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This week: the Ukulele goes to Trenton
I must admit, when I was assigned to discuss Trenton in New Jersey and the ukulele’s standings within the capital – I did think of only one thing: Ted Mosby.
For any How I Met Your Mother fan, there would be no doubt that the collective cast loves New York and hates New Jersey. Sounds plausible; nearly every major city has a rivalry with another major city in the same continent. I’m from Melbourne, so no prize for which city irks me to my inner core.
But why is that? Cities are like football teams, always bound by an unparalleled stream of loyalty. To besmirch something about a city is the equivalent of punching someone’s sacred mother. But some of the best things about cities (and indeed, sports) are the rise of the underdog. Trenton, New Jersey is probably the best underdog.
As it turns out, Trenton has a few hidden gems within its darkened alleys. Jazz Master Series based in New York has expanded its horizons over the Hudson River. In an underground basement (don’t worry, it is an actual club – called An Underground Basement), Jazz Master Series has begun not only performances by local talent; rather expanding their facilities to include collaborative jam sessions with other musicians – including the ukulele. Anyone from professional musicians to amateurs can come along to expand their contacts, learn a thing or two – or just get an ear worm lodged in their cranium (I assure you that is a good thing).
However, the pièce de résistance that makes city rise quicker than Jason Mraz’s Ukulele efforts in I’m Yours – is something called the Strumstick.
Now, dear reader; I must confess that when I first read this, I envisaged the finished product to be sticking out of a KFC bucket; but truth be told this ingenious beginners tool was actually invented in Trenton. Without going into to much detail as I would rather like too, the Strumstick is in effect a ukulele – but using three strings and much rather spacing between each fret.
Yes, it is a wee bit taller and thinner than the ukulele, but couple this with strings tuned in fifth and fourth intervals consecutively, the novice beginner can (to quote inventor Bob McNally) “succeed in one key, rather than fail in 12”.
Quite frankly, he has a point. Late in the 16th century, minstrel boys on a Lute sang Madrigals. The Lute in essence is just a guitar tuned to open fifths with Thomas Campion poetry homogenised together; so that rich men could court young unsuspecting women rather than their wives. (Remember, I am just reporting this – I don’t approve of this behaviour… or Thomas Campion if I’m brutally honest).
But in all seriousness, this KFC drumstick (sorry, Strumstick) may be the best thing to come out of Trenton. I see it as more than just play on words, rather a stepping-stone for all people who want to succeed in this field. Sleek and pragmatic in design, people can view this as the new default to learn the intricacies of how harmony can be used when using the Ukulele. Just as nearly all-famous guitarists owe their success from Stairway to Heaven; the best of the best that will rise to the future of the Ukulele, may owe their careers to the humble Strumstick. It really is that important. And lets be honest, that's a real underdog story. A bit like Ted Mosby.
I’ve been to Trenton, and truth be told its got nothing compared to New York. Until I learned that the Mother that Ted marries – both character and actress - was actually born in New Jersey. Then there’s that scene at the hotel – with the ukulele. And the song. (Sorry. Spoilers).
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