MUSIC AROUND THE WORLD: Central Coast Ukulele Club founder Liz Kitney, front centre, with a number of the group and locals in Hawaii, just one of the places loving ukes has taken them.
MUSIC AROUND THE WORLD: Central Coast Ukulele Club founder Liz Kitney, front centre, with a number of the group and locals in Hawaii, just one of the places loving ukes has taken them.

Ukulele brings smiles to seniors around the world

IT'S "the little string instrument that has brought happiness around the world", according to Central Coast Ukulele Club founder Liz Kitney, and seniors love it.

In fact, seniors (including Liz) comprise the majority of the 300-strong club.

The attraction, she said, was that the uke is small and portable and therefore great for travelling, is easy to learn, easy to get your fingers around and makes you friends wherever you go.

"It's a phenomenon - wherever you take out a ukulele it makes people smile," Liz said.

And there will be plenty of people smiling at this year's free Central Coast Ukulele Festival at the Entrance on September 23 and 24.

The festival, now recognised as one of the world's top 10, runs from 10am-10pm Saturday and 10am-4.30pm Sunday, with guests including renowned Hawaiian artist Walt Keale, Bill Griffin from Sacramento and Adelaide's Ukulele Death Squad.

"The festival has grown so much that we've had to open two more stages at the Old Bank Café and Mi Cantina, which we are calling Ukes in Cafes," Liz said.

"There are also workshops at the Diggers on Thursday and a dinner show on Friday where you can get up close and personal with national and international guests. (Bookings for these events are essential).

"It's great entertainment and the festival is a great chance for people to learn about the ukulele and give it a try."

Many members, she said, had always wanted to learn to play an instrument but work and family had gotten in the way.

"The ukulele gives you a fantastic opportunity to do that.

"You get instant results, because it's the easiest instrument in the world to learn - it's in the Guinness Book of Records - and you are getting off the couch and getting out and meeting people."

Liz said that unlike the guitar which took time to practice and master, the ukulele, with just four nylon strings, had a lot of one and two-finger chords.

"You can play about 10 songs with just one chord, and if you know four chords, you can play about 60, and everyone loves to sing along," she said.

And the uke is also good for seniors' mental and physical health.

"We have had people with dementia who've joined the club and they go back to their doctor and he asks 'What have you been doing? Whatever it is, keep it up', because their condition has improved so much.

"We also have people who've lost partners and they come along and meet like-minded people and make wonderful friendships.

"There are ukulele festivals all over the world, and you can go along and find you have instant friends. It brings people together."

If you are a senior starting out, Liz suggests the tenor ukulele, which has a wider neck and more room to move your fingers, but there are a number of ukuleles to choose from including concert, tenor and baritone ukuleles, the guitarlele, banjolele and even a mandalele.

And for those who still have doubts, did you know The Beatles always travelled with a ukulele?

George Harrison reportedly said the ukulele was "the purest instrument" and he and Paul McCartney apparently wrote a number of songs on the ukulele, because they could always keep one on hand.

To find out more about the club, classes across the coast, or the festival, go to https://centralcoastukuleleclub.com or call 0412 837 008.

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