View Full Version : The single most important factor that keeps me picking up a ukulele

10-20-2013, 04:58 AM
I have a lot of different stringed instruments hanging (literally) around the house. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, acoustic bass, electric bass, acoustic mandolins, two solid body electric mandolins, lap steels of various construction/configuration and four ukuleles.

Over the past few months (I bought my first uke in March or so), the ratio of uke to non uke playing for me has been somewhere around 90% uke and 10% other stuff. That has gotten me to thinking about why I am so clearly inclined to grab a uke rather than anything else. After all, if I close my eyes and throw a rubber suction cup tipped dart in my music room, the chances of hitting a uke are pretty small (not that many ukes compared to other instruments and they ain't really large targets).

I am sure that size plays a part in my decision to pick up a uke. I just ended a year long relationship with a large body jazz box guitar because I was constantly aware of its size and shape while playing it.

Then there is the thing about ukuleles being easy to learn to play. On that count, what I have learned over the past 5-6 months is that ukes are relatively easy to learn to play, but not all that easy to learn to play well.

I think it comes down to the one factor that really differentiates my ukes from all my other stringed instruments (except for one); string material.

Everything else I have available to play is strung with either steel strings or something wound with metal stuff. And, as a result, they all sound on the bright side. While this is not to say that their sound is unpleasant to my ears, the emerging reality seems to be that I prefer the tonal quality of FC strings on a smaller body.

This fact has come home to me as I work on more finger-style songs. The tone quality of individual notes being plucked or hammered on with a ukulele is simply what keeps me coming back for more.

What keeps you hooked?

10-20-2013, 05:10 AM
Fun and other good uke peeps! And the fact that it's no fun playing a set of drums alone.

10-20-2013, 05:33 AM
I just find the uke to be fun. It is difficult to play well but I pick it up and practice every single day. After working on my fingerpicking and technical exercises I play for fun. I majored in music at Berklee and was trained as a trumpet player. I don't enjoy trumpet any more, sitting in a room working on range, technical exercises bores me to death. There's not that much work for trumpeters in my area any more so I simply gave it up. I have not touched the horn in 2.5 years and don't really miss it. I still like to go and hear great trumpeters the same way I like to hear great uke players. When I travel and don't have my uke I can't wait to get home, I don't feel that way about trumpet any more.

10-20-2013, 06:37 AM
It's fun, relatively easy to play, small, light and unpretentious. It's got a happy sound and provides me with more fun and joy than I ever experienced playing the guitar. I'm not a great uke player and probably never will be but it doesn't matter. I just have a lot of fun playing songs on it.

10-20-2013, 01:17 PM
@bborzell: I enjoyed your open letter on the state of the musical union in your place! You're asking very good questions. The uke is relatively easy to learn but it is just as hard as any other instrument to really get good at it and it requires mucho practise, lessons, self-learning, videos, etc... I thought as a former guitarist, it would be a piece of cake for me to conquer, but no dice.

What keeps me hooked is that I'm constantly learning on the uke like I never did on the guitar. To be fair on the guitar front, I had three years of guitar lessons and could read music (pick out melody lines) but I missed getting into serious jazz guitar. Now with the uke, I can arrange songs as chord melodies and I've learned to strum and fingerpick like I never did on the guitar. So, the uke has got me hooked big-time and I'm enjoying every minute of it. It's like my own channel of musical discovery. Different ukes sizes (i.e. soprano, concert, tenor, baritone) have forced me to alter my playing style slightly and new good things always come from it.

What a wild ride it's been!


10-20-2013, 05:49 PM
For me, beside the sound, ukulele is so much more portable. I have pockets for few minutes waiting time in my work at home. Having had to take guitar out and keep it again do not permit me to play it with enough time. With ukulele, those few minutes are really precious and that makes me love ukulele even more.

With ukulele, I can play songs that I could not do before. I feel so proud of myself. I could only achieve all these with ukulele. It's really an amazing instrument.

10-20-2013, 06:30 PM
The single most important factor that keeps me picking up a ukulele


10-20-2013, 09:11 PM
The first thing for me, is that the ukulele is NOT intimidating, that really helped me.

As a kid (9 or 1 years old) my parents paid me guitar lessons and at the time, I hated the thing. It was big, I could hardly put my left hand around it, and all the teachers wanted me to learn blues (I just wanted to learn an REM or Nirvana song at the time). After 2 years of forcing myself, I quit, and though I enjoyed music, never wanted to go back. I felt I wasn't good, that there was no progression and everything there was to learn just overwhelmed me. I felt that all instruments were like this: big, cumbersome, and intimidating. Until I discovered the ukulele.

It's small and really didn't scare me. I heard a few songs strummed and thought to myself "Oh that's not hard, I can do this". So I bought an ukulele.

To this day, this is my first motivation; I can play this instrument easily and there is instant gratification.

But, now, I want to "master" the ukulele... I'll never be able to play like Jake Shimabukuro, Aldrine or Taimane, but thanks to my little successes, I am motivated to learn music theory, I want to learn how to finger pick well, I want to learn how to read notes... I want to learn everything there is to know about my instrument, all of this because I was never scared of the ukulele or intimidated by it's history, by a teacher or by it's size.

Plus, the people who play the ukulele are so nice. I don't feel as like there is judgement or people putting you down or telling you that you are so wrong in what you are doing. On the contrary, I have always felt encouraged by how people dialogue with each other and when you check out this site (whether ir be the lessons or the forum) you just feel the love of this unassuming little instrument.

10-20-2013, 09:25 PM
I have an MA in music, and have worked as a piano player since the early 80s. I was always envious of people who could play their own instruments at gigs, not just put up with whatever they were given. (One day, a Steinway; the next a horrible heap of junk best suited for a bonfire.) I also envied them the possibility of playing for themselves in hotel rooms etc. The ukulele makes me able to work through chord charts for songs when I'm on the road, and the mere joy of random improvisation and investigation of the traditional jazz stuff that I have loved all my life makes me pick it up again and again. The guitar, which I play badly, now feels like a hippo in my hands. Cumbersome, heavy and unmanageable...I'm very glad I rediscovered the ukulele. A wonderful instrument.

Hippie Dribble
10-20-2013, 09:39 PM
It always transports me from a place I don't want to be into a place I could stay forever.

10-20-2013, 10:13 PM
When I pick up a ukulele, the ukulele picks up me.

10-20-2013, 11:37 PM
I can play a uke with a cat on my lap.

10-21-2013, 01:59 AM
The ukulele gives me the opportunity to be non-competitive and more accepting of others - that is how I think I was meant to be.

I still play golf but some of my golfing buddies can be so hard on themselves, especially when they hit bad shots. Sometimes the game is so frustrating that I think they're going to cry.

My ukulele friends make mistakes right in the middle of a song, stop the song to talk about it and make adjustments, and then pick up where we left off! I love that.

10-21-2013, 02:19 AM
Being able to play anywhere. I take a beater to work and try new stuff, practice more at home.
I love it.

10-21-2013, 02:34 AM
Discovering UU (and especially the "Seasons of the Ukulele") has kept me on the straight and narrow ;)

G Hill
10-21-2013, 01:19 PM
I'm a Blues/Jazz Harmonica Player/Teacher and all my playing is improv. (apart from the head) based and I love it, but the Uke allows me to Play and Sing at the same time (something quite impossible with a gob full of Harp :)). With the Uke I get to play all the songs from my youth (and before) without feeling that I have to try to make more of them than what they are. So, no pressure to impress, just pure enjoyment of the music! Wow, what a great feeling!!! I love my Ukes :D