Uke Moments - Your "Love at First Strum" First Encounter with the Ukulele

UkeCan1

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Okay, Lily, UkeyDave, and Ginny encouraged me to start this thread, which grew out of Season 88 (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/f...88-of-the-Ukulele-Forget-What-You-Know!/page5).

I said, "I started playing uke only on August 31st, 7 weeks ago. Except for a very brief flirtation many years ago with a too-hard-to-play guitar (which remains against my wall, unplayed, to this day), and an even briefer one with a Strumstick, I have never played a stringed instrument before. For some reason, this was the right instrument at the right time. Loving it. Having fun. Learning as fast as I can."

Lily (ukuLily Mars) replied, "I love that you say the 'uke was "the right instrument at the right time." I think that's true for many of us."

And I shared my "origin story" and said, "Now I think we need a new thread for people's first 'uke moments'."

Then everyone said, "Do it!" And now I have.

Please share yours!

And (thanks to Decaturcomp's excellent suggestion) I highly recommend adding photos and videos of your earliest days if you have them!

- Wendy of Uke Can 2!
 
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UkeCan1

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Here's mine, as I shared it there:

I guess you must be right about the "uke moment" for many of us. Mine was especially magical. NJ had its first UkeFest. In which I had pretty much zero interest, not playing a stringed instrument and all. I was on the fence about going Friday night to see the "Mighty Uke" movie; only went because someone else I knew was going.

That movie is like crack - totally hooked me from the first minutes. After that I *had* to go back on Saturday, borrow a loaner uke, attend every playing workshop all day, and practice those songs in my lame thumb strum every minute in between. After the second workshop, I bought a uke, and that was pretty much the end of me ever getting any work done ever again. Like now. :)

[And now I've started a whole new thread, so it's bound to only get more so from here. :)]

- Wendy

Added 10/22/13: Decaturcomp suggested adding our first video or photo ... wonderful idea ... here's my first Seasonista effort, at 4 weeks + 1 day of uking:

My profile pic is also from UkeFest NJ on Day 1 - here's a bigger version:
(That's not my uke, that's a tie-dye Flea to go with my wardrobe of self-made tie-dyed tanks that I wear all summer - mine is a Tiki Flea that you see in the videos. Please excuse the really bad hair day. Click the pic to see me in my full glory.)
Wendy with tie-dye uke.jpg
 
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KohanMike

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I've played guitar for almost 50 years (just OK). In late May I bought a Fender Telecaster electric. Shortly after, I was leafing through a Musicians Friend catalogue and came across a Mahalo UT, designed to look like a Telecaster, I thought that would be cute hanging next to the Telecaster.

Coincidentally I received a flyer from the Los Angeles Music Center for their summer play along series, which I attended a few years earlier for guitar, this year they had three days of ukulele play along. I signed up and sat down with my new uke in front of the computer and started to learn, but I found it difficult to hold many of the cords. Doing a bit of research, I learned about sizes, the Maholo is a soprano, and coming from guitar, I found that tenor was a better choice.

To make a long story short, I now have five tenor ukes (yes, UAS has it's hold on me) and I play them far more than my guitars in years. The Music Center had an attendance of a few hundred, and I also joined the CC Strummers group in Culver City (having "tons of fun"), and the Westside Ukulele Ensemble (trying to keep up, they're mainly an instrumental group).
 
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greenie44

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I was a long time, mediocre guitar player. And had owned ukes for at least 5 years, since we go to Hawaii every summer to escape the AZ heat.

But the moment was at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, when I picked up a Lanikai 6 string tenor, and somehow the sounds that came out were just great. I shopped for a couple more weeks, but left Hawaii with a Lanikai. That was about 3 years ago and my uke affair has just deepened.
 

Tonya

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I was totally *not* a musical person. I flunked Tonette in fourth grade (required recorder-type instrument when I was growing up); in seventh grade, I was assigned to be the "mimeograph" person in our required girls' choir class. I was that bad. With that heritage, I always felt that music was something *other* people did.

On a trip to Maui, though, I just kept looking at the cheap little tourist ukes in the ABC Stores. The resort we were staying at offered a free ukulele lesson one morning and, in a weak moment, I took it (I figured no one there knew me and if I failed at this kind of making music, too, there'd be no one to carry the sordid tale back home).

