Up until recently, my husband and I have been in sort of an extended battle with our 10-year-old (alias Young Blue) regarding her piano lessons, which she had really soured on. Rather than cause Young Blue to hate learning music altogether by forcing her to continue, we gave her the out of choosing a new instrument, provided she would be reasonably serious about it and get in regular practice. We had discussed drums and a few other options, but Young Blue hadn’t settled on anything. We were starting to wonder what we needed to do to get the kid back on track. Music is an integral part of education as far as we’re concerned, and a big part of our family as well. We find the idea of her not learning music unfathomable; even the kid agrees that she should study something, but she and the piano simply did not get along. We all agreed that by January she would have chosen her new instrument. We had been discussing a new direction for weeks, and we still weren’t sure where we were headed. There was no concrete answer from Young Blue. Perhaps we would just need to choose for her?Then, over the winter break, my husband needed to visit the guitar store to exchange an item. Young Blue was sent along, mostly to get her out of the house for some fresh air. This trip was not at all about Young Blue’s new instrument. Guitar had been, in fact, on the negotiation list, and while it was liked, it was not loved. Electric bass had made its own fleeting appearance on the list of possibilities. By the time of the trip to the guitar store, we weren’t even thinking of pushing any instrument on the kid. Turns out we didn’t need to. When it came to the ukulele, it was love at first sight. Young Blue decided she wanted a ukulele. Really wanted one. Declarations were made, YouTube videos were watched, instruction books were researched, and only two days later the soprano ukulele came home.
My husband is a musician, but ukulele isn’t one of his many instruments. He does play several strings (sitar, guitar, bass), however, so he is able to show Young Blue the gist of chords and help her with tuning and other maintenance. He also found an instruction web site for her so that she can pick up some basic information during the winter school break.
Listening to her practicing her strums and first chords is soothing. So glad she didn’t pick the trombone! Apparently her interest is quite timely:
“The ukulele revival: Once associated with Tiny Tim and other novelty
artists, the pint-size stringed instrument has enjoyed a serious revival
in recent years, thanks to the patronage of some high-profile artists.
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder devoted an entire album to it this year with
the solo release “Ukulele Songs,” Paul McCartney broke one out during
his stadium concerts to pay tribute to his old pal George Harrison
(himself a uke devotee), and much-praised indie rocker Merrill Garbus of
Tune-Yards rocked one at her concerts and on her acclaimed “Whokill”
There are also lesser-known ukulele virtuosos, such as the amazing Jake Shimabukuro.
Update: An outside instructor has been found. It looks like Young Blue is really connecting with her new instrument, and it turns out we were right to let her pick her new instrument mostly on her own. Who knew such a big life lesson could be packed into a cute little ukulele?