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Thread: Your story: how ukulele found you?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota

    Default Your story: how ukulele found you?

    One of my favorite things to ask other players is their story. What is your musical background and how did the ukulele find you? (I'll also answer in a while but I would like to hear some of your stories first).
    My ukulele blog:

    My ukulele YouTube channels:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Orange county.


    I've written about it here earlier but I don't mind repeating it. I am primarily a classical piano student but came to the ukulele when I got into classical guitar. Every piano student dreams of a portable instrument so I looked into ukulele as a little guitar to practice on away from home or class.
    However I have noted that it is an instrument (soprano scale) to itself so I practice it for the sake of ukulele, not guitar anymore.
    I'm always amazed how a little four stringed instrument can have such depth and brilliancy in contributions to music.
    All for sale; pm me:

    Brand new Loprinzi Honduran mahogany soprano w new hardshell case. $350 -> 325

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013


    I had turned forty, reflected on my life and its narrow width and shallow depth, and since I couldn't afford sports cars I instead looked for an affordable (so I thought!), portable, allegedly easy to learn instrument that did not require electricity or a computer to function (wanted to get away from those). No musical background of substance outside of a few organ/piano classes when I was a young teenager, and playing soprano and piccolo recorder in school. I had tried clarinet in my late teens, but couldn't get a sound out of it. I picked up a few kalimbas around the same time as I got my first ukulele. Still like those, too.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2016


    I had learned piano and a bit of flute when I was in primary school, but I hadn't played anything since then. However, my wife is a singer who has a penchant for collecting various musical instruments, such as okarinas and tin whistles. She plays them a little bit, but not much. A few years ago, she asked for a ukulele for her birthday. I figured she'd give it a go for a few weeks and then it would go in the cupboard with the other instruments. Strangely, I couldn't put it down after we got it, so she got me one a few months later so that I'd leave hers alone. Now, we play together.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Melbourne, Australia


    Tried learning guitar way back in my Uni days but never really stuck with it. I bought a cheap Mahalo ukulele for my girlfriend's birthday a few years back after seeing a group playing at a farmers market. It sat untouched until I decided to pick it up a couple of months ago. I have yet to put it down.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2014


    About 12 years ago, I was primarily a guitarist obsessed over gear. One day I was surfing Craigslist when I saw an ad for a $190 ukulele. I was wondering why a ukulele would cost so much and did some research. It turned out that the uke cost over $400 brand new! So being a person who didn't pass up a bargain, I visited the seller, talked him down to $160, and bought it. I came home with a Koaloha Pineapple Soprano, my first ukulele.

    My guitar-playing knowledge quickly transferred over to the ukulele and I further developed my right-hand strumming technique. I couldn't believe the sound of joy and happiness the instrument produced, and I've been hooked since.

    Since then, I got married and had kids, and I got my wife and kids to play too. It's brought lots of goodness to my life.
    Last edited by Sanfe; 01-12-2017 at 06:54 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Nashville, TN USA


    Bought a cheap ukulele for a four year-old granddaughter. Learned to play a few songs on it, and got hooked!
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009


    I got my first uke for my 7th birthday - my best friend had turned 7 the month before, and she got a guitar, so of course I wanted one too. But I was a tiny little thing and my dad opted to get me a ukulele instead; he had a bit of a history in Hawaii and could strum a few chords. But I was never serious about it and moved on to attempts at piano, guitar, and bass, all of which ended less than well because I couldn't get serious about those either. Eventually I decided to leave the music making to others - I've been surrounded by musicians pretty much my whole life - but in my mid-40s I got tired of watching everyone else have all the fun, and decided to pick up an instrument again. It came down to a choice between piano and ukulele, and since I don't have room for a piano, uke it was... and still is, 8+ years later.

    Last edited by janeray1940; 01-12-2017 at 07:38 PM.

  9. #9


    [FYI: This is part 1 of 2]

    [edit: after re-reading this and finding some typos, I realized that what I'm writing here is maybe similar to what the Hawaiians call 'talk story', and also wanted to add that missing from all the text below is the fact that because of the ukulele, I have become fascinated by Hawaiian culture and find it all very interesting]

    May I invite you to read the bio on my web site [offline currently as of 7/2/2017] for the pre-ukulele timeframe of most of my musical experience.

    However, it does not explain how I came to the ukulele.

    I will detail that here now.

    October 2012 brought Hurricane Sandy, which as many folks know was the worst storm ever to hit the east coast of the USA, with it's reach from the eastern edge of the Atlantic coast, almost to the Mississippi River.

    Like many folks, we lost power, land-line telephone, cell phone, internet and cable TV. However I was prepared for 'camping at home' in the most literal sense. Plenty of candles, batteries, portable solar panels, flashlights, blankets, 100 gallons of bottled water for bathing, drinking and flushing the toilet (we have only well water, with an electric pump, so no running water during this time).

