View Full Version : A ukulele moment...

10-27-2015, 10:34 AM
This post is partly in response to http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?114438-Lurkers-lusting-to-learn-the-uke-lusting-to-learn-the-uke -- a thread I decided to stay out of :P)

The other night a lovely thing happened. We had an event at our local "club" (funky old sportsmen's club being re-purposed towards fun, music, etc.). As we've been prototyping a new uke I've several, so I just scattered them around. Someone who has only been playing for about a month now picked one up and started running through some chords, then someone else who'd never played sat down, grabbed one and basically said "teach me". I was busy doing other things, but noticed about an hour later that there were five folks sitting in a circle, learning three basic chords, a basic strum and working on "What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor", which was starting to sound pretty good. None of these folks were veteran players and most were total newbies.

And that's the beauty of the instrument. It's friendly, and it's dirt simple to get started. Jake can do his thing and blow our socks off, but we can still do our thing and muddle through a bunch of songs with a handful of chords and a few basic strums. You don't have to read music, understand a thing about music theory -- you can just discover, in an evening, that you can not only make music, you can do it with others.

I've learned a few useful things so far:

Never hand anybody a uke without a strap -- and help them adjust it.

Don't put a big complex chord chart on the wall. Put up a few simple charts with a few chords in the same key.

For better or for worse music "theory" intimidates people. Folks will find there way to formal theory if that's where there particular bent takes them. You don't need theory to listen to or make music.

Music is real. You can listen to it, make it, have a mind-body response to it, change your mood with it, entertain others, find peace, etc.

Theory is not real. Theory is imminently useful in many ways, but it is a description of something that is real (music) and cannot stand on its own. It is an analytical tool, and as such will appeal to analytical folks and perhaps stifle others. I think there should be a big sign over the entrance to every music department in every school: "Music is real, theory is not".

People rapidly figure out the rudiments of theory without even being introduced to the subject. For example, some notes sound good when played together, while others don't. When they sound good together they are a chord. Some chords sound good when played with a particular sung note, while others sound bad. So, you've got to put the right chords with the right notes.

Give them a copy of a uke song book and they start to learn about chord progressions that are really sweet -- thus discovering another bit that is based not on abstract theory, but their own response to something they are playing/hearing. In other words, you can use different chords to support the same sung note and create a different effect/response.

So it goes...

10-27-2015, 11:30 AM
Yup, what he said, that which makes ukulele so approachable.