That went…well, it went, anyway.

Today was the monthly Open Mic me and the roomie do. Normally, I do poetry, but I don’t have anything new (not that I don’t have 10000 old pieces that I’ve never done there that would work just fine), and I guess I just wasn’t feeling inspired and/or wanted to insert a little chance and whimsy into life. I decided to play the ukulele. In front of people. That I don’t know.

I won’t say I was nervous, precisely. I mean, the worst that could happen is they don’t like it, right? And, really, they’re too polite to show it anyway.

Lesson 1: Tune the uke outside. I brought the Rubin because it can plug in, but is cheap enough that I don’t worry much if something happens to it. It’s probably my lowest quality ukulele, though, and has the tuning to prove it. It stays in tune, mostly, but not as well as the others.

I had it in tune, more or less, but decided a check earlier would be worthwhile. That was a bad idea. With people talking (not loudly, but still), my snark did not produce accurate results, which I noticed the moment I started to play. Of course, once you start, you’ve started, really, so I just sort of had to own it, knowing one of the strings was definitely out. Ooh boy, was it out. Yikes.

There may, possibly, be a video of it later, if it took. It’s on the roomie’s phone somewhere, in theory.

I screwed up by the first chorus, and had to start over. I’m still not good at barrelling through the big mistakes. I can just cringe and work through a badly placed chord (which definitely happened on my Em a few times tonight), but when I hit the wrong one entirely, it throws me off. That’s okay. Mistakes happen. When you only know 4 songs, mistakes happen a lot. We survive our mistakes, and this particular open mic is really as friendly as they come, so you’re in a good space to go ahead and make them, and see how things go, see if you choke, or if you can work your way through…whatever it is you’re working on. Everyone is going to clap anyway. Probably loudly. That’s just how they roll.

I always feel like the intermission is where you get a better gauge of how things fared than the applause. If people clap, they might just be being polite. If they actually approach you on their own, that’s when you know.

I got hugged in the intermission…

Okay, guys, I’m going to say right now I am NOT a hugger. At all. I’m kind of bad at the mushy, touchy-feely stuff. It’s the hazard of being an only child, I guess. But, here I was, holding a handful of corn chips, and one of the guys who runs the mic was just so darn happy that I played an instrument and asked ‘can I hug you?’  I’m not completely heartless! Even I can’t say no to that. lol.

Besides, his stuff is always awesome, so it’s kind of cool to see him so excited over me doing…whatever weird thing I’m doing. Hopefully, next time I’ll do it better.

Overall though, it went okay. I would wager that there are probably people out there with some pretty horrifying ‘first time playing an instrument at an open mic’ stories, so I figure being able to say ‘it was pretty mediocre and nothing to get excited about’ means I’m off to a good start.  Open mics make good crash tests for work you’re not sure about, in any case.

I definitely need to either sit down or get a strap going if I’m going to play this particular ukulele there again, though. I still have a bit of trouble keeping a good anchor, especially on the soprano size, and the very laquered body just makes it even more slippery to hold onto. It…uh…okay, so, it tends to wiggle on and/or slide down my boob. Ah, the joys of anatomy…

I did get a strap thing working on the old Diamond Head Uke though, so it will be easy enough to add one. All I need is a strap button, some masking tape, and a teeny drill bit. I have everything except the button.

As far as a strap, all I need is a small hair elastic, a button, and some leftover fabric, and I can make one for free. I’ve been meaning to make one for my ibanez for ages. Of course, if I want an adjustable strap, things get a little more complicated (just slightly. You need more fabric and a slide. If you want to get fancy, you also need leather for the ends, and something strong enough to sew leather with. I don’t need anything that fancy for an ukulele, which needs a little stabilization, but minimal weight support). But, realistically since I would be custom making it for myself, there’s really no reason to waste the energy. I’m 35. It’s unlikely that I’ll be getting any taller, and there’s a few inches of adjustability that can be achieved with a few extra button holes. I trialed this already by making one out of ribbon. But, I can totally improve on the functionality of the original design, which relied on a tie string for the neck end of the strap, which is functional, but a button or velcro would be better.

For another easy strap option, you can basically use some scrap leather and some sort of thin blade, like a razor, or an exacto knife, and a piece of string. Easy peasy.

Now that I’ve veered completely off topic, even I’m not sure precisely what I was getting at. (Note to self: stop starting to write blog posts after midnight. You always think they’ll take 5 minutes, and several distractions later…) In any case, I think this more or less counts as my ‘first’ time playing in front of people. I’m uncertain whether I can say Halloween counts, since it was 1 am and pretty much all friends who sulked at me because I didn’t play so I was compelled to humor them. This time it was more or less voluntary. A voluntary bad idea, granted, but trying new things is good for progress. 😀

Until Next Time, lots of things to practice, and practice I shall.

6 thoughts on “That went…well, it went, anyway.

  1. Hey, out of tune or not, you did it. It sounds like it was appreciated, and it’ll likely only get better as you do it more. Congrats! Also – with this I see the benefit of learning songs instead of just learning theory and how to read. You’ve made it something usable that people can listen and relate to.


    1. Yeah, it’s a group I mostly know from doing poetry, so it’s not as if I walked into a room of total strangers. There were a few friends and acquaintances in the audience. But, it is valuable to get a sort of real time impression of where you stand.

      The guy who hugged me was chatting with me in the intermission and when he heard I was learning bass too, he was kind of excited. (He’s kind of excitable in general, but you know, awesomely optimistic guy. Plays guitar and violin.). And this surprises me a bit, but he said he always wanted to learn bass because he thought bass sounded great as a solo instrument with just vocals. I never considered that, but bass will be the hardest to learn at a level where I would be able to make that happen. Still, I may have to YouTube some examples. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bass used that way.


    1. Thanks. It was wasn’t horrible or anything but being out of tune was a bit cringeworthy, and that particular uke plugged into that particular amp was very plinky. Some people like that for ukulele, but if I use that one there again, I’ll have to adjust the bass up and treble down to balance it.

      Plus, I had to go first! I think the hostess intentionally did that so I wouldn’t have time to internally debate between poetry and ukulele all night.


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