Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guitar Workshop: Different Strings Revisited

Last week we discovered the possibilities of the ukulele, including the proper ethnic pronunciation (so you'll never call it a "YOU-ka-LAY-lee" again, will ya now?). If you can put it in a little tote sack and stick it just right in the middle of your carry-on bag, you've saved yourself a hassle on the plane, and can still play something similar to a guitar. (A standard soprano ukulele measures 21 inches from head to toe, or 53 centimeters.)

As the video clip for your first "learn-to-play-in-ten-minutes" lesson shows, the soprano ukulele is tuned thus: G, C, E, and A, with the G-string tuned an octave higher than expected. Don't ask me why. But if you can ignore that, the chord fingering is identical to the first four strings of a guitar, only transposed by a fourth. In other words, if you play an “A” chord from the guitar, by holding your middle finger across the second fret of the G, C, and E strings, you'll really be playing the “D” chord for the ukulele. To go up the neck with a barre chord, use your index finger on the A string just two frets below the others. You can take it from there.

Ten or twenty years ago, in most of North America, the only ukes you could find were basically toys. But we're all much smarter now, so don't make that mistake. Go to a decent music store -- in DC we give a Tip of the Black Hat to The House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park; in Baltimore, it's definitely Bill's Music House in Catonsville -- and expect to pay about $200-$300 for a decent beginner's model. Give it the same road test up the neck that you would for any other axe.

The site we recommend to start learning (at least until something else comes along) is Go to the video lessons, and let 'er rip.

But first, try the lesson above.

(When this piece was first published, the fingering for the "D" chord in the second paragraph was incorrect, as was the example for the barre chord. It has since been corrected.)

1 comment:

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