    Cooking with sterno and the outdoor barbecue was how food was made. Just days before the storm I was stuffing the secondary freezer with gallon ziplock bags filled water that froze solid, kept ALL of our food fresh for 2 weeks, including ice cream, frozen meats, poultry, bread etc. We also had canned goods like tuna fish, salmon, and lots of fruits and vegetables, both fresh and canned, and of course peanut butter and jelly were well stocked...

    Well, no computer, no internet no cable to pass the time?

    During the day was mostly making sure that the food did not spoil and carefully planning meals. Keeping up with news via a hand-crank radio in the kitchen and a smaller hand-held radio I kept in my bedroom for listening after dark. I was actually grateful for this time because I rediscovered NPR, and their news was current, compassionate, and all day and night folks were calling in to the radio station to speak with the hosts on air, and report their was a real comfort to have NPR run this kind of program.

    I no longer felt isolated or afraid. Listening to the stories people told was an eye-opening education in how much a community all people are, and how all of our basic needs are essentially the same.

    Keeping batteries charged via solar power was easy as well.

    When not listening to the radio, preparing meals or taking care of my elderly mother (who still lives with me), I would pick up my guitar, my old Yamaha classical guitar which I've had since 1985, and always loved to play.

    I wrote a new song each day. Yes a whole song. There was nothing else to do really. This was also a huge benefit to me, since I had hit a dry spell with my songwriting and was going through a sort of 'writers block' for the previous 9 months. Hurricane Sandy lifted the block.

    I was free of distractions for the first time in a long time. Life was simple: Eat, sleep, bathe, keep the house safe, keep my mother comfortable.

    We camped at home for 14 days and lived like folks did before all the modern conveniences...

    During the time when I was playing my guitar, I remembered the baritone ukulele that my grandfather had given me when he and my grandmother moved to Florida in 2003.

    At the time, I did not know really what to do with it and just put it into the closet.

    My grandfather was a masterful Ragtime, Foxtrot and Stride piano player. He did not play professionally, but played all the time at home, and often had short-term weekly gigs at a local hotel bar, lobby or restaurant. It was his passion, along with model airplanes. He would never accept money for his piano performances and was offered it all the time. He was also asked, begged and offered lots of money many times to let someone record him and to release an album, but the requirement to tour in support of the recording, as well as the fact that the music was his pleasure and felt it would be ruined once money was involved, he always declined.

    So, I have this baritone ukulele (which I later discovered to be a vintage 1950s Harmony all-solid mahogany), and no internet and no knowledge of how to tune it.

    My grandfather passed away in 2009. When he passed I also inherited his collection of sheet music. Must be about 5,000 individual song sheets, all mostly in very-good to like-new condition.(this reminds me that I need to contact fellow UU brother Ian Chadwick)

    I promised myself that I would make music with this baritone ukulele as a tribute to my grandfather and the music that he shared with me.

    Yes, we played together many times, him on piano, with me on guitar or bass, and sometimes I would sing, but he was not a singer, yet he knew the melody and lyrics to almost any song that had been on the radio or in popular culture from about 1920 onward. If he did not know the song itself, after hearing it maybe 2-3 times and fiddling around on the piano, he would tell me the key it was in, and have the basic chords, and in about a hour later, he would have the exact melody and chords in the proper inversion, and also his own styling of the song, in much the same way that Richard Clayderman does with pop music... I was always in awe of my grandfather's skill. He was always a mentor, inspiration and example to follow. I miss him dearly and think about him, his music and the time we shared every single day.


    So, after about 2 weeks, we got power, telephones, internet and cable TV back, and there were all the concerts on TV to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy who had lost everything, and there were folks who were lucky to be alive.

    In one of the concerts, one of my lifelong musical heroes was performing - Sting.

    But he was playing this tiny guitar, it was not an ukulele, but in fact like a small 22" scale guitar. I became obsessed with this guitar and now wanted to have one like it, and saw it maybe as a bridge to learning the ukulele.

    Well, I came to find out that it was a parlor-size short-scale Martin Terz guitar, and was a limited run of only 100 instruments and Sting owned 2 of them, and when I saw the offering price of $2,500 I almost cried, first because they were all sold out some years ago, and second because I figured that if I could ever find a used one, it would cost even more than that. I dont have that kind of money lying around...

    [end of part 1, please continue to part 2 below]
    Last edited by Booli; 08-02-2017 at 02:39 AM. Reason: typos
    Guinea proverb: "A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies."

  10. #10


    [this is the start of part 2 of 2]

    So like with most things, I went online looking for more info on this Martin, or any other Terz or smaller guitar that maybe I could afford, and came across various forms of kiku, guilele, or 'guitalele' as Yamaha calls it. I was thinking that could be my cheaper version of what Sting had. So when on Dec 12, 2012 Musicians Friend had a sale on their 'Stupid Deal Of The Day' with the Yamaha GL-1 for only $59 with free shipping, I jumped on it since the normal price was $99 and all the reviews I read at the time had praised this guitar.

