My first Ukulele was a Stagg Concert, a UC-60S. I got this as it wasn’t too expensive, but it wasn’t the cheapest either. I didn’t want to spend too much in case I didn’t take to this ukulele thing, but I didn’t want to go very cheap and have a bad experience. It was also what my local music store had in stock.
So I bought it.
I soon found that I needed a tuner, if I’m new to an instrument, how can I hope to know if a problem is me, or if it is that I’ve an out of tune instrument? So I bought a small electrical clip-on snark tuner and I tuned up. I soon found that my strings were not holding their tuning. New strings take a while to settle down and require frequent tuning – just what you need as a novice! Fortunately, there are ways to help the strings keep their tune (see the end of the video).
I had my ukulele. Now what? Well, I signed up for some lessons with the lovely Lorraine, and in the meantime I downloaded some songbooks from the internet. By following chord diagrams I learned to play simple two chord songs, then learned a third chord (a song such as ‘Ring of Fire’), and eventually four chords. In this way, I gradually learned the more useful chords and began to pick up speed. Indeed, I went at such as pace that Lorraine’s ‘beginners’ class seemed rather slow for me when it came. This was great progress, I was able to play an instrument!
I may not have been great, but when I started I had said to myself ‘I’ll be happy just to strum along to a few songs’.
I joined a local ukulele group (there are groups all over the world) – and fortnightly went to a local pub to jam. By early the next year I had played my first gig, admittedly as part of a large group, at a local music venue. That summer I’d played at a music festival, and by the end of the year we’d played venues big and small, from the local theatre, to beer festivals, to small venues as part of the old folks tea afternoon. It’s been a real blast – I still have to pinch myself that I’m performing in public, having picked up a musical instrument for the first time relatively recently. I’m never going to be as good as someone who started playing at a young age, but the ukulele makes me happy, and it makes my audience happy…. … it’s a happy making instrument.
My first ukulele sits in its case, hardly touched these days as I’ve now bought ukes that I use a lot more – both better ukes, and ukes that are cheap (and hence can be battered with impunity!) – the Stagg isn’t cheap enough to use and abuse, and it’s not pricey enough to be ‘great’ – so it doesn’t get out much. I’ve added some ‘buttons’ so I could fit a guitar strap, and it has a big crack from when I dropped it in the pub. But that’s okay, it’ll be there for me. It was my first ukulele, and will always have a place in my affections for that reason.