My second meeting of the Steel City Ukuleles: why I already signed up to perform before being ready

I’ve entered my seventh week of playing ukulele.

Last month, I wrote about finally starting to learn to play ukulele and then attending my first meeting of the Steel City Ukuleles.

I just attended my second meeting after having improved a huge amount in two weeks (oh, the joy of being a beginner).

Adam led a great playlist of songs for us to go through.

Steel City Ukuleles T-shirt

Franklin wearing Steel City Ukuleles shirt

The first thing I did upon arrival at the session was to pay for and put on the Steel City Ukuleles T-shirt that Sunny said was for sale at my last meeting. I picked the blue one (there is also a red one). Very nice, and I’m proud to be wearing it!


Two weeks ago, at my first meeting, I was only on my fifth week of playing the ukulele at all, and struggled to keep up with chords and their changes in real time while also strumming, much less singing, so I did very little singing (especially since I barely knew most of the songs).

This week, having some of the finger work more under control, I started trying to start singing along sometimes. One thing I forgot to emphasize about why I’ve always been attracted to the prospect of playing guitar or ukulele is that I like to sing, and the drawback of playing wind instruments (as I have spent the last two years playing recorders and flutes) is that I can’t do that while also singing. And I love the idea of being able to accompany myself while singing, being my own harmonic and rhythmic support. (This is also a great thing about piano, but I have barely any piano competence, unfortunately.)

Music new to me and the transformation of taste

I’m learning all kinds of songs of all kinds of genres. This is a totally different world from what I’m used to. I feel myself undergoing a transformation the same way I did when I started playing recorder. Before playing recorder, I had relatively little interest in Baroque or Renaissance music. It was, frankly, “boring”. But when forced to actually play it, I began to understand and feel it and enjoy the subtleties of expression, from the point of view of the performer (and even the composer). In fact, I would admit that as a result, I have come to enjoy playing music rather than passively listening to it.

I’m experiencing the same transformation of my perception and taste and enjoyment now. There’s all this stuff that I haven’t much listened to, much less played or sung, whether blues, soul, rock, indie pop, country. Not all of the songs we go through are exciting to me, but I’ve been impressed by how many have something that is catchy that I can enjoy and express. These are songs that in many cases, if I didn’t actively strum or sing, would be boring to me.

Still need my own instrument

I’m still using the loaner banjolele, because the intonation of my Lanikai soprano ukulele is too far off (eventually I should figure out how to fix it).

I returned Linda’s electric tenor and she lent me another instrument, an inexpensive concert ukulele (pictured):

Franklin wearing Steel City Ukuleles shirt

It’s been a good thing for me to try out different instruments, before I buy a concert sized ukulele of my own, which I should do soon, because just a week ago, I signed up to perform in a gig!

Small group and solo playing

What has been really inspiring and was seeing some of the members of the group volunteer to sing and play something they wanted to share with the rest of us. I enjoy appreciating the vulnerability and individuality of soloing.

For example, Heidi, Amber, and Sunny performed a song as a trio, with beautiful ukulele playing and singing in harmony.

Heidi, Amber, and Sunny

I decided to perform before I was ready

Wilkins Center Community Center Ecofest 2013

Last week, Sunny put out a call for volunteers to perform for a gig in a month, at the second annual Wilkins Center Community Center Ecofest.

I remembered something that has changed my life in the past couple of years: start before you’re ready. In this case, it meant that since there was an opportunity to perform in a low-key, low-stress environment, I should seize it even though I don’t at all feel “ready”. In the past two years, I have done dozens of things before feeling “ready”, while in the last three decades, I accomplished very little in my life because I never felt “ready”. I learned in two years that perfectionism is the enemy, and that you have to just go out there and do stuff, and ideally as early as possible, to get early feedback (external or internal) for rapid improvement.

So I signed up to perform in the Ecofest on October 5. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I invite you to come see some subset of us from the Steel City Ukuleles perform at the Ecofest in Regent Square! I’ll write up more details later.

Deciding to perform means committing to getting a lot better in a month, of course. It also means not slacking on getting my own quality instrument. Finally, it means devoting time to official rehearsals, time that will have to come out of somewhere. (The rehearsal dates have not yet been set.)


I’m starting to settle in on playing ukulele. In my seventh week now, I’ve gotten far enough to know for sure that I want to continue playing and get serious. To prove that I am serious, I am planning to perform already in a month.

(Update of 2013-09-18)

Two weeks later: a report on my third Steel City Ukuleles meeting.

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