My Journey to Ukulele Paradise

Written By: Savannah Johnson

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G.K. Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

I’d like to preface by saying I am no musician. I can’t read music and I have never been very musical. But I determined to learn the ukulele (much to the irritation of all my suitemates in Phillippe!).

Here’s how it happened. One day, my boss’s daughter came into work with her dad, and she brought her ukulele with her. She taught me a couple chords, and I was inspired–hooked–ready!

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The most musical experience I had ever had prior to this was my dad teaching me to play “It’s a Small World” on the piano, which I can no longer can play. But there was something about this little instrument that made me feel capable of mastering it. Even a single chord gave me flashbacks to spending time on a beach in Hawaii, or watching Lilo and Stitch.

So for my birthday, I asked for a small ukulele. My roommate taught me two chords, and I just kept practicing them over and over. I searched YouTube for tutorials, and quickly discovered I was out of my league! I couldn’t even figure out how to tune the thing by myself, even with the use of the tuner that accompanied it.

I downloaded an app called Yousician that helped me tune the thing. Then I discovered that it was actually a music lesson app! I only downloaded the free version, which gives you 10 minutes of lessons every day, and I started learning the basics. It teaches you both Lead and Rhythm by giving you an introduction video, then a song to play through. If you’ve ever played Rock Band, it’s kind of like that. I was pretty excited about the Rock Band set up, because I was boss at the drums on Rock Band.

After a lot of practice, I started to get the hang of it! My best songs currently are “My Dog Has Fleas” and “Playing in the Park.” Although let me tell you, just as I began to get proud of myself, Yousician put me right back in my place by reminding me that I am NO musician. After perfecting “My Dog Has Fleas”, I leveled up, and immediately things got way harder. I’ve been stuck on level 3 for about 3 weeks now, even though I practice almost every day. I would like to make a public service announcement to anyone who has a room anywhere near mine, in which they can hear my horrible practice times as I miss chords and play the wrong ones–I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

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I would like to end this by saying if you are hoping to learn an instrument, just keep practicing (even if it’s behind as many doors as you can hide behind, so nobody can hear how bad you are) because that’s when you get better. My friend Andrea Drake says, “learning the ukulele is a gateway into learning other art forms,” and she’s right!  Honestly, I’ve had a great time trying to teach myself how to play this little instrument, and although the progress may be slow (and painful to listen to), I believe it will be worth it in the end.

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