THE UKULELE: HISTORY OF A REVIVAL

Ukulele players are mutiplying on the east and west coasts in the US. There also seems to be increased interest in Japan and Europe. Ukuleles are appearing in TV commercials and movies. And even Kurstin Dunst the star of the Spiderman movies has sung to ukulele accompaniment as the credits role in a movie she made called The Cat's Meow. The damage done to the reputation of this instrument by Tiny Tim has been long lasting but the people who remember him are fading from the scene and have moved away or retired in many instances. Younger people have never heard of him and therefore might reasonably consider taking up the instrument. The ukulele developed from a Portuguse instrument known as the braguinha, a four-string instrument strung with wire strings. Manuel Nunes, a Portuguese Cabinet Maker was the first to make ukuleles in his own shop in Honolulu in 1880. What is not widely known though is that the ukulele is tuned completely different from the braguinha which is tuned in fifths. The ukulele is tuned in thirds similar to the highest four strings of a guitar. This results in an entirely different sort of instrument. What is also less widely known is that in 1880, the guitar was already an instrument that was familiar to the Hawaiians, having been introduced by Mexican cowboys who came to Hawaii in the 1830's. If you take a guitar and remove the two lowest strings and then put a capo on the fifth fret, you have an instrument that is tuned like a ukulele. (For those who do not play the guitar, a capo is a bar which is strapped across the strings to hold them all down in one place.) Thus, the ukulele is really more like the little brother to the guitar and relates to a guitar the way a violin relates to a cello. In the 19th century, the Hawaiians had already been introduced to European-style music by missionaries. Because of this their folk music, which must have consisted mainly of shouts and drums and rattles, was superseded by a more sophisticated type of music which made use of melodies and harmonies as well as using rhythms and shouts. After being invented at around 1880 the ukulele soon became Hawaii's most popular instrument. In 1915, at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco there was a pavilion hosted by Hawaii. The Hawaiian legislature appropriated a large amount of money for the pavilion to promote Hawaiian products and tourism. One of the main attractions of the Hawaiian pavilion was a show which featured hula girls in grass skirts playing ukuleles. This show also featured a hit song called "On the Beach at Waikiki". Such a large impression was made on so many people by the Hawaiian show at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that a craze for Hawaiian music and ukuleles spread across the country. Soon the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley in New York were writing dozens of songs referring to Hawaii, and instrument makers in the mainland U.S. such as the Martin Company began turning out lots of ukuleles. (Most of this history is well known to everybody and I'm just reviewing it here to give an introduction to the subjects I wish to discuss in greater detail.) Although the ukulele is generally described as a folk instrument, it is really more than this. I say this because from the beginning the ukulele has been used in professional performances with music that is probably written down. Folk music may be thought of as music which is played by mostly amateur musicians who learn it from other musicians or by ear and who do not read music very well or possibly who do not read music at all. While many ukulele players undoubtedly fall into this category, from the very beginning a very large number of ukulele players were professional musicians who could read music. As the ukulele craze spread and as more amateurs got more involved with the instrument, the publishers began to put chord diagrams for ukulele chords above the music. In the twenties and thirties most of the chord diagrams were for ukulele instead of guitar, but in the forties, the guitar diagrams began to prevail. The ukulele in the thirties was very popular with college students and we're all familiar with the picture of the college boy in a raccoon coat and pork pie hat playing his ukulele. You're probably saying to yourself now, " what is interesting about this?" Four years ago I would have said the same thing. About that time, though, I began to play a ukulele which I had bought two or three years earlier in Hawaii. This led me to the intriguing discovery that the music scene has changed a great deal lately and not for the better. As I begin to acquire music to play that was written in the '20s and '30s, I noticed that the songs were more ingenious than those I had encountered previously and used chords such as augmented fifth, ninth, and minor seventh which were completely unknown to me. The words to the songs were often sophisticated and witty and incorporated sarcasm and cynicism which is today considered very politically incorrect. I had two ukulele books that I had bought in Hawaii that were compiled by Jim Beloff. I was surprised at how hard it was to play songs such as "Button up your Overcoat" and "Dancing in the Dark". Not only do these songs have lots of chords, they have a fairly brisk beat so that you have to be able to change chords rapidly. This is where the ukulele becomes a superior instrument for the amateur player. Most people today are completely unfamiliar with the ukulele and those who have some familiarity with it generally think of it as being sort of a toy version of a guitar. After having spent the last three years playing the ukulele, though, I am convinced that it is not only quite different from a guitar