Behold the ukulele, that shrimp-sized guitar-wanna-be with only four strings, the my-dog-has-fleas plinkety-plinkety thing that–if you are of a certain age, might, when somebody mentions the sucker, immediately bring to mind the late Tiny Tim.
If you are older, you might think instead of George Formby, or Arthur Godfrey. Younger, you might know Eddie Vedder or Jake Shimabukuro, or maybe for you, the uke is just another instrument in a pop group, since the uke has–at least for now–become cool once again.
Or maybe you see a grass-skirted hula girl and wind-blown palm trees.
Or maybe none of those resonate; you seldom, if ever, thought about the ukulele before and you are just mildly curious enough to have a look at this.
I used to be like that last one. And then one day, I wasn't.
It was completely unexpected.
I got my first tenor ukulele at the end of February, 2013, and as of this writing, it has been a few days over a year since. It has become, if not an obsession, pretty close to it.
What I’ve done and how I have gone about it is the main theme of this short book. Mostly, I expect any audience to be kind of like me; more than a total newbie, but not long in grade. Maybe a few die-hard uke fans looking for any material about the instrument might drop round.
There will be some background, how I began my musical journey and got to the point where I started ukery. Some odd bits as they float up in my memory, and not all of them will be specific to the ukulele. Like the old TV show Connections, sometimes a thing way over there leads one along a twisty path to a completely different thing over here ...
Oh, and I tend to blather.
Why am I doing this book? Well, not to make money because it won’t, but because I want to, and because I can. I like reading memoirs about how and why somebody got into something, and how and why he or she learned this or that. It’s the “why” and “how,” I’m dealing with, not so much the “how-to.” When I’m not plucking at the uke or walking the dogs, I make a fair living as a writer. I ought to be able to keep the narrative moving.
A warning: My non-fiction writing style is informal and chatty, I jump about like a grasshopper and stop here or there to offer observations on whatever I have landed upon. I am opinionated, sometimes obnoxiously so. If this bothers you, save your money, or ask for it back, I won’t be offended. I have found generally in my work, if I’m not pissing somebody off, I’m not doing my job right. Some folks resonate with what I do, some don’t.
Que sera, sera.
In the course of this, I will try to address some general history, and some things I have so far found interesting in my personal trip down to the shore to paddle out into the third ukulele wave. Your mileage, if you enjoy things ukulele, will, of course, vary.
There are scores of books on how-to-play ukuleles–chords, songs, techniques. This is not one of those. If you have gotten this far and you are thinking I’m going to teach you how to play? Stop now, ‘cause that ain’t happening. I am not good enough to be teaching anybody. I’m a storyteller, so that’s what this is, and maybe now and then, you might see something you can actually use, or that you didn’t know before–I’m going to try to ladle some of that in.
No promises ...
So. Cue the theme music for Hawaii Five-O, dial it up loud, groove to the beat, and visualize the image of that monster breaker rolling in.
Or, if you want the tune done with the instrument we are discussing, check out Honoka and Azita on YouTube.
It’s all good.