Eight years ago - about this time of the year - I watched an Xterra World competition on TV and had tears running down my face at awe of the athletes and said to my self, "Self, you are going to learn how to swim and compete in Xterras." Yup, I couldn't swim, but I learned, and did a couple Xterras over the years.
This morning, I got that same damn feeling as 8 years ago listening to "Hey Soul Sister" by Train. I simply LOVE the song, and the ukulele in the song is oh-so-sweet and toe tapping. At first I thought it was a mandolin, but found out its the uke and now I want to learn to play one! Ain't that just a tub of shit? Rick's just rolling his eyes and telling me I'm thinking too much (I should be resting my brain for a change, not making it work even harder). So now I'm on a bit of a quest to figure out 1) if I can even play a string instrument (Donna played a violin! maybe we can jam if she gets a fiddle and I learn the mandolin... teeheeee) and 2) how much is a mandolin gonna set me back and 3) where can I get some lessons or can I teach myself, and 4) maybe I'd rather do the banjo that my momma wanted me to learn when I was about 10 years old, or 5) maybe I should stick with what I have under the bed at home -- an accordion and an oboe.
So for those like me that weren't quite sure of the difference between a mandolin and a ukulele, here's an explanation.
A Mandolin has the same tuning as a Violin, (G-D-A-E) and the strings are doubled. It is played with a plectrum (pick) and has steel strings. A Ukulele is sort of a Nashville tuning version of the guitar in a different key. It has a single string for each note and those strings are Vinyl. the Mandolin has more range and is quite a bit louder than the Ukulele, but the Uke has a remarkable history for reaching beyond it's apparent limitations. It's difficult to find a really good Ukulele since there are so many "beginner models" (Not to mention toy versions) out there. I've seen very few that I couldn't get at least some music out of, but the better instruments are so much easier to become competent with. The main consideration is the type of music you want to play. If you are into folk, novelty, and specialty music, then the Ukulele is a perfect fit. If you are into bluegrass, classical, some forms of ragtime, or even Folk Rock, the bell like tones of the Mandolin may be your cup of tea.