Thursday, March 31, 2005


So anyway, yes, as I said a while ago, I finally bought myself a ukulele. And here it is, pictured, to give some idea of scale, next to its foster brother my battered acoustic guitar.

That guitar, incidentally, was acquired second hand from my friend, the ludicrously successful and prolific children's book illustrator, Adrian Reynolds some years ago (in settlement of an £8 debt if I remember rightly). We were at college together way back and then housemates for quite a while. Nowadays he lives round the corner. It is in all respects coincidence and in no way a reflection of our subsequent illustrative careers that he now plays a great big double bass and I've just got a teeny weeny ukulele.

Anyway, the ukulele (or "uke" as we aficianados call them) is a Mahalo tenor. Tenors are the second largest standard size of uke - smaller than the baritone but larger than the concert and the more common soprano. I tried out a concert uke in the shop but found it a bit too fiddly for my clumsy mitts. I'd probably have adjusted eventually but the tenor felt just a touch roomier on the fingerboard.

And it's great fun to play. Ukes are tuned to different notes but at similar intervals to those of the top four strings of a guitar. So having previously learned a fair number of guitar chord shapes over the years (pretty much only ever play 3 or 4 of them, but I know more than that) I can now use the same shapes (but with two fewer strings to worry about) on the uke. So I've quickly progressed from really awful to awful and even, thanks to a Zoom PS-02 digital multitrack recorder (lovely toy) I picked up on eBay a while ago, accompanied myself on guitar on a favourite Magnetic Fields track, The Book of Love. And do you know, for all my ineptitude on both instruments it actually sounded okay. Then I "sang" over the top of it and suddenly it didn't.

But even making bad music can be a good thing, I think. So long as bagpipes aren't involved.

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