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PLUC Tales – The First Rule Of Uke Club…

06 Sep
Anthony Checking Out Tip 3a

Anthony Checking Out Tip 3a

I’m a recent convert to the world of ukulele. I’ve been playing around about 10 weeks and am really enjoying it. I’ve managed to learn the basics and am managing to play many more full songs than I thought I’d be able to play at this stage when I first picked the thing up.

Anyway… I was asked to put together a few words on what I’m enjoying and not enjoying about ukulele.  I’ve tried to do this below, its a little rambling (like myself), its personal to me and hopefully you’ll take these comments in the way that they were meant.

What I like…

Accessibility:

I’ve only ever played the harmonica to the degree that I could get one tune out of it (Delilah) for a rugby tour (long story).  Musically I’m about as illiterate as you get. However, with a little research and a little reading I found that I could strangle a tune out of the damn thing!!  It seems that 4 strings and a limited range in chords makes life simple.  As you’ll know, chords C, F & G get you a long way, and it’s enough to get you down the road.  But I’ve found that the more I have learned, the more I have wanted to learn.

Ukuleles are not precise instruments:

You can make mistakes: you can play a G7 instead of a G, you can play an A instead of an Am and get away with it in most instances.  Obviously, as a novice I try to play every note at the right time while using the right strumming pattern but as a realist I know that ain’t gonna happen.  There is forgivingness about the uke that means that these can remain hidden and don’t cause me to shrivel and die of embarrassment.

The people:

The clubs or activities I’ve always been involved in have been really competitive environments (primarily rugby clubs).  There’s always been lots of banter, lots of sarcasm and any kind of weakness has been relentlessly joked about.  I find the really collaborative environment at PLUC quite refreshing.  No one individual is trying to ‘beat’ another as you’re trying to make a great sound and you can do this by being an individual.

Ukuleles, especially sopranos, are ridiculous instruments:

I’m 5’10” and 18 stones and I’m playing this tiny ‘guitar’ that’s perched on my chest higher than Simon Cowell’s waistband.  My right hand is thrashing up-and-down at an obscene rate (oooo eeerrr) and for some reason I’ve started playing this tiny instrument while wearing a strap (must be sooo heavy).  The fact that it looks like a damn toy!!  And then there’s the singing!!  Enough said I think.

People are interested.

More and more people are playing ukes but they are still by no means commonplace so they want to hear you play… And, as mentioned earlier, tunes are not too difficult to extract from the beast.  At the moment my ‘demos’ are Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran).  I know I can play more complicated songs but these are safe ground.  Three chord wonders with bitchin’ recognisable hooks = crowd-pleasers.

Ukes are CHEEEEEAAAAAPPPPP:

I paid £80 for my Brunswick.  It’s not flashy, it holds its tuning, I haven’t had to change strings yet and it sounds good – sometimes.  I could have picked it up cheaper on-line but it was very shiny when I went to look at it in the shop.  Me like shiny shiny.

Things I don’t like:

There aren’t any really but I’m gonna nitpick…

There aren’t enough clubs:

I’m a novice and happy to be a novice.  I’d like to play to a better standard so I’d like to play with more people of my level so we can learn together.  This isn’t a criticism of PLUC: it’s possible the challenging ‘catch-up’ ethos has dragged me on further than I would have got if I had been spoon-fed practice drills.  I’m the kinda guy that gets bored by scales and repetitive learning.

Inconsistency in musical notation:

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not literate in the musical sense.  I’m getting by with the in-line type of lay-out to songs. However, I’m noticing that I’m gonna have to do some book work.  What’s an A#, what’s a (sus), what’s a (dim)?  Am I bothered?  And then the crotchets and quavers rock up…MELT DOWN.

At risk of making this thing a bit too long (too late I hear you groan), I’ll add my three top tips for Ukeists:

1.  Play.

Play at EVERY opportunity you get.  chuck your uke in your kitchen and play while the kettle’s boiling.  You don’t have to play tunes, play the chords you know to make something tuneful – even when you’re doing this you’re getting slicker at chord changes.

2.  Play.

Play what you’re interested in. I love Foo Fighters & AC/DC, but grew up listening to Happy Mondays, Madness and that kinda thing. There are tabs out there for everything you can think of – those songs are not always as complicated as you might think. Playing these kind of tunes makes things fun. Isn’t fun the key?

3.  Don’t Play Drunk.

I’ve found I get carried away, play too hard and smash my strumming hand against the strings.  I end up bruising my strumming fingers and over-gripping with my fretting hand.  This means the next couple of days are painful if I want to pick up the Uke again.

3a.  Do Play Drunk.

While in a less than sober state I’ll try things that I know I can’t do in real life.  I’ll play more, sing more and have a great time and nobody really cares (especially me).  By taking on more challenging tunes you might just realise you can actually do more than you think you can.

