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Ukelele provides a happy sound


May 21, 2012
Billie Shelton , The Daily Freeman Journal

So I heard a report recently on the radio that the ukulele is becoming a very popular musical instrument. I would have never guessed. Until I heard this ukulele maestro play classical music and more on his favorite stringed instrument, that is. Think "Bohemian Rhapsody" here. It's come a long way since Tiny Tim played "Tiptoe through the Tulips" on his ukulele in 1968.

Warren Buffet is a huge ukulele fan, according to some reading I did, and Bill Gates has recently picked it up, too. The ukulele is no longer considered a toy, even though it's fun to play. One reason the uke is popular is because it's so portable it can go anywhere, and it's easier to learn than a guitar. Lots of folks are doing that online.

And here I thought ukuleles were mostly for the hula in Hawaii.

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Trend setter that I am, I have a ukulele. It's a baritone ukulele, so it's larger and has a more mellow tone than a standard ukulele. I got this trusty instrument just for fun when I was in junior high, back in the days of folk songs like "Blowin' In the Wind," "Green, Green," and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" I taught myself how to play (not difficult), and mostly I just enjoyed plinking around on it for myself.

It went with me to various endeavors and locations until the ukulele suffered terminal damage from a water leak. I didn't think I missed it until I came across another one at a flea market almost a decade later. I was pleased to buy it, to again have a baritone ukulele of my very own. And again I played it just for myself. And yes, I think I can still probably play a pretty mean version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane."

The baritone uke isn't the only unique instrument I ever learned. Way back before I even started in band, everyone in fourth grade learned the Tonette. It was black plastic and resembled a recorder. As I recall, my whole class even performed together as a Tonette band, probably at a high school concert. I suppose we learned it in order to get prepared to play real instruments and then be in a real band. It worked for me. (And I'm quite sure I still have the Tonette packed away.)

Maybe one reason I liked both the Tonette and my ukulele is that they both have a bright, happy, friendly sound. I'd say we all need as much of that as we can get.



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