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Ukulele Fever Strikes Again
Ukulele fever came upon me slowly. I played the guitar on and off and never got beyond learning a few chords even though I always said I would learn more about it. I still love the guitar, but the Ukulele started to spark my interest.
Years ago it started when I heard Tiny Tim and his Ukulele strumming when I was a kid. I thought no more about it until a few years ago when the radio seemed to be playing songs with a Ukulele accompaniment.
The first song that struck me was the song I’m Yours by Jason Mraz in 2008. There was something magical about the song and the video which showed Jason romping around in Hawaii that looks like heaven on earth
The second song that had me hooked on the Ukulele was Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” in 2009. The Ukulele was very prominent in the song. The song will definitely get into your head. Once again the Ukulele gives the song that upbeat sound that makes the listener want to smile.
The last song that hit me was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole it is a truly beautiful song. The singer and the instrument blend to make the song lyrics even more poignant. Still even though I loved the sound of the Ukulele I didn’t decide to play it until just recently. One day I stumbled onto a YouTube channel on the internet of someone playing the Ukulele and suddenly I had Ukulele fever. Let us see what this little instrument is all about and why its popularity never seems to wane.
The Ukulele got its start in, you guessed it, Hawaii in the 19th century. It is part of the lute family and has only 4 strings. The Hawaiians created it inspired by the Portuguese immigrants’ instrument called the Portuguese machete. After becoming popular in Hawaii it spread to the United states in the early 20th century.
According to Wikipedia Hawaii wasn’t the only country to take to this sweet little instrument.
Canada in the 1960’s had an educator named J. Chalmers Doane introduced the instrument to the musical classrooms in Canada because it was an inexpensive instrument. Up to 50,000 school kids and adults learned how to play.
Japan got the ukulele in 1929. Hawaiian born Yukihiko Haida returned to Japan when his father died and he introduced the country to it. In 1959 Haida created the Nihon Ukulele Association. According to the book Ukulele A Visual History, Japan is considered a second home for Hawaiian musicians and ukulele virtuosos.
The United Kingdom George Formby an English entertainer began the Ukulele craze in England. It became very popular there because it was simple to play and portable. Its popularity is still growing. There is a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain that tours around the world. There is also the George Formby Society created in 1961 that hold regular conventions and festivals across the UK.
FANS OF THE UKULELE
The first man in the United States to start the Ukulele craze was Arthur Godfrey. He was introduced to it by a Hawaiian shipmate while in the navy. He played it constantly after that and he introduced America to it on his show Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. He was introduced to the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum in 2001. He single handedly sold millions of Ukuleles leading to the mad 50’s craze for the instrument.
What Arthur Godfrey did for the Ukulele in the states, George Formby did for the United Kingdom.
George was an actor, singer-songwriter and comedian. He played the Ukulele, and also the banjo Ukulele in his films of the 1930’s and 1940’s. He is the one who influenced George Harrison to play one.
Tiny Tim kept the Uke movement going in the 1960’s and 1970’s appearing on shows like the Tonight Show and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. He made a few albums and once his career started to dip a little he hit the road around the United States and he made good money playing in Vegas.
George Harrison was a big fan of the Ukulele and he always carried two with him in his car in case someone wanted to play. George was influenced by George Formby and Paul McCartney said that after dinner at George’s house the Ukuleles would come out and there would be a jam session. In the Beatle’s Anthology it shows a scene of George with Paul and Ringo and he is playing his Ukulele.
Surprising fans of the ukulele are:
Neil Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Tony Danza, Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, and Pete Townshend.
TYPES OF UKULELES
You may be surprised to know that there are four types of Ukuleles.
Soprano Ukulele is the most popular and it is the smallest at 21 inches long. It has 12-15 frets. It is the least expensive and great for the beginner.
Concert Ukulele is 23 inches long. 15-20 frets it has a fuller sound than the Soprano ukulele.
Tenor Ukulele is 26 inches long and has 15 plus frets. Its size gives this Uke the full and rich sound not found in the other two Ukuleles.
Baritone Ukulele is 30+ inches long with frets 19+, this Uke doesn’t have that crisp jingly sound of the smaller Ukuleles. It is more for the blues players and finger pickers who want that deeper, fuller sound.
I decided on the Cordoba Protégé U1-M Concert Ukulele. It is so cute and beautiful. It has a great sound to it.
You can play the Ukulele with your first finger or thumb, and you can also use a pick. I haven’t decided which I am more comfortable using.I will keep experimenting with finger and pick ,and decide which is the best way for me. The picks I ordered are called Bolopick. They are felt and look more like candy than a pick.
THE BEST WAYS TO LEARN TO PLAY
The Ukulele, I have read, is easy to learn, but we shall see. There are several ways to go about it. You can look for Ukulele teacher to teach you. It can be done either in person or online but that can get expensive. There are also music books that can show you how to play and show you how to read music.
If you are more of a visual person youtube has some great ukulele instructors that will show you the ropes.
A very of the many tutorials that I have found are:
The Ukulele Teacher
Ten Thumbs Productions
There are so many choices just have a look and see the right teacher for you. It is also neat to see videos of people who post them playing the instrument and making it look easy.
The Ukulele has that sound of cheer that it seems to calls out the listener and say hey, give me a try. I have found a new hobby, and it is great fun to play songs for my own enjoyment. It is a feeling of accomplishment and most of all it is great fun. You might want to give it a try.