You guessed it--I discovered that the ukulele was my map to musical fun and success. Just four strings, simple strumming, singing along with others--and I could *do* this! Wowser!!! I borrowed that cheap little ukulele from the class (action was so high my fingertips ached) for the rest of the trip and soon bought one (a nicer one with decent action) of my own. Returning home, I discovered an ukulele festival at a Rhode Island college (yes, really) scheduled a few months' later. I flew across country on a free Southwest pass and walked into ukulele heaven. At one in the morning, I looked at the 30-plus new friends who were gathered around in a dorm meeting room. All of us were playing "Love Potion Number Nine" and laughing heartily. Me? Jamming? Oh, yes. And loving it.

When I discovered the ukulele I discovered that I, too, could be "musical." What a great late-in-life surprise!
 
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FiL

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For me, the right instrument at the right time was a used Laniaki O-8E I bought on eBay around September 2006. I was a mediocre guitarist who dabbled in lots of odd instruments. I had already purchased (on a complete whim) a cheap $20 uke that wasn't very playable, as well as one of those California-style banjo ukes, and a cheap charrango. The charrango interested me the most--I loved the chiming string pairs--but the bowl back and the 5th pair of strings made it difficult to play.

Then I discovered that there was something called an 8-string ukulele. I found my Lanikai on eBay and bought it, hoping for the best. I couldn't be happier with it.

About a year later, I was at an informal jam and an acquaintance I didn't see too often said to me that it seemed like I "found my sound".

Seven years and several ukes later, it's still my go-to instrument. I play it almost every day. Even a cracked top from a bad fall hasn't slowed it down. Not that it has quieted my UAS, mind you. (There's a Mainland Red Cedar bari on the way as we speak!) I still love variety, but I always come back to the 8-stringer.

I may get a better one someday, but I don't think I'll ever get rid of it. We've been through a lot together.

- FiL
 

decaturcomp

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I was inspried to start playing uke after many decades of guitar noodlidge (are we sensing a theme here?) by one of my musical heros, Cyndi Craven. Here's a video of her with another musician I love Bruce Gilbert. He's a great composer and jazz pianist and she writes amazing songs, too. They were kind enough to come to a ukulele open mic that we host as Woven Pines, each month. Here they are doing a classic, "cow cow boogie"
 

Bumgardner

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I became intreated in the ukulele when I was searching for an instrument for my daughter to play. I have a two year old daughter that loves music. So I thought it would be awesome to get her a cute Dolphin ukulele for her to "play" with daddy as I play guitar. Well that cute Dolphin soon began to draw my interest.

What really interested me about the ukulele was that I was able to sit comfortably on the couch and play. The ukulele is quiet enough that I can play while my daughter is sleeping. Also the ukulele is an easy instrument to play. One of the things that I like about the ukulele is that I can easily play more chord voicings, despite the fact that I got good at playing up and down the neck of the guitar it is much easier on the ukulele.

I came to the ukulele from a pretty musical background. I have been playing music for the last twenty years. I started off playing piano, then saxophone, and then guitar. I learned plenty of music theory over the years. So adding the ukulele was a little challenging at first but I learned pretty quickly.

The reason I pick up the uke so much these days is that it is so easy. I don't have space in my home for a piano (I do play when I visit my parents though), the saxophone is to loud to play with a sleeping child, and the guitar while I still play it a lot is just so much more cumbersome, and the electric guitar is way to loud to play with my daughter around.
 

decaturcomp

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Awesome of you to start this forum Wendy.
I love your story.
I wonder how many folks have been grabbed by that flick?
It takes a certain type of folk to 'get it' i think.
I've found ukers to be kind and good folks almost without exception.
Now, have you got something ready for this season, yet??

:music:

Here's mine, as I shared it there:

I guess you must be right about the "uke moment" for many of us. Mine was especially magical. NJ had its first UkeFest. In which I had pretty much zero interest, not playing a stringed instrument and all. I was on the fence about going Friday night to see the "Mighty Uke" movie; only went because someone else I knew was going.

