Last week, I took a super-basic introductory class to the ukulele. It was truly basic; the instructor didn’t even flinch when I asked exactly how I’m supposed to strum (do i use my thumb… okay, she’s using her nail… and now there’s a pick… what is happening?) I was pretty frustrated for maybe the first hour of the class. Even though I went into it with low expectations, my brain just is not accustomed to not being able to do something.
Slowly but surely though I started to kind of figure out what was going on. And that is 100% because the instructor, Frank, was fantastic. As a former high school music teacher, he was perfectly patient and attentive, able to pick up on everyone’s learning style and offer appropriate feedback all around. He arrived at the space early and tuned everyone’s instrument (remember: super beginners here) and set a very easy, calm atmosphere for the class.
Frank paced the class perfectly – it really felt more like I was hanging out with a friend of a friend, just learning the ukulele on a lark, which is really the best environment for someone who maybe gets a little anxious and worked up about things not going according to plan. (The “plan” being that I’d leave the class able to play the ukulele!) A small class (kind of Dabble’s thing) allowed us to all feel comfortable with each other and to receive personalized attention from the instructor.
There’s no reason someone like me, with no musical experience, should be able to just “pick up” the ukulele, I know. But with the foundation of this introductory class, I can commit to teaching myself. I left the class confident that I can spend the next three months practicing chord drills and tip-toeing into playing an actual song.
Frank provided packets of useful information – chord drills, chords for popular songs, diagrams for different tuning, and then emailed that information to us all the next day, too. So, I am truly prepared to try to teach myself how to play the ukulele! Note: Hallelujah is a great song to use to learn with just four or five chords and it probably being something you’ve heard a hundred times or so.
U-could-lele: An Intro the Uke was offered through Dabble, a wonderful Chicago start-up you should all check out. Other class topics include: knitting, career advancement, stand-up comedy, craft beer, fencing… you name it, you’ll find it! (You can also find Dabble in Milwaukee and Denver.)
Have you learned any new instruments as an adult? Any other new skills you had to really work at in the beginning?