Have you ever tried teaching musical chord theory to a six-year-old?
Wow, that would be crazy. I can’t even imagine. I suppose there are people who can do it–and six-year-olds who can learn it–but they’re not in my immediate family.
If I’m being honest, my own grasp of music theory isn’t that great, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play what have been called the “three magic chords” on a few different instruments. In case you don’t know, and you’re not six years old, the “three magic chords” in any key are the 1st, the 4th, and the fifth; in the key of C, that would be C, F, and G. If that doesn’t make sense, please just trust me for now. Many, many songs are based on those three chords alone; if you want me to I can make up a percentage, but for now I’ll leave it at, “it’s a lot.”
So, back to the six-year-old. It’s my youngest granddaughter (my regular readers nod their heads and whisper, “Of course it is”), who’s been showing an interest in music for a few years now. Until now, my encouragement has been limited to modeling (read: playing) and making instruments available. Making them available, that is, with close supervision for everything except the dulcimer since it’s darn near indestructible.
When it comes to actually teaching, though, one of the obstacles young people face when learning a stringed instrument is, well, the strings. Typically steel with a diameter measured in thousands of an inch, they’re tensioned to a degree that means simply pushing them to the fingerboard is anything but simple when your hand is small. Adults know the pain as well when they first start playing–it’s hard.
The aforementioned dulcimer is nice to play because of its low string action, but it’s not a “guitar,” and it doesn’t have the same appeal as the instrument grandpa plays.
Enter the ukulele.
The ukulele has enjoyed a surge of popularity in the last decade or so, but until now I’ve largely let it go by. My, ahem, older readers might get the reference when I say that my being well over six feet tall and the fact that I go by, “Tim,” has had something to do with my hesitation toward the instrument. Maybe I just wanted to avoid the latest fad, I don’t know. Regardless, I haven’t had an interest until my youngest kin expressed a desire to play an instrument like the one I do.
Though the ukulele isn’t indestructible, it is relatively inexpensive, so two of them now have a home in my living room, readily available to the youngest musicians in my life as well as to me. They’re fun to play, and they’ve got me thinking about polishing up my falsetto. We’ll see.