off to the big box music store with a few ukes. Strummed them but couldn't tell the difference. Wow a Fender. Every man should own a Fender someday. The Fender worked, I learned. Now I have a herd of ukes with a miM Martin leading. Know enough about music now to start trying to learn the banjo on my own.

  8. #158

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    A couple of years ago I picked up a solid cedar top Kala because I absolutely loved the sound. I'd never played before and quickly discovered it was way too big for my hands. All the stretching gave me trigger fingers as well.

    Fast forward: had surgery on my hands and decided recently to try a concert. I'm a little more frustrated learning the music theory, circle of five, etc, than practicing chords, but it will come I guess. As I'm learning better on the concert I'm finding I can stretch better on the tenor. Picked up a cheap soprano someone was selling on letgo last week, and am practicing some on that to see if the stretch will go better from the soprano to the concert. It's so much easier to hit the chords on the soprano.

    I find I can pick out part of "Dueling Banjos." Only through the first few bars, but getting smoother. I love bluegrass and banjos, so want to get on one of those to fingerpick. Wish me luck!

  9. #159
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Sillycon Valley of CA
    Posts
    12

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    As a kid, I played organ and piano. I learned basic guitar in college. When I was on vacation in Hawaii, there was a free ukulele class at the resort i was staying at. It was fun and easy since I had some guitar knowledge. I recognized that the chords were all the same as guitar, but 5 frets up. I bought a cheap Lanikai concert at a shop in Lahaina. I brought it home and played a bit. I learned a few songs. Then I set it down and didn't play for a couple of years. I kept it in my RV. One day I was camping at my favorite nudist resort that I frequent and I heard people playing ukulele nearby. I wandered over and watched. They weren't playing anything difficult, so I asked if I could join in. I grabbed my uke and had no trouble keeping up. That was 3 years ago and we still play frequently. Meanwhile, I've gotten significantly better. I'm also the lead male singer (since I can sing on key). I had never sung in front of people before this group. We've performed a few times at the resort. The lead female singer and I get together often to work out the songs and to practice harmonies. It's been a fun ride so far! For me, playing with others makes all the difference. I'll play alone now, but it's more practice for the songs I play with the group. I"m not sure if I would have picked up the uke again if it weren't for the group.
    --
    Lanakai LU21-C cheapo concert with PHD strings - my first uke
    Kala KA-PWT Walnut tenor with Worth browns low G
    Kala KA-SSLNG long neck Soprano, spruce top with stock Aquillas.
    KoAloha Opio concert in acacia currently with Worth clears and low G.
    Klos Tenor Deluxe on order.

  10. #160
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Posts
    17

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    We were encouraged to take up an instrument when I was a kid. I tried piano and violin, but fell in love with the cello. Played in the high school orchestra, youth orchestra, and all state orchestras. Went to music school on a full scholarship but dropped out when I realized I would be playing the same pieces my whole career. Not many jobs in avant garde classical.

    I kept up the cello and played in community orchestras until my beloved cello got stolen in 1999. I could not afford to replace it so decided to try some other instruments. Drums, banjo, etc. Bought a ukulele, but it mostly gathered dust.

    Finally could afford to replace my cello and wanted to branch out to other musical genres: tried jazz, bluegrass, heavy metal, cajun. Lots of fun but really challenging because I was so rusty and it involves a lot of DIY and I was working too many hours.

    Took a singing class, which was really hard, but mostly fun.

    This year I semi-retired, which means I only work part of the year. I was volunteering for the state parks which meant a lot of down time sitting in a kiosk. So I brought the uke along every day to poke around on. What fun! I am hooked!

    I love the affordability, portability, and that it easily lends itself to many genres.

    I will still keep up the cello, but am practicing every day. I don't have ambitions to be a virtuoso, but would love to get a good sing-a-long repertoire built up. Work on some jazz, blues, and cajun tunes.

    Depending on where I land, or if I stick to one spot, it would be fun to get a band together.
    I cant understand why people are frightened of new ideas. Im frightened of the old ones. ― John Cage

    cello - Luis and Clark
    ukes - Cordoba, Lohanu, and Outdoor Ukulele (all soprano)

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