Sunday, 29 April 2012

"It's A Sin To Tell A Lie"

This will take those rainy day blues away!

Written in 1936 by Billy Mayhew.

A popular song that has been recorded by many, including Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, The Ink Spots, Vera Lynn and John Denver.

The clip was filmed in eugenie's studio and played on a Mahalo soprano.

How he makes that little ukulele sing! I just love this fella!

Friday, 27 April 2012

A Uke-less Week on Stage

Life for this ukulele lady is rather uke-less this week - it's more maid's outfits, hairpieces, tiaras, diamante and evening gloves. No, don't get the wrong idea, I haven't embarked on a new and questionable career! I'm treading the boards every night in a production of Die Fledermaus, a very funny light operetta by Johann Strauss! An amateur production, but audiences are reporting that it's extremely professional - our best show ever......can't be bad! I'm in the chorus, great fun; lots of singing, lots of "reacting" to the principals - who are, incidentally, just brilliant.... a bit of dancing... chocolates in the dressing room and a drink in the bar afterwards!

Two nights to go.....then back to my ukulele. Ahhhh......As the words of the opening chorus say, "Life is a Song!"

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The West Cork Ukulele Orchestra :: Ra Ra Rasputin

This is a quickie posting - it's been a long hard day, and I was just checking my email before disappearing into my pit (bed!) when I saw this video news via another blog - sorry, too brain-dead tonight to say which it was - but I just had to share it! What a cracking video, really uplifting, I smiled all through! Hope you do, too.

Goodnight folks!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

"Cherry Blossoms" - Original Instrumental for the Ukulele by Ukulelemike, Mike Lynch

A sunny spring morning, blue skies, cherry blossom - what a lovely day to enjoy this gorgeous video of ukulelemike Mike Lynch's own original ukulele instrumental, "Cherry Blossoms", arranged and performed by him. He's playing his Oscar Schmidt solid mahogany tenor. Cherry Blossoms is actually only one of three pieces of a trilogy that he calls The Dreamscape Trilogy. The other two pieces are called Paris Nocturne and River of Dreams.

You can find the tabs for the whole trilogy as well as many others in Mike's SOLO INSTRUMENTALS FOR THE UKULELE Vol.1. for sale on his website.

I have just bought this "e"book, which comes in pdf form, and I'm looking forward to tackling Cherry Blossoms. I've had a quick look, and the pieces vary in difficulty; some look easier to satisfy the novice finger-picker like me, and they do get harder - so there's plenty to keep you going. I'll have more to say about them when I've got "stuck in".... meanwhile do look on Mike's homepage for more information about them.

Thank you Mike for more inspirational music!

Friday, 20 April 2012

My Uke-Leash has Arrived!

I found and joined a local uke group last week, and quickly decided that I really did need a ukulele strap.

I'd seen the Uke Leash talked about on the Ukulele Undergound Forum, and checked out the website where Lori sells them. It looked a great piece of kit for someone still struggling with holding a ukulele easily while changing chords - and the sight of my group leader sporting a home-made strap convinced me that yes - a strap is nothing to be ashamed of!

I ordered one the very next day, posted to the blog about it, and it has now arrived here in the UK from California. It came just in time for me to attach the detachable headstock end to my ukulele before heading off to my second ukulele group meeting!

As soon as I put it on I knew that I'd made the right decision! It really does help, and it's very comfortable! The Uke Leash is a quality strap, the main strap being easily unclipped from the part attached to the headstock. You wear the strap around the right shoulder if you are right-handed, and the length of the strap is easily adjusted. I love it! The polypropylene strap is available in a wide variety of colours, with or without a Uke Leash logo - your choice.

If you have more than one ukulele, you can buy additional headstock ends, so you only use one main strap between instruments! Brilliant. What a great product!

Congratulations Lori!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Here Come the Old Songs - with John Bianchi

I've said before how I love the old songs; they've survived down the years because they were crafted by song-writers who knew how to grab the listener with a melody, a chord progression and the right set of lyrics. The ukulele revival seems to have gone hand in hand with a resurgence of interest in the old songs. After all, the uke was hugely popular in the years between the two world wars.