    While looking for resources, I kept coming into information about ukulele, all the time, over and over, and it was like the universe was trying to tell me something. Eventually I came upon the video of Jake playing in Central Park, and James Hill doing Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean', and then Li' Rev, Jim Beloff and John King. I was COMPLETELY blown away for before seeing these videos all I knew of ukulele was Tiny Tim and Don Ho, and honestly never really though about it much at all.

    Well over the next month, I was like a sponge, I watched every video I could find on YouTube with ukulele. Not kidding you, like THOUSANDS of videos. I often fell asleep in the chair at my desk with some video playing only to snort myself awake and realize that I had to go to bed.

    Every day after work this continued. When sleeping, I was dreaming about ukulele. I was hearing all of the music in my head, low-g songs, re-entrant songs, burlesque music, George Formby, Roy Smeck, Joel Eckhaus, Gerald Ross, Sarah Maisel, Kalei Gamiao, Ryo Montoya, Kobyashi, etc...the music kept going in my dreams long after my body went to rest, every night for months...programming my subconscious...

    Along the way, of course I learned how to tune the baritone from my grandfather, and realize how similar it was to guitar, but also realized that I wanted something that was NOT guitar, and would put myself on the path, to yet again learn another instrument, and learn it well, no matter the time required or the effort involved...

    During my searches for answers to my questions, UU was at the top of nearly EVERY search results list on google. Eventually I came directly to the forum and read almost every single thread in the Beginners, Buying Guide and Uke Talk sections. I had very specific questions now. I created a UU account and asked for help with those questions.

    The results of many of them all pointed me to Kala as a good brand to start with, and maybe even never have to upgrade. Also the recommendation to try before you buy was repeated like a mantra for newbies for almost 10 yrs here on UU.

    Luckily my local music shop was an authorized Kala dealer. Now it's March 2013, and I went there and played the ukes they had in stock which at the time were only the soprano, concert and baritone, KA-S, KA-C and KA-B but no tenor (KA-T). I tried them all. I knew the equivalent of the C, Am, F, G, G7 chord shapes coming off the baritone which I had been playing every day.

    Soprano was way too tight, concert was a little better, and baritone, well I already had a baritone at home so I asked them to order me a tenor and a canvas-covered foam case, I had to leave a $20 deposit to place the order, and I did so with the caveat that if the tenor was not a good fit, I would get the $20 back. Their retail price was the SAME as Amazon ($119), and of course I prefer to support the local shop.

    It took 18 painful days before they received my Kala KA-T tenor. I flew to the shop when they called me, and they let me unbox it myself in the 'acoustic room' that had a door you could close so the shredder-types wailing their best Ingwe Malmsteen solos could be shut out and you could actually hear yourself...

    They handed me a SNARK which right away I hated it but tuned the Kala, and strummed some chords, and played some scales, and in less than 5 mins, KNEW that 'this is the one' and 'this size'. Mind you I had no other ukes to compare it to, but like many newbie uke players, it SOUNDED and felt good to me. Also keep in mind that I've had almost a lifetime of playing guitar, some very high-end so I could hear the potential, even if it was just a 'budget instrument'.

    Once I got that ukulele home I played the snot out of it, every single day, for at LEAST 2-3 hrs per day until my fingers were sore. Needless to say I completely ignored tv and my friends, etc, as my whole world was now the ukulele. I watched almost every video on YT by Ukulele Mike across his 5 YT channels, discovered and bazMaz here on UU, and started to make a home here in the forum...

    About 2 months after I joined UU, a wonderful UU sister and one whom I have great esteem for, GinnyT11 invited me to 'The Seasons' which I had previously not known about. I looked and thought about it and watched some of the previous Seasons videos and though, sure, why not?

    From there, is a more obvious story that might not need be detailed in depth, but I continued on with the Seasons, became afflicted with UAS and SCO/SAS, and discovered this community and all it has to offer as one of the most significant parts of my day.

    Yes, outside of UU my world is likely relatively small compared to many of you who will read this, and with only so many hours per day, UU is my refuge.

    So many folks here have served as mentors, counselors, and teachers in various ways. I feel that it is my responsibility (though I am not obligated) and to share what I have learned and to try and help others here on UU.

    I never knew about the 'Aloha Spirit' before coming to UU, but now try to incorporate it generally in all other areas of my life. Not so much as a spiritual function, but more as a guiding principle.

    Doing so has made great changes in the folks around me and the quality of my relationships with others.

    Paying forward is very important to me now, and the reward is the journey.

    All because of the humble, and for me, magical ukulele. Play On!

    [this is the end of part 2 of 2]
    Last edited by Booli; 01-12-2017 at 11:03 PM. Reason: typos
    Guinea proverb: "A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies."

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