Monday, January 29, 2007


I was watching The Beatles Anthology DVD box set a few years ago. Paul was presumably saying something profound to the interviewer.

But then...George, my favorite Beatle, suddenly whipped out a ukulele and proceeded to drown-out Paul with a tune that sounded like the fruit of a coital relationship between Don Ho and Muddy Waters.

I was excited! George seemed to be having such fun with his uke, that I felt a great urge to waste $50 on one for myself.

So, I did a bit a research--which unearthed both good news and bad.

The good news was that I found nearly universal agreement that the uke is the world's easiest instrument to play. Or, if it's not quite the easiest, then it's at least easy to the point of absurdity.

The bad news, however, was that the uke not only looks like a guitar...but is played like one. It requires memorization of chord patterns; which, presumably, involves the "P-word."


This was disheartening. I played the cello between the ages 10-14, and played it badly. I also played guitar for two years in the 1990's, and played it badly.

Of course...if you were to combine the total hours of practice that I dedicated to those two instruments over that six year span, the sum total of those hours would be somewhere in the low two-digits. In fact, I believe that each of those digits would be the number "1."

And so--acknowledging the reality that if I were to buy a new ukulele, it would quickly join my dust-laden, Spanish-made, Aria concert guitar in "The Closet of Ever More"--I purged the idea from my mind and turned my attention to the equally preposterous topic of BBQ smokers.

Purged, that is, until I met "Pam the Nerdy."

Pam's "Nerd's Eye View" blog featured a number of posts detailing her passion for playing her uke. Correction: Her *five* ukes.

So, I shot Pam an email explaining that I, too, would like to start down the path to uke-phoria...but believed in my heart of hearts that the path would surely lead me over the edge of a cliff before my credit card billed had even arrived.

Then, my worst nightmare then came true. Pam responded.

Worse yet, she responded with a lengthy, comprehensive and [OH NOOOO!!!] *supportive* response.

In essence (and I'm paraphrasing here), Pam said the following: "Don't be such a sniveling, spineless, pessimistic wimp! Ukes are cheap, fun, and even a lobster can play one. You have nothing to lose. And besides, I'll help you."

Oh, damn! Thirty seconds later, I logged onto and bought an Oscar Schmidt OU2 Concert Uke. I also bought a copy of Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Tips n' Tunes. You know...just in case I should someday have an insatiable urge to play "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain."

I named my new uke "Felix"--which seemed appropriate, given that it was manufactured by someone named "Oscar." I took it to a music shop and had the factory-issued strings removed and replaced with better ones.

Then--unable to think of any further stalling tactics--I sat down with a sigh and succumbed to the inevitable. I would have to play Felix.

And, so--in honor of George--I downloaded the chord transcription for "My Sweet Lord," made sure that nobody was around to hear me, took a deep breath...and just let it fly.

What happened next shocked me to the core. My attempt to play "My Sweet Lord" sounded"My Sweet Lord!!!" In fact, it sounded great! Felix and I were kickin' ass!

What a revelation! The uke *is* ridiculously easy to play. It may look like a guitar, but it doesn't frustrate like one. Granted, it's not nearly as cool as the accordion, but it is the perfect instrument for music lovers with no musical talent.

I am therefore throwing down the gauntlet. I must humbly demand that everyone reading this VTB go out and buy a uke. Christina already has, and now you must, too.

Why? Because we are going to start a new New Year's tradition just eleven short months from now. On December 31, 2007, all 61,465 VTB readers are going to record and post a uke-o-fied version of The Beatles' "In My Life" on their respective blogs.

Now, won't that be cool?


At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you've discovered an instrument you can actually play! And it seems like you are going to continue playing it! Promise to let me know when your world tour hits chicago? I'll for sure be there... front row! So, does Inez have a Uke of her own? You guys could be a duet act....

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Miss Kim said...

Well Sal... that's the first time someone has ever called my accordion playing skills "cool"! I am tickled pink but now I really want a Uke. Maybe one day I can be a one-woman marching band!

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yassir! The uke is definitely one easy instrument to play, but to play it well requires that dreaded P word. My good friend Pam of Nerdseye view said to say Hello! from Uncle Ben!

At 2:19 PM, Blogger christina said...

"Ukulele's are cheap, fun, and even a lobster can play one."

Precisely. We wouldn't want to be made fools of by a mere crustacean, would we?

You're showing so much dedication with this, Sal. I really need to practice more to keep up.

Ever notice what a happy mood playing the uke puts you in? Hey,
ukuleles could become the new Prozac!!

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Or the new Viagra!

Right, Uncle Ben?

At 2:46 PM, Blogger christina said...

Sounds like Sal's a little worried about turning 4o this year! ;-D

(And while I'm here, please excuse that superfluous apostrophe that snuck its way into my last post)

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Trac said...

Ok, I know I was a little moany when I commented last, but now I see that I came out as anonymous!??

I am not anonymous.

I am Trac.


OK, firstly, George. He was the first man I ever loved, and of course the best Beatle!

Secondly, as you may remember, I too have a uke in the house. It is not mine, but it is a cool looking pink flying V variety. Something like that anyway?

I've never tried to play it, but I think I might give it a go, now I have read this post.

I do get the feeling that lobsters might have more talent for playing musical instruments than me though.

This chap likes George too!

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Di Mackey said...

Well ummmmm ... I'll be the photographer ;)

Viagra ... uke as viagra????

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Angie said...

