Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The last microphone order I put in, I added a clearance-priced soprano uke "set" as an impulse buy. I have been thinking about adding a string to my collection of instruments, but hadn't been actively looking (okay...sometimes I dreamed of an erhu...)

And I LOVE the instrument. Not so much the model I just picked out, although after sanding down the nut and letting the strings settle in it became quite playable (I've got some Aquilla strings getting shipped from Hawaii...those should improve the intonation and tone.)

I'm already thinking of moving up to a nice Lanikai. But, really, I need to keep at practicing. I'm still working on getting the changes smoothly on the first strummed song I'm learning, and I'm even further from getting through the full song without a stumble on any of the finger-picking melodies I've been working on.

Discovered several sites for tablature, foremost being Ukulele Hunt (for just plain being a fun site) and Tropical Storm Hawaii (for being a giant clearing house of tabs). And I discovered reading tabs was easier than reading sheet music -- I almost sight-read through the first tab I tried (a single-note version of the theme from MASH).

So the last several days, since the UPS guy came by, I've been reading about ukulele, listening to ukulele, practicing ukulele. The lighter strings are a bonus to me over guitar; even with carpentry and rock climbing to toughen them my fingers refuse to callus properly. The small size of the soprano uke is a bit of a challenge, but then, I also play sopranino recorder (and I've tried a garklien, which I can actually finger with difficulty).

I can't express how much I love this instrument. The tone is charming and wonderful, with a real naturalness, a wide expressive range, and all those humanizing bits of noise (clicks and scratches and squeaks) that get left out of keyboard synthesizer playing. The instrument is flexible and challenging, with all manner of different tone production and harmonizing and musically useful ways you can use it. And it's extremely portable (and cheap, too, so you don't have to be scared toting it around with you.)

Me being the way I am, although I'm still stumbling on the F to Bb change, I'm already trying out hammer-ons, tremelo, the "ras" strum borrowed from Flamenco. But then I think that's a good way to learn; always have at least one thing you can barely do at all, and as you get it, it brings back technique you can use to improve the things you merely do badly.

Since I do have some improvisational background, I'm not restricted to following the tabs I find as written. I am freely changing to alternate fingering when it makes it easier for my current ability to handle chord changes...but also adding in flourishes when those fall within what I can do that I find musically useful.

Pretty soon I'll need to stop practicing all day, and get back to the paying work. But for the moment...!

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