Ukulele jammin’

Ukulele jammin’

I am intrigued by almost any stringed instrument, and a few years ago I bought a ukulele. Its diminutive size appealed to me; it would be much easier taking it instead of a guitar once I retired and hit the road in our travel trailer. I figured I would learn a few chords so that I could sit around the campfire and strum my ukulele.

George Harrison was well known for breaking out his ukulele for jam sessions. George was visiting Tom Petty one day and taught him how to play the ukulele over the course of a few hours. As he was leaving, he opened the trunk of his car, pulled four of them from his collection, and left them at Petty’s house. He said, “Well, you never know when we might need them, because not everybody carries one around”.

The ukulele originated in Hawaii during the 19th century. In Hawai’ian, it is pronounced “ook-ah-LAY-lay”…sounds pretty exotic to me! The ukulele is made in four sizes. The smallest is the Soprano, followed by the Concert, then the Tenor and finally the Baritone. All of them use 4 strings, tuned (from the top of the ukulele down) G, C, E and A. My ukulele is the Concert size, which is 24″ from top to bottom, and 7 5/8” wide at the lower bout. A real cutie, and made from Mahogany, one of my favorite woods for stringed instruments. It’s a cheapie, but it gets the job done.

I have played acoustic guitar on and off since I was in junior high school. But I have never played in a band and have lacked the confidence to play with other players. I recently learned that my local Tillamook County library has been hosting a semi-monthly ukulele play along session. This sounded like a good way for me to learn more about playing the ukulele and perhaps help me overcome my performance anxiety and “ease” myself into playing in a group situation.

I attended my first play along session a few weeks ago. There were about 20 of us, ranging in age from 10 to, well, retirement age (like myself). The instructor was very patient with us. He posted large illustrations of the chord diagrams on the bulletin board. He handed out sheet music to many popular songs. Over the course of the hour and a half long session, we played and sang along to at least 10 well-known songs. I totally enjoyed myself and was not in the least bit intimidated to be playing with such a large group of people. Of course, it helped that almost everyone else was a novice player, like me.

I learned from one of the attendees that a group of people had started a weekly ukulele jam session in nearby Rockaway Beach.  I had so much fun at the library session that I had to check out this new opportunity. These folks meet every Friday evening at the Little Crow, a vintage and antique shop in Rockaway Beach. This group was also about 20 strong, and some of the nicest people you could hope to meet.  They welcomed me to their group, made me feel comfortable and found copies of all the sheet music for me.

Once again, I had a great time. I’ve only been able to attend one of the jam sessions up to this point, but there is no doubt that I will be attending more as time allows. And there is talk of having a float full of ukulele players at the 4th of July parade in downtown Rockaway Beach. Who knows where this could lead?








jam at library
out of my “performance anxiety”
great retirement project
found out about a weekly uke jam
importance of programs at the library; 3/4 of Tillamook county residents have library cards


Photo of my uke sitting on sheet music