This entry is going to be a little of this and a little of that....I'm awaiting my latest issue of Ukulele mag,and a Stella banjo uke that was given to me in need of restoration. I had it restored by Doug at McCabes guitar shop in Santa Monica,and will post photos of it when it gets here. (This will be my first playable banjo uke ever!) The ramp that I needed after I broke my knee last year has been taken down,and I'm in the getting used to stairs again mode....and that's no complaint. To other ukulele news: in case you haven't heard,Fender.com has very reasonable online uke lessons now,and last wed ukulele was featured in the Facebook live weekly session! Abby and Nikki were on ukulele and bass guitar respectively,and what they did was great. I can't recommend the Fender classes enough- whether you play guitar,ukulele,or bass. (or all three!) Halloween (my fave holiday!) is quickly approaching. This year I'll be handing out candies to the trick or treaters for the first time in nearly 20 years. Living with Dad was great,however he forbid me to decorate the porch or hand out candy as he had a somewhat jolting experience some years before I moved back in with him. Now that he is on the other side of the veil.I'll be doing what I've missed terribly- greeting kids in costume and helping in spreading the air of mystery that is so thick on that particular night. I plan on having uke in hand while in costume on my porch. How many of you plan on having your ukes in hand while handing out candy or trick or treating? Send in a family friendly photo of yourself in costume with your uke and you could wind up being in a future entry of Flea Plucker! (be sure to tell your friends and share this blog with them) Be sure to put "Halloween" in the subject title when sending your pic in!
Before I start,I want to wish one and all a very happy and safe Independence Day! Mine will be spent at home this year.
And Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends! Party on.
I received a most wonderful question from one of my readers this morning- the question being when you buy your 1st uke, should you get soprano or concert size? (or bigger? Never limit your options) First order of business is to actually try the sizes out for yourself,because there's a couple of key things that will be important: your hand/finger size,and how well you like the volume and tone of the size uke you're trying out.
So either ask friends you know who own soprano and/or concert sized ukes if you can try it out and play each for a few moments,or go to a music shop and try these two different sizes out.
(this being the July 4th week,sales are on and it's a great time to get a uke!)
If you have small hands and slender fingers,you're more than likely to go with a soprano uke. However,if you want more volume,a richer tone,and more frets on the fingerboard,you might be happier on the slightly larger sized concert size uke. For example: I'm petite and yes,I have small hands. My fave size uke to play is a concert,even tho I do own and play soprano sized ones. Why? Well,soprano is the ultimate take along size if I'm doing a show in person selling off my Dad's belongings,for example. While I'm playing behind the table of model kits,etc I have for sale,it's not as tho I'm giving an actual performance,and my soprano uke does a wonderful job. It's also a good "ice breaker" and often initiates cool conversations. That being said,my concert size uke is slightly bigger,has more frets on the fingerboard,meaning the tone doesn't get "plinky" high up the neck. The sound is richer and I have more volume. The fretboard is just as comfy as my soprano size,and my concert uke is the one I typically use for performing,recording,and teaching. Now lets say you have big hands,and full figure fingers. More than likely the soprano will be too small and make your fingers feel cramped. Concert would be slightly better,depending on hand size,and there's a chance you might find concert size to be a wee bit too small.
In that case,I would urge you to try a tenor size uke. Bigger than a concert, the fretboard should work for most with bigger hands and full figure fingers. Remember that with size,we're mainly going for comfort. Comfort,as DavidJi says, is Queen. Don't be afraid to be a "goldilocks" and find the size that's "just right.". And just to toss this into the mix,I also have a tenor sized uke I play around the house and on the porch. More often than not tho,I'm typically playing my soprano or concert.
And while size matters,also be mindful of what wood the uke is made of- make sue you really like the sound of it. Mahogany is a tried and true standard wood for ukuleles. My concert is made of Zebra wood,and has a beautiful full tone about it. My tenor is Asian Koa and has a sweet,mellow,deeper voice to it. And,one thing I learned from my Dad: if you're torn between two,and the one you're really wanting is slightly more than you planned on spending,go for the higher quality,slightly more expensive one. Also inquire if they have any open box,or B models. Open box means somebody returned it to the store or it was the store demo,and a B model means it more than likely has a cosmetic flaw,therefore it's discounted. Personally,I usually look for these types first cause it means I get more bang for my buck.
Last but not least,be sure to get a case and/or gigbag for it.
