And Uke Can Take That to the Bank: A Short Memoir of My Ukulele Experiences

26 Sep

I got a request from a new blog friend the other day on my about page to write more about  either Emily Dickinson or ukulele stuff–I’m not sure because the comment was slightly ambiguous, but since I already wrote about Emily Dickinson a short time ago and I’m 80% sure she was referring to ukulele anyway, I decided to roll with it.

Okey dokey, here’s the thing about me:  I get on kicks, and I get super excited about said kicks, and then my interest usually wanes into a low-grade interest and deep fondness.  Sometime I resume the kick later and get excited about it again, and sometimes I just do some general maintenance, never taking anything to the next level and becoming an expert, just remaining a devoted dilletante.

Such is the case with my ukulele playing.  Several years ago, I basically just decided I wanted to learn to play, so I bought myself a cheap model that didn’t sound half bad and proceeded to spend all my free time for at least two months hunkering down with the beginner book I had also purchased.

In my mind’s eye, the scene of my learning to play is much more romantic than it actually played out. In my mind’s eye, I’m jauntily wearing most of a skirt suit and drinking a cup of coffee, my hair in a sloppy bun.  I’m sitting on the floor of my room at the sorority house, my back pressed against my closet door as I sit cross legged, peering into the chord chart propped against my Human Growth and Development text book in lieu of a music stand.

My mind’s-eye badge is super fancy.

“Madame President!  Urgent sorority business!”  I scrutinize the young woman’s face for an instant and then look back at my fingers twisted awkwardly on the fretboard.

“Can it wait?  This A-flat chord isn’t going to learn itself.”  I’ve been harsher than I’d intended, and she is silent for a moment.

“But Madame President…The pledge ceremony!”

I look up again; she’s worried.  I put down my instrument, rise, straighten my skirt, adjust my badge.  I walk stiffly down to the formal room, the wheel of fifths rotating in my skull as I sing the pledge song automatically…

In reality, none of that drama happened.  I did my paperwork, my homework, and a lot of chording work.  And I stayed up late nights and annoyed everybody with my one strum that I had half-mastered.

People bought me uke stuff as gifts.  I continued to play.  And I got to where I was no longer a burden to housemates but something fun and sometimes requested.

And then I kind of didn’t play for a while.

And then I did for a while, did some church gigs, some fair gigs, etc.

And then I didn’t for a while.

And now I get urges to sit down of an evening, find classic country chords or pop chords, and sing and play for hours.

Or the urge to make silly, kinda crappy youtube videos starring Captain Janeway and modified Tammy Wynette songs.

Anyway, it’s not a full-blown kick anymore, keeping me up nights with driving intensity and all that, but I take a lot of pleasure in playing ukulele.  It’s helped me grow as a musician and grow closer to friends who are musicians, and I just really like doing it.

The one disconcerting factor is that the ukulele is an inordinately silly instrument.  And because it is inordinately silly, it has become a hipster staple, something I had not anticipated when I first embarked on my journey on a whim.

I’ve always suspected that maybe buried inside I had some latent hipster tendencies.  But then, I comfort myself that I am more of a geek than a hipster because I don’t do what I do for irony’s sake (and don’t worry:  I dress much more glamorously than either group).  I really like the sound of the ukulele and the feel of it.

And it’s a million easier than guitar.

And uke can take that to the bank! (Ay oh!)

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