30-Day Ukulele Challenge

My blue uke. Original image taken by David Wilder.

My blue uke. Original image taken by David Wilder.

This month I will be experimenting with a new type of 30-Day Challenge that was inspired by Leo Babauta's post (The 30-Day Learning Challenge) last month on Zen Habits. I mentioned his post in last month's 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge but wanted to choose an actual "Learning Challenge" this month. My plan is to spend the next 30 days learning to become a more proficient ukulele player by practicing the instrument at least 30 minutes each day.

You may be wondering what led me to become a ukulele player in the first place. I do have an extensive musical background that has lasted 18 years, but was a complete stranger to the ukulele until fairly recently. After perusing a tent full of musical instruments at the 2012 All Good Music Festival, I bought my ukulele (pictured above) on a complete whim. I had experience playing trombone, bass guitar, guitar, and piano, but I had never even strummed a ukulele before that year's festival.

The ukulele immediately struck me as both a strange and intriguing instrument because of its size, sound, novelty, simplicity, and overall character. I also loved the fact that the ukulele is so often paired with the human voice. As someone who likes to sing, the instrument seemed perfectly matched for me.

After my purchase, I realized that the ukulele was extremely foreign to me and (to my knowledge) I don't know anyone with ukulele-playing experience that could lend a hand. Even the tuning was completely new to me, as a ukulele is tuned G-C-E-A rather than the traditional guitar tuning of E-A-D-G-B-E. To my not-musically-inclined readers, that creates a significant difference in learning a new instrument because the left-hand fingering positions change when the notes that the strings are tuned differently.

Although I have had my ukulele for three years, I wouldn't say that I am an experienced ukulele player. I can really only play four songs—Boil Them Cabbage Down, (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay, Over the Rainbow, and Big Rock Candy Mountain. I have written a few tunes of my own, but for the most part I have strummed the same songs over and over again, so I would like to expand my repertoire and work on my overall technique.

I will be using a variety of methods to practice my ukulele—videos on the Internet, a fake book I purchased called The Daily Ukulele, and whatever else comes across my way during the next 30 days. At the end of the challenge, I will post a report about what I have learned and any resources about ukuleles that are worth sharing. Until then, wish me luck!