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Thread: Your story: how ukulele found you?

  1. #21
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Nor Cal USA


    A couple of years ago my daughter bought a $40 soprano for my granddaughter, who was three at the time. She had seen her dad play his guitar and wanted one of her own. I thought that I might take up the Uke to have something in common with my GD. I had read a article on the web about the Ukulele resurgence and thought I might as well learn to play a uke as I never was able to play guitar, despite trying to teach myself for ~10 years, haphazardly perhaps ona $25 Harmony Archtop I bought in a hock shop.

    I did a little research and bought two cheap Rubin tenors, a Zebra wood Travel tenor and a rosewood tenor. I liked the looks and thought if they were good I'd give one of them to my daughter so she could learn with and teach my granddaughter. I bought a beginners book and learned to play Itsi Bitsi Spider poorly. My next door neighbor, Gary is retired as I am, and he heard me plink/plunking around in the back yard. He plays guitar pretty well and I infected him with a Ukulele urge. He brought over his Guitar chord & lyric music and we started playing on my patio in the afternoons, swapping the tenors around. After a month or so I was playing six chords! and stared watching Ukulele Mike on Y-T an Gary was teaching me about Keys.

    I gave my daughter the Rosewood tenor and she moved away to Reno, ~100 miles up over the mountains. I kept learning and Gary bought his own Uke. After about six months I found UU and joined up. I learned about setup and took my Rubin Travel tenor up to my local Ukulele shop and had it adjusted. Wow, now it was a lot easier to play and sounded really good.

    I realized that even the soprano was too big for my GD to play and found a Rubin sopranino, the butterfly ($25) one and bought it and a mating concert. I was appalled when I received them, the Concert was a horrid orange color and the sopranino had almost no finish at all, ugg. So I refinished them with poly-wipe and decorated them with sparkle paints. I took them up to my local shop and had them setup. they ended up sounding pretty good for cheap ukes and actually not too bad for beginner ukes at all. The girls liked them and I thought maybe they had a chance to learn to play them.

    After playing the concert, I realized it was easier to reach some of the chords on the smaller size, so I bought a Kala concert at my local shop. I had it a few days and took it back, the C string boomed and Stu let me exchange it and an extra $40, for a Ohana spruce topped CK-22 which was a lot easier to play than the Kala.

    Well you guys know that UAS is catching and I was happy with my Zebra wood Uke, so I bought more! By last January I had a matched set of of Caramel Zebra wood Concert, soprano, a Tenor, and a Zebra wood sopranino that was the last remaining Rubin and was made like my travel tenor which it almost matched AND a Glossy Zebra wood Baritone. I was set, I hadn't spent a lot of money and the ukes all sounded pretty good and then SAS set in. I was learning a lot about music and joined the Seasons of the Ukulele. I started singing with Gary's encouragement and found I can carry a tune most of the time.

    I still have trouble teaching these 70 year old hands to switch chords in random orders and it takes me more than a week to learn a new song, making keeping up with SOTU a bit of a stretch for me. I only know first position chords and can't barr for sour apples, but I'm having fun and have made a heck of a lot of progress in the last couple of years, despite only putting in a hour or so each day.

    Yesterday I ordered a Ohana ceder topped and solid rosewood Tenor from Mim and am anxiously waiting it's arrival. I decided maybe I needed a 'good' Ukulele and Christmas was kind to me.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa


    My story is about a number of things coming together at the same time. First of all I've always admired musicians, especially street musicians. The guy at summer camp who brings a guitar and leads everyone in song, I always wanted to be that guy. So that has been in the back of my head since childhood. Then I retired, my friend retired, and he took up classical guitar. He sort of got me to thinking about that, so I found an old guitar that my wife played when she was in high school, and started messing with that. But I was trying to learn classical guitar, and no one goes out on a street corner, sits around a campfire, or sits in a coffee shop playing classical guitar. Well, maybe they do, but I've never seen anyone do it, and it doesn't sound particularly fun. Anyway, I'm not serious enough for classical guitar. So that only lasted a month or so, and I didn't learn to play much, but it did get me thinking. But then I saw some videos of people on the internet busking with ukuleles, and I thought that looked fun. They didn't look at all serious or pretentious. The ukuleles struck me as small enough to take anywhere, and they were doing exactly what I wanted to do. So I bought a $65 Makala and started learning to play it. As soon as I got a half dozen songs under my belt I started playing them at bonfires to my friends, and from there it just grew. I've said this plenty of times though, it isn't the ukulele, it is the sharing music with friends that I enjoy. The ukulele is just the vehicle to carry me along. But it has been a tremendous experience.
    Last edited by Rllink; 01-13-2017 at 03:38 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

