Over the summer I started taking ukulele lessons. I’ve never played a string instrument before. I also haven’t taken music lessons in years. However, I felt inspired to learn something new. The ukulele seemed accessible, plus it’s small, lightweight, recognizable, and doesn’t require me to make reeds. It’s also relatively inexpensive so I figured the financial investment was small enough to take a chance.
It’s different learning how to play a string instrument. First of all, I can see my fingers. Secondly, I can sing or talk while I’m playing. And the added bonus of not worrying about what I eat and when because I don’t need my mouth to play the instrument. The pitches of the four strings still feel a bit confusing to me, but I’ve accepted this is how the uke works. Other than that, the chords are starting to make sense, even though I can only play about a half dozen.
What’s really surprised me is how the lessons are taught. There’s a monitor in the lesson room. Every lesson, the instructor pulls up something to teach on the screen. The first couple lessons it was images of the uke and a basic chord chart. Then it was “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with the lyrics, notes, and chords all written together. I also got a printed version to take home for practicing.
For the last few weeks, we’ve been practicing strumming patterns with a talking metronome playing through YouTube during our lessons. Sometimes we play along with a video of the current song I’m learning. Last week, the instructor pulled up a metronome with some drumming beats under it. We played along and had a mini jam session.
I have to confess, the first time the metronome started playing on the screen I had a flashback to high school. I used to have a piano teacher who would place the metronome on the piano during my lessons. It was an old-fashioned looking wooden box with a lever that used to swing back and forth to steady ticking noise. To this day I can’t stand the sound of clocks ticking.
The new lessons, and method of teaching, are really fun and engaging. I know these types of options have been around for a long time, but I spent my youth practicing alone, with no technology, and it’s a hard habit to change.