Tuesday, 23 April 2013

On Shakespeare's birthday, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever...." my dream uke would be -

My dream ukulele would be a thing of beauty, a joy forever, gorgeous to the eye and gorgeous to the ear ...

It would be made in Britain from the finest woods available...

It would be designed and built with love and care, and an eye to perfection by a master craftsman...

It would be a Pete Howlett ukulele.

Pete has also won the love and respect of his luthier peers worldwide with his series of YouTube videos "Ukulele Building School" and "Ukulele Building Course". See his YouTube channel....

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever...." Happy birthday, Will... you were so right.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Doug Frink - original song, "You Might've Guessed, I'm in Love"

I don't know why, but it always gives me huge pleasure to hear an original song or instrumental played on a ukulele by the composer. I think perhaps part of it is the feeling that the ukulele itself is part of the inspiration, the instrument is such a joy to play.... and I think the very nature of it just brings out the whole musician in us.

And here's another.... this song, written and sung here by Doug Frink, has a definite jazzy vibe about it to me. The chords are certainly jazz chords, and the song includes quite a few of those diminished chords that give such a 30's sound. I love it. Dedicated to his wife - that's the way to do it!

I asked Doug to tell me about himself and the song. He writes:

"Although I've been an amateur musician most of my life, I started getting serious about the ukulele about 5 years ago after taking it along on a backpacking trip to Yosemite. My brother-in-law brought a small guitar, and we had some great fireside jams, and I decided to really learn to play. Along the way I discovered Ukulele Underground, and started writing songs and posting videos to YouTube, it's really been great fun.

This particular song developed one day when I was just noodling around. That descending progression seemed to just sort of fall into place, and I had most of the tune worked out in about half an hour. It reminded me of something from the 30s or 40s, so I added some old cultural references into the lyrics, and what could be more retro than a song about being in love? I forget how the tap dancing and baseball bat sound effects came to me, but they do seem to add to the fun."

I wish I could do that... one of these days, maybe I'll try....

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013 - Tickets nearly sold out!!‏

Yes, folks, the news is there in the title today - tickets for the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013 (June 21st-23rd) are nearly sold out..... this morning there were only 50 tickets left, so if you want to go, be quick!

Read all about it and Buy tickets here.....

I've got mine, and my workshop tickets for workshops by Ken Middleton and James Hill! What a great Ukafrolic that will be, can't wait.....

And there is also news now of A Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, to be held in Pontefract, Yorkshire on 12th and 13th October this year. More about that here..... This is a very new venture, with some fine performers lined up, including Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund - it's all there on the website. Workshops are being organised, too, including some very unusual ones, by the look of it!.... it's great that the north is getting its own uke festival at last!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

George Elmes - feel the joy ! "Sunrise" original piece for soprano uke

This young musician surely has far to go ... here is a truly delightful (if short) original composition for ukulele, called "Sunrise" - so well named... what came first, I wonder - the music or its name? It simply encapsulates the joy and splendour of sunrise on a Spring day, the cascade of notes throwing the sun's rays about the sky in a dance of gay abandon - every time you think you've nailed the pulse, it's lost again in a helter-skelter of shimmering notes in playful, changing rhythms. You just want to keep listening to it again, over and over. Simply gorgeous.... I've lost count of how many times I've listened to this already! "Sunrise"..... thanks for sharing it with us on Youtube, George!

And, dear readers - if you enjoy my blog, why not subscribe - just put your email address in the box over there on the right. I don't see it - all private!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Jazz Chord Melody lesson

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, jazz chord melody lesson with tab by Aaron Crowell, courtesy of Andrew Kitakis of Hawaii Music Supply at theUkuleleReview.com

Important - uke tuned with a low G string.

I've always shunned Twinkle Twinkle, but this is a great jazzy arrangement, I love it. It's my sort of level, not for the absolute beginner but not beyond the reach of an "improver". There was a tab freely available for this lovely arrangement but no longer, I have just discovered.... (edit 4/Sept/13)

This is a great piece for focused practice - it's not a long piece but there are lots of specific points that you can focus on to improve your playing. I'll be writing more on the subject of practice very soon..... I'm quite fired up by some ideas...meanwhile, thanks for dropping in to share my uke time with me!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Please meet Peter Moss, with a blistering "Some of These Days" on banjo-uke

I have only had the pleasure of hearing Peter Moss's playing over the last few days... I need to learn more of this man! Wooden uke, banjo-uke..... there will be more, just wait a bit..... I'll be back with more information, just give me a little time.... and meanwhile, enjoy that video again, and give Peter a sub to his channel....

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Little White Uke Around the World - how it all began

A little while ago I posted a lovely video by "filipinouker" with the Little White Uke that's traveling around the world. It's been to several countries already, and is currently in Scandinavia.... but just to keep this post short, this is how it all began.... meet "pabrizzer" of Australia, who started the whole thing off.... if you follow this blog, you've met him here before. Great musician.....

Just one of the wonderful things that started life on the webpages of the Ukulele Underground Forum! AN if you're on facebook, there's a Little White Uke facebook page on there.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ukulelezaza, the GFS and "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine"

Six weeks or so ago, I bought Ukulelezaza's vintage Gibson UB2 banjolele. I did tell you about it.... my Dallas D I love - it has a lovely art deco look about it somehow, and a very nice tone.... but after playing a UB2, I wanted one. Then Ukulelezaza (Remco Houtman-Jannsen) was selling his.... and two days later it was mine.

