View Full Version : Inspiration for your playing?

Joyful Uke
08-07-2016, 05:22 AM
While practicing yesterday, I noted to myself that I don't have any particular style of playing, and what I play is a random collection of things. Since I just play for fun, that's really OK.

But it got me to think that some of you probably have some particular inspiration for your playing, and some sort of inspiration might give me a bit of a boost right now. Maybe part of it is that I've been getting much more serious about ukulele, (instead of a bit of a distraction from other things, which was the initial goal.)

I'm probably not saying this well, but still might lead to some interesting input.

What inspires you to play, and why? Do you have a particular style of playing, (like John King, as an example), or just play a random assortment of things? What keeps you motivated?

08-07-2016, 06:24 AM
This is going to be somewhat of a long story. I started playing ukulele three years ago because a couple weeks before, I was leafing through a Musicians Friend catalogue and saw a Mahalo ukulele that looked like the Fender Telecaster guitar I bought not long before. The uke was only $60 and I thought it would be cute hanging next to my guitar. The day after it arrived, I received a post card for the upcoming Los Angeles Music Center Summer Play-Along series, three Saturday workshops, three hours a day for people to play together. I had been to a couple previous ones for guitar, but this one was for ukulele. I figured since I now have a uke, I'll attend.

I went to the internet and discovered what was happening with the ukulele, including Jake, Iz, and others, which was very impressive. I learned the three chords that the Music Center program required (easy enough since I played guitar for almost 50 years), but I found it rather difficult the make the chords on the Mahalo. Then I discovered it was a soprano, so I immediately went out and bought a tenor.

After the Music Center seminar, an announcement was made that there would be a ukulele flash mob headed by Cali Rose, I couldn't attend but I found out that not only was she a well known and very accomplished uke player, she also held ukulele classes twice a week out of the Culver City Senior Center. Since I was in the process of retiring at the time, I thought focussing on the uke would be a good way to fill my time, I joined immediately. The 50 or so members gell nicely and we perform often during the year, calling ourselves The CC Strummers.

(I actually joined another group, The Westside Ukulele Ensemble, at the same time, an advanced instrumental group that does three and four parts, but I couldn't keep up with their expertise and after a year decided to drop out.)

About a year or so later, Cali asked if anyone would like to take up the bass to fill in our sound, one other member and I volunteered. In the 50 years I played guitar, I was often told by my friends that I should take up the bass, but I didn't want to be encumbered by those large electric basses, forget a standup bass, but when I discovered all the small bass ukes, I went for it.

Being a member of The CC Strummers has become my greatest motivation, we meet Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, so I continually practice the bass (and some ukulele), work out the bass line for each song, record all the songs we play when we meet and put them on my web site so everyone can practice at home anytime.

08-07-2016, 06:33 AM
For me, it was being exposed to James Hill not only his solo playing but his advocacy for music education of ukulele in the classroom as well as his work with the ukulele way. Watching his videos and reading his materials essentially taught me how to play and gave me that initial foundation.

Nowadays Daniel ho is my ukulele hero and I play as much of his stuff as I can and its his style and sound I try to emulate the most.

Joyful Uke
08-07-2016, 06:51 AM
Recstar24, I just started working on Daniel Ho's Polani, and can see why you are a fan. I'll probably try to work on some more of his music.

kohanmike, it sounds like The CC Strummers is a definate inspiration, and lots of fun for you.

08-07-2016, 07:07 AM
I don't have a particular style or inspiration. I'm probably somewhat influenced by the style of my instructor, but if I am it's not intentional and definitely not something I make a conscious effort to emulate. Early on, hearing John King for the first time was what inspired me to keep playing in the first place - I really had fully expected to learn to strum a few chords and then, as I do with most things, get bored with it - but finding out that the uke was capable of so much more was what motivated me to keep going... coming up on 7 years now!

08-07-2016, 07:16 AM

08-07-2016, 07:27 AM
What inspires me: the amazingly sweet and beautiful sounds I get from my uke.
James Hill and Daniel Ho are also inspirations to my playing.

Off topic:
Recstar24, did you get a chance to try out the PHD low g string set yet?

