Unless I covertly publish and back-date several blog posts, it’s tough to hide the fact that I haven’t posted here since September 2014. I’ve been on quite a journey since then.
For a while at the beginning of 2015, I thought it would be a very dark year. Things turned around in mid-March, when I landed a new job in a very organic way and finally felt a sense of purpose again. I also carved out time to play music, write, dance, nurture myself, and care for my Guy, so 2015 ultimately turned out to be a year of learning how to balance.
In 2015 ukulele news, I traded in both of my ukuleles to become the proud owner of two lovely solid wood instruments, a Martin tenor and a Pono baritone (the latter given as my Christmas gift from Guy). They are both huge upgrades from what I played on previously, though neither is Kamaka or Mya-Moe. I learned several songs and very seriously considered doing an open mic night. I bought our 4-year-old niece a ukulele for her birthday, so I’ll have someone to jam with. But most exciting…
The BIG News
2015 also turned out to be the year my first solo album dropped! With Guy’s help as recording engineer and producer (and his contributions as designated whistler), I recorded 13 whole tracks (pretty much all the songs I know) and made discs for family and friends* as holiday gifts. I don’t have the time or energy to print a whole bunch more discs, but do I want to share it with you! So we’ll take it digital. This is, after all, the future.
Last month, I spent a week in upstate New York with my good friend Abby and Mae, her delightful six-month-old baby girl. As has become my custom on extended trips, I brought my [baritone] ukulele with me. It’s a good thing I did!
Mae was just on the verge of teething when I arrived, and each day became progressively more fussy until she actually cut a tooth. At times, she was so distressed by her newfound gum pain that nothing seemed to soothe her. That is, until I started playing uke and singing for her.
From the first strum of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” to the closing arpeggios of “Circle Game” (her favorite) Mae calmed, studying my hands as they worked the strings. Her focus alternated between my strumming hand and my fingers on the fretboard, with an occasional glance at my face to grin and watch me sing. Eventually, she rolled over to sleep. We did this almost every afternoon.
This was, hands down, the best part of every day, even after I got sick of playing the handful of songs I know, when Mae didn’t immediately succumb to my spell. My musical power to transform her from Cranky Baby to Content (or at least Distracted) Baby made me feel like a wizard, or a Jedi. Somehow, through music, I activated something in her mind that superceded her other wants and needs. Magic, I tell you!
I mentioned a couple of posts back that I re-strung my travel ukulele with baritone strings. That was cool for a while, but the thing about a tenor ukulele is that it wasn’t meant to have baritone-length strings, because the neck is shorter, and when strung with baritone strings, the pitches aren’t quite right because the frets are spaced differently. Basically, it’s an imperfect solution at best.
So, not long after the Jake Shimabukuro concert, I went over to Trading Musician with my tenor uke and made an exchange for a real-life baritone. It’s nothing fancy, but it sure looks pretty on the wall next to my (remaining) tenor:
Like my tenor, the baritone has a pickup and built-in tuner, which is handy. I am finding the increased distance between frets to be a challenge for some chords, but I am practicing! If everything goes according to my plans, my next post will feature my new axe on one of the songs I’ve been learning. Stay tuned!
If you’re into ukulele at all, you probably know or have heard of Jake Shimabukuro. He is one of the most proficient ukulele players I have ever listened to – literally I just sit there with my jaw hanging open because his playing is so beautiful, awe-inspiring, and… just… here, see for yourself:
Now tell me that wasn’t amazing. Continue reading
Good news, everyone! I didn’t die, or quit the Internet, or stop playing ukulele! I am alive, well, and have been strumming happily for the past five months. The waning days of 2013 were consumed by graduate school, which I successfully completed, and the dawn of 2014 brought The Job Hunt. Seemingly endless online applications consume a lot of my energy and sour me on computers; I spend much of the rest of my time knitting things for the many babies being born this year and being a good hausfrau for my delightfully supportive, loving, and patient Guy.
I didn’t do any blogging because, frankly, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Winter is always a rough patch for me here in the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, it is getting warmer day by day, and I can practically feel my circadian rhythms shifting with the lengthening hours of daylight. I’m starting to have more energy again, and I’m starting to feel inspired!
I looooove gadgets! I have an especial affinity for single-purpose kitchen gadgets – egg cuber, pineapple husker/corer/slicer/chunker – but really I love anything that strikes me as clever or novel. I know I’m not alone here. There are entire industries built around this impulse (SkyMall, anybody?)
It’s not surprising, then, that this gear review from the latest issue of Ukulele caught my eye:
On Thursday of last week, I finally got my wedding gift from Guy – a surprise introductory ukulele lesson with a woman by the name of Susan Howell. We had a great half hour, during which she shared some nuggets of ukulele wisdom, including the Hawaiian turnaround and a Canadian by the name of James Hill.
If you are even remotely interested in the ukulele and haven’t heard of James Hill, you are missing out. He takes ukulele playing to another level! The first YouTube search result for James Hill is “James Hill Playing An ‘Ukulele With Chopsticks And A Comb.” No, really. It’s a very descriptive title: in the video, James turns his ukulele into an unexpectedly versatile rhythm machine, and it’s totally fascinating (the good stuff gets going around 2:50):
Hi everyone! Sorry for not posting anything last week, or earlier this week. I was having too good a time relaxing (doing absolutely nothing) on my honeymoon to blog last week, and it’s taken me a few extra days this week to get caught up on sleep and post-wedding tasks. ANYWAY, there are my excuses, but I think this is worth the wait!
If you read my previous post, you know that when I attended our Hawaii resort’s $5 ukulele lesson, I was advised to practice on my own time rather than learn the same three chords (which I already knew) at future lessons. So this is exactly what I did. When I got bored of reading, or playing Citadels with Guy, or swimming, or sunbathing, or staring off into the distance as the waves rolled in and clouds skimmed the water, I would pick up my axe and work on “Ukulele Lady,” a cute little ditty I thought would be appropriate for a “peach” who brought her ukulele with her to Hawaii.
You may or may not know, depending on how well you know me, that Guy and I finally got hitched on Sunday. It was an amazing day that I will hold in my heart forever! More importantly, on Monday we flew to Hawaii for our honeymoon. This is the view we get for the next couple weeks:
Of course I brought my ukulele with me. Let me tell you, a ukulele is a million times easier to travel with than a cello, especially since my axe is only half the depth of standard ukes. It slipped nicely along the wall under the seat in front of me, next to my purse.
When I made the possibly rash decision around midnight a couple of weeks ago to [re]start this blog, I promised myself I would commit to it entirely. “Entirely” meant, at such a late hour, that a blog about me learning to play an instrument should cover all aspects of the process, from back story and inspiration through research and discovery to…performance. After all, what is music if you never share it? So, without further ado, I present my ukulele (and YouTube performance) debut: