Somewhere, in a field of celestial springtime tulips, Tiny Tim is smiling.
The man who most remember for his 1968 hit “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” also brought the unique Hawaiian instrument, the ukulele, into the mainstream culture. Well, at least people knew what the instrument was thanks to the quirky song man.
The ukulele was celebrated this weekend at the 8th annual Ukulele Festival held at the Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks.
The ukulele has grown in popularity significantly over the past several years thanks to its low cost and playability. Today, ukulele players can be found on YouTube playing music ranging from Black Sabbath to Frank Sinatra. Its versatility is what is making it, according to the National Association of Music Merchandisers, the fastest growing stringed instrument in the nation.
“It’s really growing because it’s cheap and easy to play,” said Douglas Reynolds, founder of the Reno Ukulele Festival. “For really around $50 to $75, you can buy an instrument and teach yourself how to play rather quickly. That’s why people love it because they see progress right away and that keeps them playing.”
The festival included performances, hundreds of the instruments for sale, and even on-the-spot lessons for those wanting a jump start on learning to play.
Douglas, who also runs his own ukulele website, PlayUke.net, says attendees range from experienced players to people picking up the instrument for the first time. The enthusiasm shown by ukulele veterans is contagious to new players who are flocking to the instrument in droves.
“What other instrument can you learn in an afternoon and play with one finger,” Reynolds says.