It started a couple of years ago,I think when I won an Ohana uke that needed cracks repaired,which I did. The unexpected arose when one of the Gotoh tuners simply wouldn't hold the string to pitch. I tightened the screw,took the string off and put it back on,and nothing. Then my Dad's health started to really sink and the uke got put in it's case and stayed for another year,until I took it out a few weeks ago. I contacted the Ohana people via Twitter asking if I could buy a replacement tuner,explaining what I was experiencing. And,much to my surprise,Steph,one of the PR folks,emailed me to let me know they were sending one and no worries. At the same time,I recently hired a neighborhood kid to mow and edge my front yard every two weeks. "Frank" (not his real name) is in his tweens,and he is needing some operations on one of his ears,which will begin this summer. He mows lawns and gives the money earned to his parents to help with expenses,as his Dad had a back injury that interferes with what sort of work he can do. Frank,knowing I'm a musician,stated he wanted a guitar or ukulele. I told him I felt uke was a better choice for now,as it's a lot easier to take with you and learn. Besides,he could take it to the hospital to help pass the time. Being on a budget myself since my Dad passed,I wrote Steph to see if they had some sort of ukulele kids program. Not really,I was told and I asked if they had any B rated soprano ukes they'd be willing to sell at a discounted price. Then the unexpected happened. Steph and company were generous enough to send a soprano uke and gigbag to me along with my replacement tuners. I was shocked. The uke arrived yesterday which also happened to be the day Frank does the gardening for me. I waited till he was finished,and then presented him with the ukulele and explained that the Ohana Uke Co was thoughtful and generous enough to give this uke to him,and that he was to take excellent care of it. He was beyond delighted. I'd include a photo,but I believe due to his age there's rules against that. I can't tell you how good it made me feel to be able to pass a nice quality ukulele to a kid who wouldn't have been able to got one otherwise. I promised Frank I'd help him learn to play after his bi weekly mowing of the lawn. Thank you,Ohana,for making sure that no one gets left behind!
Due to more than one harassing and threatening comment on this blog post from one individual,I felt it necessary for my own personal safety to remove it.
. To the one that sent these comments to me....did the comments hurt? No. Not at all. In fact my thoughts were you must really love this person to defend them by making the comments that you did. Sad thing is you chose to do it by being hateful and by making threats.
Not once did I ever mention any names,nor was I going to. Obviously in some uke circles it's now apparent to me that differing opinions aren't welcome,which is a shame.
FYI,I have kept and stored your comments in my personal files.
While recovering from my broken knee,I decided to go back to taking guitar lessons,and signed up with the Fender. First month was free,and then a mere $9.99 a month for as many video lessons as one can handle. What a treat this is! Once I was enrolled,I was invited to the private group on Facebook,which I joined. This group is the most uplifting and supportive groups one could belong to. Everyone supports one another,we talk about our gear and frequently share photos- all members have a case of GAS (including me!) and we're all sharing photos of our instruments,videos of ourselves playing the song we're working on,(including the "song of the week" chosen by the members!) So,you're asking,what does this have to do with ukulele? Fender will be launching video classes for ukulele soon,I believe at the same affordable rate as the guitar one. I can't begin to tell you of the convenience of learning this way- you submit a video of your playing something,and not only do you get support from the members,but helpful coaching from the admins (many of whom are the teachers that do the class videos) who are always supportive and friendly. Speaking from the student perspective, I don't have to worry about being on time for a lesson,(unless I want to show up for the live lesson/show on wed at 5PM PST which lasts 30 min,I think) no feeling awkward playing for everyone on the spot.(the magic of video- I can redo till I have a take I feel cozy with) I'll probably be joining the uke classes as well. Despite having a ukulele blog,I don't consider myself to be an over the top ukeist,and the lessons will help polish my uke playing skills. (to be honest,I've been playing more charango and guitalele than ukulele these days) For more info,check out Fender or follow them on Twitter @Fender. And knowing me,I'll buy a Fender uke,too!
I picked this up as I was curious about it,and it doesn't disappoint. First awesome thing is the size- a mere 8 1/2 by 5 1/2" inches,comb bound,(so the pages lay flat) and the book is a whopping 2" thick. For beginners,there's chord grids at the top of every song,which make it convenient. There's an amazingly wide selection of songs in here- from 20's tunes to folk,to pop,country,rock,and blues. No matter what your taste,you're bound to find a lot of songs you like in here! What did surprise me is that "happy birthday" isn't in it,and that's a public domain song. (you're bound to get asked to play that at least once) I should mention this is strictly a strum and sing book,unless you can read music for uke- then all the melody is there for every song in standard notation. And if you play guitalele,this book will work for you as well! Merely play the upper 4 strings if you're wanting it in a pure uke way,or use all 6 strings and play it as a guitalele. (you'll need to know your guitalele chords for this!) The book is a whopping 686 pages,highly portable,tho one of the drawbacks might be the smaller print for those with senior eyes. For buskers,this could be a little gold mine. To order yourself a copy,click on the photo of the cover above,and you'tt be whisked away to where you can order one today from me! I'll ship it free!