Humble Uker has a point: Ukulele inspires love of music, not just the ukulele

The post from HU was really interesting and has had me thinking for a couple of weeks.  In fact, I started writing a blog post about it a while back but after six pages (and I know I am not done) I decided the completion of the writing would have to wait.  You don’t want to read it unless it turns into a gripping novella.  It might.

Humble Uker wrote in his post,

the ukulele has opened many new doors for people that never knew they were musical. The ukulele is fun and you can play simple to intensely complicated music on it. It is taking it’s place as a serious instrument. And WE are all becoming musical.

He has a point.

If I had not rediscovered the ukulele and been playing almost every day for the past few years, I would never have been comfortable believing I could play a bass ukulele.

And now I have to confess …  sort of.

If I had not been playing the ukulele, I would have never wondered how to start a ukulele group in my area.  My wondering out loud led to someone saying to me, “You should attend the flute circle we have here. The group has been going at least five years. Maybe you could learn how they got the group going and keep it going.”

Two urban wood (PVC-pipe) flutes (left). First "E" and "A" cedar flutes (center). The routed and glued block that became an F# cedar flute (right)

I went to the flute circle for that reason (you can read about the experience here).  I even took my ukulele thinking I might blend in.

But the experience changed my view of the Native American style flute. I was struck by the beauty of its sound, met great people and met three people who made flutes. I vowed I would make my own flute. (I’ve made more than 10 now).

I’ve always wanted to have a Native American style flute but thought they were too expensive and I wouldn’t know how to play it.  It is easy to learn how to play (practicing is always a different thing) and beautiful.

To chronicle my Native American style flute journey, I started another blog, Flute-Perspective.  Recognize the connection?  How music affects our perspectives.

Do not think this was being disloyal or tired of the ukulele.  On the contrary, I am working out how to play both flute and ukulele (not at the same time) together.

To be fair, one of the responses to Humble Uker’s post does raise the other possibility. Anonymous wrote:

Or…Perhaps people are simply just getting tired of the standard C6-tuned ukulele. They’ve played it for a while, it’s no longer new and cute (like a puppy/kitten), playing that cover of the Monkees just isn’t doing it for them anymore, and it’s not the be-all and end-all of
musical existence any longer. Maybe it’s limitations are becoming evident, after all it is only a small (usually) four-string instrument.

This might be what is causing the movement to other instruments – i.e., it isn’t because the ukulele is so musically wonderful that it leads to other avenues of expression, but perhaps people find it to be not as wonderful as they expected it to be or as it was sold to them, and their musical journeys now require more nutrition than the little uke can provide them.

This would not be surprising. Waves come to ends for reasons not forseen during their rising phases.

This may be true for some people, but I doubt it is the rule.  It isn’t true for HU, me, or Franco who wrote a comment on HU’s post.  I have not given up my ukuleles for my flutes, or the bass, or my shiny iPad and  its techno-instruments, or my Appalachian dulcimer that I’ve had longer than the ukulele.

If anything the ukulele has re-kindled my joy in making music. It helps that it is portable.  But it has been liberating to make music.   And that has made a huge difference in my perspective.

Oh, and if it helps my case,  I bought the Kala Ubass AFTER I’d started the flute blog and made at least 10 flutes.  I think they’ll sound incredible together.

What about you?

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4 Responses to Humble Uker has a point: Ukulele inspires love of music, not just the ukulele

  1. Jeff West says:

    Thanks UP for delving deeper into this topic.

    I have only had a few experiences where I was in a large group of experienced players where there were several musicians playing 5 or more other instruments. For the intermediate player who hasn’t had many group musical experiences there is a real feeling of euphoria. The experienced players will take solos and the song will stretch out and you get into the musical groove. And here is the place where you feel the music is getting into the real fun.

    You see other players who are masters of their instruments and you get curious about other instruments. I am perhaps in the minority but I wouldn’t feel moving on to another beloved instrument would be a betrayal of the ukulele but a further embracement of the joy of music. I think all of the effort we put into learning music just expands our possibilities.

    Music is the glue for gathering all of the instruments and that’s why I’ve been so intrigued with Jim D’Ville’s ear training. I want to be able to feel the music better and to know my instrument better in order to open up for some solos where the music flows.

    Perhaps my highest impromptu musical moment was playing Stray Cat Strut at Burning Uke 2009. I had several friends stand up and join in including a base player and Andy Andrews (Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz) playing a wailing saxophone solo.

    For me, developing the ability to join in on a song without a sheet of paper, is where I am heading. The ukulele with it’s 4 strings has opened my eyes to many possibilities.



    • jlr7 says:

      You would find the Native American style flute playing of interest. There are a group of people who believe you do not read music to play the flute. Rather, you play as you feel. With the pentatonic scale it’s hard to play a “wrong” note. So you have people playing the skyline of trees, for instance. Whatever they feel comes to them and their flute. A very interesting concept and a lot of fun if applied to the ukulele. Cheers.


  2. Rhan Wilson says:

    To both of you and whoever else reads this:
    I totally understand what you mean about possibly not being loyal to the ukulele, but it does strike me as slightly funny that that would even enter one’s thoughts.

    I am a lifelong musician and made it a point to get my hands on and play as many instruments as possible, ukulele being one of the most recent.

    I consider any new instrument as adding to my love affair with music, not in any way replacing or being disloyal to any other instrument.
    And though I enjoy the uke very much, it is music itself that I love, not the individual instrument.

    You both bring such wonderful insight to such a simple activity – playing music together – the way it used to be.

    And though I have played professionally for most of my life, it has been only recently, playing uke with others, that my real appreciation for music has blossomed.




    • jlr7 says:

      How well put, Rhan. Isn’t it interesting to ponder that something so seemingly small and simple can have such a powerful effect on that which is large, abstract yet personal — our appreciation of music.


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