View Full Version : Let's hear from some guitarists

03-03-2011, 03:42 PM
I know there are a lot of fine guitar players in UU land. I'm curious what it was that introduced other guitar players to the ukulele. I've played guitar for about 35 years and for most of that time, I had a perfectly functional uke hanging around the house, but I didn't get hooked until about five years ago. Maybe it took that long for me to get the image of Tiny Tim out of my mind! Actually, I found that the uke filled a big niche in my musical life and there are lots of great songs that work much better (for me) on the uke. What about you?

pat rock
03-03-2011, 03:49 PM
Yeah, Brother! I too started out on the guitar - I wanted to get my daughters into playing an instrument, and somebody suggested the ukulele - easy to learn, right size for small hands, etc. Well, four ukes later and I am starting to think the guitar is too big~!

Some songs still need that low end, I wonder if any guitarists play a 6-string ukulele - I saw Aldrine just got one - how 'bout dat?!! (I still haven't experimented much with slack key tuning, though I really love and admire those guys)

Great idea for a thread!!

03-03-2011, 03:50 PM
I had inherited a Spanish guitar, but couldn't play the chords; too weak, too confused. So, I bought a new baritone uke to learn the treble part of the chords, as I always planned to play the bass figures on the bottom strings. It worked really well; I developed a ragtime style, plucking the alternating bass with my thumb and picking the melody and harmony patterns with my fingers. The uke was sold eventually so that I could buy a Martin 00-17 - a 1947 model. I also sold off a Martin Tenor and a Vega Tenor Banjo to make up enough cash to buy the guitar.

Of the instruments I sold, I only really missed the uke. About 1o years later, 1991, I bought a 1960s Martin type O, the best instrument I have including the 00-17. It felt very good to have both and still does.

03-03-2011, 03:59 PM
I started with guitar too. My family and I have have vacationed to Hawaii alot and it holds a large place in our hearts...I figured a uke isn't that different from a guitar so I went and bought one one day. I must confess the guitar still dominates the uke in my heart, but I still love the uke.

03-03-2011, 04:06 PM
Interesting question. I stopped in my favorite local guitar shop and they had added a line of ukuleles. I messed around with one for a while and got hooked, but did not buy for about 3 months. In addition to guitar I play mandolin, Irish bouzouki, and fretless bass. The ukulele was something different and fun. Also easy to carry around.

03-03-2011, 04:07 PM
Played guitar (poorly) for years. Been playing bass in a band for about three. Picked up the uke a few months ago and I don't think I've touched any of my guitars since. :)


03-03-2011, 06:39 PM
I've been playing guitar over 30 years now. For me, it was a mix of a couple of trips to Hawaii along with a local community Sunday morning radio station show called "Kani Ka Pila"http://www.kvmr.org/personalities/m_keene.html that planted the uke seed. I learned a lot from the show about uke players past and present, gained an appreciation. Plus, an association grew between ukes and relaxation! I still love my guitars, but the uke is my go-to chillin' out instrument.

03-03-2011, 06:44 PM
Guilty as charged. I have played guitar for over 40 years. Along the way I also played bass, banjo, mandolin, trumpet, trombone, French Horn...well you get the picture. Somewhere back in the 60's I did have a cheap soprano uke but it didn't stay in tune. It made a nice, compact instrument to take to camp. Back then there may have been 3 or 4 makers of the little uke. I had never heard that there were concert, tenor and baritone sizes. Anyone who played one had a cheap soprano. Back in January 2010 (last year) I had a stroke and was bed ridden for a few months. I went online a lot with nothing else to do and found an article about the uke making a comeback. I also found that everybody and their mother were making ukes...and they were more than $10....and were considered by some a REAL instrument! I couldn't wait to get out of bed and walk so I could go and buy one. My recovery was swift due to UAS. By April I was ready to venture out with a cane and laid down over $400 for a Kala electric tenor arch top, case, stand and extra strings. A week later I bought a Kala pineapple soprano (just to say I had one). I now own 4 tenors and the one soprano. I have not stopped playing or teaching the guitar but I love to put it down and pick up my ukes. My Youtube channel now has uke videos on it too. It has not even been a year since I got the uke fever. Now looking to jam with other like-minded individuals!

