Unshelved Clearance Sale

Tiptoeing Through the Uke-lyptus

My family spent most of last week camping with several dozen fellow homeschooling families. As you might expect these are all special people, smart and funny and every one of them outrageously talented, often in multiple intimidating ways. One common thread was music. Several times I sat listening to campfire singalongs with a dozen or so musicians playing a variety of stringed instruments (and a flute or two). I came away deeply inspired and determined to, finally, learn up a musical instrument.

Since I have gone down this path many times over my lifetime with piano and guitar, failing each time, I decided to look hard at what instrument choice would help me succeed:

  • I'm lazy and undisciplined, so it needs to be easy to learn.
  • I travel a lot, so it needs to be highly portable.
  • It needs to feel fun, so that I'm inspired to practice and play.
  • I love to sing, so it needs to be a good accompaniment instrument.
  • I'm a cartoonist, so it needs to be inexpensive.

After some research the humble ukulele became the obvious choice. Like me you probably owned and strummed a cheap plastic uke at some point in your childhood, but it's quite a respectable instrument played by honest-to-god musicians. It's small, fun, great for singing-along, and reputedly very easy to learn. So I've ordered a hibiscus red concert Flea and some music books to start off with.

Meanwhile I'm enjoying all the uke love on YouTube. I already have a crush on Molly Lewis, who plays the Fluke, the Flea's slightly bigger brother:

And if you don't believe ukes can make real music, check out Jake Shimabukuro:

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Little Hawk, a young Wampanoag, stays friends with John Wakeley even after John’s stepfather kills him.

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