but is an entirely different sort of instrument for a different kind of music than that generally played on a guitar. As I explained above, the ukulele was developed in the 1880's long after the guitar had been brought to its present form. The guitar is mainly a folk music instrument whereas the ukulele is more suited to playing the songs written by the Tin Pan Alley composers and the Broadway composers in the twenties and thirties. The guitar is mostly being used to play blues music, country and western music and bluegrass and other folk music. These types of music are usually performed without reference to written sheet music. They usually involve a lot of repetition of lines and use simple chords and not usually more than three or four chords per song. The emphasis is mainly on the words and some of these tell a complicated story. The first ukulele craze occurred in the twenties. During that decade the Martin Guitar Company sold twice as many ukuleles as it did guitars. The hit songs of the twenties were almost all Tin Pan Alley songs or Broadway show tunes. Examples are "Margie", "Whispering", "Look for the Silver Lining", "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "I'm Nobody's Baby", "April Showers", "I'll See You in My Dreams", "There'll Be Some Changes Made", "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", "Carolina in the Morning", "Yes, We Have No Bananas", "Tea for Two", "Nobody's Sweetheart", "Dinah", "It Had to Be You", "Manhattan", "If I Could Be With You", "At Sundown", "Basin Street Blues", "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Stardust" and "Putting on the Ritz". These songs are easy to play on the ukulele and very suitable to the type of sound a ukulele makes. They are much harder to manage on a guitar. The hit songs from the thirties were similar to those in the twenties and included "Sophisticated Lady", "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", "Night and Day", "It's Only a Paper Moon", "What a Differece a Day Made", "Blue Moon", "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "Just One of Those Things", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "That Old Feeling", "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm", "The Lady is a Tramp", "I'll Be Seeing You", "Heart and Soul", "My Heart Belongs to Daddy", "We'll Meet Again", "All the Things You Are" and "Day In Day Out". All these songs and hundreds more from the twenties and thirties are just right for the ukulele. For the guitar, they are not as suitable. After the end of the thirties, the ukulele, to some extent, began to become less popular. The guitar started to achieve a greater popularity when in 1924, Vernon Dalhart recorded the "Wreck of the Old '97" and, on the other side "The Prisoner's Song". This record with guitar accompaniment became the first country record to sell a million copies. Vernon Dalhart was a Texan who studied voice at the Dallas Conservatory of Music and then moved to New York where he performed in operas and operettas. The song, "The Wreck of Old '97" was based on an actual train wreck. Vernon Dalhart listened to a record of this song recorded by another singer and from this made the hit record that was released in 1924. The other side of the record, as I stated, was "The Prisoner's Song". These two early country songs are definitely better suited to guitar accompaniment than ukulele. Blues songs, which began to be popular about this time also, are more suitable for guitar accompaniment than for ukulele. Since country songs and blues songs have simplified chords for accompaniment and have repetitious lyrics they are usually played without sheet music and are memorized by the performers. This is also true of folk songs which became popular in the fifties such as those recorded by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. In contrast to these, the Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songs listed above require a lot of work if they are to be memorized because they have many chord changes and the chords frequently include those not used in blues or country and western music including minor-seventh chords, minor sixth chords, augmented-seventh chords, diminished chords and others. Rock and roll songs can be thought of as pretty much an extension of the blues since these songs use the same chords and the same techniques but may have a more upbeat tempo. Obviously the electric guitar has been the main instrument for the rock and roll type music since almost the beginning. If you like the Broadway songs and the Tin-Pan-Alley-type music as well as Dixieland jazz, then obviously you should give the ukulele a try. The ukulele enjoyed a resurgence in the early fifties after being promoted on television by Arthur Godfrey. Coincidentally at this same time there was a resurgence of interest in Dixieland (or traditional jazz) which had previously been popular during the twenties. Once again, though, the rise to prominence of folk music in the sixties as described above caused guitars to remain the most popular instrument by far. About this time the classical and flamenco guitarists were appearing on TV and nylon-string guitars were being imported from Sweden. Ukuleles were relegated to the status of toys and even rare Martin ukuleles were being sold for $15 or $20 at garage sales. All the major manufacturers of ukuleles either went out of business or discontinued their ukulele lines except for Kamaka, a company in Hawaii. In the late sixties Tiny Tim became famous after he appeared on the Laugh In and the Johnny Carson Shows. But even though he was a competent performer with the ukulele, his personal style may have resulted in a net loss for the popularity of the instrument. Later on in the sixties and into