  3. #23
    Join Date
    May 2010


    Chris, I think you will like this story. Back in grade school I was discouraged by every music teacher. I could not sing. I was the kid the teacher told to just move his lips. And on top of that I had a tin ear. So as I went through life I always wanted to make music but figured I could not. A few years ago when I was in my 60's and on vacation we went to a uke jam and the people seemed to be having a great time. So I came back home, got a uke and learned to play. After a few years now, I am not a great player but I tell people I play well enough to entertain myself and my grandkids.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Chicago, IL


    On the eighth day, God made ukuleles.

    I'm fairly certain that is true.

    Originally Posted by ukemunga:
    "Best is a very personal thing. You gotta play it to love it. And you'll always think there's one better. And there is."

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Santa Monica, CA


    Fun thread. Some great stories!

    While shopping for violins in the Fall of 2013 for my then 6-year old daughter, I looked at some instruments on the wall opposite the violins at McCabe's Guitar Shop. I strummed a couple and thought what a peculiar but fascinating sound. Ukulele? Hmmm. Went home and researched them. Found out they were easy to learn but could provide a lifetime of challenge. Applicable to all sorts of music. I was turning 50 soon and thought it would be good to challenge myself with something completely different. Told my wife I'd like to buy a uke and learn music. "Uh, okay."

    That was 3.25 years ago and countless hours filled with this new, wonderful obsession. I've now owned over 50 ukes and have met some wonderful people. While for me part of the enjoyment is the beauty of the instrument itself, I can even play some songs. It's amazing how much throughout the day I think about the uke:

    "Oh, that song would sound good on the uke."
    "If I could only have x ukes, which ones would they be and why?"
    "New builder? Got to look at their builds."
    "Never heard of that tonewood, let's research it. What does it compare to?"
    "Music theory, really should start learning it."
    "I need a mic to record myself. Research. Buy. Yep, still suck."
    "Dang, that's a good buy. I could snag it, enjoy it for a few months and sell it with little downside."

    My other passion is cycling and I've been doing that for over 30 years. So I expect my ukulele journey to continue for many years.

    Had you stopped me before I entered McCabes that day and previewed what would be, I would have said you were 'effin nutz!!!
    Last edited by Ukulele Eddie; 01-13-2017 at 02:57 PM.
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire

    Curious about the relative importance of tonewood vs. the luthier? See Luthiers for a Cause to learn more!

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Pensacola, Florida


    I played trumpet in high school band. I was only adequate, not a star, but I did learn to read the treble cleft scale. In college my roommate had a guitar which I banged around on a bit. I took a guitar course at a local adult education opportunity and learned to play a few songs but not the theory behind it. I got involved with life and sold my guitar. I had made the mistake of getting a cheap one that was hard to play. About forty years latter I saw a video online of Is playing something on the ukulele. I was intrigued and did some searchs and found the Jake video of While my Guitar Gentley Weeps. I did wander into a local music shop and looked at the ukuleles and was a bit bewildered on how to get started. A few years later after I retired and settled into life in Florida I began to do some ukulele reasearch. I stopped by Blues Angel Music on a Friday and looked at all the ukuleles, The store manager suggested that I come back on Sat morning as they have a free ukulele beginners course every Saturday. Afterwards a group comes and plays together. They encouraged me to grap an ukulele off the wall and join in. I did just that, stayed for the more advanced group and purchased a Kala laminate tenor. That was over 3 years ago. I am continuing to play with the group and also an offshoot group that strives to be more performance oriented. I have been singing with the groups and I think I am getting better both playing and singing. It is great being able to make noise that somewhat resembles music. I enjoy playing by myself and learining new stuff, but the real draw is the social aspect of playing with my friends.

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Phoenix, AZ


    For years, I had been saying, as a joke, "I'm not a lousy guitar player, I just haven't found my instrument". Little did I know . . .

