Posts Tagged ‘probably really bad ideas’

The first in a new series (maybe)…
Somehow, I no longer feel I am quite alone in the room. This is probably because I am not. How do I feel? Tense. Almost threatened. I am not quite comfortable putting fingertip to keyboard (certainly not in the case of my left index finger, for reasons which may or may not become apparent).

Well, I’m not alone. My new companion is reclining, apparently nonchalantly, on the bed a few feet away, seemingly oblivious. Should I be fooled? Well, I should probably relax, actually, because my new roommate is made of plastic. It is, to be precise (and we may as well), a fresh-from-the box Makala MK-SC ukulele.

Say hello to my little friend.

What,’ regular readers may well be asking themselves, ‘is Awix doing buying a uke? The last major plastic purchase he made was some Ogre heavy cavalry, and even gluing toy soldiers together is at the outer limit of his manual dexterity. And let us not even mention his musical ability, or lack of it. This is the man who received the Choking Cat award for his karaoke last summer, and was told by a student that he shouldn’t be allowed to sing in public.’

I know, I know. Moment of madness on Wednesday. Well, twenty minutes of madness, I suppose, which I decided to go with. There was I, walking along thinking idly about what I really felt was lacking from my life. And, not for the first time, my lack of musicality was the answer. It would be a nice idea, I thought, vaguely, to learn an instrument. A really easy instrument, preferably. A memory flashed into my head of a moment from Frank Skinner’s BBC4 George Formby documentary, a few weeks back. ‘The uke,’ he declared, ‘is like Backgammon. Easy to play…‘ Well, I’ve been a fan of Formby’s music for years and there are few things I enjoy more than a tough game of Backgammon, so the rest of Skinner’s sentence (‘…but really difficult to play well.’) slipped out of my memory. Waterstones had a copy of Ukulele for Dummies  (a claim which may never get a sterner test) and my fate was sealed.

So I have been wondering why I felt the need to launch myself into this possibly unwise new venture. I have come to the following conclusions:

  • I do like a challenge.
  • Many times there isn’t a karaoke machine around when you need one and the thought of being able to accompany myself in an impromptu rendition of ‘Hotel California’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’ is an appealing one (although anyone who knows me and is likely to be in the line of fire may disagree).
  • Acquiring the discipline and patience required to become a decent player will make me a better human being in general.
  • The uke is famously associated with a diverse and welcoming global community of players. Nearly everyone I’ve met wargaming has been very nice, but from a fairly limited constituency, and I would not be averse to branching out and meeting different types of people.
  • I was having one of my funny turns again.

At least the expectations aroused when you pull out a plastic ukulele (as opposed to, say, an electric guitar or a violin) are mercifully limited. The ‘sounds surprisingly good’ threshold is correspondingly low.

However, no sooner had I started looking seriously at ukes than I seemed to be surrounded by them. A striking canary yellow one popped up on the desk of someone at the place where I do my evening course of a Wednesday and we had a quick chat on the strengths of the uke as an instrument. (My tutor was looking on somewhat sardonically, as we were supposed to be discussing receptive sub-skills that night.)

And then, what should be on the bill at my favourite cinema in a couple of weeks but a special one-off showing of a documentary entitled The Mighty Uke, ‘with Q&A and mass audience strum-a-long. Bring your uke!’ I don’t normally go in for this sort of thinking at all, but somehow it seems the stars are just right.

Anyway, the uke and associated kit arrived yesterday and I got to grips with it. Unfortunately, the very first thing I had to do was restring the damn thing as I am a lefty and the shop sent it to me set up in the conventional fashion. This was not an ideal start to our relationship.

Luckily I showed at least some sense by investing in an electronic tuner. Otherwise I think I would still be plinking and plonking away and making a terrible racket while fumbling with the tuners and muttering testily to myself. The tuner made hitting the gCEA set-up a doddle (relatively speaking).

So, the new uke was strung for a lefty and in tune (at least temporarily). The next step, obviously, was to get beyond the twanging ruler sound and start producing something sounding vaguely like musical notes. It was going to be a long night…

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