03-03-2011, 06:58 PM
Been playing guitar for 30 years. Been playing uke (poorly) off and on for the last 10 years. It all started with a trip to Maui...

03-03-2011, 09:19 PM
Played guitar for forty eight years before spotting a
cheap Mahalo Ukulele in a local music shop window.
I had had a major illness,and just could not be bothererd
to pick up my guitars.But the ukulele changed that! I
now have several,in soprano and tenor size and play at
least one of them daily! Have not really touched a guitar
since,and gave most of mine away to friends.

03-03-2011, 09:45 PM
In the early 1960s I had a soprano uke. It was a Harmony. In the late 1960s, I added a baritone (Harmony again), solid mahogany uke. I also started playing guitar. I have played both guitar and uke for over 40 years. I play a bunch of other instruments, too, but, the harmonica is the only other instrument I have played as long as the uke and guitar.

03-03-2011, 11:48 PM
Although I have owned a classical guitar since the late 1960's, I would never call myself a guitarist. I just never really got into it enough to learn to play it more than strumming 4 or 5 chords. At various times during the 60s I also dabbled in electric guitar "bands", but still never really learned to play it much. I traded the electric for a 22 rifle, put the classical in its case (where it staid for 30+ years) then gave it to my son. He returned it pretty much unplayed a few years ago.

In December of 2009 I saw some videos of SweetAfton23, DevilishlyPure, and several others. I thought, "Wow that looks like fun to play." I was in a music store with my son buying something for his guitar, and saw how cheap ukuleles were. I figured I would try it and took home a cheap Kala laminate tenor. Unlike the guitar, I have played it almost everyday since, and am loving it.

Last year I was craving some more bass in my music, so I bought a steel string folk guitar. I played it for a few weeks, but it now sits in its case next to the old classical guitar. Its just more fun (for me) to play as the ukulele. I love to hear other people play guitar, however.

03-04-2011, 01:37 AM
I played slack key guitar for years. That led to the banjo. That led to the mandolin. That led to the fiddle. That led to the stand up bass. That led to the ukulele that attracted my attention at a local music store. So, you see the guitar is just a gateway drug to harder drugs that go by the street name "ukulele". I have a monkey on my back............but it's a fun monkey.

Jerlial Prophet
03-04-2011, 02:21 AM
I used to play electric guitars and dreadnought sized acoustic guitars. Then I switched exclusively to acoustic guitars. Then I discovered that while I loved the sound of the dreadnoughts, I LOVED the comfort of the smaller bodied guitars and fell in love with the Grand Concert/OM/OOO sized guitars. Then I was watching Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" and I thought, "Man, that Ukulele sure looks comfy, look at him just walkin' around slangin' that thang. I bet you could take that anywhere. Heck, I bet I could sit right at my computer with it and not worry about bangin' it on my desk like I do with my guitars." And there it was, the start of the Uke obsession.

03-04-2011, 02:30 AM
This has been talked about several times since I been on UU. But, to share again my connection. I started out playing Bass when I was 14 years old. I primarily played bass, but also played guitar as a secondary player. I have always loved the Ukulele, even back in the day I wouldn't have admitted it. It was always one of those things I liked at a distance. I LOATHED the Tiny Tim thing. Altho I do know he was in reality a musical genius of sorts, I think really ruined any chance of a Uke back then becoming anything "cool".

