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March 25, 2005

The Banjo Ukulele
life, thing

Being, like most people, an admirer of music, I've been interested for some time in learning how to create such emotion-plucking bits of sound. I haven't been able to find a good place to start though. As one of the musically uninitiated it was difficult to get very far on the internet searching for basic information, and the myriad quantity of instruments available can make it difficult for a novice to start off without guidance.

During the summer I experimented a wee bit with tracking, attracted to it since, like computer programming, it didn't require any expensive instrument to be purchased beyond the computer which I already possessed, but I didn't catch on. The lack of information for the musical beginner and the need to begin with composition, not with mere playing as one would with a normal instrument contributed to this I believe.

Compared to the volumes of information available on programming, I thought the musical literature online to be very sparse. However, I think this was primarily due to musical information being less well indexed and relatively less in quantity than computer information, making it more difficult to find and making each page more valuable.

So, a few weeks ago, I started thinking about instruments. Guitars seem to be quite common these days, and I desired to play something more unique although if you enjoy the guitar, kudos. I also wanted the instrument I learned to be portable, so that I wouldn't have to be tethered to my house, which ruled out keyboard instruments, at least at the start.

The next instrument I pondered was the lyre. Classical, compact, simple, and used to accompany poetry, it seemed quite nifty. However, after plenty of Googling and scouring of Amazon and Ebay, I finally realized that, seeing as how practically none are available for sale, I'd been on a wild goose chase. The lyre'd still be an interesting instrument to build at home though.

At this point, I finally stumbled upon some musical resources. The music category of dmoz.org, musicmoz.org, and the music category of WannaLearn.com each presented their own helping of very useful links.

Continuing my quest for the perfect instrument, I looked into the ukulele. With it I came to the first helpful site I'd yet come across; it quickly and easily tells you the facts, including how much you can expect to pay for a ukulele. The ukulele shared the Lyre's characteristics of being small and simple, although at first all I could think of when I heard it was stereotypical tropical beaches now I don't mind it's voice.

The banjo ukulele sounded better at the time, while also possessing the ukulele's relatively cheap price, small size, and simpleness. There's also a delightful tutorial about it for those who "have never played any kind of instrument before except the kazoo". Plus, since it has the same tuning as the ukulele, It can play the same songs, and most resources for the ukulele are applicable to the Banjo Uke.

The only delima remaining was how to obtain one on that was cheap on my scale. Unlike regular ukuleles, which can start as low as $40 for a decent instrument, Banjo Ukes tend to start around $150, and starting with an expensive instrument would make me feel like I had to practice due to the money, not due to wanting to, which would likely put me off.

At this point my Mom remembered that my grandmother had some sort of instrument lurking in her attic. She was uncertain as to what sort of instrument it was, but thought it might be a banjo or a ukulele. The next day we ventured up into the attic and, lo, there it was; a 75 year old banjo ukulele in practically perfect condition but for some superficial rust and a few missing parts. Some strings, a bridge, and a tailpiece were soon ordered from Ukulele World and at the end of a week filled with eager waiting I had in my hands a delightful little instrument. The vellum has even survived delightfully intact, although I had purchased a new one in case.

A few weeks later, I'm alternately amazed by what I can do, happily strumming and picking out songs, and depressed by what I don't know, drifting lost in a sea of unconsumed knowledge. I've discovered numerous useful ukulele resources, and quite a few fun and easy songs. I'm also beginning to battle the first symptoms of Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. Cheap non-banjo ukuleles are starting to look quite attractive; no sentimental value to hinder lugging them around, and not as loud for indoor practice.

Since I picked up my banjo ukulele, my focus has also changed. Originally, I wanted to be able to craft sound that would dance with the emotions, but, although that's still an attractive prospect, my main goal now is simply to play my instrument and to learn more and more about it.

So now you know how my musical journey was begun; hopefully you managed to brave the lengthy article, and hopefully it provided you with some happiness or insight. I'm sure you'll be hearing plenty about my banjo uke in later blogs. To anyone else who hasn't done anything musical in their life, I highly recommend finding an instrument you like and learning it to your heart's content; once you settle down to it, these little things can be awesome!

Posted by Trevor Savage at 11:28 PM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2005

The Shakespearian Shell: Fun on the Water and on Stage
life, log

	the healer of all wounds
	such glorious tunes
	they power the elevator to heaven
	within the mind act as a leaven
	it takes your hand in depression
	and lead you until it has lessened

I have a rather lengthy article brewing about musical instruments and the playing thereof, but that will have to wait for now. I need a good bit of time to cut it down to size, and time's rare right now. In the meantime, you might like to look at this picture and, if you're inclined to, drool.

Anyway, dress rehearsal is tomorrow for the Scottish Play , in which I'm playing Banquo, and we're... dancing along. Things are getting fun, although I think I like small plays much better; this one has about 35 cast members, and thus one doesn't get as much time on stage and the actual production doesn't seem as personal. In small productions all the rehearsals seem quite fun as one prances about in character, but in this play only a few rehearsals have thus far reached that level of delight. I also had to get over a slight dislike of Shakespeare he's not exactly high comedy but I'm alright now. In addition, it's quite delightful how you tend to remember other people's lines, even when you're not in their scene; they make excellent quoting material.

As highschool draws nearer to an end and only one more production is seen approaching on the radar, I've been thinking about acting and my future. Previously I'd thought I'd probably drop it after highschool, but with only one more opportunity for such fun currently planned, I think I'll definitely join up in some amateur productions in college and beyond; I can't conceive of going my whole life without any more acting.

In addition, this Saturday, right before our second performance of the play, we have a regatta. I'm coxing, and it's rather fun; I'm a bit hesitant at the moment about shouting out orders to correct our course, but I suppose I should just do so whenever I think it's necessary; I might not guide us on the most efficient path, but with time that'll be corrected.

With luck, I won't loose any vertebrae during the regatta; the shell we've been rowing in doesn't have any way to secure the coxswain's bottom, so you tend to jerk back and forth, which can be quite painful for your spine. Bracing yourself and sitting so your side, not your back, gets the whacking, seems to help a little.

Finally, on the topic of the poetry which accompanies this entry, the powers of music are quite amazing. I came home with only an hour and a half to rest and do my homework in, in something of an imperfect mood. But, after one or two listens to Dragoste din tei my mood had soared to levels of great happiness and optimism, within a period of mere minutes. I hardly know what I'd do without such tunes; they serve as hammers with which to forge your state of mind.

Away, and mock the time with glee! True face must show what the heart doth know!

Posted by Trevor Savage at 9:41 PM | Comments (0)