Monday, July 6, 2009

Never too old to learn

Well, here's what happened at the ukulele concert. The glorious International Wellington Ukulele Orchestra gave me and 99 other people a grand total of 4 x 1-hour lessons in playing the ukulele. My brother-in-law Ben said naughtily, "I didn't know anyone had to be taught to play the ukulele." He's just jealous. (OK, he did spend 40 years as a professional cellist.)

But I did wonder how I'd manage as a rank beginner aged 69. The mythology says that older people find it very hard to learn an instrument.

Certainly, I was slower than others by a long chalk. Dexterity and orientation were hard to find. Even hanging on to the instrument the right way was tricky.

Our final session was a "concert" in which our "bands" performed to friends and family. All week I struggled with my three chords. I was rehearsing with the wrong rhythm! When I was corrected just before the concert, rhythm and chord changes made more sense, but too late for me to do much more than smile and hit C on stage.

Since the concert I practise a bit during the TV ads, once or twice a week. And little by little it gets easier. You can teach an old dog new tricks: it just takes longer.

I smiled when I read Linley Boniface's column recently. She'd attended the same workshop. She said learning to play the ukulele has given her more pleasure than anything else for a very long time.

Me too. Joining the millions who play a musical instrument feels like joining the human race. Even the ukulele. Especially the jolly little ukulele.


  1. Hi Rachel, I came across this by chance, glad I did, absolutely loved reading this as I can relate to it. I started with our ukulele club here on the beautiful Central Coast NSW Australia, I am a member of the Central Coast Ukulele Club. I am 66 years old and I can't express the joy I feel when I play my ukulele but you know what I mean ( by the way, I love the hats, I'm Dutch )
    And yesterday we had the best news ever, we are getting our very own ukulele festival! how fantastic is that. the exitement bubbles over. I am going to put your photo on my facebook page, you don't mind do you?
    Regards Joanne

  2. Hi Joanne! What fun to discover your comment, and only 11 days after you wrote it! So glad to discover that you feel the same thrill as I do. And now all I need is a ukulele group of my own... Have fun at the festival! (I'm tickled that you'd publish our funny photo on Facebook. And I'm sure nobody else would mind.