But, fast forward to years later. I was turned onto the Uke as a viable instrument by Iz. I listened to him allot, but still hadn't gotten a Uke. By this time, I was towards the end of my guitar playing due to being plaqued with artritis. My fingers just couldn't form the chords, or have the speed and agility they need to play like I once did. I have always been a perfectionist, and if I couldn't play or do something at the level I once did, I just didn't do it. Not a good trait in me, and something I fight within my self all the time. I still played the bass a little bit up until about 10 years ago, because it wasn't so challenging to my hands and fingers, but even that got tough and painful to do, so I just sold my Rickenbacker, and it was my last connection to the guitar. It was not long after that my daughter started showing interests in the guitar, and several times would growl at me when she saw video of me and my Rickenbacker, knowing it was gone now. She watched an old 8mm film of me playing when I was a teenager, and it made me feel good when she turned and said "Dad.. you were good.. You rocked.." But then made me feel sad when at the end of that film turned and said, "Dad, you should never have stopped playing. You messed up..." It hurt, but she was right. I let my stupid stuborness win just because I couldn't play like I used to, so I just stopped it all. By this time, I was old enough not to care if the Uke was cool or not. I bought one, and started playing. Found it was small enough that my fingers could actually do as they should (for the most part). It sparked the love of playing back in me. I had an instrument now, that I can still play even with my limitations. I still wish I could play better, because some chords and fingering can still be challenging, and I can't play a whole song without it rearing it's ugly head. But, I can play it without too much discomfort, and I just don't care that I mess up, I'm not giving it up again. Besides that, it is something my daughter and I enjoy together, and it doesn't matter how it sounds, with the sound of laughter of my daughter as we goof around in little jam sessions over rule any mistake I make. I live my passion through her allot now, because she is an awesome guitarist. Not perfect, but better than any 13 year old I have heard so far. When she gains more and more experience, that kid is gonna be unstoppable, and I am content with my passion moving forward in her. It's all good..

03-04-2011, 03:22 AM
I know there are a lot of fine guitar players in UU land. I'm curious what it was that introduced other guitar players to the ukulele.
Although I started playing guitar in the mid 1960s, I've always been interested in trying other instruments. In the very early part of 2008, I was in Mexico where I ran across some buskers playing South American instruments. I was intrigued by the charango and had a chance to play around with one while I was there.

When I came home, I ordered one from Boliviamall on eBay. Since the delivery time was 6-8 weeks, I used the interval to do some research into how to play and tune one. I read a comment that said a charango was similar to a ukulele with an extra course, so I decided to get a cheap uke in the meantime and practice on it. I started out looking for a $50 uke, and ended up with a $250 one from MGM on eBay.

It arrived weeks before the charango and I was so taken by it, that I played it every waking moment I could. By the time the charango arrived, I wasn't interested in it, so I sold it to buy more ukes. I've been hooked ever since.

Not long afterwards, I sold my guitars to buy ukes. I've never looked back.

03-04-2011, 03:24 AM
I played guitar for a few years. While I was never very good, I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, in a training accident, I badly broke my pinky finger on my left hand. As a result I lost a lot of dexterity and flexibility in it. This made it even more difficult, if not impossible for me to play guitar at all. The Uke, with nylon strings, and a thinner fretboard, make this problem go away. I am thrilled to have found it.

03-04-2011, 03:37 AM
Gee, is there a "Guitar to Uke" Group in UU? Would probably be a good one for guitarists transitioning to uke.

03-04-2011, 03:56 AM
I played guitar for over 20 years. I always wanted to try the uke, but never got around to buying one. My wife bought me a KALA uke this year for my birthday and I love it. I enjoy how portable the uke is. I can take it everywhere without having it take up much space.

03-04-2011, 08:48 AM
I've played guitar for 21 years. Last year, a boy at school came in and asked if we could start a ukulele club. "Sure!" I enthused, having no idea what I was getting into. Bought 2 Brunswick sopranos and 1 Brunswick baritone for the school (that's what they had in our budget in the supply catalogue). They arrived with Aquilas. A handful of boys bought Lazys at a local shop, which was too bad, as I didn't know enough in those early days to recommend, well... almost anything is better than a Lazy. So, our first meeting, I brought in "You Belong to Me" from the Jerk (arranged by Lyle Ritz). That was all I had. I didn't know George Formby. Didn't know any of the 20s stuff. I had seen a ukulele once basically. In the hands of Steve Martin, on a beach, with Bernadette Peters. It was cool, but still pretty kitschy.