    I have had been going to Hawaii for years, and even had a soprano lying around somewhere. But it all came home one day at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, which I always go to. I was at a booth with a bunch of ukuleles, and I picked up a 6 string Lanikai tenor. I strummed it, and the sound was nothing short of magical to me.

    I strummed a couple of times, and then starting picking a bit. And I kind of fell into playing Born On The Bayou - and, to my ears, it worked. That was it.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    New York


    When my son was about 9 he asked me to teach him to play guitar but he had some stipulations:
    He didn't want to take lessons
    He didn't want to learn from a book
    And he didn't want to be told to practice.

    On top of all this he had tiny hands so I thought a ukulele would be a good confidence builder. I bought a Hilo ukulele off ebay. (Ukuleles were not readily a available in guitar stores 13 years ago.) My son scoffed at the uke until he heard me play his favorite Green Day song. After that we were both hooked.
    Fast forward 13 years. My son is and exceptional guitar player and I never had to tell him to practice.
    I play ukulele everyday and I have to be told to stop practicing.
    Rob Uker
    RIGuitars & Ukuleles
    One of a kind handmade instruments

  9. #29
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Salt Lake City, UT


    I was a fairly serious musician in high school and college, playing euphonium and trombone and singing bass in choir. I played and sang several times with a local symphony, and thought about majoring in music - but didn't play the right instrument to make a living and didn't like the uncertainty of being a vocal major. So I became an engineer and went to grad school - and there was no time or opportunity for music. I moved up in my career and had kids (a singleton and a set of twins). When my oldest started violin lessons I started to realize how much I missed music.

    My wife's parents were kind enough to take us on a vacation to Maui, and I decided that I would buy a ukulele while I was there. I bought a Kala KA-ST and then a couple of days later a Islander MS-4 (supposedly for my daughter) and a Jim Beloff beginner's book. I played a lot on vacation, and when I came home I decided to practice every day - and I did that for at least two months. I looked at a lot of youtube and joined this forum. And after a few months I figured out that the islander was a lot easier to play and my Kala probably needed a setup. So I took it to a local guitar shop (since closed sadly) where they looked at the neck profile and told me it would never play well past the first five frets. I sold it and purchased a concert flea and UAS was full blown.

    I discovered that quietly fingerpicking in the the twins room at bedtime kept them from talking to each other and keeping each other awake. I also started playing for the kid's division at my church with a really great ragtime pianist. Both of these pushed my skill. I also needed a louder uke to keep up with the piano player, so I saved my money and purchased a Pono MT and later a Firefly banjo-uke. Neither fully fit the bill, and then I got an opportunity at the local guitar shop to buy a Blackbird Clara that had been sent around as a traveling demo (documented elsewhere in this forum). I wound up selling my Pono MT, firefly and a couple of other ukes to help ease cash flow after the Clara.

    About this time I also started talking with one of the teachers at my kids school and we started a ukulele club. The school had 5 old Hilo ukes and I hit a Butler Music gamblers special and got a bunch of Lanikai ukes (I did setup work on them - great learning experience), and we started a ukulele program - which is continuing to grow. I also got a chance to play in a praise band at church. This gave me the confidence to try 5-string banjo (fun, but not as useful as uke) and now bass (fun and useful)

    The ukulele has connected me with a lot of people I wouldn't otherwise know, it has kept me afloat when I've been down, and it brought music back into my life.
    Blackbird Clara
    Concert Flea
    Pono MB
    Deering Goodtime Banjo Uke (concert)
    Gold Tone Resouke
    Hadean Uke-Bass
    Gold Tone Microbass
    Deering Goodtime Special (5-string banjo)

    Buckle Up

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    West Virginia


    I have told this story a few times, but here it is again.

    Christmas season 2013 - I found a $15 First Act Discovery Aloha ukulele at TJ Maxx and picked it up as a "just in case" gift in case some online ones did not come in time for grandkids.

    Due to family "stuff", I spent Christmas Eve alone - one kid was working a night shift as an ambulance dispatcher, another was at his in-laws, and my husband was at his ex's with his daughter and granddaughter. The ukulele was not needed as a gift, and I opened it just to see what it looked like. I googled some chords and introductory web pages. I played it all night and had a blast - just me and the dog - and I was impressed with the cute little thing.

    After I had been playing it for a couple of weeks, and further Google searches had led to this site, I ordered my Luna concert from HMS. It was a perfect beginner ukulele.
    - Laura

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