Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Ukulele Part 1: Plucking Up Courage


I have always loved listening to my Dad play music; he's a dab hand at the piano accordion (plays Irish folk at The Grove on Thursdays), piano, ukulele and more besides. I have lots of good memories of singing xmas carols to piano accordion accompaniment :)

I'd decided that I was going to learn to play some kind of musical instrument so thought it should be one I liked the sound of. The piano accordion was too complicated so it was either the concertina (squeezebox) or the ukulele. Dad recommended the ukulele, pointing out that you only need to learn chords initially whereas for the concertina you need to play tunes (more complex).

Uke it is!

Let's get on it

I did a bit of idle research into uke basics, the videos from The Ukulele Teacher as well as the websites Uke Hunt (smirk) and Got A Ukulele coming in very handy.

The Boy and I finished making the cannon for his Lego battleship - he's playing with the Lego that I and my brother amassed in out youth! - before he started plinking around on Dad's keyboard and I was having a mess with a uke.

It was good to have a mess around and pick out a few chords using the fingering diagrams but my basic musicial theory is non existent. Dad answered most of the questions I had: for instance, what is a chord? (First, third and fifth notes from whichever starting point) Why do some notes go together? (They just do) What's the frequency relationship between notes? (They double over an octave)

Usefully, he taught me how to play a scale (root tone tone semitone tone tone tone semitone) pointing out that each fret represents a key on a piano. This makes a lot of sense. We also played a few scales over the strings to show how the string tuning of gCEA works.

The chord shapes made by pressing the strings onto the frets tune each string to a certain note - the complementary notes of a chord. e.g. To play C chord we play gCEc, the fourth string changed from A to the C above the C string. These use the first (C and c) third (E) and fifth (G) notes to make the chord. Simples (when you know how)!

After years of musical ignorance I genuinely feel like the mists have parted giving me a glimpse into what is possible. Dad gave me a patient, clear and encouraging insight into something that was almost mystical before. He'd probably make a good music teacher! I'm looking forward to jamming with him on the uke :-)

To Do

Get my own uke
Practicing chords (C, F, G and Am)
Get these dialled in and the transitions between them smooth
Get used to strumming patterns
Bash out some tunes!

And no crappy uke puns


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