Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Chords up the neck - help at hand - from Aaron Keim!

It's so often said that one of the reasons the ukulele has become so popular in recent years is that it's so easy to learn to play. And that's true.... at least, it's easy to learn some basic chords and get strumming quickly. But if you want to play more challenging music that demands a little more skill, you need to establish just what those skills are and start getting them under your belt.

One of the skills necessary to start learning chord melodies, for example, is knowing alternative fingerings up the neck for those basic chords. I've been well aware of this fact for ages, but the truth is that when faced with pages of alternative fingerings for lots of chords, it's easy to lose your way among them, and end up learning nothing at all. BUT - I have discovered a great web page, while browsing the new(ish) website of one of the best American players around, Aaron Keim, "The Quiet American". I featured Aaron a couple of times in July of 2012 - you can find the posts if you look across to the blog archive on the right there......

You can browse Aaron Keim's website and watch his youtube videos at leisure, but what I want to share with you today is the fact that on his website, Aaron has a kindly put up a download page with links to tabs AND..... chords up the neck.

The difference between Aaron's page and others I've seen is that on his page, Aaron limits the chords up the neck to just a handful of the most basic ones, e.g. C, C7, F, F7, G and G7. Just enough to have them printed off in front of you and sit and learn them. Learning a load of alternative chord fingerings up the neck of the uke is rather like eating an elephant - but how to eat an elephant? Easy - on bite at a time! Which is exactly what Aaron Keim gives us here!

There's also a link to a page of "magic moveable shapes" - check it out! And you know, it's great to be given all this help and information completely free - but Aaron does invite us to drop him a donation if the free tabs and worksheets are useful. Fair do's, I reckon ... and actually, you'll find that you can buy Aaron's ukulele songbooks from his website, too.

Lovely stuff... thanks Aaron...

And thanks to you for dropping in!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Guaranteed to cheer a blue day, and raise a big smile! John Bianchi's a Bad, Bad Man....

You know, I feature John Bianchi a lot on my blog, simply because he is just an ace performer - and although I posted one of his videos only very recently, I make no apologies for posting this one today. I was having a very blue day the other day, and watched this - and was soon beaming from ear to ear. And I just had to watch it again, for another dose of the smile medicine! It's such a fun song....

John writes - "Here's a tune also commonly known as "I'm a Bad, Bad Man". Played by Cliff Edwards in the 1942 Tim Holt western "Bandit Ranger", the tune was written by cowboy guitarist Ray Whitely and Fred Rose. This was recorded this morning during alternate side of the street parking - where we were forced to move the car thanks to yet another movie shoot, this time for Law & Order SVU. If the Mayor's Office of Film and Television reads this: please make these and others shoot in another neighborhood for a change. Three film shoots in one week is TOO DAMN MANY!"

I think that's a vintage Martin soprano he's strumming so well there......

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ever heard a Uke In Bloom? Listen to this by George Elmes

George Elmes is such a talented young man.... I've featured his videos on here before.... (see the label cloud at the bottom)..... and like Peter Moss, he's going to be a guest artist at the uke festival in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin in a couple of weeks.... it's the Ukulelehooley....

In this piece, George's aNueNue soprano uke does just seem to burst into a thousand blooms - what a great title for this lovely piece! He's done the tab for it, too......

Nice one, George! Really nice.....

Update - you can download the tab for "Uke in Bloom" from George's web page here.....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Peter Moss ukulele solo - medley on Pete Howlett tenor

I've posted before about Peter Moss and his return to the wooden uke, and about the beautiful custom tenor uke that Pete Howlett built for him - well, here it is, played to perfection.... tuned to Bb.

Peter writes "I've had fun with this Pete Howlett Tenor Ukulele in the last 2 months or so. One night I dropped on "Feelings" and on consecutive nights, the other classic tunes fell into place. I hope who ever listens to this recognizes what a wonderful instrument this is and for me, an absolute joy to play. Thank you Mr H."

How can we not, Peter; how can we not - simply sublime.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

So - about that ukulele itch for an electro-acoustic.... what happened next?

Yes, I was telling the tale of my latest ukulele itch the other day. The post was 22nd July if you want to look it up.... but the itch was for an electro-acoustic... and as I was feeling really low one morning, (not about ukes....!) LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) had gone out early and bought me one as a surprise, to cheer me up. And it did. I burst into tears.

Later that day, when we'd arrived at our away-break in another town, I'd seen a very interesting little uke in a shop window.

So, to continue the tale.... it was evening, we'd been walking; the shop was closed, barred and dark, but I could see this pale little soprano uke hanging on the wall, tantalisingly close to the window - the only ukulele among racks and racks of vintage guitars. It looked like spruce, and I could see the hole for an electric lead.... "We'll pop in there in the morning, and you can have a look!" he murmured... we did.