At that first meeting, a boy asked if we were going to play that song by "Israel Whatshisname". "Israel who?" I asked. We found the funeral video of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on YouTube, and that was it. I was awed. It wasn't technically profound, but it had that kind of soul that authentic music has. This was the ukulele without baggage, without silliness. Just a man and a song. And it was beautiful AND cool at the same time, which is a tricky thing to sell to cynical English teenage boys. But we all just sat around the room on the desks, strumming away. We played that one song, over and over.

The school ukulele club is much better than we used to be, but I don't think I'll ever recreate the vibe in that room on that day.

Total Ukphoria
03-04-2011, 09:06 AM
Here's my simple story.

While camping with a church group, I heard how a ukulele blends with a guitar while we were sitting around the fire. I knew that I had to learn uke- the blend WAS AMAZING! A guitar and a uke go so well together! So I now play uke, as well as guitar! And life is even sweeter :).

03-04-2011, 09:31 AM
I'd go along with the original post as the uke filled a gap for me, there are some songs that simply sound better on the uke. I was brought to the uke via a washburn rover travel guitar that i bought. The smaller instrument just got me to thinking what an even smaller instrument would sound like. Now in my spare time I play the uke more so than the guitar.

03-04-2011, 09:40 AM
I started with guitar back in 1981. It was back in at the end of 2000 I bought my first uke for $365. It seemed like a lot back then, but I was in Hawaii for the day and wanted a symbol for the 4 years I lived there as a kid in the early 70's. And it had to be made of Hawaiian koa.

Three years ago, I brushed the dust off the flea and took it with me on a flight to the east coast, to join a container ship arriving at Staten Island. The five and a half months that followed were the beginning of my "uke awakening.". I still play guitar, but there are sounds/music that are plainly more effectively done on a uke. Acoustic reggae will always sound better on a uke than a steel string guitar. Try it. You'll like it.

03-04-2011, 09:44 AM
Acoustic reggae will always sound better on a uke than a steel string guitar. Try it. You'll like it.

Always love Reggae and all the variations of Island music.

03-04-2011, 10:13 AM
The Internet is what got me back into the guitar and ultimately the uke. The ability to find all kinds of tabs for free (when before I used to buy one $20 book from which I ended up playing one song out of it) got me playing guitar again a few years ago. I played guitar while my friend played violin. One day he bought a low end Lanika and brought it over, my wife (5 foot tall) liked the tiny uke and borrowed it. She had never played an instrument before. She bought a Soprano, I bought a baritone. We started playing together (all 3 of us), started a band and then had a falling out over playing while looking at the sheet music. My wife and I did not want to play from sheet music. So I lost a friend of 20+ years over artistic differences in a uke band.

We formed another band and now play Soprano, Concert, Baritones and Guitars in the band. So it's my friend who won't speak to me (going on 3 years) introduced me to the uke.

Funny how things end up in life.

03-04-2011, 10:24 AM
I think I 've mentioned before, I've played guitar for about 40 years. In 2009, I tore tendons in my left arm, at the elbow. This was finally surgically repaired, but I still have pain in the joint. I can lift 10 lbs, but can't pour a gallon of milk with my left arm - and the surgery was 11 months ago. seeing as I work as a barista, this is really a pain in the butt - I used to be able to carry three or 4 gallons of milk in either hand - now, I can only carry one with my left.

Prior to the surgery, I was going to physical therapy, and bout a new Epiphone ES-175 reissue as a way to help with that therapy - moving the arm and fingers, with definite purpose, and not having to use the same pressure that I need with my acoustic guitars. My physical therapist endorsed this, and I was keeping her up on my progress. At first, I could play for about 5 minutes. Then 10. worked my way up to about 30 minutes, then started having more problems. She was seeing negative improvement in the rest of the PT as well, so we stopped it. I continued to try to play, but got to the point where I couldn't even raise my left arm into posiion to play chords, then couldnt' even play single strings - it was too painful.

