Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changing Strings...

Today I learned how to change a string on my 'ukulele--something that wouldn't mean much to most people, but for me, it was a real right of passage. I have never been one to take something apart to learn about it and then reassemble it. Maybe I did something like that when I was young and couldn't put it back together? I'm not sure... But I AM sure that I don't enjoy having to do something unfamiliar (like changing a string)--and especially when it deals with something that I love and value so much (like my 'ukulele.)

I was really afraid that I was going to go about the whole thing wrong. I was terrified of doing some kind of irreparable damage to the instrument. And that would be terrible! I need this 'ukulele for some upcoming performances!

A few weeks ago, while playing for a Hula class here in NYC, my wound silver string on my 6-string 'ukulele popped. I had noticed that it was showing signs of extreme wear and tear but I continued to play it. Kind of like when people KNOW IN THEIR HEARTS that something is wrong with their physical body, but refuse to see a doctor. The situation was classically funny. The dancers were moving beautifully. I was caught up in the beauty of the song. And then TWANG! Thankfully, no one was hurt when the string snapped!

Being such a "freak" when it comes to my 'ukulele and its strings, I wanted to make sure that I put the right kind on when I replaced it. As luck would have it, some of my friends were heading to the World Hula Conference on O'ahu. I asked them if they'd stop by the Kamaka factory and pick up a set of strings for me. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have spares of the other strings. Heck, if one popped, the others may just be waiting to do the same thing!

My friends totally came through for me and picked up a set of strings and I received them on Monday night. However, I didn't even take them out of the package... I was too nervous. Afraid that I would attempt to string it and screw everything up--without another string to correct my error. I was paralyzed.

My good buddy, Kbelle, came to the rescue. She told me to stop by her office and she'd show me how to restring it. The "old me" would have been happy to have her restring it FOR me. That way, I couldnʻt be responsible for doing anything wrong. How sad to be this old and so scared! Thankfully, she let me do most of the work. We figured it out pretty quickly and I left her office with all 6 strings intact.

You know how the new string doesn't like to stay in tune right away? How you need to play it, coax it into stretching a bit so that it maintains a constant (or at least semi-constant) tension? Give the new string a bit of a workout? Well, it's been so much fun. At first, it TOTALLY did not want to stay in tune! AUĒ! Stubborn buggah! But Iʻve been lovingly strumming it and, finally, it seems to be settling in and maintaining the necessary tension. I know Iʻll need to do that a lot over the next few days to make sure itʻs staying in tune.

Funny thing is that it sounds sweeter to me than it did before the string had popped. It sounds more mellow... More "honey-ed." Maybe just to my ear. Maybe itʻs because I know that I took the time to get to know my beloved instrument a bit. Maybe itʻs because I wasnʻt afraid to work with it a little bit. I love how it sounds!

Did I learn anything from this? Yes... I learned that Iʻm really just a big olʻ chicken when it comes to trying new things! I learned that I need to get over it and to get in there and get the job done. I learned that changing ʻukulele strings, like most things in the world, is NOT such a big deal. And I learned that if Iʻm ever in a situation where another one pops, Iʻll be prepared to handle it--with spare strings in my case. Right on.

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