Sophia Siegel: Ukulele

Given a fourteen day time frame to learn the ukulele, I set out two weeks ago to develop a method for hurried ukulelists to perfect their skills. The key part of this accelerated process is, believe it or not, not learning to play the ukulele; instead, I only had to master the mindset of the ukulele. I’ve learned in my two weeks of self-taught lessons that playing the ukulele can be much less a skill than a mindset. Until I could conjure up the image of the perfect beach at sunset, hear the waves and smell the coconuts wherever I was, I had not fully mastered the art of the ukulele.

Four strings, a neck, a body; learning to play the conventional way could’ve taken me months. Tapping into the ukulele mindset is a great way to enjoy the ukulele in all its glory without knowing a single chord. Because when you’re sitting on a sandy beach with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, who cares what it sounds like?

To begin playing the ukulele, or rather get into the correct state of mind, I put down the ukulele and lay flat on my back in a supine position. I started by stimulating every sense until I was in a state indistinguishable from one of sitting on a sandy beach and strumming softly on the ukulele.

First, I located my thermostat and dialed the temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the average daytime summer temperature at sea-level in Hawaii. On my mobile phone (can be substituted for another device), I queued an ocean waves soundtrack. YouTube proved an excellent way to find free, long-duration beach noises. My air freshener, some scented candles and fresh-picked flowers were a great way to stimulate my sense of smell. For the taste, I gathered ½ cup of ice, 1 coconut, 1 pineapple and 5 diced strawberries. I blended them until the color was spread evenly and large chunks had dissolved. I learned through trial and error that a bendy straw was optimal, so as to be able to sip away while lying down. All that was left to do was close my eyes and picture my ideal beach scene. At this point, I had fully tapped into the ukulele mindset, and was ready to rock.

In the end, I found this experience to be much more enjoyable than listening to myself painfully play along to YouTube demonstrations and butcher fingering positions I learned out of a pamphlet. To me, the ukulele is about sparking happiness in yourself and those around you. Looking for a great string solo? Pull up Jimi Hendrix. An accompaniment? There’s the bass, the cello, the violin. The ukulele, however, is all about making people happy. As long as I could do that, I considered myself a ukulele expert. Tapping into the ukulele mindset is the quickest way to get happy for musicians in a hurry.

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