During this period, I sat in on a beginner ukulele session Ron Gordon gave at the Dance Flurry festival in Saratoga Springs, NY. Couldn't play, but I could fake strums on my leg with the right hand. The instruments sounded nice, but there was nothing I could do about it at the time.

Finally, the Workers' Comp carrier approved surgery, and in April of last year, the surgeon cut out the torn and fraying section of tendon. After two weeks in a sling, I was able to move my arm a little, and restarted PT. A month later, I tried picking up a uke at the Starving Musician in San Jose, CA,and while I could put my arm in the right position, I couldn'tplay a chord - too much pain.

As time went by, and the arm got stronger, I returned to playing guitar. Slowly. Very Slowly. even with light gauge strings, it is still painful after 35-45 minutes. Part of that is the stretching of the hand - that is so bad, that I doubt I'll ever pay my classical guitar again.

I walked into my lcal music store, Drome Sound last year when the Gibson Road Show came by, and started playing around with the cheap Makalas, kalas, and Lanakai ukes. To my surprise, i could play just fine, they didn't sound too bad, but I didn't like the way they were built. (If a uke doesn't have kerfing, I don't want it.)

Ordered a Cordoba,started to play, and been doing it ever since. I think I play the Uke better now, after 3 months, than I play the guitar after 40 years.


03-04-2011, 10:29 AM
Back in 2004, I had just started to learn how to play guitar. My wife played the ukulele, which I have to admit, I didn't take too seriously.

The at the ripe old age of 42, I had a heart attack, followed quickly by a quadruple bypass. During my recovery, I realized that life was too short and six strings were two too many.

I turned to the ukulele and never turned back...

03-04-2011, 10:32 AM
I played whatever they would let me play in High School. Mostly horns, then played horns in the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corp. Shortly after that, I took up the fiddle, because my BF got me one. Then mandolin, then guitar, not doing well at any of them. Now, I wouldn't trade my uke for anything I've ever seen. Except for one that's easier to play.

03-04-2011, 12:49 PM
Wow. Some fascinating responses. When I reflect on my own uke awakening, there were several events that convinced me that the uke is not the "toy" that I used to think it was. I was really touched by Sir Paul's uke rendition of "Something" on the original Concert for George. It wasn't just his performance, but I also loved his comments about George's love of the uke. I also liked George's son Dani's comment about how "George always travelled with two ukes... just in case someone else didn't have one". Shortly after that, I built two sopranos as well as, you guessed it... a "dueling pistol" style double case. Now THAT'S something you can't do with a big old dreadnaught guitar.
On a more personal note, my Dad passed away shortly before I started playing uke and I now think that there is a connection there. He was a dixieland tuba player and my uke playing has bridge the gap to styles of music that I never would have played on guitar. All though he was a horn guy, I think he would have "gotten" what I do on the uke. Luckily, my 21 year-old daughter "gets it", and she plays too!
The last event that completed my "awakening" was discovering the sweet spot. When I first tried to play the uke, I strummed it down by the sound hole as I would a guitar. Of course the sound was thin and tinny. It wasn't until after I had built my two sopranos that I discovered that strumming up by the 12th fret activates the harmonics and brings out the real uke tone. Now I can't get enough of it.

03-04-2011, 02:10 PM
I've played classical guitar for a number of years. I was toying with the idea of getting a guitalele when a mailing list for the store where I bought my "good" (luthier made) guitar had a drawing and I won... an uke! At first I thought it would be lark and something I'd tire of in short order but instead I fell in love with it and now have three tenors (mahogany, spruce and cedar tops).

Don't plan to quit guitar, but find myself playing uke a lot more often these days. Now when I bust out the guitar it feels huge and like it just has so many strings. :p

03-04-2011, 02:54 PM
A week later I bought a Kala pineapple soprano (just to say I had one). that's beautiful.

although i play guitar, i wouldn't really call myself a guitarist. yeah i get into it, yeah i think i'm alright, yeah i'm not technically proficient in any sense of the word.

but this is one reason : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5k-OE0-fWs

the other is just my wide open idle curiosity, wanted to know what certain beatle songs would sound like on ukulele.