08-07-2016, 07:37 AM
I started playing because I was looking for a casual instrument I could take places instead of one my guitars. What started with one $50 Kala has now turned in to 4 ukuleles. Playing the ukulele is calming for me. I haven't really learned a lot of songs, I just more enjoy picking it up and playing whatever I feel like.

08-07-2016, 07:43 AM
I started out just playing totally randomly - mostly off of the Doc Uke list, then went into a big jazz kick trying to learn how to play like Lyle and Benny Chong -

Now I'm way way into Hawaiian. I'm totally immersed in all of the Hawaiin music - with Hui Ohana basically serving as my main tour guide. These HUI OHANA tunes are fan-freaking-tastic! And even though there's not always a uke present - even the uke free songs are fantastic for learning. I've found that I can mimic a lot of those guitar solos on the uke. I've learned a whole whole lot about chord structure, keys, arpeggios, solos from playing those songs

When I get tuned into a Hawaiin tune that I particularly like, I then like to just go search that song name and then listen to all the many various versions that have been done of it over the years

I've been using a great IPAD app lately called "Anytune" that lets you slow tunes down without changing the pitch of the song. I've been using that to learn some of the crazier faster Ledward solos. And I've also used it to slow down David Kamakahi and Ohta San.

08-07-2016, 08:01 AM
I have no style, so like you, I absorb all sorts of bits and pieces of knowledge and technique, and in time I'll sort it all out and fill in the many gaps. What I want to do depends heavily on the instrument, too. With the soprano, I want to become much better at rhythmic playing, and with the baritone, and perhaps soon: a guitarlele, my interest is in fingerstyle, especially classical pieces.

This video here inspired me greatly:


Admittedly, it doesn't have all that much to do with traditional ukuleles, but I love it so much and I want to play half as well one day.

Motivation, for me, comes from improvement. Noticing how my precision increases, finger strength and dexterity go up, pieces becoming more musical, certain chords and chord changes feeling easier, and so - all of these motivate me. I also often noodle aimless in a sort if meditative, relaxing way. It's really not so much about goals and destinations for me, and much more about the journey and the right-now-and-here experience.

Croaky Keith
08-07-2016, 08:05 AM
I started with the uke after failing to get to grips with my electric piano that I had bought to learn in my retirement, & harmonica, (I can't seem to get my breath right).

There was a person on my harmonica forum who played uke, & that got me to investigate - bought one, & then another, etc.

UAS struck very quickly, so I joined in with the people on the Seasons thread, & my main motivation comes from the weekly challenges on there.

My main interest is instrumentals, I play the melody lines of songs that I like, but I have deviated a time or two because of the Seasons, even into writing a few little ditties. :)

08-07-2016, 08:11 AM
Motivation, for me, comes from improvement. Noticing how my precision increases, finger strength and dexterity go up, pieces becoming more musical, certain chords and chord changes feeling easier, and so - all of these motivate me.

This pretty much sums it up for me too. I feel as if I notice improvement much more quickly on ukulele than I ever did on piano, guitar, voice or bass as a kid, so - the quick rewards keep me motivated!

08-07-2016, 09:20 AM
Classical guitar players.

08-07-2016, 01:55 PM
What inspired me to start was a happen chance viewing of "The Mighty Uke" one cold snowy Sunday in March 2 years ago. I was awestruck by the beautiful sounds James Hill and Jake could pull out of the laughable Tiny Tim instrument. It basically opened a door to making music for me.

I am inspired by any song that "grabs" me by the heart strings. You know the one you hear and say "OH I have to learn to play that". It could be Led Zepplin, Bach, Chet Atkins, The Beatles, etc. etc. Just feeling the uke vibrating against my chest and hearing the notes joining together is all the inspiration I need.

08-07-2016, 02:04 PM
Recstar24, I just started working on Daniel Ho's Polani, and can see why you are a fan. I'll probably try to work on some more of his music.

Awesome! Polani to my ears sounds like classical Campanella set to low g with a Hawaiian twist. Every song is beautiful, the book has a wide range of difficulty, and really is written to make the uke sing. I've been adding some of Daniels other book to my practicing and am enjoying working on pineapple mango.

