A uke lesson from an 8-year-old

My son is eight and until last night, has done everything in the most straightforward fashion.

The quickest path between any two points was the path for him. Which often would mean crashing through furniture, banging off walls.

Even school work was direct and to the point. No extra time spent beyond the very basics called for.

But something changed last night.

He finished brushing his teeth, and before he put the toothbrush back in the little holder, he gave it a flip. A quick flip in the air.

Totally unnecessary.

Purely decorative.

The work of a kid sure of himself and his toothbrush flipping abilities.

As a toothbrusher, it gave him a greater satisfaction, that little flourish. He had mastered the basics, and here was a way to prove it.

As the onlooking dad, it gave me greater satisfaction, too. Not that any form of toothbrush manipulation is likely to ever be actually entertaining, but, as far as that sort of thing goes, it was MUCH more entertaining to see him do the fancy flippy thing, rather than quietly placing the brush back in the rack.

OK, you see where this is going.

We have the same freedom as uke players.

Sometimes, of course, you want your playing to be simple. Simple can be clear, sweet, definite.

But you should never fear the flourish.

Remember—it’s called playing music for a reason—it’s supposed to be fun! And a great way to add fun to your playing is to get those basics down pat, and then start in adding the occasional flourish.

Roll, slides, pick-ups, sudden stops—any number of a little tricks you can pull to make your playing fun for you, and fun for anyone listening.

You might worry that being an enjoyable flourisher is just a small step from being an annoying show-off. And you would be right.

The key, as my eight-year-old boy got exactly right, is knowing when your dad will find it funny to watch you flip your toothbrush, and knowing when to just wash your face and go to bed.


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