Learning an instrument during a pandemic

I thought I was pretty original ordering a ukulele online at the start of the lockdown until I heard Niall Breslin, a.k.a Bressie , the former rugby player, musician and now mental health/mindfulness guru in Ireland, was sending out several hundred of them to anyone who requested one via his Instagram page. The assumption was that the lockdown was going to last for quite a while and therefore taking up a new skill such as learning a musical instrument would provide a useful way to spend time and would act as a form of therapy for people.

At that stage, mine was already enroute from China and I’d paid around €50 for it. The ukulele appealed for a couple of reasons:

  1. It was small and portable
  2. It was pretty cheap as instruments went and I figured if I lost interest and gave up playing after a week or two, at least I wouldn’t have wasted a small fortune on it
  3. It was kind of quirky and I just liked the sound of it
  4. It was that or the tin whistle – I wanted something relatively easy to learn and had read that ukeleles were!
  5. I came across a video on YouTube by a guy called Jake Shimabukoro where he plays a song on the ukelele entitled “While my guitar gently weeps” and was blown away! It was an appropriately named song as Jake doesn’t just play the ukulele, he does make it weep…his talent on the ukulele is virtuosic and he shows you how versatile an instrument it is….you sort of expect the ukelele to burst into flames at one stage, he’s that good….Anyway, I watched it and thought, right, that’s the instrument for me, I want to learn to play like that!

Cut to two months later and I’ve surprised myself by sticking with it as I often get enthusiastic about ideas only to quickly lose interest. Even more surprisingly, I’m actually enjoying teaching myself to play via YouTube videos and various online teachers. My favourite so far is Ukulele Zen, a professional ukelele musician who’s an excellent teacher and quite easy on the eye also! I’ve progressed from learning a couple of basic chords to learning a few different ways of strumming and being able to play a couple of easy tunes. I’m annoying family and friends by sending them recordings of simple tunes and they’ve to try and identify it correctly. I’m still making a lot of mistakes and struggling with chord transitions but I guess that’s part of the learning process, right? I have an uncle on my Dad’s side of the family who often posts on Facebook about the value of learning an instrument and how therapeutic it is and I can now see what he means- it really is something that transports you and that you can get lost in for hours….

I have this vision of myself someday being that person at social gatherings who people ask to play something and who dazzles others with their previously unrecognised talent…LOL 🙂 It really is an incredible skill and one that unites people and takes them away from their lives for a time… and during a pandemic, what more constructive, valuable and therapeutic use of time is there than tapping into that creative side of yourself and learning a new skill in the process?!

Videos to follow at some stage…. 😉

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