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What’s my quick-fix? Four simple strings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I should be preparing for the trip right now. I should be packing. I should be studying. I should be (insert any number of tasks that I should be doing right now).

But I’m not. I’m overwhelmed.

And do you know what I do when I feel overwhelmed?

I strum.

That’s right. I don’t smoke. I don’t touch drugs. I rarely drink. I’m not even an exercise aficionado who works out my stress on the treadmill.

My quick-fix: an ʻukulele.

It does something to me. I have a physical reaction to it.

I was hooked the first time I heard it. I remember watching a television commercial that featured the sounds of an ʻukulele being plucked and strummed. I remember it had been a really lousy day. I remember I was really angry. And the sweet sound of the ʻukulele coming through my television made me cry. FOR REAL!

My shoulders—which had been up beside my ears—dropped and relaxed. My breathing—which had been shallow—became slower and deeper. My anger subsided. I softened.

And I knew this was something that I needed to explore. I needed to find out more about this instrument. I needed to play it. I needed to feel that way again.

Four simple strings …

A guitar teacher once told me I had “clumsy hands.” I felt like I’d never be able to accompany myself while I sang. But there is a “friendliness” about the ʻukulele that makes it easy. I was able to play a chord pressing only one string. Using my “clumsy hands” I was able to make music and prove the naysayers wrong!

I was playing full songs after just an afternoon of study. It was instantly gratifying. It made me want to practice. It made me want to play.

I’ve studied the ʻukulele for a while, but I’m not a “flashy” player. Although, I love what today’s ʻukulele superstars are doing! They’ve been able to show the world that the ʻukulele is not a toy. It’s a serious instrument worthy of any virtuoso. It takes an incredible amount of skill to make the ʻukulele sizzle like Jake Shimabukuro can!

I play “kupuna-style. (Think: “Grandparent-style.”) No fancy riffs. Usually only three or four chords for an entire song. And yet MAGIC can still be produced with simple strumming. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful that can be!

When I was working for a media giant in midtown Manhattan, there were plenty of days where the stress would be overwhelming. I kept an ʻukulele at my desk and was known to break it out and strum—especially after a difficult meeting. Often I wouldn’t even need to play a whole song. A few simple strums would do the trick! And the folks around me shared the benefits, too! How can you be upset when a dude is strumming an ʻukulele as he walks down the hall?

Crazy? For sure!

Did it make people smile? Absolutely!

It was a win/win situation.

Now that I’m writing and traveling, I keep my ʻukulele within arm’s reach at all times. (Being the Accidental Hawaiian Crooner has its moments of stress, too!) I know I can calm myself down with a few simple strums. And I never know when I might meet someone in need of a quick serenade!

No need for me to travel with a medicine cabinet full of remedies. I’m fine with an ʻukulele, thank you very much.

Now … if you’ll excuse me … I need to get back to my strumming so that I can get back to work!

What’s YOUR quick-fix??

7 Responses to “What’s my quick-fix? Four simple strings.”

  1. carol Brown says:

    when in a cold cloudy overcast climate like Canada in the winter, I turn the 300 watt light bulbs on, the heat up the 85, lay a beach towel in the middle of the floor, put on some sunscreen (for the fragrance and remembrance of warm sunny Hawaii) and some Hawaiian music. Nothing like simulating the physical attributes of the desired place if I cannot be there.

  2. Sandy Mosley says:

    I listen to Hawaiian Music… It calms me, relaxes me…and I picture Hawaii…All good to my spirit!

  3. June Tanoue says:

    I was in Jerusalem with Bernie Glassman and the Peacemaker Community. It was a tense time in the city…there were sounds of large guns or missiles firing almost overhead one day at the conference site we were at. I remember sitting in the bus that evening that was taking us back to the hostel and feeling very alone and homesick for the peace of the Big Island of Hawaii.

    And then the next moment, in the seat behind mine, I heard a ukulele being strummed. I couldn’t believe it – was that a ukulele?! it just lit up my heart. I turned around to see who was playing it and there was Mr. YooWho, clown name of Moshe Cohen, strumming it. The ukulele lifted me out of a sad moment and started a wonderful friendship with Moshe.

  4. Claudia says:

    I remember that television commercial with the ‘ukulele, Jason. That etoys commercial changed my life. When I first heard the ‘ukulele and the sweet voice accompanying it – I stopped dead in my tracks. I had to know what that sublime instrument was, and who was that voice? It drove me crazy. Then I finally heard more of the song on a tv show and I went to the world music section of Tower Records on Broadway and got the album. I listened to the album compulsively and was transfixed by the beauty and emotion of the Hawaiian songs – in particular, “La ‘Elima.” I had such a strong reaction to this music, I decided I had to get a ‘ukulele and learn how to play and sing Hawaiian songs. The rest, you know….. :)

  5. abberdab says:

    I have only played since January, but in that time my ukulele has become my best stress antidote. So fun and relaxing! I, too, am headed to Molokai soon — in April — for the first time and I’m looking forward to strumming on the lanai, looking out at the water. Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. Jeanie says:

    Oh man, to be the one in need of (and then to be the recipient of) an unexpected serenade from the Accidental Hawaiian Crooner! What a way to change the world, one strum at a time!

  7. Clorinda Waldmann says:

    Those that want to learn how to play the guitar have an enormous world of possibilities awaiting them. Indeed, there are so many opportunities to learn how to play the guitar that it can be very overwhelming at first. From acoustics to bass guitars, to playing the lead or the rhythm, you simply have a whole lot to comprehend no matter what angle you approach the desire.