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Ukulele Magic

Sub-Soprano and Tenor Ukuleles – Photo by Dan Steven Erickson

2023 has been the year of the ukulele.

I started out as a drummer. I added guitar to my talents in my mid 20s. Over the years, I’ve learned the basics of piano, harmonica, ukulele, banjo, and mandolin. I’ve been playing ukuleles off and on for at least ten years. But this year something different happened.

In January, I found a cool used carbon-fiber ukulele and fell in love with the tone. So I bought it. Until this year, I’d never written any songs on a uke but had only tinkered around on them. That all changed.

I had a file of lyrics that I’d written in 2022 and decided to try to put them to ukulele accompaniment. I had to work pretty hard on the first couple. But then it got crazy. I used old lyrics and wrote new lyrics and found what I like to call “ukulele magic.”

I discovered that I could play a lot of alternative chords easily on a four-stringed instrument. Less strings also means less notes. Less notes leaves more space for melody and for the words to stand out in front. The ukulele is a great songwriting instrument.

Fast forward to late September, 2023.

My goal was to write about 20 songs using the ukulele and then move back to writing on the guitar. As of today, I have 59 completed ukulele songs this year, and one more in the making. Instead of switching back to guitar, I actually let go of one of my guitars and bought two other ukes: a banjo uke, and a sub-soprano. It’s tiny. See the photo.

Still, I’m on a mission to move back to the guitar. I’ve concluded that it’s time to focus on electric guitar more than acoustic. Just like a ukulele, an electric guitar allows me to move more quickly up and down the neck.

So, a new electric guitar (perhaps an American Fender) might be in my near future. But I’m not ruling out the ukulele. I might pick up a resonator uke and a baritone before it’s all over. I think the ukulele magic is here to stay. – dse

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