The gift of Music

Well, guys, I’m sitting down to write a post at 2 in the morning; there’s no way this can possibly go wrong, I’m sure.  Tonight we went off to celebrate a friend’s birthday. In addition to some rockin’ accessories, I decided to pass on my first uke as a gift as well. That’s the Diamond Head DU-150.

Here’s a regurgitated image of the DU-150 from…ages ago.

The Diamond Head, for those of you who haven’t got photographic memories, is a nice little starter uke, certainly good enough to get you rolling (but 1000x better if you string it with some aquila strings), and is probably roughly on par with the entry level mahalo ukes from what I’ve seen.  It’s one I grew out of fast, mind, but it’s still a nice starter, and I’ve been keeping it in my car as a beater for the past few months. I haven’t actually touched it in a long while.

Now, the birthday girl happens to be a lefty, and we’ve talked about lefty guitar in the past. I’ve actually mentioned her in passing when discussing whether or not a lefty should play left handed.

She has a really familiar story:

Left-handed kid wants to learn guitar. Left-handed kid is told to just play righty, that it will be easier due to access to instruments. Kid’s rhythm is always a little off, and feels devastated that she’s just not any good at it. Fast forward twenty or thirty years to a dream deferred. She still has two right handed guitars. We’ve talked about the differences of playing lefty versus righty and she’s thought about restringing them and seeing how it goes.

That brings us to the present. I have an ukulele strung for a lefty that I’m not using. So, I sort of said to myself: ‘Self, why not give it to her? It’s not a guitar, but it’s already strung for a lefty; it’s small and portable, and she can use it to see if playing lefty feels more natural. When she’s done with it, she can pass it on to some other lefty. It can be a travelling ukulele, spreading the love of music until it falls apart and crumbles to dust. Or, she can keep it forever and ever and fall in love with the uke in a way that’s probably pretty similar to the way I did.

Well, the idea seems to have been a good one. I walked in with her actual gift (a little bit of jewelry and a learn guitar DVD that I’m no longer using, but I figured might at least get her feet back in the water with a little bit of motivation), and also, with the uke, and a flash drive I loaded with some free pdf uke songbooks and sheets from around the internet to give her something to work on.

She said: ‘You brought your uke.’

I said: ‘There’s a reason for that. Do you want to hear it? … It’s your uke now.’  And explained my Shelby logic, that she can use it to try out strumming lefty and decide from that whether or not she wants to restring her guitars.  She said she was speechless. It seemed to go over well, and I’m glad to send my first uke off to a new happy home where it will get some love.

But! That is not all the music love I got going on tonight. I also met a left handed bass player who was a) indescribably tall and b) asked me if I play lefty and gave me a high five when I said yes.

I was talking a bit to one of my friends about music theory. She’s more familiar with it than I am, and I was telling her that I have a hard time getting it to stick in my head since I’m basically a kinesthetic learner; I have a hard time anchoring information in my head if I don’t have something to poke at. Then, he comes over, with that musician glimmer in his eye and goes “are we talking about music?”  I love that glimmer; you know the one – that one all musicians get when their ear catches on to the fact someone is music geeking. They could be in the middle of an unrelated conversation; it’s like a Spidey sense.  I love that glimmer because it’s almost like the love of music just oozes off of that person.

Well, we talked a bit about the difference between bass and guitar, and I told him how I was having a hard time figuring out what to even do when I sit down with my bass. With ukulele and even with guitar, if you have a few chords under your belt, you really can sit down with your instrument on a day you’re not feeling particularly focused enough to dig into lessons and just sort of go.  You can still legitimately have a decent practice just running through chord transitions. But, most importantly, I never really sit down with the uke or guitar and have literally ZERO idea of what to do. Since the bass isn’t really designed to be a solo instrument (though of course bass CAN solo, obviously. It was designed to accompany other instruments), I find myself struggling to find a sense of direction.  I think I basically said something to the effect of ‘…so I sit down with the bass, and it’s me, and the bass, and I more or less think ‘ok, so…what now?’  This is how I feel a lot of the time with bass. It’s not that it’s hard. It’s not that I can’t learn. It’s that I pick it up and just…blank.

His suggestion to just dig into something and get rolling: 12 bar blues. So, that’s something I’ll investigate when it’s NOT 2:30 AM.

Also, apparently one of our friends didn’t know I was playing the uke. When she found out she asked if I sang. I told her “well, I sort of have to if I’m playing the uke.” haha.

So, it ended up being a fairly interesting music day, which I wasn’t really expecting.  And, I’m noodling with some other strum patterns on Stone Throw. I’m not committing to a change there, but I want to break the habit of defaulting to the same basic strum before it gets too deeply ingrained if it makes sense to use a different strum instead.  I’m a bit concerned that the pattern sounds a bit too much like one of my other tunes, so I’m going to experiment and see if I can mix the strum up a bit without making any major changes to the vocal part. We’ll see.

Until Next Time, spreading the music love, one ukulele at a time.

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