• My First Uke


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Day 26: I have had a lesson.

This is what it’s all been leading up to, hasn’t it?  I had my first ukulele lesson last night.  Much like falling in love it was everything I hoped it would be and a complete and total surprise.

The music school is in a trendy neighborhood, or maybe it’s post-trendy – I don’t keep up with these things very well.  On the street it is only a door with a sign and sandwich board.  You enter the door and descend down the stairs a good 20 feet into the basement of an old retail building.  I had been here before when I bought my ukulele, but the music school occupies the other half or more of the basement.  They have soundproofed the rooms and everything was well lit and clean.  I got checked in and given the standard flyer on what happens if a class is canceled or a teacher is sick, and then I was sent back to the “green” room.  I need to pay attention next time, I wasn’t aware of anything particularly green about the room.  The instructor was already there, he seems to be a nice man about 10-15 years older than me.

I was very nervous.  This is so  new to me and I’m not always  good at change or new things.  I figured my discomfort meant I was doing the right thing.  I showed him my ukulele and he strummed it a bit and declared it a good beginner’s uke.  I had tuned it before coming to class and he didn’t make any adjustments.  As he tuned the other uke’s as they arrived I think I must have done it right.  Go me!

There are 7 people in our class, all adults and all but one with little or no musical training.  This really put me at ease as I naturally had assumed that everybody else would know a lot about music and the ukulele would be their 6th or 8th instrument.  Nope, all rank beginners.  whew.  John (the instructor) had a handout with lots of information, definition sheets and diagrams, songs and scales to practice.  He lost me for a minute when he asked us to write each note on each string at each fret.  I saw his lips moving but my brain just wouldn’t understand his words.  I kept paying attention and sure enough in a moment the lightbulb went off and “ping” I understood what he was asking for.  I love that feeling, that beautiful “I got it” moment.

We all got to try some chords and strumming along with a basic song and before I knew it the class was over.  The pacing was a bit fast, but there is so much to learn and I don’t want to waste a moment so I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I walked away with some assignments and practice for next week, along with the stern admonition that it is better to practice 15 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, than grinding through an hour just because.  Will do.

This morning I couldn’t wait and I busted out the handout and tried my hand at “I’ll Fly Away”.  I played it reasonably well, good enough that my partner could recognize it while getting out of the shower.  I can’t wait to get home and practice tonight.

Now for something completely different.  On the topic of feeling like the dumbest person in the room I came across this episode of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson where he interviewed Stephen Fry.  At the 1:30 mark Stephen starts talking about just this topic.  I like the way he describes it, and am comforted to know that everybody gets that feeling.


Day 12: Distractions

There are several things in this great world that I love.  First and foremost I love knitting, I love yarn and needles and patterns and knitters, and gosh I just love it all.  I love sunny days in February when I can play in my yard.  I love pizza.  Add to this list the Olympics, I really love the Olympics.  I can watch hours of sports that I know nothing about (“Hello Snowboard Cross, nice to meet you”).  All of these wonderful things have smooshed together this week and stopped me in my tracks.  I am one big ball of distraction.

I went to the Madrona Fiber Festival (Tacoma, WA) last Saturday and talked about the Olympics.  We had an Opening Ceremony pizza party last Friday where our friends came over and knat (that’s a knitting joke).  We shoveled and spread 7 cubic yards of play bark on Monday, and every time I almost tipped over the wheelbarrow – but saved it at the last moment – I yelled “she STUCK the LANDING!”

You see where all this is going?  I haven’t put in enough practice time this week.  I managed an hour and a half over the weekend, but haven’t touched it in three days and have nothing to report.  Soon enough, soon enough.

I have been exploring suggested links and I’m amazed at what is out there.    My favorite resource at the moment is the Moogly-Moo-kuele Songbook, I can’t get over all the great music in there.  I probably spent an hour working on YMCA just because it makes me giggle.  Oh yeah, my “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land” is getting pretty slick.

A lawyer representing Koalas called and demanded that I cease defaming them.  I do not sound like a grunting Koala when I sing.  However, I may indeed look like one.

Day 5: Community

Peek-a-boo, you see me! Wait, that’s not how it usually goes. Hello to Humble Uker el Jeffe, Woodshed, Armelle and (blogless?) Ron Hale. Ya’ll know how to make a girl feel welcome.

Community is one of my favorite words.

The word community is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, “with/together” + munus, “gift”), a broad term for fellowship or organized society.

Many definitions of the word community talk about geographic proximity, but with the increasing ever-presence of the internet, proximity is losing its power.* When I started seriously thinking about taking up the ukulele I turned to the internet using my superpower (Google-fu) to find resources, reviews, videos, pictures, advice, and above all people who love the instrument. What I saw, as well as passion for the instrument, was inter-connectivity. People who comment on one blog could be found commenting on others, and often have their own. I saw lots of “see you there” and “where’ve you been?” I genuinely like people, and this is lovely to see.

Sharing an interest with others is one of the quickest ways to feel like you have a place in the world. I am happy to tentatively dip my toes in this already robust and interesting community. Thank you for all of your encouragement and keep the suggestions and great blogs coming!

My practice is going well so far. Transitions from one chord to another aren’t smooth, but feel a little less impossible and just the slightest bit faster. I suspect someone has replaced the fingers on my left hand with Italian chicken sausages, but I will persevere. Jake Shimabukuro is in heavy rotation on my iPod and I take too many breaks during the day to watch ukulele YouTube videos. I love the start of something new, I have a crush on the ukulele and the blush of love is exciting.

In honor of community and the in the spirit of crush-drunk love I’ll leave you with this video Ron pointed me to. I love a good end-of-the-night-at-the-pub song.

*next time I pull out phrases like “geographic proximity” and “ever-presence of the internet” please feel free to mock me righteously.