Sunday, 29 March 2015

So why am I now having ukulele lessons, after all this time?

So why, after owning a uke for nine years and starting to try to seriously get to grips with it for three and a half, have I decided to start taking lessons just now? After all, I’ve been getting on OK on my own, following videos and so on; I can play quite a few chords, do an instrumental or two, play a couple of tricky strums, have fun on my own or with other folks… well. It’s because it was gradually dawning on me that I need guidance… and taking in hand. Some discipline. A route through the maze. I’ve been having lots of fun for more than three years, dipping into this, having a go at that, but I came to think that learning in my own way was rather like herding cats. Because there’s Chord Melody cat, Jazz Standards cat, Blues cat, the George Formby-style cat… and chief cat Myself was actually not doing the most productive and efficient job iof turning me into a half-decent player - which is what I want to be. To make faster progress I needed a proper shepherd. What’s more, I hate Skype, and I realised ages ago that if I were to have uke lessons, they would have to be face-to-face ones...

So the bottom line is, I’m having lessons with the wonderful Phil Doleman, (more about Phil later…. ) Lucky me…. He lives not TOO far away for me to travel. Right now I’ve had three lessons, and already I know it’s paying off…. Phil’s a great teacher, and his love of the music of the 20’s and 30’s and blues suits me down to a T.

This is a piece he gave me a couple of weeks ago. Shine on Harvest Moon. Still a little ragged, but definitely getting there!



This is unlisted... but I'll do another video when I can play it better!

If you watched - thank you! And if you are learning to play the uke, don't stop!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Little Boy I'm So Blue (Little Girl I'm so Blue Without You) - Rachel E Manke ukulele



I've seen Rachel E Manke's videos before. She is very, VERY good... a lovely uke player and obviously a natural performer, (I'm green with envy) and she likes the songs I like... so it was a no-brainer that one of her videos would end up on here at some point.

This song was recorded by the Rice Brothers Gang in the 1930's. A new name to you? A new name to me, certainly. Read all about them here.... There's some interesting information about that uke club standard "You Are My Sunshine".. and why it's now on the Creative Commons list. A very human story. I won't re-invent the wheel - check out the link.

I love Rachel's version of the song. Such joy and energy! Played on an Ohana Sopranino, the chords are on the key of C shapes if your uke is tuned in C, but the sopranino is tuned higher than that - so you can't play along, as I discovered!

Look at those chords up the neck... I've recently learned that progression up the neck in my uke lessons - (more about them coming up!) If I'm not much mistaken, it's the so-called "rhythm changes".

Rachel tells me that she has a CD coming out in the spring. One to watch out for - watch this space!

One more thing - that ease, that speed of chord changes up the neck, those easy slides up and down the fingerboard... that's how I want to play. I'm aiming for that. Thanks Rachel!

And thanks, dear readers, for dropping in - I really appreciate it! Don't go too far away, now!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

With the Sound of Purple! Ken Middleton improvisation - My Bonnie



TURNING A FOLK SONG INTO A JIG

I love what Ken Middleton does. He's a great player. Improvisation and what he calls "noodling" are his specialities, I think, and every now and then he comes up with something that just grabs me. This is one such, turning the old folk song "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" into a jig by altering the timing. The hammer-ons and pull-offs are magic.

I noticed Ken's use of triplets here, but didn't notice immediately that he's using the thumb-led triple. I'm used to the fore-finger led triple, but the thumb-led triple isn't tricky, it's just different!

Ken says....

"I wanted to try the well-known Scottish folk tune "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" as a jig. The song is normally played in triple time (3/4), but, after the slow intro, I am playing it in compound duple time (6/8). A jig should have a clear 2 beat feel, with each beat subdivided into 3. Pretty much any tune with a good melodic line can be played as a jig, but folk songs work really well.

The strum I am using is basically a triplet strum: thumb down, pointer up, pointer down. But I don't always play the full triplet. And, I do use other finger and the tune is sometimes played as the triplet, sometimes with just thumb and sometimes with hammer-ons and pull-offs.

I chose to play it in G and often use the 4th string as a melody note."


I do hope you enjoyed that! I've watched it about four times already... one to try and play along with?

Oh - and did you clock that beautiful purple-coloured uke? Custom built for Ken by Rob Collins of Hebden Bridge here in England. It's a deep-bodied uke, 6mm deeper in the body than the normal tenor, for a fuller sound. And the purple colour comes from the wood itself, it's not painted. Purple Heart wood. There you go. For the sound that Ken wanted.

To find out all about this beautiful Purple Heart uke, see Ken's full youtube review... check it out here!