Anyway… Where did I leave my uke…?   and… Where’s that bottle of red we started?

Enjoy.

Anthony

Other PLUC Tales: New Uker! – Sheila; A Tale Of Two Ukuleles – Tina; Ron’s Progress; Probably The Most Fun Instrument In The World… – Jos; It’s Been A Year – Part 2 – Jeanette; From Classical To PLUC – Andrew; A History Of The Ukulele – And Its Part In My Downfall – JamesSanta Rides Again – Alan F; Steph’s StoryRon’s Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome; Uncle Ron’s Legacy… – Wee Kheng; Dan’s Story; Five Years & Loving It – Simon; My Ukulele Origins… – Rufus; Why Ed Started Playing The Ukulele; Ron’s Song; It’s Been A Year… – Jeanette

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22 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Members' Items

 

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22 responses to “PLUC Tales – The First Rule Of Uke Club…

  1. Rhan Wilson

    September 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Anthony,

    I read with pleasure, your story about the joys of ukulele, and I learn something everyday.
    You see, I am a lifelong musician – a guitarist at heart, and I learned and have been learning everything about music my entire life. I have played in bands, performed everywhere, and have even shared with stage with Grammy winners and Music Hall of Famers.

    A few years ago I discovered the uke and have been surprised with learning the most simplest of things: that music can be simply enjoyed simply. One doesn’t need to know a thing about it – just pick up a little instrument and strum away. As long as you’re having fun – that’s all that matters.

    It’s not a competition. It’s not a race nor a talent show. Music needn’t be reserved for those who “know it all.”

    This was a HUGE lesson for me, and it has changed my life. Thanks to you, and everyone like you. Seriously.

    Yet, I realize that there are many ukers who want more, now that they have learned the basics. They want to know more about rhythm and chords. If you think it’s fun now, just wait until you do indeed know the difference between an A and an Am! And there is consistency in music notation – it’s just that many folk don’t know the difference and they just write whatever they believe to be “close” and that’s what starts to confuse everyone.

    An Asus is a type of a chord with a particular sound, and when you add a # (sharp sign) to a chord, it simply means that the chord has moved up to a higher pitch.
    A G is another type of chord, and when you add a 7 to it, it’s like adding a little salt to your eggs – it’s a flavor. Unsalted eggs and salted eggs are quite close to each other in taste, but not exactly.

    All this is so easy for me to say, right?

    What I said is indeed easy (for me), but I have been teaching a group of ukers just like you for almost two years now (here in Santa Cruz, California). And as I teach them the basics, I am constantly learning something myself.

    I am learning how to break things down to the basic, so anyone can learn. (Have you tried to go back to when you were 8 years old or so, and try to remember “how” you first learned something?)

    So I am writing this because I find such joy and knowledge in your story. I am reminded that it’s not how much you know, but how you apply your knowledge. And being a “pro” musician doesn’t mean squat if you’re not having fun – like you.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Rhan

    PS – I do write a blog as well, and I teach about music and the mind-set of a musician. If you’re interested, please check out what I do at: http://www.allingoodtimemusic.com Perhaps we could SKYPE someday – I am interested in teaching via SKYPE and I need some practice to see how it would work.

    Take care and keep having so darned much fun.

    PSS – I think you finished off that bottle of red. Or maybe I did.

     
  2. webmasterpluc

    September 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    For Anthony’s benefit (& those of you also curious about some of the questions he’s raised), do have a look round to see our absolute beginners’ music theory; musical keys & basic info about chords.

    We’ve also linked to a pile of interactive quizzes so you can play around & listen to what these things all sound like!

    Thanks Rhan for posting such a detailed comment – you have a great way with your analogies (& I always recommend your website to our new members).

    Jeanette

     
    • Rhan Wilson

      September 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks. There is a plethora of sources for basic information, as you have suggested. I am honored to be one of those recommended sources. Keep up the good work!
      Rhan

       
  3. Anthony Bowen

    September 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for your comments Rhan

    Had a quick look at your site, nice that those skilled technicians are caring for those struggling along.

    I’m becoming more of a Uke evangelist all the time and am becoming more open to trying new chords/sequences etc although after years of rugby I’m sure my fingers don’t work as they should (that’s what I’m telling myself) a little persistence is going a long way though.

    Regarding your offer of a lesson or two, I’m much shyer in real life than in written life (or in an altered state or drunkeness). I suppose by playing along at PLUC I’m able to hide my shortcommings a little, this said, I’m considering going along to a local weekly folk night I know of if I can overcome my fear of all of the hey-nonny-nonny beardy weardiness that could be present.

    Obviously I’m now gonna have to grovel to anyone that has a beard at PLUC!!

    Again, thanks for taking time out.

    Anthony

     
    • Rhan Wilson

      September 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      My pleasure. Perhaps one day I shall travel abroad and visit you all over the pond!
      Rhan

       

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