What inspires me: the amazingly sweet and beautiful sounds I get from my uke.
James Hill and Daniel Ho are also inspirations to my playing.

Off topic:
Recstar24, did you get a chance to try out the PHD low g string set yet?

Yes! I went ahead and replace my stock koalohas with them last week. They sound and feel great but can't say at this moment how different they may be from stock Koaloha.

08-07-2016, 03:15 PM
Aldrine and Chuck Moore are my motivators. I basically hope to make them proud. And, dang it, it's really hard. But I keep plugging away. (But my tone is getting better.)

08-07-2016, 03:38 PM
I've gone through several stages in my learning of the ukulele. At first I was heavily influenced by Jazz ukulele. Then I proceeded to learn some classical music on ukulele, which led to me taking up classical guitar. Also, playing jazz ukulele brought me to Jazz guitar.

For a while Joe Pass was a big influence but lately I'm smitten with Julian Bream (Classical Guitarist). He has such passion and emotion in his playing. Sometimes, I find some musicians sterile, all technique and not much emotion. Listening to Bream pushes me to reach inside when I play the ukulele or guitar.

08-07-2016, 03:51 PM
Justin, did you know Bream was the most responsible for making the guitar respectable? I too, love hearing him.

What inspires me the most right now is the ensemble I formed, with 3 other gals. They are all better players than I (all guitarists of different genres and skill levels). We play together at least once a week, and plan to debut this fall. We call ourselves the "4 Uke A Teers".
I also keep myself busy learning to sing and play by leading one of our jam sessions each month. I am taking voice lessons as well as music theory class.

08-07-2016, 04:06 PM
Great question. I don't connect well with people, so I got into playing as a way to interact joyfully and with less fear with others, similar to when I taught Kung fu. I kind of whipsawed between James hill and a superb classical guitarist for instruction, but lately have been heavily focused on claw hammer playing which really helps connect with others. I also love that I can play music for my kids at night. They love big rock candy mountain and groundhog.

08-08-2016, 06:49 AM
Hi Nickie,

I really like Bream's attitude towards playing guitar. He'll start moving his body and adding facial gestures. You can see the joy in his playing. He does not seem too take himself too serious.

My Jazz guitar teacher has a similar type of personality. He's a bit of jokester and very easy going but still plays with purpose and joy.

My current teacher has taught me to play with joy and not be so concerned with perfection. We'll have a laugh when I start messing up.

Luke El U
08-08-2016, 07:24 AM
For beautiful, modern and accessible uke music, Daniel Ho's Polani and his other solo compositions have been a huge inspiration to me. But historical music is also full of beauty, and that's the direction Rob MacKillop's books have pointed me in.

There is an incredible wealth of 16th, 17th, and 19th century music which transcribes almost perfectly to the ukulele.
Go to the YouTube channel "Ottaviano Petrucci" created by the Italian lutenist, Massimo Lonardi and check out his playlist for "renaissance guitar." They are absolutely lovely performances of renaissance music written for an instrument tuned at modern pitch GG cc ee a (yes, only one a)! And all the music is in print and available for free!

08-08-2016, 08:38 AM
I draw musical inspiration from many sources, but the ukulelists and guitarists who have influenced me most are (in no particular order) Lyle Ritz; George Benson; Emory Lester; Daniel Ho; Neal Alger; Abe Lagrimas, Jr.; Lionel Loueke, and Jon Damian.

08-08-2016, 09:00 AM
Love this thread - it really caused me to think.

What inspires me to play and keeps me motivated - the uke community and this forum.
It started out as a diversion during the early days of retirement with a Mahalo and no previous musical knowledge. UAS took hold so I now have 6 more instruments ROTFL that I enjoy equally for their differences and similarities. Learning "about" music, yes...even some basic music theory, has been enlightening. But what I have loved most is how generous folks have been in sharing their knowledge, experiences, opinions and suggestions. I am always amazed at the skill progression members of this forum show in their videos and sound clips and I guess I live somewhat vicariously through the joy (or sometimes disappointment) with new or re-homed purchases. There is much effort that goes into doing videos/sound clips/pictures and it is much appreciated - even when we fail to comment on postings :-). I've sure seen some amazing ukes in this forum - some expensive, some quite economical - and I really appreciate that, for the most part, there is no "judgement" about what you can afford to play or your knowledge/skill level. It's all good! And that is rare in social media/forums these days (kudos to the moderators and the members for their self-discipline).