Thanks for dropping in - do call again!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Clawhammer ukulele? Try lesson 1 by Aaron Keim



A few uke players sometimes play clawhammer style. Aaron Keim, AKA "The Quiet American" is one of them ... are you in the UK? You want to see him live? He'll be at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield, England - 22nd to the 24th May this year, 2015. And he will be doing a workshop on fingerpicking - NB, fingerpicking, NOT clawhammer.... anyways, I've got my ticket, booked my workshops, including this one.

Better be quick if you get in on it - there are not many tickets left, and workshops have begun to sell out!

Thanks for dropping in... I'm getting back to my practice now!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival

The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival - Huddersfield, England.

22nd - 24th May, 2015.

The tickets for this stupendous ukulele event in the North of England have nearly all gone - they really have! Last year's festival was phenomenal - I know, I was there... and I have my ticket for this year's, so I'm All Right Jack! If you want to go, get in there sharpish. Because many of the greatest names in the ukulele world are going to playing there.

Manitoba Hal Brolund, Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee, Aaron Keim, the Quiet American, Phil Doleman - and many more, including Mike Warren of the GFS, Zoe Bestel, Dead Man's Uke, ... and still more!

A snippet of hot news is that Remco Houtman-Janssen (Ukulelezaza) is returning to do something new. He's put together a collaborative set called, "Ukulelezaza & Friends" where he'll be playing music with a range of different performers. That's going to be really exciting to see, what a great way to enjoy talented performers doing their thing!

Also. Mim from Mim's Ukes in the USA is going to be at the festival. It's her first ever visit to the UK!

Workshops - The Festival Workshops will led by some of the top ukulele players, performers and makers in the world. These all take place at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival (23-24 May, 2015) at the main festival site - the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. To attend workshops you'll need a festival ticket... and look out, be quick - Phil Doleman's workshop is sold out already! For one, I'm not surprised.... but that's another story!

Getting time to blog hasn't been easy these last couple of weeks again - life is such a Ukafrolic, there's little time to write about it! A couple of weekends ago LSH and I were at a rather exciting uke weekend in the very north of England near Hadrian's Wall - haven't had time to tell you all about it. Well, I will, just as soon as I can.

And I'll tell you all about the uke lessons I've decided to take after all this time.

And right now, I'll get back to my uke "homework"....!

Thanks for dropping in - I appreciate it. I really do.

Monday, 16 February 2015

"Rondo alla Turca" by Mozart - Andreas David and Corey Fujimoto, ukulele

This is rather special. Mozart. Now really, it doesn't get much, if any, better than that, does it - The MASTER musician and composer..... simpl takes your breath away. Want to get as good as this? In your dreams! Or - practice, practice, practice!



Just a quickie.... couldn't resist!

Thanks for dropping in!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

George Elmes demonstrates percussion techniques on ukulele!



Wonderful stuff, this! A bit of percussive tapping on a uke can really enhance a piece. I was thrilled to see George Elmes doing this lovely tuition video! George, who hails from Dublin, is simply one of the most accomplished players around, but he's not so well-known as many. I've featured his playing many times on here, he's one of my favourites! Just find him on the label-cloud at the bottom of the page to find more posts.

The video speaks for itself, as does any good tuition video.

The "Brajao", a "Serious Joke" of an instrument by Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues

A fourth and final (for the moment) post on the Madeiran instruments which are the fore-runners of the ukulele, the machete (braguinha)and the rajao, and on the Madeiran luthier who is still building them. If you read my last few posts, you'll know that last week I was fortunate and privileged to visit the workshop of the highly esteemed Madeiran luthier Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues in Funchal, Madeira.

I haven't said much about the rajao in my posts as yet, but actually it's the rajao that has the most in common with the ukulele, because of the way it's tuned.

About the size of a concert uke, it has 5 strings; strings 1-4 are GCEA exactly like the ukulele, and the 5th string is tuned to D (2nd fret of the C string.) In fact, Dan Scanlan writes here that there are real grounds for believing that it was the rajao, not the machete, that was adapted to become the ukulele, simply by the removal of the 5th string! Do read that article, it's very interesting!

Well, here is an instrument built by Mr Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues twenty years ago as a "serious joke" - a hybrid braguinha/rajao, which he calls a "brajao"!














And here is this amazing instrument being played by two of the very best players of the braguinha and rajao! Roberto Moniz and Roberto Moritz. I don't seem to be able to embed it, it's on vimeo. Just give the link a click. It's delightful.

There are several videos on Youtube and vimeo by these two superb players. Here's Roberto Moniz playing an original piece on a rajao built by Carlos.

And if your appetite for "uke porn" has been whetted, just look at these beautiful instruments!

I've learned a lot about these Madeiran instruments over the last few days. I hope you've enjoyed reading about them and listening to them too. Thanks for dropping in!