I asked to see the uke.

Nice, I mean really nice-looking - spruce top, maple back and sides, gloss finish, binding, friction tuners - oh yes, I liked it... and it was electric. Passive pick-up... on the headstock, "Clearwater". Here they are on Amazon... purrty, ain't they!

Well - a used uke - at a fair price. Rather less money than LSH had paid for a brand new Lani electro-acoustic. I did like it, dear readers, I really did - especially when I plugged it in to an amp. And I liked the sound... but of course, I'd only been given a brand new electro-acoustic concert by my darling husband the day before. And you know, like most partners who don't play, he doesn't really "get it", the idea of owning more than one uke - and with the one he's just bought me, I'd got five wooden ukes. So I put it down and bought a little second-hand practice 5 watt amp, and a lead so that I could plug my own new uke in when I got home.

We left the shop with the amplifier and lead, and had a lovely day - went to the sea at Skegness, drove up the coast - sunny skies, pretty Lincolnshire scenery; lovely, lovely day. We even lay on the beach for a while... and the next afternoon we went home.

The day after that, I'm noodling around on my new uke for the first time... and noticed a fault on the top, near the edge... two shiny marks the size of a large coin on the matt spruce surface. The marks would not come off. Not impressed. Glue? Probably. But perhaps it would come off with a bit of appropriate attention, I thought. Next thing, checking the tuning carefully - usual drill; tune with the tuner, then check the G, C and E strings against the A by fretting at the second , ninth and fifth frets... uh-uh, something wrong - teh G string particularly was very sharp at the second fret. I checked the intonation, all up the neck, with the tuner, comparing the accuracy against my other ukes. It was unacceptably out. That's poor for a mid-range brand new uke. I knew I'd never be happy with it, never want to play it... and my heart sank. It was such a lovely, thoughtful gift from my husband, who just wanted to see me happy. I had to tell him that it would have to go back to the shop...

And back it went, full refund given. Back at home, Long-Suffering-Husband suggested that I give Old Hat Guitars a call, and buy the Clearwater. I got straight on to them... and waited for an hour, heart in mouth, for the chap to call me back, as he couldn't find it.... and guess what? You've got it - it had been sold the day before. Just my luck - I was gutted. Really gutted.

So there it rests, I now have an amp and a lead, but no electric uke! I had one as a gift from my husband, which turned out to be faulty, and another nice one has simply slipped through my fingers.

Perhaps I won't get one now. It's all gone a bit sour, and the itch has gone away.

If it doesn't come back, the amp will go.

And that red lead - I didn't know it was red until I opened the package. It was that sort of day.... red lead - yuk.

Shame. (Sigh)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

John Bianchi is Blue Turning Grey Over You.... on Ohana Vita-uke

Here's one of my very favourite uke songsters braving the sweltering temperatures of Manhattan to sing and play in his car and avoid getting a parking ticket - at least I think that's what it's all about! And this is how good an Ohana CKP-70 Vita-uke sounds when played by someone of John's calibre... the tune is an 1929 Fats Waller number, lyrics by Andy Razaf.

John Bianchi does these old 20's and 30's songs so well, so effortlessly - his sound is so right, I could listen to this stuff all day! If you like it too, why not subscribe to John's Youtube channel! Just watch the video on Youtube, sign in and click "subscribe"....

And look out at the end of this one for Peter Bogdanovich walking onto a location shoot for his movie, filming outside John's house!

Psst, by the way - playing like this is far from effortless of course - it takes time, commitment, and practice, practice, practice.... and there's no better way of enjoying yourself with all your clothes on. Apart from going to a good uke festival that is! So I'm off to practise my uke some more.... now where's that practice file gone..... :D

Friday, 2 August 2013

Looking for a uke-fest to go to? How about this one - Ukulele Hooley in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin....

The Emerald Isle is calling to me... Yes, if you can get to Dun Laoghaire, just a few miles south of Dublin, this uke festival, Ukulele Hooley looks like another corker, not to be missed... 24th and 25th August... except that I have to miss it! I wish I could go! I've just looked at the line-up of artists... Peter Moss and George Elmes I have featured on here before - just go to the tag cloud at the bottom. Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave are also fantastic - saw them in Cheltenham. Janet Klein and Ian Whitcomb (read about him and his book here) are familiar names to me, and I know that Ken Middleton will be there also with Ohana Ukuleles. Lots of other promising-looking acts too, (sigh....)

Ah me.

Can't go.