the seventies and continuing into the present day, Ian Whitcomb began playing and recording ukulele performances. He was a former rock star who found more satisfaction with Tin-Pan-Alley-type music. He appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and at various jazz festivals and has published many books including a number intended for ukulele players. These have a CD in the back with recordings of Ian's band playing the songs in the book. In order to give the reader a better perspective on the viewpoint that the ukulele is not really a folk instrument I am going to outline a brief history of popular music in America. Popular music in America can generally be thought of as fitting into one of two categories: that of folk music which includes blues, bluegrass, country and western as well as folk songs, and on the other hand that of music that is written and performed by professionals and interested amateurs from sheet music. Of course, these two categories have a lot of influence on each other. Since early folk music was not written down and was not recorded we have to depend on the sounds of the versions that have been handed down over the generations to know what the early folk music sounded like. We can tell more about music that was written in sheet-music form although in many cases we don't know exactly how the instruments that were used to perform it actually sounded. In America a unique set of circumstances existed from the middle of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century resulting in the composition of what is probably the best and most voluminous collection of popular music in history, and by a considerable margin. The earliest professional popular music was in minstrel shows such as performed by Ed Christy's minstrels and many other minstrel troops who introduced some of the first hit American songs such as "Way Down Upon the Swanee River", "Oh, Susannah", "Dixie" and "Old Dan Tucker". Originally these shows had singers accompanied by fiddle, banjo, tambourine and bones (for rhythm). Later other instruments were introduced also. At the end of the 19th century minstrel shows declined in popularity as the vaudeville shows rose into prominence. Stephen Foster and Daniel Emmett were two of the great American songwriters whose songs were made popular by minstrel shows. At about this time, in the last decades of the 19th century, the music business as a business began to take shape in New York City. In that town composers, performers and publishers from all over America and from Europe came to achieve success. The piano had become an extremely popular instrument and was even a fixture in the homes of the Lower-East-Side immigrants who were not particularly affluent. The fact that composers and performers from various places in Europe as well as various parts of the United States all were gathered together in New York City led to a great flowering of musical talent such as had never existed before. The widespread availability of pianos created a demand for sheet music enabling composers to make a living just by composing songs. This resulted in a highly professional group of gentlemen who came to work in a small area of New York City that was christened Tin Pan Alley. As an example of some of the things that then happened, consider ragtime music which developed from a combination of the syncopated rhythm of southern Negro music with melodies and harmonies from Eastern Europe. W. C. Handy, composer of the "St. Louis Blues", taught music at A & M College in Huntsville, Alabama, and later had a marching band and dance orchestra. At one of his performances he was impressed when a group of three local black men came on stage and performed a blues number with which the audience was more favorably impressed than it was with the music that Handy was playing at the time. This caused Handy, a black man, to take his knowledge of black folk songs and write the "Memphis Blues", the first popular recorded blues song in history. Later he wrote the "St. Louis Blues", which was a much bigger hit. Handy's ability to read and write music enabled him to set the blues on paper so that it could be sold profitably and recorded by other artists. "Swanee" composed by George Gershwin and performed by Al Jolson combines the european-type chords with a sort of ragtime tempo. Eubie Blake's family had a pump organ which he began to play before the age of six. After that he took piano lessons and became interested in ragtime. (Presumably people taking piano lessons at that period would have had a lot of exposure to the European composers.) His talent and background led him to become one of the first black composers to write a Broadway hit which was named Shuffle Along. The hit song from this was "I'm Just Wild About Harry" which is still a very popular number today. In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band moved to New York City and became very popular after recording the world's first jazz record, The Dixie Jazz Band One Step. This ushered in the jazz age. After 1910 the professional music business was a three-cornered stool. One leg was Vaudeville, another Broadway, and the third, Tin Pan Alley. Tin Pan Alley referred to a small area of New York where the music publishers were located. The location changed from time to time. Tin Pan Alley also referred to the industry of writing and publishing songs. Beginning at about 1890 it became possible for a composer to make a living by writing and having his songs published and it became possible for publishing companies to have a viable business publishing and selling sheet music. As the business developed the expertise of the songwriters increased and greater talent was attracted to the industry. As things picked up in 1910 