Another Ukulele Hero of mine is John Bianchi of New York. He is another ace banjo-ukulele player, and he particularly loves the old songs of the 1920's. On this video he's playing his vintage Slingerland, singing an old Al Bowlly number called "My Canary has Circles Under his Eyes". It's a catchy number, full of fun, and really conjures up the atmosphere of the years between the wars. Al Bowlly was a hugely popular singer in those years - he had a wonderfully sweet voice. I heard of him through my mother; he was her favourite singer, she used to swoon over his voice. You'll know it as the one singing "Goodnight Sweetheart." I'd never heard "My Canary has Circles..." before, but John has a lovely voice too, to add to his talents, and does a great rendition. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

John, thanks for the help you gave me on my Slingerland banjo-uke. You are a kind banjolele hero!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

To Follow up Ken, Here Comes Johnny! Are Ukuleles Allowed in Bluegrass?

The first thing I thought of to follow Ken's Wildwood Flower bluegrass piece, was this offering from Johnny Foodstamp of Nashville, a cover of "Ukuleles Aren't Allowed in Bluegrass!"

I just love that banjo-uke delivery! Written by Bob Gross.

Nice one, Johnny!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Wildwood Flower - a ukulele improvisation by Ken Middleton

I have a passion for the wildwood, the ancient woodlands and forests that have so very nearly disappeared from our "green and pleasant land." My last post featured a photo I took last year of an ancient oak tree in Sherwood Forest. What a beautiful place, mystical beyond belief, with ancient oaks that were living hundreds of years ago.

It has nothing to do with the traditional American bluegrass tune "Wildwood Flower", of course - but it does make a link! So I think I can get away with it! I first heard Wildwood Flower as a banjo piece... that was when I was saving for a 5 string banjo, before I got pole-axed by the banjolele and bought my 20's Slingerland instead. I was thrilled when I came across Ken Middleton's ukulele version. Bluegrass on a ukulele? YES! Give me more.....!

Ken Middleton is another of my Ukulele Heroes. He's a great ambassador for the Ukulele, and frequently pops up on the UU Forum to give help and guidance. And he's also almost a local man, which has to be good! I love his version of "Wildwood Flower" and I've been working hard to learn it from the tab - almost there! Although I have to say, my attempt is not quite as you hear Ken on the above video! Some way to go I think, but I love playing it and most of it is there in the muscle memory now - my first bluegrass piece! But it won't be my last!

On Ken and finger-picking, read an interesting interview with him here...

His webpage, with free tabs to download, is here.

Thanks, Ken!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

If I Could Design my Own Ukulele.....

There was a thread on the Ukulele Underground Forum the other day, along the lines of "What would your dream ukulele be like?" As I'm on the look-out for a new, pretty, excellent-sounding ukulele it set me thinking. I've drooled over the beautiful custom-built ukuleles made by luthiers - works of art in wood, they are, and some are highly decorated with various inlays. If money were no object, what would I commission for myself? Would it be an instrument built of solid koa, with a rosette of abalone and inlays of turquoise? With binding down the sides of the finger-board?

I went to sleep last night dreaming up my perfect ukulele! And here it is - or would be - in my dreams!

It would have to sound sweet and loud.

It would be a long-neck soprano, or a concert, traditional figure-eight shape, round sound hole - built with woods with a beautiful grain, ideally but not essentially grown in the UK, ideally recycled from some beautiful but unwanted furniture. (We're talking Dream Ukulele here!)

Binding on the body not necessary, but a beautiful rosette - not rope pattern. That's for guitars, in my book. The rosette could be inlays of other woods, perhaps with a little mother-of-pearl, but not necessarily. The finish on the body would be satin - not matt, not glossy. Just look well-polished. French-polished, most likely.

No binding on the finger-board but there would be inlaid markers, perhaps tiny flowers like pimpernels at spaces 5, 7, 10, and 12.

The headstock would be solid, shaped nicely at the top in keeping with the traditional look of the whole instrument, with good friction tuners and dark buttons.