Oh my, I have a lot to do before Dec. 31, 2007, and I don't think learning the ukelele is on the list! My brother (who is quite good at guitar) has tried showing me how to play it, but I'm hopeless. Maybe I'll play along on my harmonica? (I can also play the piano and passable trumpet...)

My dad went through a phase a couple years ago when he tried to learn to play the hammered dulcimer (don't ask me why) and my mom has an accordion stowed away somewhere... we're like the Von Trapps gone wrong.

Hey, I'm a few months behind but I started a Spain blog post. It's not up yet but I'll let you know when you make your OTR debut! (Maybe April...)

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Pam said...

Let's set the record straight here. I would never call anyone who wanted a uke a "sniveling, spineless, pessimistic wimp!" Ever. And though I wish I'd seen a lobster play a uke, I'd never say that either, tho' my teacher played with a broken wrist.

Maybe Expatapalooza should be in Hawaii. Or at least at the beach.

At 11:34 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Christina: What?! Did you say the "F-word?!" [Yeah...only a bit over three months to go. May need to buy a second uke.]

Trac! How we miss you. Believe me...if I could've squeezed even two hours of free time in London, we would've tipped a few. But, you know cricket. Damn games take forever.

Lady Di: See what you started by introducing your friend to the fragile VTB ecosystem!

Ang: Spain? Were you in Spain?

Pam: didn't say it, but that's what you meant.

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I learn how to play the bagpipes instead? I think that might be a little less annoying than a gaggle of ukeleleists hehe.

Hammered dulcimer sounds so nice...I wouldn't mind taking that one on either. Maybe in that parallel universe where I'm both independently wealthy and have plenty of free time :)

At 4:34 PM, Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Hey! Where did my comment go? I posted one yesterday. Really! I'm starting to wonder if this new version of Blogger eats up comments.

Anyway, just to say, I already have a guitar and a flute that are collecting dust. Knowing myself, the Uke will land with the rest of the instruments.

PS: This is my 3rd attempt, this time with Firefox. *sigh*

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Angie said...

Kurt, you don't have to be independently wealthy to play the hammered dulcimer... just ask my dad. He did have to learn how to read music at 50 years old, though.

Sal, :-P

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

why is George your favourite Beatle?

T., 8 years of classical piano, 4 years of violin and guitar. currently haven´t touched any musical instruments for 10 years.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Ang and Kurt: Sorry, but the "dulcimer" sounds to me like a coffee sweetener. Guess you have to speak Spanish to understand.

C-Swiss: All in all, I much prefer the new Blogger. If for no other reason than it doesn't have that annoying spinning wheel. BTW, are you and Orangie coming to visit me in March or not? I need to know so that I can get my hair done.

Tiina: Why is George my favorite? Because although he wasn't the most talented Beatle, he tried the hardest. BTW...your blog is really stinkin' funny. Why don't you promote it more? The world needs to know.

At 1:44 AM, Blogger WhiteTrashBBQ said...

I am really in a quandary here. I see you share my love of The Beatles, but you are disparaging towards BBQ-ers.

I really don't know what to do.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Mike B said...

Ah, the P-word! I was on a cross-town bus in Midtown Manhattan, and a woman got on board and asked, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall." Without missing a beat, the ten or so of us who heard the question responded almost in unison, "Practice, Practice, Practice."

After reading you and Mausi go on about the joys of the UK, I look at my lonely guitar gathering dust on the shelf and wonder if it I should rebuild a few callouses on my fingers. Time to practice. Have fun with the Uke.

At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silly me. I misread your post and ran out to buy a c"uke". Then I reread your post and realized my mistake. Oh well. Can't play the cuke, either.

Sal, you are a sick man. Which is what I like most about you, quite frankly. Boring people annoy the hell out of me.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Sal, Haven't been here in awhile so just stopped in to say hi. P.S. Tiny Tim would be proud!

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Headless Blogger said...

White Trash - I can assure you that Sal is the finest barbecue pitmaster in all of Spain. He was making fun of his attempt to build the Alton Brown clay pot smoker - a dismal failure.

Sal is now in WSM Nirvana. But that is another band.


At 1:28 AM, Blogger susan d said...

Your fetish for the Beatles and ukelele's reminded me of the UTube clip my son turned me on to. Visit my blog, scroll down to the post "Mad Skills" or search Ukelele on UTube and you will be amazed before you are halfway through.
PS. My dad used play old Burl Ives folk songs on the Ukelele like "The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night" and "Sweet Betsy From Pike" for my sister and "Oh Susannah" for me.

At 1:30 AM, Blogger susan d said...

I forgot to say, my husband informed me that Tiny Tim nearly ruined the reputation of the ukelele singlehandedly.

At 4:41 AM, Blogger Angie said...

Sal, it's a sad day when I've been blogging more than you! :) You must be wearing out that ukulele! We're having a blizzard here, as your Midwestern relatives may have informed you. I'll need some good reading tomorrow, when I'll be sitting in my office with nothing but snow to write about, because everything's closed... hint, hint...

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Trac said...

Hey Sal... where have you gone?

You have been invited to attend a
Brits/Valentines Party!

Dress code: Don't care!

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...


I'll post anew within the next 6-24 hours. I promise!

Now, where's my coffee pot?

At 9:51 PM, Blogger christina said...

I'm Fed Exing you a triple espresso right now.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bought one (it's red!) and am actually practicing every day--much more than I can say about the guitar I've neglected for so long. I love the uke! I'm going to check out that book you bought--I could use some basic technique tips so I don't develop bad habits.


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