Friday, August 12, 2016

First Strums - Picking Up the Uke!

I have been sitting down with my uke a few minutes a day all week, and I do mean minutes. Time isn’t exactly a disposable asset right now and I honestly don't have an hour set aside to take up a new instrument. Good news is that doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest  because in a few days of giving this a go (literally minutes a day) I have learned four actual chords, a finger-plucked melody, and my first song!

When I do sit down with it all I do is check the tuning is correct using my trusty little Snark tuner, and read a few pages of the book/cd combo I am using to learn it. Like all my other experiences with Native Ground (the same people who taught me the fiddle and whose methods I have used to teach hundreds of others here at CAF over the past five years) I am once again treated to a casual and fun way of learning. The book expects the reader to not know the first thing about tuning, reading notes, or even playing a kazoo (Ergo the title, Ignoramus) - so the stakes couldn't be lower folks. If you want to learn an instrument and feel you just can't - I dare you fail at this. You won't.

Wayne Erbsen’s books are made to be digested in small doses, and they down easy. You can read all you need to know to get strumming in fifteen minutes. And not just how to play it, but the history and culture around it. I learned is a Hawaiian creation based on the stringed instruments of Portuguese immigrants, shortly after the American Civil War. So as far as acoustic music, it’s a new kid. I like that.

I’m impressed by this little instrument. It’s a soprano uke, so the smallest of the four sizes available to play (and probably the size you think of when you picture it). Just four nylon strings over a tiny guitar-shaped frame. When I strum them I find myself momentarily transported. I am not the Jimmy Buffet type. I’m much more drawn to rocky coasts and colder climate than the home of this instrument, but it’s 86 degrees outside with 70% humidity and there is something really whimsical playing this tropical instrument with a cold drink in a hammock on a hot day. 

I'll update with videos of my first songs and more details on how I am learning a few minutes a day. If you want to learn along with me,  you can, and help support a company that supports Cold Antler! I got an email from Native Ground letting me know they are selling the exact same package they sent to the farm - Uke, Book, and CD as a set for $59 plus S&H.  (It's the same set you see in this post's picture.) You can call them and have music delivered to your door at (800)752-2656. 

More every week on my summertime adventures with this new little friend. And good luck to those of you willing to strum along with me across the internet!


Blogger Mountain Walker said...

Hey J- could you lay out your daily schedule and how much time each animal/ garden duties (weeding, harvesting...) takes AM and PM? Maybe even summer vs winter commitment? We are thinking of adding more pigs (maybe 6 more) and more chickens to carry over winter and I just need a gage on the time committment. Thanks!

August 12, 2016 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Chuck Smith said...

Ukuleles are fun! I've got an old friend down in New Orleans that does some ukulele busking in her spare time. They're like a banjo. You can't play a sad song on a ukulele.

August 12, 2016 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I understand about time, there is so much work to do on the farm. The garden is producing and I am canning like crazy. I also have a saprano uke, I love the small size and ease to play, last fall I purchased a banjolele and it is great (same chords). Enjoy the fun ukulele! It is good to read your posts.Take care.

August 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You inspire me! I'm sitting here on my own lil' farm with my guitar in the case, which I ache to learn. Self teaching is so hard. I want to learn to play my guitar, a strum stick (which I have yet to acquire), and a fiddle as well (which was inspired by your book).

I can't wait to see a video on the uke. I would love for you to do a guitar and fiddle video too! Even if it's just one song.

You inspire others Jenna!! Truly.

Thank you for sharing all you do on this blog. You help the rest of us to keep going in life when life seems to beat us down. You are not alone on that note.

Happy Sunday!

August 14, 2016 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger jules said...

My favorite ukulele song:

August 15, 2016 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Mountain Walker said...

Hey, um, never mind. I know you're busy. We'll figure it out. Thanks anyway :)

August 15, 2016 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Another uke song recommendation: Eddie Vedder's Ukulele Songs album. So good.

August 15, 2016 at 3:44 PM  

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