That movie is like crack - totally hooked me from the first minutes. After that I *had* to go back on Saturday, borrow a loaner uke, attend every playing workshop all day, and practice those songs in my lame thumb strum every minute in between. After the second workshop, I bought a uke, and that was pretty much the end of me ever getting any work done ever again. Like now. :)

[And now I've started a whole new thread, so it's bound to only get more so from here. :)]

- Wendy
 

decaturcomp

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Just a thought but would folks like to post their earliest videos here along with their stories?
Maybe just a photo or a video from a uke jam where you played?
 

UkeCan1

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Awesome of you to start this forum Wendy.
I love your story.
I wonder how many folks have been grabbed by that flick?
It takes a certain type of folk to 'get it' i think.
I've found ukers to be kind and good folks almost without exception.

Thank you! I'm curious too. Am I the only weirdo who watched that movie and immediately drank the Koolaid?

Here's what I think got me about it (ha, it got me, not the other way round):

1) It looked like so much fun (... and it is!)
2) It seemed so easy (... TRUE!)
3) The strong sense of community in the uke world (... THAT certainly has been my experience - here and locally!!!!!!!)
4) I wanted to go back and grow up in that school in Vancouver!
4a) I wanted to grow up to be James Hill

Oh, and probably 4b) It seems to involve trips to Hawaii. :)

Now, have you got something ready for this season, yet??

:music:

I rely on FiL's office studio and expert production skills to make my/our videos, and we are both pretty booked all week. So the weekend is when we can make them.

It's a bit of a cheat, since I wrote it last week, but ... I wrote an entire song! At Week 6.5 of uking. I'm pretty proud of that, and will most likely invoke the slack-for-newbies clause in Lily's contract and do that one. The week gives me time to learn it.

(FWIW, last week's video would have been a perfect fit for this week's rules ... we changed course on Saturday when I heard A Halo Called Fred and knew we had to do "Drinking for Science" as our Season 87 alcohol song. AND we learned it in one day and videoed it in three takes, so it totally fit the Season 88 rules (except for having already been entered for S87).

It also took us 5 hours to learn it and make the video, and I don't think we're up to that two weeks in a row!

Gratuitous video post of DFS here, because you really MUST see it. (Again.):

Thanks for asking, thanks for listening!

- Wendy (UkeCan1 of Uke Can 2!)
 
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UkeCan1

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Just a thought but would folks like to post their earliest videos here along with their stories?
Maybe just a photo or a video from a uke jam where you played?

Wonderful idea, DC! I added to my story post on page 1 (post #2):
1) My first Seasons video, at Day 29 of uking
2) A photo of tie-dye me playing Scooter's tie-dye uke at UkeFest NJ on Day 1

(Day 1 = August 31, 2013)

I hope others will do the same. But don't let lack of visuals stop you from posting your story. You can always go back and add them later, as I did.

I'm curious if Tonya and I are the only ones who didn't play guitar first ... and/or for whom uke is our first instrument (or in my case, first stringed instrument).

I neglected to mention I played bassoon for many years. And assorted percussion, flute, recorder, and some other stuff. And then sang a cappella for about the last 13 years. So I'm not new to music, just new to strings, and new to playing and singing simultaneously. :)

[Okay, now my mind's buzzing again ... wonder if there's a way to combine a barbershop quartet with uking for a Seasons video? ....
Hmmm, pretty sure you cannot get uke chords to ring like that .....]

- Wendy
 

bonesigh

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I think I've told my story somewhere here on UU but here goes....On a vacation back to California to visit family (moved to Virginia 8 yrs ago) when my youngest was just 5 we were visiting and staying with my younger brother and his wife. On my husbands side of the family there had been some contention and stress related to a 50yr anniversary for his parents. Anyway, that's another story but it has bearing on my actions at the time. I was stressed out and not really paying attention. When we were at my brothers house his wife would occasionally take out her ukulele to play. While I saw this, I never really "heard" it.

So, fast forward to getting back home. My little one asked if she could have a ukulele. I thought "Yeah, right, a ukulele", lol. It will just end up sitting around the house. So I bought the cheapest thing that seemed to be not just a toy but a real instrument. It was a 20 dollar mahalo. When the mailman arrived at my door with the package and I opened it up. I thought "What the heck was I thinking! I don't know a thing about how to play this!" We'll do anything for our kids! I went online to learn a few simple chords. That's it I WAS HOOKED! Found U.U. and Aldrine, contracted UAS. Now I'm totally sick with it. Can't put it down or get anything done!

