Happy New Year from Lexington, Kentucky

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    Little bit of background on myself …

    I started playing music with my first guitar 35 years ago. I was by the standards of most: tone-deaf, arrhythmic, uncoordinated, undisciplined, and completely clueless as to the essential elements of music. On the plus side, I had plenty of enthusiasm and my ear was untrained enough that I couldn’t tell how atrociously bad my playing and singing was. If I had known, that would probably have discouraged me from continuing. By the time my ear had improved enough so I could start to hear some of my faults, I had spent enough years at it that I wasn’t about to quit.

    Over time I got to be an adequate amateur musician. I played bass in a band which played semi-regular gigs for a while and sometimes got paid for it. (You can find one of our old albums on YouTube if you’re interested – search for Low-Tech Riff Raff. I don’t know who posted the tracks, it wasn’t us. There’s also a music video that we did post.)

    What’s bothered me for a while is that I never broke through to being what I would call a “real” guitarist. I’m a real fan of fingerstyle players like Chris Smither, Mark Knopfler, and John Renbourne as well as songwriters like James Taylor and Bill Morrisey whose playing is often underrated because it is dedicated to tastefully accompanying a song rather than calling attention to itself. My guitar playing never broke past the intermediate stage. I managed to painstakingly work up a few advanced intermediate arrangements that I could hang on to by the skin of my teeth, but that didn’t translate into a generally higher level of playing. There are several reasons for this, but one contributing factor is that many of the more advanced arrangements I’m interested in start to make more use of the left hand pinky, and I have a congenital deformity on my left hand which makes my pinky almost useless on guitar. (Think having half the reach, strength, and control of a normal pinky.)

    I got better on bass, but that’s really an instrument for playing in groups and my band isn’t so active these days.

    Which brings me to the ukulele, an instrument which I had never really noticed much. My wife got a uke for her birthday a while back and I started to mess with it a little bit. Smaller neck, softer and fewer strings mean that it’s much less physically demanding on my hands. I can even use my pinky effectively!

    I started working on some simple instrumental arrangements and discovered that I can get a basic handle on a piece in days, when an equivalent piece on the guitar would take me weeks or months. This means I get positive feedback much sooner which encourages me to keep practicing and allows me to start focusing on the musicality sooner rather than spending forever just trying to hit all the damn notes correctly.

    Even better, I can practice much longer without wearing out my hands. I got my own concert uke for Christmas (Donner DUC-4E) and I have been practicing 1-2 hours daily every day since. My fingers are a little sore on the days where I put in 2 hours, but if I had done that on the guitar without building up to it, I would be in agony. It’s been a long time since I put this kind of consistent practice into my music and I’m enjoying it.

    Anyway, I really like the material and the teaching style on this site and I’m looking forward to becoming a real uke player. If any other members happen to live in Lexington, give me a shout if you’d like to get together and jam sometime.



    Wow Tony, that’s awesome that you have found a passion for uke! I too began on guitar, but have equally enjoyed playing this awesome instrument. I’m glad you found us and hope you join one of our monthly challenges. It’s a great way to keep motivated and have fun 🙂

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