I can't say I have a particular style of playing- I play whatever I have tabs/chord sheets etc for that appeals to me and that changes constantly so maybe it is the continuous learning that has kept me interested. And I have you folks to thank for that - so thanks!

08-08-2016, 08:32 PM
A dozen years ago I had a chance encounter at a jam session with Fred Fallin, I was very impressed with his enthusiastic attack. Mixing different strum patterns to meet the needs of the song. I also checked out Ukulele Ike short movies reels on YouTube. Just strumming away and having fun does it for me.

08-09-2016, 02:24 AM
Jake, James Hill, Jim Beloff, and John King got me started on uke after 35+ yrs of guitar,

Songwriting, Workshops at Uke Fests, and my friends HERE from UU and SOTU, all inspire and motivate me and keeps me playing.

There is so much music to enjoy and so little time left in this life. Every moment counts.

08-09-2016, 03:42 AM
At one time my inspiration was my mom and and I learned songs from the 30's, 40's, and 50's which seemed to open up a flow of memories for her when I played them.

Now that she has passed, I look for instrumental songs for me, and classic rock songs for my husband.

08-09-2016, 12:44 PM
I'm pretty overwhelmed with inspiration at this stage. It's painful being a beginner and knowing it will be ages because I can do everything, or even half, what I want to do. But what got me into this was leaving my classical choir (temporarily as it turns out) and wanting to continue with singing so I got the idea to go busking to give me purpose. But it all started with the singing which i got into about three years ago when I joined the choir, and then especially last year when i had some lessons and did my first vocal solos. I've been out of choir all this year and am going travelling for a year starting October but wanting to keep singing so I had to take up a portable instrument. Guitar, my first thought, too big; uke, just right for my bicycle.

So now with the uke, I want to learn songs that I love to sing, learn new contempory songs that i've never heard of til now - I don't want to be solely a golden oldie player. So that's the rhythm stuff. I also want to learn fingerpicking and be able to do a nice job of some of my classical favourites. I just listened to Polani as mentioned above for the first time and thought "yeah, that's really nice" but also I recognised a couple of other songs in there - a cat steven's song and another well known one which has slipped my mind already. I just love all good stuff from all sorts of sources but not folk, irish, country or metal.

08-09-2016, 02:47 PM
Hmm, inspiration? You got me thinking. I've enjoyed reading the replies and got a couple of nice hints of inspiration right here. I never gave much thought to music before discovering the uke accidentally. I mostly enjoyed listening. Dabbled with guitar and piano in my youth. My mother really wanted me to play the guitar since she did. I didn't 'get it' then. Wish I had for her sake. Maybe I could connect with her better now.

I find inspiration as it finds me. Just as I travel along this short/long life. I play all kinds of music and with my own written material I try to mix it up so all the songs don't sound the same. I'm very good at playing by ear and can figure out most any song now and add a melody line or riff. That's fun to do sometimes. Sometimes it's a chore when I just want to play it and there are no sheets anywhere on the www (: I learn faster/better by doing it than by following a tab though so in the long run it's better to figure it out on my own.

I started out learning right here on the Underground from Alderine. It's him and others here who help on UU who have gotten me as far as I am. THANK YOU (: Though I have joined clubs and even have a small one here at my home twice a month. I haven't yet found where I'm going with the uke, if anywhere. Right now I would find inspiration in folks around me who would like to make music together. So far I haven't found them, well, ones that are calling me out to play anyway. I love the musical ride I'm on right now but physically? Argh, I won't get into that (:

08-09-2016, 03:05 PM
I love reading this thread! It makes me really wish for a local group (the existing local meet up doesn't work for me & I'm not able to organize my own right now...so I'll just wait and keep looking!).
For me, taking lessons and continually being challenged -- and knowing someone will be listening to hear how I'm doing -- has kept the flame lit.

mm stan
08-10-2016, 12:42 AM
Join a class, club or friends to play together... attend many uke festivals and concerts