and into the twenties and thirties, the situation evolved such that one song might have two or even three writers. The composer would write the music and one or two writers would write the lyrics. This gave rise to songwriting teams such as DeSilva, Brown and Henderson who wrote "Button Up Your Overcoat", "You're the Cream in My Coffee," and the "The Best Things in Life are Free". This team approach stands in stark contrast to today's world where every musician wants to compose all of his own music and in some cases to compose it on the spot while he is performing. Not only did the Tin-Pan-Alley songs have multiple authors, they also had professional arrangers to find just the right chords to set off the melodies. Then when these songs appeared in Broadway shows, professional arrangers were hired at great expense to orchestrate the songs for best effect. Since these songs, at the time they were composed, were intended to be published as sheet music, there was no requirement that they should be easily memorized and no requirement that they should use a small number of familiar chords so that they could be played by a musically uneducated (although possibly talented) rural individual. Since people were mostly buying sheet music to play on the piano, the purchaser would naturally be more sophisticated than the average listener of radio or TV today. This type of person was also more likely to go to the Broadway shows than the average tourist who goes to New York these days. Some of the big publishing houses were actually owned by composers such as Irving Berlin. They were usually men of discrimination and taste and the music they published reflected this fact. The sheet music for the popular songs of the twenties and thirties was such that the arrangements could be played by an amateur piano player and in many cases the vocal range was limited to about an octave so that an amateur could sing it. These were about the only constraints on this music. Because of their great variety of chords, rhythms and key changes these songs are difficult to memorize and mostly they are not memorized, they are played from sheet music. To sight read this on a piano requires a lot of years of practice, but to be able to use the chord diagrams for the ukulele and play with the piano or with a singer is much less difficult. For the player who is used to a guitar, this can probably be accomplished in just a few weeks or months. As explained earlier, chords that are difficult or impossible for me to play on a guitar are very easy on a ukulele. It is also much easier to strum the ukulele which only requires use of your fingernail than it is a guitar which has steel strings which must be strummed with some kind of pick. Of course it is possible to use a guitar that is strung with nylon strings but this still gives you two more strings to deal with and the distances between the frets are much farther than is the case on the ukulele. Furthermore after the chord is played on the ukulele the sound dies away much faster than on a guitar which means that the rhythm can be a little bouncier with the ukulele. In contrast to the Tin Pan Alley and show business songs that were written by the pros in New York, another sort of music came from the amateurs in the South and the West and the Appalachian regions. Since this music was not written down or recorded until after the twenties and thirties we don't necessarily know as much about it as we would like. Some people think that the bluegrass sound was more or less invented by Bill Monroe in the forties and did not exist earlier. Even though the bluegrass sound is very complicated and may be very difficult to play it is based on only a few chord changes and when there are lyrics the lyrics are repetitious and not really very complicated. This is the same situation as found with blues songs and other country songs. A large part of the blues instrumental music consists of bass runs on the two lowest strings of the guitar. This is obviously better suited to guitar than ukulele. The rock music heard today is a development of the early blues music which was jazzed up by performers such as Joe Turner. Initially this music was called "rhythm and blues". It was later renamed "rock and roll" when the country performer, Bill Haley, recorded "Rock Around the Clock". In my opinion the last fifty years of so-called rock-and-roll music have merely had variations of the early rhythm and blues numbers that were performed by such great artists as Joe Turner, Hank Ballard and Bo Diddley. The significance of the current upsurge and interest in the ukulele would seem to be based on one or more of the following: 1. People want to sing and play some instrument and the ukulele is easier than the guitar, or 2. People who can play the guitar want another instrument with a distinctive sound, or 3. People want to play a ukulele because it sounds better than a guitar when you are playing the Tin-Pan-Alley and musical-comedy songs described above. If you think you might be interested, try to find some recordings of music written by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Frank Loesser, Al Dubin and Harry Warren, Walter Donaldson, Johnny Mercer and others from the early part of the 20th century up until the beginning of the sixties. These men are mostly forgotten today so you can buy records of their music on 33-1/3 lps very inexpensively. This probably represents the greatest entertainment bargain now available. For best results try to get the original show recording or the original recorded version by the original artist. I need to inform the reader that I have never been interested in spectator sports. I like sports I can be a part of. From the time that I was in junior high school I wanted to play