I started playing Ukulele last year when my business started to slow down and I found myself with more free time. In his book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast, Josh Kaufman describes how he learned just three chords and was able to play most pop songs.
He gave himself a timeline for when he was going to play the uke publicly in three months (or something like that) giving him motivation to practice daily. I was first interested in his book because of his story about how he learned how to play GO, the ancient Chinese board game. In his videos, Josh performs the ukulele on stage just before talking about learning GO. “If Josh can learn GO and ukulele, so can I!”
Soon after that, when I told a friend that I was bored and struggling with a sense of guilt for not doing anything or being busy, he suggested I read How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto, by Tom Hodgkinson. It it, Hodgkinson suggests that every Idler should learn to play the Ukulele. It’s easy to learn, sounds nice, and is very portable.
So for the December holidays in 2015, my wife got me a $50 ukulele with her bonus, and I got her one too so we can play together. It’s been about a year that I’ve been playing almost everyday.
In July 2015, I started a Ukulele group in my house where 10 of us started to meet each Sunday to play songs. When the local paper picked up the story, we got too big for my living room and found a great location at the Grange. We call ourselves The Tigard Ukulele Group (TUGs).
I went from beginner to band leader overnight. I’m still a beginner, but now my job is to organize our meetings, find songs to sing and make sure we all play at the same tempo. A few months ago, I purchased an old suitcase and built a suitcase drum like this one. Now our timing is way better! (but our singing is still too soft.)
Since my singing is really quite terrible, I’ve decided to learn fingerstyle, that’s when you fingerpick the ukulele for melodies, rather than just strumming and humming. In my research to learn fingerstyle, I discovered James Hill and his Ukulele in the Classroom series. This is a school curriculum to teach music theory through ukulele. Many schools use this to teach music reading, rhythm and performance skills
Over the last three month or so, I’ve been going through his books and learning a great deal.
The problem I had was that I could read the music fine and I could play with the metronome fine. But when it came to playing with other people, or with the 2nd parts, I got jammed. Plus, Lily (my wife) didn’t have the free time I did to practice. I needed a way to play on top of the harmonies and chords.
Enter Garageband. Yes, that squirrely Apple program that took me 1 hour to get off of my hard drive! Well, Apple’s IOS version of the program is amazingsauce. With the pickup on my gorgeous cocobolo ukulele and the Apogee Jam interface that plugs into my iPhone I have been recording bass lines, chords and melody lines, adding sampled percussion and etc to make pretty cool sounding recordings.
I’d like to share with you (the 1 person reading this) my learning progress with ukulele fingerstyle. Over the next few months, I’ll be posting songs from James Hills’s books on Soundcloud and putting them here on my blog. My goal is to get better at keeping time, making good sounding tones, and developing my music reading. At the end of the series, I will then attempt to play Bach’s Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1.