Grace VanderWaal, a quirky, uke-playing 12-year-old singer unsure of her place in the world, snatched a Vegas headlining act by winning the 11th season of America's Got Talent last summer. Her original song "I Don't Know My Name" connected with judges and fans alike, taking her straight from the televised audition round to the first live round with the push of a Golden Buzzer. The reasons for Miss VanderWaal's victory in the talent competition are numerous, but among them was her use of and expertise with the ukulele. While many singer/songwriters prefer to use the guitar for accompaniment, full-size guitars can be difficult to play before an individual nears physical maturity. For VanderWaal, the ukulele fit perfectly with both her persona and her youth. Practice, of course, likely helped a lot, as the child singer needed strong uke-playing skills to pair with her lofting voice and candid lyrics in order to win AGT.
Unless you already play the ukulele, it's unlikely that you'll be near VanderWaal's skill level on the uke in the near future. But that doesn't mean you can't become passable on the little instrument quickly. There are many things to love about the four-stringed, guitar-resembling instrument we call (well, some of us) the "uke." It's very portable. It sits nicely in the lap. Its strings can be comfortably strummed without a pick. For most individuals, the ukulele, at least in its soprano variety, its typical form, can be used as a hobby instrument without a vast quantity of stress.
I purchased my ukulele, pictured above, for less than $50 through Amazon. With many options for cheaper ukes available as well, the soprano ukulele is easy on the wallet. After you've purchased a ukulele and pressed your fingers against its strings a few times, you'll find that it's also easy on the fingertips. As a mandolin player, I can appreciate having an instrument with soft strings that I can play even when my fingers are sore. The ukulele is not an easy instrument for melodies, so far as I can tell, but it is quite easy as an instrument for chords. If you want to sing some songs from time to time but aren't already trained on anything, the ukulele might be the perfect instrument for you. While it might be annoying how difficult the D major chord can be for anyone with medium or large fingers, the basic chords of C major, G major, A minor, F major, and A major are all very easy to play on the uke. With those five chords and a handful of others, many popular songs will be right at your fingertips.
Becoming great at any instrument takes a lot of work. The same can be said of the ukulele. Yet that doesn't mean every instrument has to be hard to play decently-well. In my opinion, the soprano uke is one of the best instruments out there for someone who wants to be able to play some songs without tying up a lot of time, money, or emotional energy. It'll take a few days to figure things out, especially the strumming, but if you put just a little bit of fight into it, you should be playing something cool very swiftly. It may or may not be a Taylor Swift song. Actually, it'll probably be "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Everybody wants to be able to play "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," right?