Our rehearsals

CUCU performing for the English Country Christmas Party, December 2011 

 CUCU, the Coalition of Union-County Ukuleles, is open to the community, welcoming young and young at heart! (Any age--preferably 4th grade up because of the motor skill thing!) CUCU is a positive way to share your love of music with like-minded people of different backgrounds and ages. The ukulele is a popular instrument that takes little investment to get started. The ukulele is ideal for its portability, ability to play melody and harmony, sounds great in groups or alone, and is FUN to play! 

We sponsor a third Monday of the month Strum Circle open to all at La Fiesta Restaurant (Adams Avenue) in La Grande. We strum and sing and there is no pressure. Beginners are welcome! We project the words and chords on the wall and have chord charts for easy reference. 

An excellent example of a community group of ukulele players is the Langley Ukulele Ensemble of Canada. Another example is the NoVA Ukulele Ensemble of Virginia. Here is a list of others around the globe

The purposes of CUCU are to:

  • Improve our ukulele skills
  • Learn to play as a group
  • Assist aspiring Ukies in their learning process
  • Learn more about the ukulele and music theory
  • Spread the joy of ukulele music by entertaining others 
  • Just have fun playing  the ukulele with friends, new acquaintances, and family members

Some notes about equipment:

Our local La Grande Stereo and Music is working on getting some ukuleles in at a competitive price with high quality. We are still looking at the $50 range. I have (going on Monday!) to see what their vendor is bringing to town. There is no shipping costs of course and you are doing a great thing to keep your money locally. As they say, 'Buy local, or Bye-Bye Local!" Owner Mike Mallory also has some excellent low-cost portable music stands with cases and sells tuners as well. 

I also recommend the concert ukulele sold through Empire Music for $54.00 (free shipping.) This ukulele has machine geared tuning (not friction pegs.) Specify the C tuning with a low G for the strings. They will know what you mean. Their customer service is excellent and their ukulele is not fancy but excellent quality for the money. I also have a few for sale that are barely used. See the "For Sale" link at the top of this page. If you are local, you can just buy them directly from me without going through PayPal. My stock changes but the ukuleles are in excellent condition and have the finest quality strings on them. 

 A case would be good to have as well. You will want a concert size if that is the size you want to buy. Sopranos are the smallest, then Concerts, then Tenors. Many adults use tenors. Those adults with smaller fingers would prefer the Concert size. The larger the instrument the more mellow the tone, usually. 

Strings...if you get an option, buy/install Aquila Strings. They are recognized as a superior string for ukuleles. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste but many professionals use them. Luthiers often use Aquila Strings on hand-built instruments. Remember, you want a low-G on your uke in C tuning. I have also started using Worth clear strings with excellent results. Living Water strings are awesome but you have to import them from the UK. Strings do not make a better player. Practice makes a better player!

I will provide tuners at the rehearsals but for home practice, you will want some kind of tuner. There are many tuners free on the internet, available on the iPhone or iPad and other smartphones, or a piano will do. Our local music dealer sells them also. 

(This note reading group on hold so info below is not in effect now!) 

The book we use to start is Ukulele in the Classroom-Book 1 in C6 tuning by James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane. It is $14.00 and shipping is free if you buy it with the ukulele from Empire Music. This book, and the method we will use to learn to play, is excellent pedagogy and we will be making music the very first session! I will have some copies for sale at our first session. I will be providing more music for us as we go along (hoping the grant monies help out here, or some kindly "angel.") Also, we will be using the Santa Cruz Songbook (starting with Book 1) to give us songs to strum together and sing.  I have researched several ukulele ensembles and the Santa Cruz group leads the way in terms of materials. I will also have several on-hand at the sessions. They are $10, double-sided, and hole-punched. I have used notebook binders for you to have. I get the Santa Cruz songbook copied at Copies Plus, here locally. NOTE: We have moved into Ukulele in the Classroom-Book 2 in C6 tuning by James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane!

Music stands are available locally at La Grande Stereo and Music. The cheaper ones, that will suit this ensemble, come with a small carrying case. I have one and they are a better quality than some I have seen at the low-end of the market.  I will be investigating buying the stands for the rehearsal nights and storing them where we actually are meeting. It is recommended that a stand be shared by two people in rehearsals to foster a buddy system for aid and support.  

So, bottom line....ukulele $54, two books $25 is $79 to get started. I will be investigating scholarships for those who are in need.