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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Learning to Play the Ukulele in Hawaii on Lanai

Learning to Play the Ukulele with Auntie Irene on Lanai

Learning to Play the Ukulele with Auntie Irene on Lanai

I’ve wanted to learn how to play the ukulele in Hawaii for a few years now. Each time I’ve been presented with the opportunity, though, I’ve turned it down. Why? Because something else captured my attention for that split second only to pull me away from the opportunity. It’s kind of like Attention Deficit Disorder while in Hawaii…Squirrel!

Wait a second. What was I talking about? Oh yes, learning to play the ukulele.

Trying to Play the Ukulele at a Friend's House on Oahu

Trying to Play the Ukulele at a Friend’s House on Oahu

As I was saying, I’ve wanted to learn to play for a long time. I even tried during my first trip to the islands when I stayed with a friend on Oahu. I thought his fingers were like magic as they whisked over the cords playing beautiful Hawaiian music, but he insisted he was only a beginner. In my mind he was light years ahead of me, as I sat out on his veranda strumming on the cords trying to figure out why they made the things so small.

Too small!

Too small!

Oh yes, because if they were bigger they’d be something like a guitar. I tried that, too, way back in high school, and it was as much of an epic failure as my first attempt at the ukulele. By the way, while we’re still on the topic of distractions, did you know ukulele isn’t pronounced you-koo-lay-lee? Neither did I. Well, at least not until after a few visits to the islands, finally figuring out it sounds more like ooh-koo-lay-lay.

So now that you have your fun fact for the day, back to more about learning to play the ukulele…

My second attempt – here at The Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele with Auntie Irene on my Visit Lanai trip – wasn’t much better. But she is so nice that she encouraged me to keep going, saying it takes years to really learn it. By the end of the session, though, she had me happy and smiling over the parts of five songs I learned.

Auntie Irene Playing the Ukulele at The Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele

Auntie and Her Ukulele at The Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele

Yes, for those wondering, one of them was even Over the Rainbow.

And no, for those also wondering, Auntie Irene isn’t my real auntie. Auntie and Uncle in Hawaii are terms given to respected elders, those who are learned; it’d be much along the same lines as teacher or sensei. Auntie Irene truly was a good auntie, too.

I could tell I was trying auntie’s patience with my horrible finger positioning, inability to strum the cords while I also moved my fingers along the frets, and my lack of focus on most anything we were doing. Her patience was infinite, though, particularly since she knew I had only just arrived that morning and was still shaking the cobwebs of sleep from my head. But all of her lessons and wisdom didn’t escape me. When we parted ways, after talking story for what must have been hours, she impressed upon me one thing…

There’s no wrong way to play the ukulele. If you like the sound you’re creating, and that makes you happy, keep doing it. Don’t stop just because someone says you’re not moving your fingers the way you should. Sure, the basics and knowledge are important, but keep going with what makes you happy.

Yeah, wow, I know, there’s a great life lesson for you right there, courtesy Auntie Irene, while learning to play the ukulele.

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4 Comments on “Learning to Play the Ukulele in Hawaii on Lanai”

  1. Mainland Kamaaina March 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    So. . . how’s the playing after a month of practice?

    • Jason's Travels March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      I wish I’ve had a month of practice. Unfortunately I didn’t have room in my luggage to bring an ukulele back to the mainland with me. Next time maybe!


  1. Is The Four Seasons, The Lodge at Koele, Really the Best Hotel in Hawaii? | Jason's Travels - February 4, 2013

    […] culture more your thing? Then hang out with Auntie Irene and learn to play the ukulele. You couldn’t do worse than me, so let it rip and learn how to play Over the Rainbow. Or relax […]

  2. An Overview of Hotels on Lanai | Jason's Travels - May 6, 2013

    […] beach isn’t nearby, there is a ton to do in the area – UTV ride and shoot programs, golfing, cultural demonstrations and lessons, hiking, and more. So even though you may think you’ll miss out on the beach, odds are you’ll […]

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