Life and Health

Quarantine and the Ukulele

Remember that thing that was making me cry over the summer?  I wrote about my ukulele journey, the difficulties I was experiencing and some of the wins I was getting back in the summer.

I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been as consistent with the practice as I should be or could be but I have kept at it and during quarantine I produced almost something that sounds like music.  Complete with video, keep reading!

I have never been particularly musically inclined as I’ve said in the past.  Music makers have always been people I’ve envied because it seemed like the one skill or one hobby I could never break into.  It is definitely an area of inadequacy for me so over the summer I thought I would try to take a class offered by my church.

I had been deceived by this silly looking little guitar-like instrument.  Everyone seemed to think it was so easy and non-threatening that it seemed like a good time for me to try a re-entry into music class.  I never expected it to be so hard.

It had been a while since learning a new skill had made me cry, mostly that’s because I don’t often like to step outside the comfort zone, it’s comfortable, why should I leave it?  It’s like getting out from under the covers when it’s cold outside on a Saturday morning.  There’s really no good reason to stretch yourself when you’re nearing 40 and have all the responsibilities that come along with that stage of life, right?


I was really surprised by the growth I made over those short 6 weeks both from the ukulele stand point and also recognizing that I was expecting to come away from the first week or two of a volunteer-lead one hour a week class being able to play like I knew what I was doing.  I was starting from zero, maybe even less than zero; I had no frame of reference.  I have seen guitar chords before but I honestly had no idea what the little dots and lines were in reference to (especially because they’re usually printed vertically when you more or less hold a guitar horizontally, please someone explain that to me…) and then you see music with lyrics on it where every so often a letter or chord diagram printed over or under the lyrics…like seriously what the hell is that?  Where are the horizontal lines and notes in order of how you play them?  My exposure to music training had been comprised of a couple of years of piano lessons and elementary school music class so lines, crazy symbols, numbers, and notes had been my understanding of music.

When I realized that I was expecting more out of myself than I was truly capable of it help put my playing into perspective.  When students walk into my classroom or the Munchkin is trying out a new skill or word do I berate them for not being able to get it after a few turns or tries?  No.  That’s not how you encourage someone to get better so why would I talk to myself that way and expect to get better?  The second half of the class I was able to approach the instrument with a little less pressure and it really started to be something I enjoyed doing even if just for stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I started using the Kala Ukulele Tuner and Songbook app (found on Google Play and Apple Store #notanad) on my phone and it really helped me practice.  Sometimes I think it lies to uke scoreme when I get my “score” at the end because I don’t think I’m playing as well as it’s telling me I’m playing but since I’m just doing it for fun and have no interest (or hope) in being a professional it has been really helpful.  I still am only proficient in 5 chords, my strumming is still basic but I enjoy playing along with the app because it helps me see the chords in sequence instead of just having to infer based on knowing the song really well (which for a non musical person is really hard….).

During this quarantined time I’ve been picking up the uke a little more often and playing to give myself a break and to create something so I was able to record myself playing.  I chose “Let It Be” by The Beatles from the songbook because it seems like such a poignant message for this time.

Disclaimer 1 – The music is all Kala and The Beatles.  I didn’t create the play along, that’s the app and if you like it I would highly recommend you go check it out. (I’m not being paid to say that, I really enjoy the app).

Disclaimer 2 – I know I’m not “good”, I know there are plenty of mistakes, you can watch my face and see it, you don’t have to tell me I suck internet trolls, I already know 😉

For the first time in public, I give you Inside the Messy Life on a tenor ukulele playing something that almost sounds like a song:

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