Today was a beautiful day – the epitome of what a good Sunday should be. Andrea was over, so we went to the first art club meeting together (and learned linear perspective – photo to come). Afterward we headed to get some lunch, and the food was so good we almost wet our pants with pleasure.
But the review on that is upcoming, because though many things happened this weekend that I want to talk about at length individually, the most pressing and important one is this: we went ukulele shopping.
It was love at first strum.
The giddy glee was rising in my soul with every chord she played, and I knew that I could not wait more than 24 hours before I got one for myself.
And indeed, less than 24 hours later, I was in possession of my very own concert ukelele.
But to back up a little, it wasn’t easy to find the right one; we first went to a music shop we’d walked by many times (and even braved entering once previously). In the window, I’d seen a pretty soprano ukulele in toffee brown with green abalone shell rimmed in a thin line around the edge.
I’ve been gazing longingly at it since I first arrived. There I’d stand, jostled by passing Koreans on the narrow cobbled sidewalk, wondering dreamily if I’d ever be brave enough to learn how to play during my time here.
Thus, naturally, when the time came that I concluded yes, indeed, I was brave enough, this shop was the first we stopped by.
There are two scenarios that result when lusting after items displayed in windows: first, it’s a terrible disappointment, and actually not that nice when you see it up close. Or two, it’s everything you’ve ever desired and more.
Sadly, it happened to be the first. The wood was cheap in that brittle raspy way, and while the sound was okay, it wasn’t worth the W220, 000 they were asking for it (roughly $220). My budget was around W180, 000, with a cap at 200.
The sales lady was really nice though and showed us some others. They were alright, but none really set my heart strings thrumming to the timbre of the uke in my ideal.
We left, and hit up the next shop – conveniently only two doors down. With less stock than before, and a shopkeeper not too knowledgable about her product, we left, emptyhanded, fairly quickly.
It seemed that I would have to wait until next weekend when I would head up to Wonju to investigate the stores there – or worse still, until next time I would be in Seoul – to indulge my itching fingers in their instrument of choice. It was a little heartbreaking, but Andrea consoled me and said we should go shopping (because payday).
So we wandered around and into Art Box, a shop that can be best described as the adopted Asian lovechild of Omer Deserres and Urban Outfitters. It’s my favourite shop in Korea so far, and where I tend to drop the most cash aside from the local grocer’s. That’s because Art Box has everything.
As such, I should have suspected that when I walked in with Andrea, I would find exactly that which I was looking for – for there on the front table display, hanging from a stand and flaunting their curves, were four beautiful ukuleles.
There were no prices to outright discourage us, so we decided to just say fuck it and pick them up and give them a strum to see how they sounded. My hopes weren’t high because this wasn’t, after all, an actual music shop, and they were probably novelties rather than quality instruments. But hey.
Except that wasn’t the case at all: they were far far better than any we’d tried previously. The wood was treated and velvety, the sound was rich, and the aesthetic was far more my style than any of the others I was considering settling for. Especially one in particular that I couldn’t take my hands off of.
I was sold.
The one I’d fallen in love with turned out to be the last one. As I’d noticed a hairline crack near one of the screws (nothing serious, but a blemish all the same), I managed to get a discount (yay to having worked in retail for five years – I know exactly how these things work and when a retailer cannot say no to giving rebates to the customer!!). With W20, 000 off, this made it the bargain of the month of only W120, 000. I’m still in disbelief how well that worked out.
Andrea and I were tremendously excited and headed home to pick up Cherry Baby so we could play on the mountain behind my house. We set ourselves up in the sun on a stone wall overlooking Cheongju, and she taught me how to play.
We looked pretty fucking awesome sitting there under the magnolia trees and cherry blossoms. Couldn’t write a cheesy sentimental movie scene better than that.
Also, weirdly, Koreans kept taking pictures of us. They would try and be subtle (“Oop, what, no I was just uhh…taking a picture of my daughter.” “Oh what? I was just taking a selfie with my bf…kimchi!” “No, no, I wasn’t taking a picture of you – I was crawling in the bushes behind you to get a better shot of the stonework…”), but it didn’t work in the least.
Anyway, an hour later our (read: my) fingers were tender and pulpy from pressing the strings, and we decided to call it a day after giving our best shot at “I’m Yours” and “Hakuna Matata”.
Andrea had to head back to Wonju anyway (sad face), so I was left to my own devices – and though I was exhausted, I was compelled to keep playing and practicing. Even now, I wish I could continue staying up all night just to keep at it!
…buuuuuut, since the neighbours would probably object, I might as well take the time to recharge.
But before I pass out cold, here’s my darling uke. Her name is Cornelia Snaggletwang, and I call her either Celia or Snaggle for short.
I chose the moniker “Cornelia” for her somewhat steampunk aesthetic: the cogs and gears for tuning, the crème brûlée body like the decadent wooden furniture of old, the cinched-hourglass corset look, and the steel C string rang with the need for a Victorian name with which to resonate.
Below you can see the metal pegs.
And last of all, “Snaggletwang” comes from the aforementioned steel C string, which stands out like a silver tooth in a Wild West proctor’s smile, a snaggle tooth. It twangs more distinctly than the rest, giving it the sound that I fell in love with.
You can see it here, standing out clearly from the rest.
And that’s that! Cornelia Snaggletwang shall also (hopefully) help me with my uselessness at keeping rhythm, which will (again, hopefully) help me with my drumming classes.
But even if she doesn’t, I’m just so happy to have her at all and can’t wait til tomorrow to keep playing. Learning it has been on my bucket list since I was a tween, and now I don’t understand why I waited so long.
So any ukulele players out there reading this who recommend good starting songs? I’m on the hunt for a good selection.
For now, until next time! Maybe I’ll be good enough soon to post a song like Andrea did ^ ^