Who’s Afraid of The Ukulele?

Is there such a thing as a Ukulele phobia?  I was forced to ponder this question after the addition of a new puppy to our home.

As you have probably learnt from previous blogs on this site, I love to play my uke and interact with a dog.  Our other dog, although being a bit naughty as a puppy, is never bothered by the sound of the ukulele.  When we first brought the new puppy home, I practiced my uke while standing in the same room and everything seemed fine.  A few days later when we had a guest, I got out my ukulele to demonstrate a song.  I accidentally shut the lid of the case when she was standing nearby and she jumped.  When I started to play the puppy became distressed and ran away.  She would not come anywhere near me while I was playing the uke and I was not even playing loudly.  I tried to show her the instrument on her level.  She sniffed it but when I carefully plucked the G string, she ran away again.  I wondered what I had done wrong as she was not bothered the first time I played when she was in the room.

When you Google “ukulele phobia” there is only one case of a human who has a phobia about ukuleles (because they thought it looked like an alien), but there is nothing about dogs being scared of this harmless instrument.  It must be uncommon for dogs to have this particular fear as there are plenty of videos on You Tube with dogs trying to play the uke or doing a sing-a-long and they look perfectly happy.

How could I prevent the puppy’s anxiety about the ukulele from developing into a permanent phobia?  I love to play my ukulele and it is a big part of my life, so I thought that the solution was to introduce it gradually.  To get her used to the instrument I left it in it’s case on the floor.  She sniffed it then walked away.  I made the mistake of leaving the handle upright and she came back and began to chew it, but when I put the handle down she left it alone.  The next day I decided to give playing another go but this time standing up again.  I set up a music stand carefully, did some vocal warm-ups and then began to play and sing.  No reaction.  She completely ignored me and went back to puppy activities.  So what was the difference?

I think that because I was closer to her level when sitting, the sound of the ukulele was much louder to sensitive puppy ears.  Shutting the case suddenly startled her and made her anxious before I had even started to play and this did not help.  Also the human-like shape of the instrument when upright could have been threatening.  I don’t sit down often which is just as well and I won’t be doing this again until she is well and truly used to the sound of the ukulele and feels more comfortable in her new home.

It just goes to show that each dog is different and you need to be very careful when introducing them to new experiences.  In the future I hope that she will be able to sing-a-long with our other dog, who really enjoys the ukulele.

Kat,     Bayside Ukes Member

UKULELE STRAPS: One Size does not fit all

Sometimes when you buy a product it does not always fulfill your expectations or ends up creating unforeseen problems. I have found this to be the case with the Ukulele Straps that I have purchased. Luckily I was able to come up with some creative solutions.

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My first Ukulele was concert sized and did not come with a strap button at the base so I bought a common lasso type that hung around my neck with a hook to support the ukulele at the sound hole. I thought that this was the best option, as the ukulele did not have the internal support needed to drill a hole for a strap button. After playing with the lasso strap for I while I found that the neck of my ukulele would wobble around as I played and always felt unstable which did not help my left hand fingering. I thought that if the strap anchored the neck in some way that this would resolve the problem. I had seen the type of straps designed for classical guitars where one end of the strap was tied to the neck and the other end came from behind the guitarists back to hook into the sound hole. I decided to change the lasso strap so that it supported my ukulele in this manner.

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First I undid the strap from its buckle, removed the hook and turned it to face the opposite direction. Next I reinserted the strap into the buckle and adjusted it so that it was long enough to go diagonally over my back and under the ukulele to connect to the bottom of the sound hole at the front. Then I sewed the free end of the strap back on itself to form a loop and ran a strong shoelace through this and tied it to the head under the strings. (a word of caution: don’t let go of the neck or the ukulele will flop forward, come adrift from the strap hook and fall to the floor). Now with the ukulele supported in this way the neck no longer wobbled when I played and I did not need to buy a new strap.

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My second ukulele does have a strap button and I first bought a thin leather Mandolin strap, but this always slipped around on my back and drove me crazy. Fortuitously I received a colourful brocade strap as a birthday present that was wider and less likely to slip. It had leather fittings to attach to the neck and strap button. When I went to attach it I found that the leather was very stiff and thick and it was really hard to fix it around the button, which is also the output jack of the electric pick-up. Eventually I managed to get it on. It was quite a tight fit because the jack button was not very deep. Over time the tightness of the strap started to unscrew the jack and that was not very desirable, so I took off the strap. As I really liked it, I decided to shave off some of the leather on the back of the strap with a scalpel blade to reduce the thickness by about half around the jack button. Now the end moves freely without undoing the jack and I can still use my favourite strap.

You don’t need to put up with these irritating problems. There is always a solution and a bit of simple DIY can customize a strap or you could even make your own. So get creative!

Kat, Bayside Ukes Member

Bayside Ukes Resumes 12 July

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Hi Everyone,

Bayside Ukes will return to the Hampton Community Centre next week on Tuesday 12 July at 7pm.

New members are welcome to join our friendly group of ukulele players.  Please be on time to register for the evening.  The session will begin at 7:15 sharp and remember to bring your copy of The Ukulele Club Songbook and a music stand.

We hope everyone had a fabulous holiday break.  If you have not picked up your ukulele because of too much holiday cheer, now is the time to start practising.

We would also like to thank those members of the group who gave up two days of their holiday to perform for two local groups of senior citizens.  We all had a great time.

This term we plan to be doing more performances so get ready to learn some new songs.

The two ten week term dates for the second half of the year are:

TERM 3:  12th July – 13th September

TERM 4 : 4th October – 13th December