Thoughts on hindrances in my ukulele life

engravertom

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( This was a response to the poll about ownership of luthier built instruments, but I thought this was too much, and didn’t want to high jack the thread)

I’m in the zero category when it comes to owning luthier built instruments. I have done some repairs and customization on instruments I have owned ( or should I say “rented” since they almost always get sold at some point!).

I recognize the advantages of playing on better quality instruments. I wish I had been better able to wait and save money for better quality instruments. Life and my own shortcomings have gotten in the way.

I have wrestled with starting to build instruments. I keep getting older. I have unusual interests and mostly want to build to have unique instruments to play, and something tangible to leave behind when I move on from this life.

I struggle with the idea that what I build won’t be very good. Even as an accomplished engraver the fear of “what it won’t be “ gets in the way. But my paycheck demands that I actually scratch the metal!

I also have issues with guilt when it comes to spending money or time on myself. I still do spend the time and money, but the guilt makes it uncomfortable and haphazard.

Anyway, this has turned into a “talk it out” therapy session for me!

( having said all that, I’m very happy with my ukulele and musical life! I have a lot to be thankful for, and my mistakes have often lead to things I didn’t expect. 🙂)
 
Things that I am happy about in my ukulele life :
I have written and recorded several original songs.

I have written a few instrumental pieces that others have enjoyed and even played.

I have arranged and shared many pieces for the ukulele.

I have enjoyed contributing to this community.

My playing skills are improving.

I am getting more efficient with recording and sharing videos.

🙂
 
Hmmmm... What can we do that lasts? What can we create that has an obvious and unassailable value to the future?

I hold the belief that the music we make can be that... And that's one of the reasons I write songs and sing them for others. I have the current honor of teaching a song I wrote to a Fifth Grade ukulele class. And hearing the kids humming the song as they walk around campus gives me the feeling that I have accomplished something substantial.

I also make beads. I take small bits of colorful minerals, form them and drill a hole and then shape and polish them. They will last forever because... they are rocks and are already a million years old! The people who own them will be able to pass them on to their friends and family forever.

Will they remember that I made them? Does that even matter?

Anything made of wood is by definition an ephemeral object. And although there are many old instruments still around, most will fall victim to age and decay even if they are amazingly built and lovingly cared for.

I was a woodworker for a long time and think about building a uke from time to time... but instead I will stick to my chosen forms of creation and keep at them. Like you, I know that if I decided to start now it would be a long time before I could build one that is as good as the ones I can buy at a reasonable cost. I actually find this liberating rather than limiting, personally. I don't need to do it... But I could...

Ok- So now I have hijacked your thread for my own therapy session!
 
Hmmmm... What can we do that lasts? What can we create that has an obvious and unassailable value to the future?

I hold the belief that the music we make can be that... And that's one of the reasons I write songs and sing them for others. I have the current honor of teaching a song I wrote to a Fifth Grade ukulele class. And hearing the kids humming the song as they walk around campus gives me the feeling that I have accomplished something substantial.

I also make beads. I take small bits of colorful minerals, form them and drill a hole and then shape and polish them. They will last forever because... they are rocks and are already a million years old! The people who own them will be able to pass them on to their friends and family forever.

Will they remember that I made them? Does that even matter?

Anything made of wood is by definition an ephemeral object. And although there are many old instruments still around, most will fall victim to age and decay even if they are amazingly built.

I was a woodworker for a long time and think about building a uke from time to time... but instead I will stick to my chosen forms of creation and keep at them. Like you, I know that if I decided to start now it would be a long time before I could build one that is as good as the ones I can buy at a reasonable cost. I actually find this liberating rather than limiting, personally. I don't need to do it... But I could...

Ok- So now I have hijacked your thread for my own therapy session!
No, I am glad you shared! Those are good thoughts, and sometimes I just need the reminders from outside myself!

Thank you!
 
You can start with a StewMac kit for building a ukulele. The luthier lounge (party of UU) has members that stated building that way.
 
