Thursday, May 3, 2012

26 of 30: In Which I Attempt To Master The Ukulele

I received a ukulele as a birthday present from my sisters. Probably one of – if not the best present I’ve ever received from them!
I discovered I could play it when my cousin brought hers to one of our family Christmas gatherings. I play the guitar so learning to play the uke came pretty naturally to me. I had never even held a ukulele, nor heard someone play it live before that Christmas… but I loved it! It was love at first…hear. Coming from something so tiny, the sound is so crisp – so whole! It’s so cute, it literally makes you feel like you’re in a beach somewhere exotic when you hear someone play.

So yeah. I love my ukulele. :)

I didn’t get serious about playing it till recently though. When I first got it, I only knew a few beginner chords and played typical popular songs from Jason Mraz or Train or Ingrid Michaelson... You know, the really easy ones!  Here's one of the first songs I learned how to play, and I sang it with my sister. It only had 4 chords! :)

"Pack Up" by Eliza Doolittle
My sister is so cute!

Now, well, inspired by this little project I'm in, I’ve taught myself (with the help of Youtube) how to play riffs and transitions and chords that make my left hand look like an old lady tangled up in a vine. Pretty cool hardcore stuff! I wanted to try and pick one instrument I could master, instead of just knowing how to play a whole bunch of them. I was getting tired of being mediocre.
But I think the Ukulele is it! It's the one! <3

When K and I went to Salzburg, we hung out with her friend Hannah and husband, Szaby. Szaby is a classical guitarist, and he happened to own a concert ukulele from Cebu! All four of us were musically inclined, so naturally, what was supposed to be just a simple dinner get-together turned out to be a rockin’ jam session! I grabbed their uke and played around with it, strumming one of the new songs I was working on. Szaby, almost on cue got his guitar and - thanks to his magic ears - played along without a hitch. K googled the lyrics and warmed up her vocal chords, and Hannah made up some harmonies as she set up the video camera!

In that household... That windy night... In Salzburg... Music was serious bizness.

After one practice round – this is what we came up with.

"Dream A Little Dream Of Me" Mama Cass Elliot
K on Vocals, Me on the Uke, Szaby on Lead Guitar
Notice my hands getting all fancy? :)

Not too shabby, eh? In our whole trip, this was one of my favorite nights. It was totally unexpected... but music brought us together! La Musique est tres gentil! :)

My experiences with the ukulele didn’t stop at learning it… in fact, one of my greatest accomplishments is TEACHING someone how to play it! Particularly an 11 year old girl!

Just about a week after Salzburg, I was to attend a Naming Ceremony for my godson, Tristan, in the UK. A few months before, I was tasked, along with Trinity (my goddaughter and Tristan’s sister) to perform a song during the ceremony; Trinity on the uke, and myself on vocals. There were a couple challenges we had to overcome. First was that Trinity didn’t know how to play the uke, so I had to teach her. Second was that they live in the UK, and I live in LA. So the lessons had to be conducted online... through Skype.

Ahh. The wonder of technology.

Their mother, A, who happens to be one of my best friends, at least gave us ample time to get it together. The lessons started a couple months before the ceremony, and I have to say --- they actually went better than I had expected. Trinity is a freaking musical genius. Kids… they absorb everything so quickly! It only took us a few lessons for her to be able to play the song, and she bloody ROCKED it! Admittedly, I was pretty nervous at the whole concept of teaching someone how to play an instrument – let alone, ONLINE. I had my apprehensions, and I had mentally prepared a speech on backing off the whole performance if the lessons didn’t go well – but they did! I’d like to think that I’m just THAT good a teacher, but I have to give all the credit to Trinity. She’s a fast learner and musically gifted. She just understands music!
Ahh… reminds me of an 11 year old me… :)

By the time the Naming Ceremony rolled in, Trinity and I were golden. And I’m sure everyone in the audience would agree that we gave a ROCKING performance! Drove the ladies to tears! Unfortunately, no one had half a mind to record our brilliance… Ayayay. It was one of those times where everyone assumed that someone MUST have been recording it. But no one did.

It’s sad. Really. :(

But due to insistent public demand, Trinity and I did a repeat performance. It’s not as fancy as it would have been in the ceremony, but we did pretty well all the same. Here it is…

"Never Alone" by Lady Antebellum
Trinity on the Uke, Me on Vocals
Our friend, C, on Cinematography :)

Tadaa! A rockstar, right? I'm so proud of my pupil!!! :)

I loooove this instrument! It’s handy, it’s cute, you can bring it anywhere, and it sounds amaaazing! I have a long way to go, but I will continue to master the uke. The goal is to play better than Zooey Deschanel, and maybe one day play a duet with JGL. Or Jack Johnson.

Wish me luck! :)