I recently read a forum post with someone inquiring about an unusual instrument (harp ukelele, but that is not important). It seemed like every other reply was something like “I would never play that!” or “What’s the point?” or “That is stupid.” I am paraphrasing but that is the general feeling I got.
On the other hand, there were some folks, like myself, that were excited and intrigued and even wanted to get one in their hands. That’s more like it! To me, at least. I am always curious to try some new kind of instrument.
Which brings me to Ukelele Secret #8: Cross Training
If you ever get the chance to pick up a new (to you) instrument, I highly recommend doing so. Whether “picking it up” means buying one or just trying it out at a friend’s house or a music store, do it!
And I am not talking about trying different ukuleles. Do that, too. But I mean different INSTRUMENTS. Like a banjo, mandolin, sitar, bass guitar, venezuelan cuatro, hammer dulcimer, violin (wince).. etc. These are all stringed instruments but don’t stop there…
Try a piano or keyboard. Learn how to do a triplet or paradiddle on percussion. Get shakin’ with a shaker. Try like heck to get a good note out of a bamboo flute. Pluck a kalimba (thumb piano). Make a sound, make music with whatever you can get your hands on.
After all, you are a musician.
It might sound less than pleasing at first (starting something new always has some learning curve) but spend some time learning a few chords or fishing for a melody.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
Gosh, why?? Well, because of the different tuning, different sound, shape and feel, new musical ideas emerge that would not have, if you stuck to just one instrument. You don’t have to master it, just noodle. Your brain gets exercised and your creativity gets a boost that you can bring back to the uke.
It will make you a better ukulele player.. maybe even a badass
I am not blowing smoke here, either. I speak from the mountain. I currently own, play, or have played all the instruments mentioned above and gained a level of proficiency with them as well.
Listening to different kinds of music fits into cross training, too. You don’t have to go buy K-Tel’s Top Hits but just be curious. Try to play something that was originally played on a different instrument. When I was 16 or 17 I transcribed Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer, a piano song, to classical guitar. I loved the melody so much I just HAD to learn it. So I taught myself.
Which brings this stream of consciousness to my next secret.
Play anything. Any type of music.
Don’t limit yourself to “ukulele music”. That’s what’s fun about being a musician. But if you haven’t tried it, there are TONS of resources, tabs (even on this site) for ‘different’ kinds of music to play on the ukulele. Al Woods, proprietor of Ukulele Hunt is one of the best examples of a musician turning the ukulele into a black hole and sucking every kind of music into it.
And if you’ve come to know me even a little, you can see I love to play a great variety of music and flavors.
So.. here is an example of the joy I get playing different kinds of instruments. It’s a bluegrass classic called Blackberry Blossom. Rhythm guitar is in the left speaker and melody features mandolin, ukulele and acoustic guitar. I am by no means a master of any of these instruments but just getting through a song like this is really fun.
And now for something totally unrelated.. well, not totally. I wrote and recorded the music, played the instruments, except the electronic drum loop, for this self shot and edited video, featuring me enjoying another hobby of mine. Hula hooping.