Ukulele Performance: Dealing with the Dreaded Jitters.

Scared Eyes 3

You’re on the stage, your throat and mouth go dry, you have shortness of breath and a sick feeling in the stomach.  You fumble the chords on your ukulele and the audience seems to morph into a scary monster.  You don’t have a virus.  You have Stage Fright.  If you have never experienced this before, don’t panic.  It can happen to anyone, even professional musicians.

After a couple of years occasionally playing with a small group, I experienced a sudden attack of stage fright.   At a small community event I made the mistake of focusing on a grumpy looking member of the audience and started to imagine that there was something terribly wrong with my performance.  This made me really tense and nervous and I found it difficult to concentrate on my playing.  At the time I did not consider that the grouchy faced person may have had a bad day or was unwell and it probably had nothing to do with me.

Once it had manifested I found that this type of anxiety kept happening, so I searched for information about coping with the problem on numerous websites.  Here are a few strategies that I find helpful, as well as some I worked out for myself:

  • Thoroughly practice so that you can play a song under pressure because you know it so well.  This is the most important factor for a good performance.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated so that you can produce some saliva to wet your lips and swallow if your mouth and throat become dry and keep a water bottle handy on stage.
  • Allow time for a good warm-up before a concert and go out there smiling.  After the first song it is usually easier to relax. If you do make a mistake through nervousness, don’t stop but keep playing.  You don’t need to be perfect for others to enjoy your performance.
  • If it is obvious that you have forgotten the chords or the words of a song when performing alone or as a lead player in a group, don’t freeze, but laugh or make a joke.  Many professional performers use this technique.  It diffuses the situation and puts the audience on your side.  If this happens when you are with a large group, stop playing, mime and where possible, move behind other players while you get yourself together.
  • See the audience as benign and friendly.  Concentrate on entertaining everyone and ignore any grumpy faces.  Many more will be smiling and tapping along.  If it helps, you can imagine the audience as happy little furry creatures, like Wombles (Google it) or as anyone else who is non- threatening.  Whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable.

Remember to smile and have fun as this is contagious and the feel good aspect of playing the ukulele will prevail.


Bayside Ukes member.


My Second Ukulele

Someone once told me “you can never have too many ukuleles”. I heartily agree.

For a long time I have been considering the purchase of a second ukulele.  The first ukulele I bought was a concert, and I still find it enjoyable to play, however sometimes I have thought it would be nice to buy a second ukulele with a different sound.

The trouble with buying another ukulele is there are so many styles and makes available that it became difficult to make a decision.  It is not just about the size of ukulele to buy, whether soprano, concert, tenor, baritone or bass.  Or whether it is an acoustic or acoustic/electric.  You must also consider whether you want a commercially manufactured ukulele from Australia or overseas, or do you want your ukulele custom made by a luthier to your own specifications.  Maybe you would like to build your own ukulele just for fun?  In any case you must choose how your ukulele is constructed.  This is where buying a ukulele has became more complicated and I referred to several buying guides.

I found this information very helpful but it not make my decision any easier.

My next line of enquiry was to look at ukulele players to see how they have built their collections.  For a start, does the collection show the progression in quality from a cheap ukulele to an expensive ukulele as the collector’s playing ability improved?  Or does the collection seem a random mix of ukuleles with different body shapes, woods, finishes and construction methods?  Ultimately does the collector continue to play each ukulele?  On the Internet you can find many ukulele collections, but I find the most interesting sites are of collectors talking or writing about their ukuleles.

Both of these collectors seem very passionate about their ukuleles, and I think it is inevitable for players to develop an emotional attachment to their instruments.

As I already owned a concert size ukulele I did not really want to buy another one.  I could have looked at a resonator, but another member of our group has one and I thought that two could be too loud at the one time.  I ruled out buying a soprano ukulele, as my two arthritic fingers would have trouble negotiating the shorter fret-board and I ruled out a baritone ukulele because it uses guitar tuning.  So this narrowed it down to buying a tenor ukulele.

After my research I finally decided it was the moment to buy my second ukulele.  I knew I did not have the patience or skill with tools to make my own and I did not want a custom made ukulele from a luthier as my skill as a player is not good enough justify the cost.  Also I did not want to buy an instrument online because I wanted try a variety of ukuleles to find the one that was comfortable to play, had a good tone, was visually appealing and was an acoustic/electric.  Sometimes it is nice to be loud.

After checking out several music sites online to see what was in stock, I went to a local music store to look for a ukulele.  The selection was between three good quality tenor acoustic/electric ukuleles.  I did not want to be indecisive and go from store to store so I knew it was between these three ukuleles.  There was an eight-string ukulele that sounded rather impressive.  In the past I had considered an eight-string ukulele for the different sound it would bring to the group.  It was not for me.  Unfortunately I found it difficult to play, as I could not always evenly press both strings with my arthritic fingers.  Also there was the annoying thought of restringing the eight strings.  The other two ukuleles had the usual four strings.  Both were beautifully made with a good tone, with fingerboards of the same dimensions and they were the same price.  The difference came down to one having slightly deeper sides on the body than the other.  This was the one I chose.  It has a good tone, is easy to play, it produces a good volume of sound and is pleasant to hold and to look at.

I will not reveal the manufacturer’s name because that is not the point of this article.  When you choose a ukulele it is a totally subjective decision that should not be based on advertising and brand recognition.  When choosing a ukulele you need to use both your head and your heart and buy the instrument of the best quality you can afford.  After all, you will be spending a lot of time together.  Happy hunting!


Bayside Ukes Member