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My dad was an awesome musician. He was self taught and could pick up any stringed instrument and play completely by ear. He could hear a song once, pick up a guitar or a banjo, and crank out that tune. Reading music wasn't his thing.
My father was also a social recluse and music was his retreat from having to deal with people. He was at his happiest in his room with the door closed whistling along with the tunes he was playing.
One day, when I was around 10-years-old, I was bored and wandered into his room. He showed me a few chords on one of his guitars and from that moment forward, I was hooked. Unfortunately, I didn't have my dad's natural talent for music.
I bought myself a little acoustic guitar and a few instruction books, and eventually I could play a few songs... not well... but at least they sounded a little like the songs I was attempting. I stuck with the guitar for a few years, improving somewhat, but never really making a whole lot of effort.
Over the years, I have picked up a guitar now and then and played the only song to which I could remember the chords. My version of "House of the Rising Son" was a whole lot different than the original, but it was passable.
My life mate loves guitars too and he has a half dozen of them kicking around the house. He plays pretty much like I do. The difference is he does practice and he spends a few nights a week in our music room toughening up his fingertips and learning new chords.
Enter Grace Vanderwaal and her ukulele. I saw her on America's Got Talent and fell in love with the sound of a ukulele. I mentioned my new found interest to one of our friends and the next week he showed up with a ukulele he had tried, but alas really couldn't get the hang of playing. He also included a book of ukulele chords as part of his gift.
I picked up that little ukulele, played a couple of chords, and I haven't put it down since.
The thing about ukuleles is that they are very easy to play. They only have four strings and most of the chords only involve one or two fingers... and occasionally three. Strumming is the hardest part, but if you have any kind of natural rhythm you will get the hang in no time at all. And, best of all, even with minimal skills, it sounds like you really know what you are doing.
I doubt that I will ever be like Grace Vanderwaal. For one thing, she can sing. I can croak out a tune and surprisingly I sound almost human when I sing with my ukulele. However, I have found an instrument that allows me to express my musical creativity and allows me to show off a little at family gatherings.
I would totally recommend a ukulele as a learning instrument for children who are musically inclined. I don't know why they don't offer a ukulele as an alternative instrument in music class rather than a violin or a saxophone. I was forced into attempting to learn the violin and it was a very regretful experience for both my parents and me.
So, here's to a little overlooked and under appreciated instrument that really deserves more attention than it gets. And thank you, Grace Vanderwaal, for bringing it to my attention!