There would be a "green man" inlaid or somehow fashioned onto the headstock. The whole instrument would breathe "wildwood", integrity, and would ooze craftsmanship and quality. And beg to be played.

Ah me - that's my daydream for today!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Amanda Palmer - The Ukulele Anthem (Occupy Wall Street 10/12 NYC)

I'd never heard this, and never heard of Amanda Palmer until I saw CountryMouse's rendition the other week. But this lady is pretty impressive! I just love the passion for the ukulele, the words, the gutsy delivery and the sheer youthful energy and exuberance! Another ukulele hero (heroine?) indeed. I just love it!

The chords are easy, but those words'll take some learning!

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Country Mouse meets Amanda Palmer! Sort-of.....

I hadn't heard of Amanda Palmer until I happened across a Youtube video of a lady doing her number "Ukulele Anthem". I loved the song, and I loved the way that "CountryMouse" puts it over - not raunchy, just simply - and a really pleasant voice. Lucky her! She actually reminds me of Joni Mitchell!

It turns out that Amanda Palmer has seen it, too - and likes it! She tweeted as much...... now there's something really refreshing and heart-warming about this story. Two new ukulele heroes for me - and I'm Amanda Palmer's latest fan!

Thank you, CountryMouse...and keep 'em comin'! I don't do videos - not yet...I like your style!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

On Order - a Uke Leash!

It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only ukulele player to have a problem holding the thing well. With a guitar, you sit and support it on your knee, or use a strap when standing - but a ukulele is so small that it's not so straightforward. The neck can slip alarmingly when changing certain chords. But I am not alone with this problem, and I've seen the Uke Leash recommended on the Ukulele Underground Forum. At the Uke group yesterday, most people were using a strap of a similar design - a strap from the neck of the uke to a loop that goes over the opposite arm and sits round the shoulder. It simply stops the uke from slipping down. You can easily make a strap like this, but I want one that will unclip from the peghead - so I've ordered one. They have to come from America, but that's okay - I've had no problems with deliveries from the States.

So - I expect it may take a couple of weeks - we'll see! And then I'll review it. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Another Ukafrolic - Strummin' With the Uke Group!

So I turned up for my first strum-and-sing-along with the local group that I found. Very enjoyable! I should have thought to take my music stand... it's a well-established group (Go Ukulele Crazy) run by Joanna Stevenson and I was made very welcome; everybody was well-used to 2, 3 and 4 chord songs - and all the ones we did, I hadn't done before, but because they had the basic chords only, I was able to stagger along quite happily. We finished off with Five Foot Two, and I left promising to return as soon as other commitments allow. I really did enjoy it, and although it wasn't a difficult session I was surprised at how tired I felt when I got home! It's funny; it is quite different, playing with others. I haven't done it since playing with the recorder consort at college - My God, that was a LONG time ago! Note to self - must get a uke strap.

I Find a Uke Group!

Today, I have discovered, after months and years of strummin' along on my ownsome, that there is, after all, a local uke group, and it meets Wednesday afternoons. I'll be off there later today. It sounds like a very healthy and enthusiastic group from chatting to the lady who runs it, so I'm quite excited - they welcome banjo-ukes as well, to play in particular numbers - fair enough, because they are loud! So I'll be taking my treasured old lady Slingerland along to show off. I'm looking forward to seeing what ukuleles other people are playing, and chatting to other players, as well as playing with them. It's strange to think that ever since discovered playing the ukulele back in 2005, I've only ever met one other player, and that was in Colbeck's Music shop the other week. News on the group next time.

By the way, if you're following me by email, thank you very much - do please become a "member" - it'll be nice to know you're there! And Welcome! "Join" me on the side column, over there! (Right!)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Had me a Blast at the Music Shop

My ukulele.

