Several people I know are prepping (and some still thinking about it) for National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never done it, but have an interest in writing, have tried writing, or are a writer, I encourage you to give it a go.
I will not be participating this year. I have a slightly different reason than I’ve given before: I have to spend a lot of time practicing ukulele if I’m going to be ready for this year’s holiday party.
See, every year I write an original Christmas Ghost Story to read at the party, and I challenge others planning to attend to have a story (or song, or skit, or something else) to share with the group. A few years back C.D. recruited a bunch of people to do a music-accompanied play, which was quite fun. in the years since, more people are bringing instruments to play music for everyone. And one of the ideas I’ve had sitting on my list was a story narrated by a character who is a performer… Why not make it a mini musical, I thought?
So a few weeks back I finally wrote the first song, and now I’m working on the script (and trying to get more music finished for it). If I’m going to sing this year’s story, as it were, then I need to be a lot better at the ukulele part than I currently am.
I should mention that my friend, C.D., has offered to help whenever I’ve mentioned that I’m struggling with the music. And when a man who has won regional blues guitar competitions offers, I suppose one ought to accept. But I want to do my part correctly.
And last night (with a little recomposition), I managed to get all the way through the first song (the only one completed) with only a couple of awkward chord changes, so I’m feeling much less nervous about the whole thing.
My history with the uke is a little weird, but illustrative of my life in music in general. I usually blame my eclectic musical experience and knowledge on my dad’s career in petroleum industry, best summed up by: ten elementary schools in four different states. At the beginning of fourth grade we lived in a school district where musically-inclined students were encouraged to join orchestra. I started learning to play the viola. I had had some tutelage in how to read music, and one of my grandmothers had taught me how to find middle C and plunk a very simple melody on the piano before this, but viola in fourth grade was where the teaching got serious.
And then, just a couple months into the school year, we moved.
The new district didn’t do orchestra. For music they taught ukulele. I tried to get into the class, but the teacher didn’t want me to start a few months behind the others. With the help of a classmate, I convinced the teacher a few weeks later that I could catch up, and so for the next several months I was learning to strum chords.
Until we moved again. In fifth grade the school we were at offered band, where the music teacher convinced me and my parents that I should play trumpet. All the schools I attended afterward had band, so you would think I was set.
Except when I got to my first High School (9th Grade), the band had something like two dozen trumpet players out of a total band of about 36 students. A couple of us trumpets were talked into trying baritone, and by the end of the year I was switching between baritone horn, susaphone, and trumpet.
The next school had band, orchestra, a separate pep band, and a jazz band. That’s when I starting playing reed instruments, occasionally wandering into other brass instruments (including trombone and French horn, which are very, very different then the other brass, playing wise).
And like many teen-age American boys, I tried my hand at guitar for a bit. It was very much like the uke, except more strings. Unlike all the various wind instruments, I never got what I considered competent at guitar.
A few years ago, because I was hanging out with a friend who needed his mandolin repaired, I wound up picking up a uke off the wall in a store, and was pleasantly surprised that I remembered how to play a couple of chords. Next thing I know, I had bought a ukulele.
I haven’t been practicing it as much as I ought. Part of the problem is not having a deadline. Which is another reason I decided to write this story this way. I had originally thought to keep it a secret, and spring it on people. Except I know me, if I leave myself the out of not doing it if I don’t feel ready, I won’t practice.
But if I tell people I’ll do it, well, now I have the kind of incentive that works for me.