Ten Things I Love About You, Kulele
by Amy Conley
- JAZZ! As a longtime guitar player, I always wanted to play jazz chords (did you know they are hard with six strings?). But when I discovered the ukulele, I realized all those chords are no more difficult than other chords, since there are only four strings. Playing jazz opens up a whole new experience for students, audiences, or choruses, and a whole new genre of music to explore. It also is a huge boon to my songwriting repertoire of chords!
- WEIGHT! Wow, a ukulele in a gig bag on my back feels like a feather! Okay. I exaggerated. Maybe ten feathers.
- BANJO UKULELES ARE FUN! They go perfectly with kazoos and give that funky little happy sound, even happier than a banjo OR a ukulele (if you can imagine that). Check out the Firefly made in Massachusetts by the Magic Fluke Company.
- TEACHING! I am SO much happier teaching ukulele than I was teaching guitar. Not only do people stick with it longer because it is easier, but teaching a group of people who are singing while playing ukulele sounds much better than lots of loud guitars!
THE DAILY UKULELE and The Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition, both compiled and arranged by Liz and Jim Beloff. With 365 and 366 songs, respectively, in many genres, they are the perfect books for students of all levels. They are also wonderful collections for performers. These books revolutionized my life when I found them five years ago and added ukulele classes to my music business. Using these songbooks saves me tons of time! Spoiler alert: most songs go back thirty or more years. That’s why I love them!
- COMMUNITY Playing the ukulele creates opportunities to sing, play, and learn with many other people, and to connect with others all around the globe through camps, festivals, and social media.
- ENERGY The energy needed to work with children is considerable, as you know. My work with adults is still energetic, but uses a different kind of energy where I can sit in a chair once in a while and not worry about my students eating stuff off the floor, running into each other, or climbing on the furniture. I can even go out of the room sometimes when needed. Now my week consists of classes and events that run on sustainable energy—mine!
- VARIETY Playing ukulele adds a lot of variety to my performance. After a few songs on guitar or banjo, the ukulele makes a nice change. It also can give my tired arms a break. And, like I mentioned, adding jazz songs with a ukulele is a lot of fun.
- ADULTS The uke has inspired me to learn jazz songs from the 1920s and 1930s, teach more adult classes, learn more adult songs, create a more attractive set list for senior concerts, and lead ukulele workshops. Adults are very different from children to teach, and I enjoy that challenge as well.
LESS IS MORE Four simple strings, played one at a time, sound quite beautiful and can give you all kinds of musical ideas if you listen for them. Many chords are played with only one or two fingers upon the fret board, leaving your other hand to brush across the strings or pluck them one at a time. The world is your oyster! The ukulele is your pearl!
Final Thoughts: If you play guitar, get a uke. You won’t regret it. If you don’t play guitar, get a uke. You won’t regret it either. If you want people to learn with, search for a ukulele club near you or start one on a site like Meetup.com or at your library or local music store. Then let the wild rumpus start!