Ukuleles & music

UkesI’ve been playing music since the mid-1960s. I was inspired by the (then) young Beatles to save all my allowance and buy an electric guitar. A Kent model. Then I had to figure out how to play it. I didn’t take lessons, just hung around with other kids who knew a bit more than I did, so I learned mostly by osmosis.

I started with electric guitar, then switched to bass, but went back to the guitar after a couple of years. Later, I travelled around Canada with an acoustic guitar strapped to my back through the late 60s and early 70s. I owned many instruments through the 80s and 90s. I still have a couple of tenor guitars.

I’ve played, or tried to learn, many other instruments in my day, including harmonica, autoharp, dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, sitar, Strumstick, charango, N.Am. Indian flute, flute, shakuhachi, oboe, upright bass, keyboards, didgeridoo and a few others I’ve probably forgotten. Most of the time my passion for making music has far outpaced my talent for doing so. Still like it, though. Playing music fulfills some primal, essential need in me, just like writing does.

For a while, I had forgotten how much fun making music is, how much joy there can be in just strumming a tune. I was trying too hard, getting frustrated and it was too much like work. In 2008, I got my first ukulele, rather more of a whim than anything else. And in getting it, I rediscovered the fun in playing music. The uke was fun, easier to play and sounded great. Not to mention being small, easy to carry, and lightweight. And it always sparks a conversation.

Since then I’ve had a couple of dozen ukes, of all sizes, trying and testing as many as I could afford, learning about design and style. I’ve sold most, of course, and have just a few choice instruments left: some baritones, tenors and a single banjo uke. I am not as comfortable playing soprano and concert size as I am the larger scales. I’ve also picked up a couple of tenor guitars, too.

Along the way I put together two websites, one with an introduction to the uke, with reviews of all the various ukuleles I’ve owned: www.vintageukemusic.com/ukuleles/. You will also learn about the history, design and cultural importance of ukuleles. A good place to start if you’re interested in getting into ukes or want some buying tips.

Uke and catThe other site I have is about the thousands of vintage sheet music and song books of ukulele arrangements I’ve collected and scanned since I started playing. These are mostly from the 1920s and 1930s: www.vintageukemusic.com. If you’re looking for any old songsheets, or song books from that era, check the site then contact me. I have a large collection of tunes I can search.

If you have song sheets from the 1920s to 50s any I can borrow to scan, I’d really appreciate it. I make them available to other ukulele players to help keep this old music alive for everyone to enjoy today.

I also have a Facebook page for the vintage music site and collection. I’ve really grown to appreciate this old music, and want to keep it alive. Take a look and if you enjoy it, or wish to contribute, and click the “like” button.

This year I got a local ukulele club going. We have regular meetings, lessons and jams at the library (see below). Contact me if you’re interested in joining us, of just show up.

Meantime, I’m also working on re-learning the bass, with an Epiphone viola bass bought locally at Blue Mountain Music, and an Ergo 5-string electric upright bass (update: sold!). I also play a little harmonica and have several harmonica reviews here. And someone recently loaned me a five-string banjo. I may be stretching myself a bit.

Contact me if you want to get together to jam, to talk about the collection of song sheets, or discuss ukuleles in general.

Update: The Collingwood Public Library Ukulele Group (CPLUG) meets in the library on the first and third Wednesday every month, 7-9 p.m. Everyone teen to adult is welcome. Sing along, lessons, uke and music chat, and general camaraderie. See here for more information. Contact the library for details. First Wednesday is aimed at more advanced players who know their chords and strumming patterns. Third Wednesday welcomes newcomers.

Bring your uke(s) and tuners. Join our mailing list and get updates and songs before each meeting.