Friday, November 15, 2019

Learning the Mighty Ukulele


 A little over a month ago, I heard the local Arts & Culture Committee was looking for people to sign up as a members of the community orchestra.  I was intrigued and almost wanted to join but then I thought to myself, what instrument would I play?  A better question was, what instrument would I want to learn?  The only instrument I have learned to play as a kid was koto, a traditional Asian stringed instrument, which I have not touched for more than 30 years.  Nevertheless, I thought a stringed instrument would be a little easier for me to learn.  I have attempted to learn guitar in high school, but it was difficult to stretch my fingers to play the chords. Suddenly I remembered - ukulele! I always thought it would be fun to play an ukulele!  It's small, cute, portable, and cheerful. It has only 4 strings.  In compare to the 13-string koto I used to play, it should be manageable.

I started looking through Youtube tutorials on ukulele including its history and what to look for when buying a uke, etc. I started looking at ukuleles on Amazon and local stores trying to decide which one to get.  About a month ago, I happened to stop by the Goodwill store in Downtown Berkeley. I spotted one used soprano size ukulele in dark purple - my favorite color! I looked at it carefully to make sure it was in decent condition other than superficial scratches and dings. I bought it for $8.00 and started playing it by watching online tutorials.  I found Cynthia Lin and Bernadette to be my favorite teachers after watching countless tutorials by people around the world.  Little did I know that both of them are from California, my home state.

A clip board is all you need to turn an extra tripod into a music stand

After playing the $8 uke for a month, I visited the iconic Subway Guitars in Berkeley, which I have known for most of my life but never had the opportunity to go in.  I left the shop with an Amahi slim body concert ukulele.   Last week I also converted one of my tripods into a music stand.  I just glued the part that would attach to a camera onto a clip board.  I removed the screw that was meant to screw onto the bottom of a camera from the removable plastic unit. I also scraped off any loose component on it before applying Crazy glue to it.  I also used duct tape for additional reinforcement.  The tripod of course is fully adjustable in height, direction, and angle.  It's much more sturdy than a cheap music stand. It also didn't cost me any extra money. 

After leaning the ukulele for more than a month, I learned a few things that I never realized before. One, my fingers are short compare to my two favorite ukulele teachers.  Two, singing and playing an instrument at the same time is much more difficult than I thought.  It's been very hard for me to do both simultaneously so I focus mostly on playing the uke.

Last weekend I attended my first Youtube livestream to celebrate Cynthia's 300K subscribers.  I am not good enough to play along all the songs, but it was fun and inspirational. I also got my ticket for Holiday Uke Jam in Berkeley. I can't believe I will get to see Cynthia Lin in person, and I can't wait to meet other local ukulele enthusiasts!

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