I thought I would start a series of ukulele ramblings. Not tips or tricks, but just general thoughts about the ukulele as an instrument and what it means to play one. First up - say hello to the All Inclusive Ukulele!
It never ceases to amaze me how diverse a crowd the ukulele community is. We have people who play traditional music hall style and people who play rock. We have folkies we have jazzers. We have those who like to sensitively finger pick and those who enjoy nothing more than strumming out the latest pop songs in simple three chord style. We have those who like to play alone, those who like to play in pairs or trios, all the way up to playing with dozens if not hundreds. But the important thing is this - very few players I know are pigeon holed in just one area. In fact many players, including myself like to do ALL of the above - the uke really is that versatile. Add to that the fact you will often find players who prefer a certain style being totally welcoming of listening to or playing along with something outside their comfort zone. I'm not the worlds biggest pop fan, but what the heck, playing Jessie J's 'Price Tag' on a ukulele is FUN!
And what about skill level? I have never made any bones about the fact that I am a mere average player. Sure, I talk a lot about the uke and made it my mission to help out players, beginners in particular, but my playing is just average. Rhythm is my thing and I think my skill lies in getting a good chunky pattern going with a uke, but my fingerpicking leaves much to be desired. But again, a lot of uke players I know fall in to that category but still get such an enormous amount of pleasure from it. Sure there are the true modern ukulele greats out there who make sounds with their ukes that leave me speechless - just check out anything by Jake Shimabukuro or James Hill if you want to see examples, but few reach those heights (not that one shouldn't try). In my experience though, I have jammed ukulele with friends many times, often in front of an audience. Some players are more accomplished than I am, and some players are just starting out, capable of only two or three simple chords and still struggling with sore fingers and how to strum naturally. Yet, when I'm playing and look around, not only do I see happy listeners, but I see happy players too. From the accomplished to the struggling, everyone has a smile on their face. Take a look for yourself, join a jam or a club and you will see the very same thing.
And of course we can't ignore price. Yes, there are some shocking cheap instruments on the market from makers jumping on the rise of the uke in recent times, but buy from a reputable dealer and one can start with ukulele for about £25 a £30. I know because I own one. I have had as many happy times playing a cheap Makala Dolphin with friends as I have playing an mid priced Mainland or expensive Kanile'a. I'm not going to insult your intelligence, of course the higher end instruments DO sound better and so they should, but that doesn't mean a player with a cheap uke is unable to have fun jamming with friends playing instruments that cost hundreds of pounds more. I still pick up my Makala regularly and would have no qualms taking it to a local uke jam. Name me another instrument that suits so many budgets?
So there you have it three good reasons that show the inclusive nature of the ukulele. When you start to play one you join a community that is only happy to help regardless of your ability, your music tastes or your choice of instrument.
But I'll end with a more subtle example that demonstrates the uke as being an inclusive instrument. When I was going through my first stages of school we were forced to play the recorder as a class instrument. I despised it. I've since read a variety of theories as to why the Government chose to push it, such as price and it supposedly helping kids get along with piano notation. Sadly, not that many kids in modern times have families with the funds to support buying a piano, but my gripe with the recorder was that it was stuck in your mouth. Nobody can sing while playing it, and for children, singing is fun that everyone can join in with. So if you are the child, like I was, with a dislike for the recorder you are stuck with it no matter how hard or boring you are finding it. Now take the uke, which is being introduced to junior children in some schools now, as it has been in Canada already. It's cheap like the recorder, but bear in mind that there is no way all kids will enjoy it or will progress equally, just like the recorder also. Some will struggle, BUT it's not stuck in their mouths! Introduce singing together with uke and the whole class can come together with mixed abilities, but all still take part. I recently discussed this very subject with a music teacher and that is exactly what they found in class. Some kids struggled, but made up for it by singing, some liked strumming but sang less and of course there was a whole spectrum in-between. A class came together as one.
That's the all inclusive ukulele for you.
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