Want To Learn A New Musical Instrument? Consider The Ukulele
For no reason what-so-ever the other day, something clicked in my head which said “It’s time to learn to play a new musical instrument.” No rhyme or reason to it, not for profit or anything, just the ability to play something new. My wife is calling it a ‘Mid-life Musical Crisis’ and she may be right. So, where do I go when I want to learn to play a new musical instrument? To the guy who knows more about music and musical theory than anyone else I know; my dad.
My dad is no stranger to music in the Yakima valley. He taught music in the Yakima public school system for many years before retiring, he was one the founding members of what became the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and was the final remaining member of the original line-up before leaving. He also taught music lessons at Talcott’s for many years. Now a days he teaches at Ted Brown Music in the Nob Hill Plaza, he still does weddings and he’s also the guy with the viola busking outside most of the shows at the Capitol Theatre. Yeah, that guy, he’s my dad. Dr. Richard E. Riggs. His doctrine is in educational teaching with a major in music – or maybe it’s a minor. Either way, the pun isn’t intended (get it, major, minor, music… nevermind).
So I went to Ted Brown will full intention of learning the Bass guitar. I dig baselines and thought it’d work for me, but the more he was talking about it, the more I was getting sold on the ukulele, of all instruments. The way he put it was the bass guitar is for bass people. As in, you’re always singing the bass harmony of the song and you like playing in groups. Guitarists are always looking for bass players so if that’s your goal, it’d be perfect. The ukulele, however, it’s a chill, sit back, hang out in your backyard, strum a few simple notes and sing along for the sake of fun. As much as I love the bass, and maybe I will pick it up sometime in the future, I’ve gotta check out the ukulele.
Ted Brown had plenty of choose from, but my dad recommended a ‘Tenor Uke.’ Silly me, I didn’t know they came in so many varieties. After teaching me a few notes, we were able to strum out some children’s songs. Something nice and simple and something I can keep up with. Keep in mind that I know how to sing (I think I can, anyways) and I can play the piano so the concept of what strings to what in any stringed instrument are a foreign concept to me. If they made a one stringed instrument that where I held it and plucked it would change the note, I could figure that out. You couldn’t do any chords on it, but it’d work for me.
Today was more about ‘what to play’ but it looks like I’m going to learn the ukulele, or the Tenor Ukulele to be specific. I’ll practice and post more along the way. My goal is to be able to cover songs on the KATS playlist, but in a Hawaiian ukulele form.
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So, yeah, I won’t be headlining any luau any time soon, or bust out that ukulele version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ that you hear on commercials and the movie ’50 First Dates,’ but it’s not a bad start. Now I just need to get my own ukulele so I can practice at home.