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17-Oct-2017 16:32

It was a huge leap up from my first thought of a 'throw-away' uke. It was beautifully made, sounded crisp and clear and played like a charm. I downloaded songs and tabs and practiced late into the night (much to Susan's distress), trying to become accustomed to the instrument. Every time a UAS sufferer sees a new model, he or she wants to get it, just to try it out... I spent a few hours tuning it and tinkering with it.

I met a chap from a nearby Ontario town with 45 ukuleles. It wasn't nearly as well made as any of the ukes I'd purchased by then; it sounded thin and had rough fret edges. I put it on consignment at the local music store a few days later and sold it within a week (at a loss, of course).

Personally, I like both, but I tend to play my high-G ukes more because I prefer the sound and it makes the uke different from a guitar. In the 1920s and 30s, there were other popular tunings for ukuleles (A-D-F#-B most often) and you'll see them noted in song sheets from that era, but you seldom see them today.

Some string packages make note of these tunings because the strings can be used in standard or alternate tunings. In G tuning (except, apparently, in Nova Scotia where the A tuning reigns).

I got the impression ukuleles weren't treated as "serious" instruments, not serious enough for either store to have a tuned one on hand at least.

And certainly not serious for anyone to want to take more of my money for one. I spent hours surfing uke-related forums, blogs and websites, trying to match my growing interests with my limited budget, trying to understand everything about ukulele brands, woods, strings, sizes and finishes, reading reviews and comparisons. I also spent time on You Tube and similar sites looking at the brilliant new performers - like Jake Shimabukuro and Mike Okouchi and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Brittni Paiva, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and others - musicians who have returned the uke from a novelty into a serious musical instrument for a new generation, and in turn helped spawn the ukulele renaissance.

You can put a capo on the second fret and be able to play with ukes in A tuning.

I have experimented a bit with tuning to an open chord and playing songs. I've also tried using a slide on a ukulele, but it's not a popular technique.

A brief comment for people not familiar with ukuleles: a uke is really a small, four-string guitar (ukulele owners may blanch at this description; it is true, but you could equally think of a guitar as a fat ukulele...).For a short while in my 20s and 30s, I was very serious about playing music; I studied, I tried many instruments, and I jammed a lot, sometimes daily, at least weekly, but because I don't have any real musical talent or training, my enthusiasm generally outpaced my talent.Still, I enjoy playing, and perhaps learning even more. I had sold my last guitar a few years back in order to focus on other things (the shakuhachi, for one).Baritone ukes are tuned D-G-B-E, like a guitar (which sometimes causes their critics to belittle them as tenor guitars). If you're a guitar player, you can play the same chords and finger picking patterns on a uke, but the high-G string creates a different sort of sound.

However, the traditional uke is tuned with the fourth (G) string an octave higher. You have to change some of your patterns if you use bass runs or particular finger picking patterns, but it's easy to get accustomed to playing a uke coming from a guitar.I've had more fun with the uke than I've had in ages.



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