Ukulele Lust

I think I want one, and it scares me a little.

Not once in my nearly three decades on this planet had I ever imagined myself as a ukulele player. And yet, there I was on Sunday afternoon — poking around eBay and wondering what I’d have to pay in shipping fees to get one of these Hawaiian pygmy guitars sent to my home in Pennsylvania.

I blame my houseguest from this weekend: Jen, a dear friend of my wife and me, whose family has a penchant for taking up unusual stringed instruments. Jen’s sister is an accomplished harpist; last year, Jen brought a banjo on her visit to our home. So, naturally, this year she pulled out a ukulele.

I’m a longtime guitar player, so I picked up the little thing out of curiosity — and before I knew it I had spent a good part of the weekend learning how to plunk out tunes like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Jack Johnson’s “Flake,” and (why not?) “Jingle Bell Rock.” I was even figuring out new ukulele arrangements of a few goofy songs I had written with my friends in college. They actually sounded pretty good.

Naturally, all of this led to my peering curiously into the ukulele-centered corners of the Internet, learning how to buy a “uke” and how the tuning on a “soprano” is different from a “tenor” and what the heck Makalas and Lanikais are.

It turns out decent ukuleles are relatively cheap, and I’m awfully tempted to buy one. On the other hand, I barely even play my guitar these days, and it’s easy to imagine the uke’s novelty wearing off in a couple of weeks. So I dunno.

I’m also a smidge worried about setting a precedent by giving into my musical-instrument envy. Because I just know Jen’s going to drag a double bass through our door one of these years, and then I’ll really be in trouble.

Article © 2010 by Michael Duck