My background in music involved mostly just singing. My mother was a good guitarist and would get together with a friend often. We went to hootenanny's and I played a zither once in a while. When I was old enough she thought I would like to learn the guitar. Though I took lessons in school and had private lessons with a lady named "Bunny". It just never took. I wanted to play the piano! I don't remember a thing about the guitar. But I still know a couple of little ditties on the piano. The uke is just, IT, for me. My youngest plays with me sometimes and has quite a knack for it but sadly she is not passionate about it. YET!

J

My very first youtube video.
 
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xommen

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I first encountered the ukulele while on vacation, somebody had dragged his ukulele with him and I thought that it would be great for the holidays (I still think it's great for that). So after the holidays I bought a cheap soprano and really liked playing uke. I now have three concert that get the most playing time as I have decided that is my size. I have been playing bass and guitar for some years and still sometime do, but the uke is my goto instrument nowadays. My first seasons vid was this one, the camera flipped the image I am no lefty ;).
 

drbekken

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I have played music since I was about five or six years old, with the piano as my main instrument. I also play tuba, diatonic accordion and guitar, as well as the ukulele. I got a ukulele in my early teens, and treated it as a toy, and when I was 19, in 1983, I moved away from home to study. Then I quite simply forgot about the ukulele. I studied Music, English and Drama, got an MA in Music, and went on with my work as a jazz/blues/folk pianist - which I still do. I have had an interesting career so far, but the uke was nowhere in my musical world.
Then, in 2011, that film you've been talking about was shown on Norwegian TV. I suddenly realized that I had indeed myself at one time played the uke, and that I'd forgotten all about the very existence of the instrument. I ordered a cheap soprano, and was stunned by the sound and feel. I started watching ukulele videos on youtube, and discovered this web site and forum right here. It's a very beautiful thing. But the film - 'The Mighty Uke' - was my turning point. Believe me, I will NEVER forget about the ukulele again, if I can help it.
 

greenie44

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WRT to The Mighty Uke - no complaints about the movie, it's great. But I saw it about a year into my uke journey, and I noticed something about it. The movie seemed to focus on two aspects of uking - virtuosos and the social element. I am no virtuoso, and don't play with other people, for the most part, but play frequently for myself and make recordings.

So there is more to the uke as a musical enabler than was shown in the film, but it would be a pretty boring moving showing guys sitting in chairs in their office . . . .
 

BlueLatitude

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For me, it was going into music stores with my BF who would be wanting to pick up some software or strings or whatever. Having failed miserably at a short attempt at learning guitar 30 years ago, I'd just wander around the store while he was getting his stuff...and once I ended up in from of the Lanikai ukulele display. "Hmmm," I said to myself and gently ran my finger over the strings. (For a wonder, the store seemed to have them all tuned up pretty well.) "Hmmm," I said again. "That sounds rather...nice." *strum* "And, hey, it doesn't hurt like guitar strings! It's...nice. Pretty! WANT!"

So my friend found me standing there gazing in rapture at the ukes. "Maybe I'll get one, they don't cost that much, and maybe I could actually learn to play it. I think they aren't supposed to be hard to play."

"Well, if you get one, don't get one of these, get a good one. Get a Kamaka or something."

So when I got home that day I went and googled Lanikai and Kamaka and found this site and learned about setups before the week was over I'd ordered my first Kala from HMS.

I still can't really PLAY, not in front of people, but I keep at it and it makes me happy every time I pick one up.
 

caukulele

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Great thread.... I think I shared before..but I played guitar for over thirty years, and my husband liked to sing with me sometimes...so I saw a performance of Jake online and couldn't believe what one could do with the uke...and I decided to buyt a uke for my husband for Christmas as a surprise, because I thought it would be so wonderful if he learned the uke so we could sing and play together.... When it arrived, my husband was not that interested, so I picked it up to try and learn something and encourage him...After a few days, I was hooked and fell completely in love with the uke... I also discovered that I could play the uke for hours and not get back aches. (Due to a bad back, I was finding it always increasingly difficult to play the guitar without back and shoulder pain).. Anyway, eventually I sold my guitar and never looked back.....and my husband and I still sing together, but now it's with the uke instead of the guitar...