Many people who know me personally know that I have played the violin for over 10 years. As someone who has not yet reached their 20's, the length of time is a very significant commitment. However, the violin, considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play, has been forever replaced in my heart by none other than the ukulele. Yes, the simple, fretted, mini-guitar has stolen all of my musical attention; and I couldn't be happier. This is largely thanks to a wonderful YouTuber based in the U.K.
You see, violin and I had a rocky relationship. When I began lessons, it was absolutely clear I had no musical ear whatsoever. It did eventually develop, but the entire endeavor seemed quite forced. Combined with the fact that my school district had no orchestra program, this meant my violin career consisted largely of me standing in a room playing music I may or may not like – all by myself.
I tried to break out of my violin. I was tired of only finding beginner arrangements of my favorite songs. I was tired of being alone. I sang in the chorus at school. I tried piano and guitar, but nothing was quite right. Violin had taught my hands to do two very different things at once, and they did not understand the similarity required by piano. My left hand, accustomed to four strings, was overwhelmed by the six of the guitar. I enjoyed singing, but I wanted to jam.
So, I pooled my babysitting money and took a swift step towards making that happen. I bought my first ukulele.
I felt like a traitor at first. When someone starts to learn to play violin, it is not uncommon to put markers on the fingerboard. This helps the student learn where to put their fingers. Once they wear off, muscle memory is expected to take over. This is in part why it can be a difficult instrument to play and I traded it all for frets.
I don't remember if I found "The Ukulele Teacher" before or after my purchase, but I do remember learning the version of "La Vie En Rose" made famous by Cristin Milioti in my first sitting. It was amazing. There were countless videos ranging in difficulty, numbers from Twenty-One Pilots and "Spongebob Squarepants." The videos were clear, but concise. Watching one wasn't a huge time commitment, and if I already knew the chords, there would be a helpful note telling me where to skip to. Singing while playing took a bit of practice, but I was finally free of a chin rest. I could jam!
In the first year I played the ukulele, I had more social music experiences than in all my years of violin combined. I played "Riptide" at a college bonfire, and finally got to enjoy music with other people. Ukulele makes me happy. It helps me relax before exams. It gives me freedom to play and sing and express myself -- to have fun with music.
To The Ukulele Teacher,
Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do. I have enjoyed watching the progress of your videos. They keep getting better and better! I know you are first and foremost an instrumentalist, but I appreciate it when you sing-a-long. It does loads to help me understand the song in its entirety. The fact that you are now able to make a living giving free ukulele lessons makes me smile. It's a small thing, a YouTube channel, but it makes a world of difference. You're a pretty cool dude. Thank you for uniting me with this lovely little instrument and a love of music.
– A Small-Town Floridian Student
This friendly guy's channel is The Ukulele Teacher, and he is available for support on Patreon.