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Thread: An experiment in learning ukulele

  1. #1
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    May 2019
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    Default An experiment in learning ukulele

    Hi!

    I've been playing clawhammer banjo for six years, This last weekend we had the grandkids over, both musically inclined, one of whom plays the ukulele. He tried to work out how to jam with me using one of my banjos, but that wasn't working, so I went down to the music store and bought a ukulele. We had a good time playing together, he on the uke and me on the banjo, with his sister singing.

    But now the grandkids are gone, and I've got this ukulele. I love the ukulele! It's been on my short list of "next instrument to learn" for years. Now it's time to learn it.

    I spent the first four years of banjo learning to play tunes and sing songs. My last two years of learning banjo has been more about exercises and scales. I'm convinced I would have progressed much faster with banjo had I not worried about playing tunes at first, but concentrating entirely on technique. So that's how I'm going to start learning the ukulele. Exercises, scales, and etudes.

    For a few days I've been practicing the major scale, playing it around the circle. Last night I charted out the neck and worked out three easy closed major chord shapes, and a multitude of open shapes for C major. I haven't quite decided what my practice direction is going to be for the major chord shapes; there are several possibilities. I could practice each closed shape around the circle. That'll probably work. I think I want the closed shapes down pat before I worry much about open shapes. That's backwards to how people usually learn it, I think. At least, it's backwards to how I learned the banjo.

    I haven't decided at all what I'm going to do with the right hand. There's strumming, of course. Clawhammer works on the ukulele, and I'm already a clawhammer banjo player, so that's an obvious choice. Then there's fingerstyle.

    My hypothesis is that songs will take care of themselves pretty easily if I work hard on the basics. Let's find out.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Conrad View Post
    ... My hypothesis is that songs will take care of themselves pretty easily if I work hard on the basics. Let's find out.
    I’d be willing to wager that’s a sound hypothesis, and you’ll likely become proficient very quickly that way. As my idol Rafael Méndez once said, the way to achieve virtuosity on an instrument is by “playing scales, scales, and then...more scales.”

    Enjoy the journey, and welcome to the forums!
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  3. #3

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    Hi Wayne. Another old-time banjo picker who has recently come to study the ukulele. What size uke did you pick up and how are you getting on with it? I started with a tenor banjo uke, but will admit to being curious about other scale lengths.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bf_ View Post
    Hi Wayne. Another old-time banjo picker who has recently come to study the ukulele. What size uke did you pick up and how are you getting on with it? I started with a tenor banjo uke, but will admit to being curious about other scale lengths.
    Hi bf! Glad to see another banjo picker. I got a concert size, a walnut Kala. It's not fancy, but it sounds pretty to me and seems playable. I'm getting on OK learning the major scale in every key, although I'm not at any kind of speed yet. Wow, those frets are close together compared to what I'm used to on the banjo. When I play a B scale at the 11th fret, it's a bit of a finger jam. I wonder if there's a point where the frets get too close together to assign one fret to each finger. Maybe when the frets get really close together I'll have to assign two frets to a finger, and move the fingers around more when playing a scale or melody or whatever.

    I don't really know anything about Ukuleles. What attracted you to the tenor Uke? How are you getting on with it?

  5. #5

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    I had decided I was going to learn to frail and came across the banjo uke quite by chance. I had heard that it could take weeks or months of practice to get the right hand technique down. It’s portability and relative cost seemed to make it a great stand in until I got my technique solid and moved on to a 5 string. Once I got my first banjo it was picked up less and less frequently until I put it away. My aunt and uncle have played in a Ukulele group for years, and my uncle got my aunt a banjo uke as a gift this year. Hearing the news made me get mine out and I have been playing it nearly daily for a few weeks now. It even made a trip as my camping companion last week. The tenor size is pretty comfortable for me, but then I’ve never had a concert in my hands.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bf_ View Post
    I had decided I was going to learn to frail and came across the banjo uke quite by chance. I had heard that it could take weeks or months of practice to get the right hand technique down. It’s portability and relative cost seemed to make it a great stand in until I got my technique solid and moved on to a 5 string. Once I got my first banjo it was picked up less and less frequently until I put it away. My aunt and uncle have played in a Ukulele group for years, and my uncle got my aunt a banjo uke as a gift this year. Hearing the news made me get mine out and I have been playing it nearly daily for a few weeks now. It even made a trip as my camping companion last week. The tenor size is pretty comfortable for me, but then I’ve never had a concert in my hands.
    Banjo uke -> Banjo -> Uke. That's a really cool spiral.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by prb035 View Post
    Welcome to UU Wayne
    Thanks, Penny! I'm glad to meet you.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by YogiTom View Post
    Enjoy the journey, and welcome to the forums!
    Thanks! I'm glad to be here.

  9. #9
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    Hi Wayne,

    Welcome. Playing scales will help you find the notes. You should soon try to play some of the tunes you played with your grandson. Have fun!
    LACole
    Laurie Ann Cole

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lacole View Post
    Hi Wayne,

    Welcome. Playing scales will help you find the notes. You should soon try to play some of the tunes you played with your grandson. Have fun!
    Thanks Laurie Ann!

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