Imagine walking into a public library and checking out a ukulele. Now, imagine this: If you have a Joplin Public Library card, then you don’t have to imagine. Earlier this year, Joplin Public Library and Post Art Library partnered with Glory Days Music of Joplin to bring a series of ukulele resources to the library, including Uke Can Play! workshops, instructional materials, and, you guessed it, ukuleles. Although we no longer offer ukulele workshops, the library now has six ukuleles available for checkout to anyone with a Joplin Public Library card in good standing.
You might find it strange that a public library would include ukuleles in their circulating collection. But public libraries are increasingly making non-traditional material types accessible through their collections, ranging from hand tools to small kitchen appliances, from fitness kits to board games, from cookie sheets to cake pans, and much, much more.
But why ukuleles? Because ukuleles are, in a word, fun. So much fun, in fact, that all of our workshops were full and a waitlist was started before we were able to release promotional materials. In addition to their fun-factor, ukuleles are easy enough to learn to play and are relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to other stringed instruments. Plus, we avoided reinventing the wheel by modeling our program like similar programs offered by other public libraries.
Although it doesn’t come naturally, ukulele is not a challenging instrument to begin learning. By the end of our workshops, attendees understood the basics and could play at least one song, regardless of whether they had previous experience with ukuleles or other instruments. Trust me–uke can play! And I encourage you to checkout one of our ukuleles to get started.
But let’s say you’ve started. Maybe you checked out a ukulele or you already have one. Yet you’re unsure about what comes next. We have resources for that, too. Following are brief reviews of other ukulele-related resources we offer:
Ukulele Method, Book 1 by Lil’ Rev – Of the ukulele resources we have, this is the one I recommend for complete beginners. Author and award-winning instrumentalist Lil’ Rev introduces a thorough, but laid-back ukulele method, beginning with ukulele anatomy and variations, how to hold your ukulele, and tuning before moving into notes, chords and chord charts, fretting, and strumming. Includes standard melodies for beginners.
Ukulele Method, Book 2 by Lil’ Rev – This follow-up to Lil’ Rev’s Ukulele Method, Book 1 focuses on right-hand (fretting) techniques and melody playing. Players become familiar with movable chords and different chord families, as well as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and a few different strum methods/patterns. Like Book 1, Book 2 includes standard melodies for beginners.
Easy Songs for Ukulele by Lil’ Rev – Once you’ve learned how to read a chord chart, this book is an excellent resource for easy, popular songs, including pop, folk, country, and blues. Selective artists include Elvis, The Beatles, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and Huddie Ledbetter. Admittedly, it’s a touch scary if, like me, you don’t know how to read music, but the chords are included above the music, thus making the music playable for anyone familiar with chord grids.
Alfred’s Easy Ukulele Songs by Alfred Music – This is a songbook of “50 hits across the decades” from the rock and pop genres of music. Like other songbooks, both the music and chords are included, making the book suitable for both advanced and beginning players. Sample songs include Abba’s Fernando, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All, and the Ghostbusters theme song. It’s a great resource for those who like pop and rock.
Ukulele Favorites for Dummies – Admittedly, this is my least favorite of our ukulele books; however, it’s a good resource, especially for those interested in vocal melodies, chord harmonies, and performance notes. Although it includes intermediate material, many of the songs are suitable for beginners.
Classic Rock Ukulele Songbook – Like other songbooks, this, too, has musical notation as well as chord grids. It’s a fantastic resource for players who would like to learn some classic rock, such as The Who, Queen, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, and more.
Ukulele: A Beginning Method by Daniel Ho – This is a DVD rather than a book. I recommend it to beginners who prefer visual either in addition to or instead of written resources. It includes basic techniques, scales, chords, strumming, and such, as well as highlights how to choose a ukulele, how to practice efficiently, and how to improvise.
Finally, we’ve come to our last ukulele resource: Ukulele Club. When I started playing ukulele, I was told people are the best resource for beginners and advanced players alike. What better way to meet people interested in or already playing ukulele than to start a ukulele club at the library? First meet: Saturday, January 12th, 2-4pm. Bring your own uke or checkout one of ours!