Playing music... and singing in particular... have always been a way for me to lighten my mental burden. Ukulele makes it even easier because they are so portable and also because they are easy to teach other to play. It a part of my personal mental health program for sure!
 
Playing music... and singing in particular... have always been a way for me to lighten my mental burden. Ukulele makes it even easier because they are so portable and also because they are easy to teach other to play. It a part of my personal mental health program for sure!
Yes, music is a huge part of my mental health!
 
You can start with a StewMac kit for building a ukulele. The luthier lounge (party of UU) has members that stated building that way.
True... but I am so spoiled now that I doubt I would want to play it! I have these wonderful Ponos with radius necks and truss rods, a Bruce Wei 8 stringer, a super fun Kala, and can't imagine building something that would sound anywhere near that nice.

No regrets! If I want to build something out of wood again it will be a custom bookcase for the empty corner across the room from me here... something I actually will use!
 
An alternative - You can have the various parts precut by a service. And put the puzzle pieces together. There are also vacations you can take to learn how to do so. Dehoutwinkel runs such a program for ukulele or for guitar.
 
I’m trying to learn the discipline of the gradual. And, enjoying the process as much as the end goal.

In other words, “I still can’t switch to that F major 7 sharp 11 chord cleanly!” = failure.

“I spent 10 minutes working on switching to that F major 7 sharp 11 chord and enjoyed it!” = success!
 
An alternative - You can have the various parts precut by a service. And put the puzzle pieces together. There are also vacations you can take to learn how to do so. Dehoutwinkel runs such a program for ukulele or for guitar.
Yes, this is interesting! I just missed a local opportunity to assemble a stew Mac kit in a 2 day class. I just keep hesitating… but health issues might make it easier for me to work on a kit over a longer period of time. And I didn’t want to build a tenor. 🙂
 
I think the OP is delving into analysis paralysis. Custom ukes are a lifestyle. Yes, they are excellent, but you have to buy into the philosophies of ukes=art, ukes need to be individualized, ukes need to have a certain aspect like sound ports or nut width, or that ukes are status symbols. If those kind of considerations don't float your boat, then it is stupid to pay thousands of dollars for a uke.

My generalized opinion is to establish your price range and then eschew the lower and middle range of your range, then get the higher end of your range. Then, above all else, make music.

I am a custom uke kind of guy, but if you aren't then spend the $400 dollars for the stellar exemplar of your idea of what a uke should be...and make music. I would wager the farm that your $400 uke and my $5000 uke aren't going to sound much different.
 
Yes, this is interesting! I just missed a local opportunity to assemble a stew Mac kit in a 2 day class. I just keep hesitating… but health issues might make it easier for me to work on a kit over a longer period of time. And I didn’t want to build a tenor. 🙂
StewMac makes Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. They also have Cutaway for concert and tenor. The kit can be thought of just for learning and then a give away.
 
I love this conversation. 💜

I ended up with three luthier-made instruments, but they cost me $200, $500, and $550. I sold a very middle of the road violin bow to pay for them. I play a $600, 200yr old folk violin with repairs that have repairs. Handmade doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. For me, I don’t want a really expensive instrument, because those cause me more concern and worry than joy, and that makes my musical world smaller. I do enjoy an instrument good enough to have a voice, and I love things that have stories, because those bring me joy. Often that means I buy old or used, generally far from pristine (you should meet the bow I kept 🤣). My instruments are characters in my life. They sit in my living room, I talk to them, they have very distinct personalities. If they don’t, they go. I think two of the three ukes I bought are going to stay. I’m enchanted with them and that outcome.

I’m lucky enough to have money to spend - but I could have spent more than I did. It’s been learning to recognize what makes me happiest, what adds the most music to my life, what resonates. Still very much a work in progress.

Tom, I have a stack of your music printed because one of the things I’ve learned to seek is the right songs to play. To me, your songs feel. They’re full of story. They don’t require fancy skills to play. They are luthier-made music :).
 
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