music in the Dixieland style which had had a brief resurgence in the '50s. Since none of this music was available in the stores, or at least, I did not know that it was available, I tried to pick it out by ear with very limited success. After I started hunting down music for the ukulele though, I found most of that Dixieland music which was written from a period starting in about 1900 and continuing up until the '50s. Since this music is full of dissonant chords such as the diminished, minor seventh, minor sixth and augmented seventh chords, only a few musicians will be able to pick it out by ear. I was finally able to achieve a measure of success by buying the music and playing the chords on my ukulele while singing the tune. I thought it would be helpful to other frustrated musicians if I explained some of these things in this article. Even though it's hard to believe, there are people, (including me), who find sports pretty much of a yawn, and see the current crop of TV programs to be an interminable bore. The art of conversation is dwindling in importance as many jobs now leave people mentally exhausted by the time they get home. This has driven me into my current state of amateur musician-audience not required. If this is happening to other people also this could in some measure explain why people are buying all of these ukuleles. As I may have indicated earlier on, the search for ukulele music brought to my attention examples of entertainment from the past which make current efforts look very inadequate. Just the song titles can give an indication of what I mean. When have you heard a song recently which expresses the tender sentiments of "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You, When You Know I've Been A Liar all of my Life", as sung by Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding. How about this one from No No Nanette produced in 1925: "You Can Dance With Any Girl, As Long As You Come Home With Me", or "It's Got to be Love, it Couldn't Be Tonsillitis" from On Your Toes. How about "I Had Someone Else Before I Had You, and I'll Have Someone After You've Gone" or "Somebody Else is Taking My Place". These sentiments are sort of hard to put into words in the current milieu. Two of the men who should get a lot of the credit for the current upswing in ukulele interest are Jim Beloff who has a website at fleamarketmusic.com and Ian Whitcomb whose website is ianwhitcomb.com. Jim Beloff's books titled Ukulele Gems and Ukulele Favorites are his two best, (at least in my opinion) and probably my opinion is influenced by the fact that these two have songs from the '20s and '30s. Ian Whitcomb has been compiling old music for some time now and his book Ukulele Heaven, has the music to such classics as "Where did Robin Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night" and "They're Wearing 'em Higher in Hawaii". Ian Whitcomb's books come with a CD of his band playing the tunes so you can tell what they sound like before you play them. A number of good ukulele songs were written before 1923 and thus, in the U.S. are in the public domain. These include, "After You've Gone", previously mentioned, "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow", as well as "(Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown) What 'Ya Gonna Do When The Rent Comes Round". Songs in the public domain can be performed without paying royalties and without getting permission, provided you can find original sheet music to work from which has the copyright date of 1922 or before. Even though I consider the ukulele a great instrument for amateurs, in the interest of giving the reader a complete description of what's happening today, I am forced to mention that there are professional players on the scene at the present time. Ian Whitcomb performs regularly at venues on the West Coast and his website has many CD's and videos, as well as songbooks and other books that you can obtain. Janet Klein plays the ukulele with her band which she calls The Parlor Boys. Her specialty consists of finding the classic songs that you've never heard of from the twenties and thirties and performing these in California and sometimes Japan. Examples are: "(Any-kind-a-Man) Would Be Better Than You", "I Use To Love You But It's All Over Now", "Tain't No Sin To Take Off Your Skin and Dance Around In Your Bones" and "Cooking Breakfast For The One I Love" formerly a hit by Fannie Bryce. These songs are on her album called Paradise Wobble available from fleamarketmusic.com. Also, currently performing is Estelle Reiner, Rob Reiner's mother, who sometimes plays the ukulele and has an album entitled Ukulele Mama available from fleamarketmusic.com. In England there is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain which may be heard on the CD Legends of Ukulele available from rhino.com and fleamarketmusic.com, a CD which also features another contempory player, Lyle Ritz, playing an instrumental of "Lulu's Back In Town". Most of the recordings on this CD are from an earlier era. The greatest ukulele player and singer of all time, now deceased, was Ukulele Ike whose real name was Cliff Edwards. This is the man who sings "When You Wish Upon A Star" on all the Disney TV shows and records. He was born in 1895. His first hit song was "Ja-Da". He appeared in many movies and Broadway shows and made many, many records. Every record he ever made is worth listening to. He recorded the original versions of "Singing In The Rain" and "Fascinating Rhythm". He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the Disney movie Pinocchio and of Jim Crow in the Disney movie Dumbo. Some of his other hits songs were "June Night" which sold over 3 million records, "Sleepy Time Gal", which sold over a million and "Toot