Tag Archives: Ukulelehead

Five & a Half Reasons to Play the Ukulele

First things first, here’s a video John and I made this weekend (strong emphasis on John–he did all the camera work and editing):

And now that you’ve watched it, perhaps some explanation is in order.

Last week, I won a contest at work. My prize was a ukulele. It’s a peculiar sort of thing to win in a contest, but then, it was a peculiar sort of contest. We were all asked to submit prize ideas for a freshman open house in the fall–if your idea was chosen, the LRC would buy two and give you one. I suggested a baritone ukulele.

As to why I would suggest such a thing, well…the video sums it up pretty well. Above and beyond that, I had recently read this article about how ukuleles are becoming more popular in Boston. Also, I’ve been following Amanda Palmer on Twitter and was generally excited about her new album. In short, I’ve just had ukuleles on the brain.

Making the video was…an experience. I now know that there’s a very good reason I’m not a rock star. Playing an instrument in a public place is very awkward, and if my expression looks strained in any of the shots, it’s because I was highly aware of how many people’s walking paths we were obstructing.

It was quite the social experiment, in that regard. Some people will wait patiently for you to finish, some impatiently. Some will duck down in front of the camera, some will walk across anyway. Some will start down a path, see you, and then backtrack to change their path. The further I stood from the camera, the more obvious the effects were.

Adding an instrument into the mix changes the dynamic–as much as a camera makes people feel visibly self-conscious about intruding on someone else’s  social territory, an instrument seems to break those invisible barriers that we hold around ourselves as a defense against talking to other people. The first place we shot was in the subway, and I hadn’t even had my ukulele out of the case for two minutes before that guy in the first shot came over and started talking to us.  Doing the arch shot, another guy stopped to ask if we were doing an album cover and compliment our work. Walking towards the park, a couple of teenage boys with instruments on their backs hollered “Ukulele!!” and waved at us.

It was at once both one of the more awkward and one of the more uplifting experiences of my life.

Putting the video together from the clips was a different story entirely, and one that makes me impressed with people who do real and longer video production. To make that 1m:50s clip, we spent almost four hours walking around to shoot maybe twelve minutes worth of clips. Laying down the sound tracks and doing the sidewalk art took me maybe another two hours, and putting everything together took John something like eight hours to finesse (including researching and learning new software that could handle multiple audio tracks). Making a video, even a little silly one like this, is a lot of work. (Something I should have been more prepared for, given that it took us seven or eight hours to make Robot Riot.)

Anyway…I hope the video is enough to earn your forgiveness for this rambling post, and if anyone feels like swapping ukulele tales, I’d be delighted to hear them.