Learning to play an instrument is hard. But having a group of friendly-faced enthusiasts helping you out makes it easier and it’s for free.
This is what the ukulele group Loud in the Library do every second Monday of the month.
Keen to find out more about the group and maybe learn a chord or two, I found their practice room in the Gungahlin Library.
The room sported white walls, a white roof, white school desks and glowing in the centre were 14 red cushioned chairs.
Then I noticed the smiling face of organiser, Jasmine Fellows. Her long black hair with a splash of purple was tied in a ponytail as she helped a young lady tune her ukulele.
Jasmine greeted me with a wave and let me know that she had spare ukuleles if I wanted to join in, or I could sing-a-long with the songs, or just sit and watch.
Not ready to play yet, I sat down next to a guy who was getting his song sheets out of his bag and enquired how he got into playing the ukulele?
He told me that he started by playing the guitar and decided to buy his kids some ukuleles to play along with him. As soon as he bought the ukeleles, he found himself wanting to play one as well. “It puts a smile on people’s faces, it’s just one of those instruments,” he said.
Soon after our conversation, the room filled up and a discussion started about song selection. Then ukuleles started to strum and happy faces started to sing.
Halfway through the session, there was a 10-minute intermission where TimTams were given out. I decided to talk to Jasmine and learn a little more about the group.
I began by asking what got her interested in playing the ukulele? “I started playing the ukulele because I have a young daughter and I thought it would be a good instrument to play along while we were singing songs together. I started off playing simple nursery rhymes and branched out into some more modern stuff,” she said.
Then I asked how ‘Loud in the Library’ came about? Her hands gestured forward as she explained, “There were a few weekends where I would get together with friends and play, and I also had a chance to play with the local band URoc which is a similar community group.”
She then spoke about how she wanted to move away from playing the older style of music that URoc played and form a group that played more modern music.
Do you play any Taylor Swift?” With a laugh, she said, “Yeah, we do Shake It Off.”
Could you tell me a little bit about the group? “On any one evening we can have six to 14 players, so it varies from fortnight to fortnight. There are lots of different skill levels, we have beginner to more experienced players. It’s a good learning opportunity because everyone can learn a little bit from everyone else.”
What impact do these groups have in the Canberra community? Her eyes lit up as she answered, “It brings together people who would not meet necessarily. We have people who are travellers come through and find friends and support and we keep in contact with them via social media. It’s the opportunity to do something a bit different. Our group is a free group, we don’t charge, so it’s accessible to everyone.”
I then asked what advice she would give to someone who wants to learn how to play the ukulele? “It’s pretty easy to get started; there are a lot of YouTube tutorials, also attending a group like Loud in the Library to ask other members how they have approached their learning is also a good way to learn.”
Then, feeling a little nervous, I asked if I could borrow a ukulele? With a smile, Jasmine said, “Of course.” She walked over to a table and grabbed me one from her bag.
As I sat, ukulele in hand, a lady with curly brown hair next to me shared her song sheet and quickly taught me a few chords. She taught me C and A minor, “These are some good beginner chords,” she said.
Then the group started strumming Losing My Religion by REM, I found myself relaxing and no one cared if I missed a chord.
After the session ended, I left the library excited that a group like Loud in the Library existed – a group where you can meet new people and learn in a welcoming and friendly environment.
No matter how musically challenged you are.
The group practices fortnightly on Monday nights in the Gungahlin Public Library at 7 pm.