Want to Master the Ukulele?

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If you’ve ever wanted to strum your favourite tunes on one of these popular instruments, you’re in luck. We got the opportunity to chat with Frank Dunne, Ukulele teacher and enthusiast, about what makes this instrument 70% more fun than any other.

When did you know you loved music?

I have always loved music but never played an instrument. I first got interested in the Tenor Banjo but I would play it alone in my bedroom. That was not satisfactory. Some years back, I decided to take up the Ukulele as it seemed to be a fun, stringed Instrument. I studied and learned to play at the Ultimate School of Music, and I never looked back

How do you quell stage fright if you have to play in front of a crowd?

My tactics are simple: I usually blank out the crowd. It’s very important in situations like a live performance to stay focused. Always be prepared: make sure your setup is functional and ready beforehand. Have your sound, mic, and stage ready before anyone arrives and always visit the venue before a gig. Deep breathing always helps too.

The Ukulele has certainly seen a resurgence in the past few years, why is it so popular at the moment?

Because it’s FUN, especially with the right person teaching. I can teach people how to enjoy learning. The Ukulele has a great social aspect also for ALL age groups.

Where did the instrument come from?

The Ukulele originated in the 19th Century as a Hawaiian adaptation of the Portuguese machete. This was a small, guitar-like instrument that was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, mainly from Madeira, and the Azores. The word ‘Ukulele’ actually comes from Leaping Flea Uku ‘louse flea’+ ‘lele’ which is to ‘fly, jump, leap’.

How does this differ from playing the guitar?

It is guitar-LIKE only. The main difference is size but also the sound is quite different. The strings are nylon, not steel or copper coated metal. The Ukulele mostly has 4 Strings, but there is an 8-String also. You can get different types too, a Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone.

What’s your favourite song on the Ukulele and why?

Bad Moon Rising. It’s my favourite because everyone can sing along and it’s popular.

What are the benefits of learning the Ukulele?

Quite simply, it’s a great hobby. It’s fantastic at a social get together; it’s good for your mind. Plus you can see progress quicker over a shorter period of time than with other instruments.

Can you recommend any good resources where people can pick up tips or tricks?

Pobalscoil Neasáin in Sutton! That’s where I teach. Come along and pick it up in a fun environment. There are also a couple of great YouTube personalities that will enhance learning.

What if someone is a complete novice at music, would they be able to take this class?

Of course. A complete novice is a great challenge for me, and I find, as it’s a small group, that the students really gel together well over a period of weeks. This is where I encourage the FUN in the music.

Frank presently works for D.I.T. as a full-time lecturer in Aircraft Structures/Materials, and Hardware. Outside of work, his passion is teaching & learning the Ukulele. Some time ago he picked it up and he now plays with a group in Artane. On Tuesday evenings he can often be found at the Stags Head for Ukulele Tuesdays. He’s a member of the Dublin Ukulele Collective (D.U.C.s) and has played several gigs for charity.

There you have it, no excuses. Visit Pobalscoil Neasáin for a full list of their excellent programmes.


Gemma is a nomadic writer, filmmaker, & journalist.
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