George Formby Society - a major Ukafrolic at Morecambe Winter Gardens! July 2013

"George Formby Society Convention

Saturday 27th July – all day event

Following the success of last year’s convention, Formby followers are back in full force for their latest fan convention at the Morecambe Winter Gardens! George Formby, one of Britain’s biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s, famously performed at the Winter Gardens theatre, switched on the Morecambe Illuminations in 1950 and even judged the Miss Great Britain beauty contest at the Morecambe Super Swimming Stadium!"

So reads the Events page on the Morecambe Winter Gardens website. Such a beautiful old theatre, closed to the public since 1977, hugely in need of restoration... it had been arranged that the society would hold a one-day convention there, free to all, just for the fun of using a lovely old theatre that George had played in, of standing on the same stage, on the spot that he had stood on... we, the Formby faithful are used to going to conventions in Blackpool up to four times a year, and we wondered how well this one-off jaunt rather further up the coast would be supported, but no worries, there was a good crowd, and quite a few folk came in off the street as well, to see what it was all about.

Morecambe was a thriving seaside resort in the mid-20th century. It had three piers, several large theatres, and was once very popular... but I remembered it from the 80's, when we vowed we'd never return - an English seaside town that the world seemed to have turned its back on, sad and shabby in the extreme... (the piers all went ages ago.) So we had no high hopes of Morecambe itself when we set off to fight our way up the M6 motorway, notoriously busy on Fridays.

But we needn't have worried, the place looks so different now! We found the promenade a pretty and fun place to be, with new gardens, an iconic statue of Morecambe's most famous son Eric Morecambe, of the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, and at the end, the fabulous art deco Midland Hotel, restored to glory in recent years. And the weather, too, was glorious - the sea was in, and people were bathing and swimming in it! Glory be indeed...

The first thing we had done after checking in at our hotel on Friday was to find the Winter Gardens, just yards up the street on the promenade.

Some key GFS members were already there, checking the place out and preparing for Saturday.
MY brain reeled as I took in first impressions looking around this large, once beautiful old theatre. The walls are stripped back to bare brick, the floor is bare, there are free-standing chairs in the stalls, where once there would have been fixed plush seating - and not all of them had been put out yet. At the same time, the ornate plasterwork on the ceiling and all around the circle appears virtually intact though sorely in need of new paint, and the imagination leaps to how it must have been back in the day; sumptuous, a veritable wonder-palace of entertainment. You think, all at once, how sad, but how wonderful that major efforts are being made to gradually bring it back to its former glory.
To see it, Look here for a smashing little video showing the interior, and all about the restoration work. I fell in love with the place immediately. And stunning professional photos here - you just have to look!
The photo above, (thanks Peter Pollard) shows Alan Kershaw on stage while Alan Chenery looks to his sound system... the anticipation grows!
A gorgeous day ended with a gorgeous sunset to rival anything Key West has to evening drinking good beer with good Formby friends, and we were all set for Saturday's fun.

Getting ready for the first concert....

The banner's out ready - and folk are coming in...

The lads are in town! Always great to see these talented youngsters!

Peter Pollard and Andy Poppleton - a great partnership...

I'd had no intention of going on stage - but Peter Pollard was having none of it - "You must - they need people to get up there...." so Caroline and I decide to give 'em Lili Marlene again. Quick practice outside - shame we live a few hundred miles apart! What a lovely stage to perform on... Laurel and Hardy, George Formby, Vera Lynn, Sir Lawrence Olivier (in the the film The Entertainer) - the Rolling Stones! And me. What a privilege - what a nerve!

You know, I started this blog just over a year ago to share my ukulele journey, and I have had such fun, made such good friends. I still feel as if I have no business to be performing on stage, and a little more comfortable as part of a duo or group - but it was a blast. I hadn't sung this since the first time we did it, back in March in Blackpool, and we can only run it through a couple of times anyway... but I sang the first verse in German, and Caroline winged it with some harmony. I think we got away with it. And the thrash - you know, where everyone gets up to play together... that was just tremendous on that stage at the Winter Gardens...

This was the afternoon concert. In the evening would come the best, some up for the first time that day, like the wonderful Matthew Richards, some giving us a second helping - Alan Yates, Lewis Clifton, Peter Pollard, and many other super performers too numerous to mention - and Caroline Stewart (was Robson) playing my lovely Kiwaya KTS-4 wooden uke, with "I'll See You in My Dreams" - simply tremendous. I'm so jealous. Wish I had her lovely voice.... but before that, we all piled out, down the road for a photo with Eric - the great late lamented Eric Morecambe - who once famously said, as he did a sketch with Andre Previn - "I'm playing all the right notes - but not necessarily in the right order!"


Thanks again to Peter Pollard for three of these lovely pics, and to LSH, my darling Long-Suffering-Husband for the rest...

This has been a longer post than usual and it's time I went and did something else... thanks for dropping in to share my uke journey!