Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A bad workman blames his tools...

So a bad musician blames his instruments.
And I am indeed a bad musician, so will readily blame my instruments - namely, the two ukuleles I bought through eBay just over a year ago, unwittingly securing double the nymber I needed thanks to a miscalculation over the timing of bids.

I was excited when both arrived, though a little unnerved by the bright crimson red of the one Mahalo uke. And after what seemed an eternity trying to get them in tune, it was a rare delight to be able to pluck out a few easy chords, the four strings corresponding rather straightforwardly to the top four on a guitar.

Still, they felt a little more like children's toys than semi-serious instruments, and the plink-plink sounds were not quite what I had in mind when enjoying such recordings as 'I'll See You In My Dreams' by Joe Brown at the George Harrison tribute concert, and even a few of the guiltily-enjoyable George Formby classics.

In fact, any novelty quickly wore off - especially as they seemed nigh-on impossible to keep in tune for more than 15 seconds or so. Just breathing slightly heavily would send the tuning pegs spinning. And my ambition of carrying around a handy little uke and delighting friends and family - occasionally - with cute little singalongs, soon turned slightly sour. I leant the one to my mum for a touring show she put on, set in the Second World War and featuring a few Formby numbers among the music hall renditions. She took the brown one (the red one was indeed a little too garish), and once it was returned to me I resolved to try one more time, a little more concentratedly, to master the instrument.

After all - Vogue magazine hailed the ukulele as one of their style icons of 2005; the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have been a cult favourite with their impeccable, good-humoured versions of Ms Dynamite, Kate Bush and AC/DC on ukes alone; and for all the naffness of Formby with his little ukulele in his hand, there is the coolly contrasting vision of Marilyn Monroe clutching a uke and making it look somehow sexy in Some Like It Hot... (Not forgetting the excellently-conceived and executed Day Today sketch, which purports to expose Bob Dylan as a plagiarist, by revealing his songs such as Subterranean Homesick Blues were actually written and performed by the Blackpool bard himself, two decades earlier...)

But later today I must parcel up and post on my first two ukuleles, having sold them on again through eBay - the circle of life continues, and my hunt for an interesting-sounding, restless-curiosity-sating alternative to my acoustic guitars enters its next phase.

A banjolele - that's what I should have gone for in the first place...

4 comments:

Toxic said...

Keep thinking I should try another instrument, got a couple mandolins and balalaikas sitting about but then I hear my mate Jon who has mastered them and I figure I'll stick with guitar and maybe someday put all these necks, bodies & electronics I've got together.

Toxic said...

Forgot to say http://www.beatlesite.info is the place to learn the Beatles on uke

fruey (Let's Have It) said...

Joe Brown in the George Harrison tribute concert had my mother swooning. She saw him live around the north west when she was "just a girl". The Beatles actually played support to that guy in the early days. Way better than Formby and his little stick- (it up your arse) of Blackpool rock.

Get a pro uke, or a pro banjo. You'll be rockin' then.

Aidan said...

Balalaika, now there's another one I was very ambitiously pondering recently... Having just seen and enjoyed 'Walk The Line', I was also much taken by Reese Witherspoon/June Carter's autoharp - also used to lovely effect by Rennie Sparks from The Handsome Family.
Ah, so many instruments, so little time...
Cheers for the Beatles site link, looks well-worth exploring...
I saw Joe Brown and various Bruvvas perform at Minehead Butlins several years ago now, and he put on a damn fine show. He really stole the Tribute To George concert, though - what a revelation...