It's time I got round to telling you what a great time I had the other week at one of the music shops hereabouts. I needed to kill some time away from the house, leaving LSH to deal with an unwanted double-glazing salesman. So off I went to Colbecks, to sample their ukuleles and compare them with my own humble, five year old Samick Greg Bennett UK50 concert uke. They sell quite a good range, compared to other shops I've been in lately, and I came away lusting after a £127 Tanglewood concert ukulele in Mango wood - or lacewood? Nobody seems sure, but it was a lovely-sounding uke, and it pained me to come away empty-handed. But I did. I wanted to try an Ashbury, the UK equivalent of Oscar Schmidt, and they don't stock them. But I whiled away a good hour or so, strumming and picking almost every uke in the place. The fellas in there were just great, I have to say, and I promised that if I chose the Tanglewood, I'd buy it from them..... they were so friendly and helpful, and I think the retail shop trade is suffering greatly from on-line traders. Anyway, a young man came in with teenage son in tow, also to look at and try out some ukes. He was pretty accomplished, and before long we had a little impromptu jam session going, with the store manager joining in on electric piano - absolutely wonderful! And I think that between us, we raised the awareness of ukuleles among the local guitar-men - But I've thought long and hard about the Tanglewood, and even though a few have come up at much reduced prices on ebay, I won't be buying one after all. Because if I did, I know now that it wouldn't satisfy - I want something that looks - well - more traditional. But beautiful. I'll know it when I see it - and hear it - and can afford it! And that may take some time......

Colbecks Music sell these ukuleles - Luna, Lani, Boulder Creek Rip Tide, Makala, Kala, Tanglewood, Lanikai, Mahala and Antonio Carvelho hand-made koa -top ukuleles from Portugal. Quite a choice, and they make sure the set-up is good.

I don't have an "interest".... honest. Nice fellas deserve the business.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dueling Banjos (On One Ukulele)

I've found me another Ukulele Hero! He goes by the pseudonym Woodshed, and he has arranged Dueling Banjos, (that wonderful duet between a 5 string banjo and a guitar, used in the film "Deliverance",) for one ukulele.

It is an awesome arrangement. I've downloaded the tab but I'll never be able to play it. He gets two completely different tone colours by alternating playing on the fingerboard with playing down past the sound hole for the "guitar" passages.

The ukulele is a KoAloha Sceptre tenor; solid koa wood, made in Hawaii. You can see Woodshed's review of it on his blog, Uke Hunt here.

Hail Woodshed, you've got another fan!

Edit - some folk have asked for the tab - so here's a link to Woodshed's page on his fabulous blog, Uke Hunt! A link to the tab is on there!

Friday, 6 April 2012

A Forgotten Ukulele Hero - Cliff Edwards, "Ukulele Ike"

I saw this video the other day on another blog, and just had to explore further. Have you ever heard of Cliff Edwards? I hadn't. But a pound to a penny you've heard his voice.... the voice of Jimminy Cricket, in Disney's Pinnochio. "When You Wish Upon a Star"...? And I found this very sad tale.

How sad that even in his own home town he is not remembered. I discovered the story on this blog, about the old movies. Thanks to Jonas Nordin the blogger.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

"Finlandia" - Ukulele Arrangement by Ukulele Mike Lynch - Comprehensive Tutorial...

In my childhood, I don't remember a time when there wasn't some "serious" music in my life. In the late fifties, when I was small, the radio was always on, the "light" programme, as it used to be called - the only equivalent to Radios 1 and 2 in the UK today. So there was plenty of popular music, with smatterings of popular classics, usually in the request programmes. That was where people of all ages heard such music as the pieces used in Disney's "Fantasia," some Chopin.....Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and film music like Nino Rota's "The Legend of the Glass Mountain", and Richard Adinsell's "Warsaw Concerto". My mother loved these. If these last two came on the radio, all activity literally came to a standstill while she listened. And it all seeped into my soul. By thirteen, I was head-over-heels with the music of the Beatles, and any classical music that touched that other part of me.

"Finlandia" by Sibelius was one of those pieces that you heard on the radio from time to time. The melody conjures up the peace and tranquility of the dark, coniferous forests and the snowy vistas of Scandinavia. Ukulelemike Mike Lynch has arranged it as a solo for ukulele - and, wonders - it isn't a difficult piece. You can get the tab, but watch the video and the tutorial and you may get it from that alone. Thank you, Mike!