So here’s a question that I get asked a lot: “Why ukulele?”
And I get it, out of all those instruments out there, why did I choose to play ukulele? To fully answer it, I need to tell you a bit of a back story about me. When I was 13/14 years old and going through my hippy phase – I guess a lot of girls experience that phase as a teenager, where they want to change the world and believe that love will make it a better place – well anyway I was going through my hippy phase and really got into folk music. Joan Baez was my heroine (and still is one of them) and there was this one song in particular, that I loved so much that I wanted to learn how to play it myself – “Don’t think twice (it’s alright)”.
So I thought, well I’m gonna learn how to play guitar so I’ll be able to play that song. We had this really old kids guitar at home, that belonged to my dad. Never in my life have I seen him actually play it (he claims that he did play as a kid, but who knows) and it was a little busted already, but still playable. My sister in law plays the guitar and she was nice enought to offer some lessons. First she put on a new set of strings on that old guitar and then she showed me some chords. I thought, well you know, how hard can it be…
It was really hard, my fingers were stiff, I could’t really form the chord shapes, so many strings, not enough fingers. After my sister in law left I did try it again, maybe 2-3 times and then I just gave up. It was too hard for me, I was completely broken and absolutely convinced that I am just not talented enough to learn an instrument and that was it. I really wish that back then youtube, online lessons and social media would already have been a thing, because that might have helped me keep on going, but unfortunately that was not the case.
Fast forward to 2010 – I had found my new heroine Amanda Palmer. She’s a piano player but discovered the ukulele and released an album with songs from Radiohead played on her magical ukulele. I loved it. And it late 2011 she released her song “Ukulele Anthem”. I was hooked and again I felt that I needed to learn how to play an instrument, so I can play this very particular song.
If you read my blog post nikky.and.the.ukulele – two years in the making you know that it took until 2015 that I finally bought a ukulele and another 1,5 years until I started playing it. Here’s why: I was still soooo scared, that I was not talented enough to do this! I am fully aware at how crazy this sounds, but it’s the truth. In all that time, I did however see that there’s a rise in ukulele in pop culture and read a lot about it. And what encouraged me to finally buy one and learn how to play it was the fact, that so many people on the internet claimed, that it was in fact easy to learn (spoiler alert: that’s not completely true). The smaller size also intrigued me – one of the problems with the guitar back when I was a teenager was, that my fingers wouldn’t stretch enough and I thought with the smaller fret board that will be easier (spoiler alert: that’s not completely true either). So the reason I chose to play ukulele was me being defeated my the guitar and the Amanda Palmer inspiration.
“Ukulele Anthem” is one of my go to songs on the ukulele now and I am also able to play “Don’t think twice” on my uke. I guess in the end it all turned out great – just took way longer than my 14 year old self expected it to be.