Toot Tootsie", which he introduced, which was also later sung by Al Jolson. It has been reported that he sold a total of over seventy-four million records. Even though he made millions of dollars, he was not overly prosperous because of payments to ex-wives, losses on horse-race gambling and disagreements with the IRS. The fact that he was never as affluent as many of his peers may have accounted for the fact that he outlived most of them and died after reaching the age of 76 or 77. (It must be pointed out that people of his generation who enjoyed great prosperity often died before the age of 50.) Ukulele Ike's recordings are especially interesting for ukulele players because many of them consist of only him and his ukulele without the distractions of other instruments. This shows the suitability of the ukulele for the amateur solo player, a group which includes yours truly. There are many Ukulele Ike recordings on CD, but many of his best recordings can only be found on limited-edition lp records that you have to search for on the internet or at garage sales. The fact that ukuleles come in four sizes gives the player who wants to accompany his singing with the ukulele a lot more flexibility than is the case with a guitar. This is because each of the different sizes of ukuleles can be tuned to a different key. This means that by selecting a ukulele in the proper key, you can automatically transpose the song you are playing into a key that you can sing. Most of the standard songs of the twenties and thirties were written for female vocalists. This means they have notes which most men are not able to hit. It's very convenient to just grab a ukulele that's tuned two or three notes lower and then you've got the song in a key suitable for your voice if you are a man. This is a big improvement over a karaoke machine which you would have to slow down to change to a different key. Then it would sound like the battery ran out of your record player. Not only are the ukuleles able to be tuned in different keys, but the fact that they are not nearly as loud as a guitar is a big help for most people who cannot sing loud enough to be heard over a guitar unless they have a microphone. If you sing through a microphone you might well disturb the people in the other room watching TV, so this may not be the best idea even if you have one. As is probably evident from the above discussion and from your general listening, you can tell that the professional ukulele players are a tiny minority compared to the guitar players. When it comes to purchases though, the number of people buying ukuleles is more than sufficient. I talked to the manager of a large music store near Fort Worth who told me that, other than harmonicas, ukuleles are his biggest sellers. And when I was browsing the music store in Austin called Alpha Music last fall, I noticed that by far the largest number of any single musical selection was Jim Beloff's Christmas-music book of arrangements for the ukulele. What this means is that the ukulele is being taken up by amateurs, but these are mostly not eager to broadcast the fact. They are like other amateur musicians such as barber shop quartets for whom no audience is required. Back before the world went haywire in the '60s there was a tendency for children to study some musical instrument, usually the piano or violin. Since then there has begun to be more emphasis put on sports so that even the kids who start out with music lessons usually give this up in junior high school when they go out for basketball or volleyball. Nowadays a lot of music fans find that they are unable to play the piano or violin because of all of the years they wasted on sports instead of practicing the piano. This is where the ukulele comes in. This instrument, of all the instruments I've tried, (which are many), is the easiest. It is well suited for girls because the strings are nylon and thus easy to hold down and the frets are not as far apart as is the case on the guitar. This means there is still hope for the ex-ball-player who is now looking for some other diversion, having grown tired of seeing the same plots over and over on TV and jaded by the antics of the pro-athletes. Even though the Amarillo music stores do not at this time stock a large selection of ukuleles, you can usually find one of your in-laws who brought one back from Hawaii and is not using it. If they won't let you play with it, you may have a good excuse to go to Hawaii to get one for yourself. They are also available from ukuleleworld.com and fleamarketmusic.com and can be purchased inexpensively on eBay where you can often buy a harmony uke for under $50.00. Lots of sheet music from the twenties and thirties came with ukulele chord diagrams. The cheapest way to get this music is to go to garage sales and look in the piano benches. You can order it from the websites mentioned above in this article also. While you are at the garage sales you might as well look around for the old records and record players which people seem to be very eager to move out of the TV room these days. At garage sales you can buy records for a dollar a piece and high quality record players for under $30.00. If you get the music with the chord diagrams and the records of people singing this music then you don't even have to be able to read music to play it, just listen to the record and then play the chords indicated on the diagram. You can adjust the key by picking a ukulele with proper tuning. What significance if any is there in the ukulele revival? The significance is that just as happened in the movie called the Matrix, significant numbers of the population have decided to take the red pill and become active players.


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