Wednesday, 15 June 2011

uke gotta be kidding

Gábor and I like to give our children musical instruments to play with. We have; a roll-up piano, a selection of pipes, whistles and recorders, 2 bodran (proper size and a mini one), another kind of drum that is a bit like a djembe, an ocarina, plenty of maracas (and other rattle type percussion), a triangle, a thunder tube, a güiro and a ukulele.

We have all these instruments around the house, yet the kids hardly ever see me playing any of them, I don't know how to. I used to play the violin (until I was about 11 but quit because my teacher wanted me to sit exams, I just wanted to have fun - at least that's how my anti-authority adult self remembers it, perhaps my mum would tell a different story) and I also played the clarinet but gave it up as teen (when I gave up everything else that actually required some effort (like school for example)).

Gábor has written a few times now about Ernő serenading us on the ukulele, he is surprisingly good and tuneful (both his singing and playing) considering her is only 21 month old. We originally got the ukulele for Lily but she has never been particularly interested in it (occasionally it was incorporated into some dressing up and imaginative play - imagine Lily, in a kimono, draped in beads, strumming the uke while singing Finnish children's songs...magic(these side notes get pretty long and even have their own side notes (I wonder if it is possible for people to follow my thoughts in my writing))) she prefers the piano, so we have allowed Ernő to claim it as his own. That is until now. Now I want a bit of the action.

As part of my teacher’s education, I had to choose to learn either the guitar or the piano. It was a tough choice; guitars are mobile, I can take it to any classroom and beyond – but I had had a go with guitars in my teens without any success. With pianos, you can’t exactly take one with you (most Finnish classrooms are equipped with a piano, but the likelihood of me teaching in Finland is pretty slim) but I have always wanted to play. In the end piano won out but I still wanted to play an instrument that I can whip out and acompany my students' (and my own kids') singing.

Like I said we already have the Uke and the more Ernő became interested the more I played with the idea of learning, partly so that I can teach him to play when he is a bit older.Plus, if I want my kids to grow up enjoying music and inspired to make music, then the have to see us making music and going through the process of learning to make an instrument actually sound good. So it is my parental duty to learn (isn't it?). 

Over the last year I have accidently stumbled across these 2 youtube videos both of which almost brought me to tears and completely sparked my interest in the instrument:

Then I came across this.

In case you can’t tell what it is, it’s a knitted then felted ukulele case, the pattern for which can be found on Knitty. Our uke doesn’t have a case so not only could I learn a fun instrument, I would get to knit it cute accessories for it too. It just gets better and better.

The deciding factor though was this. The editor of Knitty wrote this blog entry with all sorts of links and tips about teaching yourself to play the ukulele. It is like the world is telling me this is it this is my purpose (perhaps that is putting it a bit strongly). It is decided. I will learn the to play. And what better time to learn than on a road trip. Two and a half weeks of hanging out with the family, exploring the world, driving in our Lada, cooking on campfires and playing the uke. What a dream and I would be so fracking (yes, I’m a sci-fi geek) cool.

Then, just a few days after I had made my decision I saw this! It turns out that the uke would make me “cool” – right up there sitting on the band wagon cool. But I will not be deterred. Most of the time I think I am cool and for once in my life mass culture agrees with me

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