Then a month ago was the March convention of the George Formby Society. Our hotel room was already booked - I've been a member for just a year, after falling for the syncopated rhythms of Formby-style playing, and LSH and I are now regular attenders, for a our Formby "fix".

After a long absence from the Blackpool GFS conventions, Remco was also in need of a Formby fix, as I was telling you yesterday..... so I was pleased and privileged to meet him there. Lovely fella..... as everyone found out! Here at the Vicenza Uke fest of 2009 he explains all about his long-time association with Formby-style and the society. Interesting.....

There is another interview with Remco in issue 19 of Ukulele Player magazine, also a review of his lovely CD "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine"...... find it here.... I've got that CD in my car - on a continuous loop!

"Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" is a collection of jazz tunes arranged by the artist, Ukulelezaza, Remco Houtman-Janssen.

Here's a list of the instrumentals on it... he played several at convention and picked up a few hundred new fans at the same time!

1. I Surrender, Dear
2. Redcat Slack Key
3. Na Moku Eha
4. Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
5. Home
6. Heliotrope Bouquet
7. Pa'au'au Waltz
8. St. Louis Blues
9. Drifting and Dreaming
10. Flatbush Waltz
11. Downhill
12. Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
13. Why Don't You Go Down to New
14. Koa Lament

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fixed my embedding issue - and to celebrate, here's ukulelezaza - Was it a Dream?

Yes, I'm a happy bunny again, my blog looks so much better with the videos embedded! And this new video by Remco Houtman-Hanssen (aka ukulelezaza) makes for such a dreamy start to the day that I'm thrilled to share it with you right here. I blogged Remco's tuition video for "Mr Sandman" some time ago, that number has really taken off among the players who like to play chord melodies. Here is "Was it a Dream?"

Remco is playing his 60's Martin Style 1 soprano. And the style is typical of Remco's soprano uke instrumentals, so lyrical... there are more on his album "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" - I have it in my car and it's my favourite play for driving just now... so calming.

I was privileged to meet and make friends with Remco at the last convention of the George Formby Society in Blackpool last month. I had just bought his lovely vintage Gibson UB2 banjo-uke from him so it was natural that we say "Hi" as we were both there. Yes, Remco is one of those people who, like me, love the wooden uke and the banjo-uke, and have a love of Formby-style playing. But Remco doesn't like to sing, his realm is the instrumental, and whilst he is perfectly at home in the famous "thrash", standing out with everyone else in front of the stage playing the Formby tunes and banjo-uke solos, Formby songs as such are not in his performance repertoire. Instead, he incorporates the Formby-style strums effortlessly into his banjo-uke instrumentals.

It was Remco's first visit to a Formby convention for many years... he lives in Belgium. But as he told us, he'd "got the Formby itch" again. Now, over the course of the weekend, we might expect a max of three numbers from any one player, at most..... two one day, one the next or vice versa. But Remco went down such a storm, we had... wait for it... I'm sure it was eleven! The comperes could see, we couldn't get enough .... what a player!

Before everyone left on the Sunday night, Remco kindly wrote down the titles of all the pieces he had played for us. The only paper we had between us was a few raffle tickets, and he wrote all the titles down on the backs.... and they were all here in front of me the other day....! But for the moment, I've mislaid them - typical, sorry... I will search for that information, but for the moment I can tell you that my favourite piece was another lyrical soprano uke instrumental, "Under Paris Skies"... I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!

More details in my next post about these.... CD "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" and Remco's excellent book of tabs + DVD "Happy Days Are Here Again" (16 Popular Songs from the Golden Jazz Era, arranged by ukulelezaza)- contact Remco through youtube for purchase details..... and the lists of songs are coming up!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Coming up if I get my act together....

There's a list in my head of all the blog posts waiting to be written... it's getting so long that I think I'll share it with you now so that you know what's coming.

There's the appearance of ukuelelezaza (Remco Houtman-Janssen) at the George Formby Convention last month. He brought the house down. So much to tell you about that....

I want to tell you about the British luthier Pete Howlett, who is among the top ukulele luthiers in the world, crafting some of the most beautiful and most coveted ukuleles you'll see... I want one, of course.... just take a look here.... maybe one day...

Then there's the new album by Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund. Devil on the Wall. Wonderful, as was his last. That man can play, can sing, and certainly can write songs.

And.... the new book "Ukulele Exercises for Dummies" that's coming out next week. It's by Brett McQueen, who teamed up with Al Wood of Ukulele Hunt for the project. I was so impressed by what I saw on Amazon and the free chapter (chapter eight) that I ordered mine straight away. You can read all about it here. It comes out next week on 15th April but for now you can order it at an offer price. Order two and you can be in a free draw for a nice uke. I'll be reviewing this book when it comes...

And I nearly forgot this one - the Little White Uke that's going round the world... where it is, and how that all started!

Meanwhile I must order my life... things to do, people to see, ukuleles to play... and I'll be blogging again very soon - I promise!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How do you go about memorizing songs?

This questions is often asked, and as I've been trying to learn a few songs properly, this is the method I've come up with that works for me.

If you have difficulty learning songs, try this.....

Play and sing the song through a few times with the lyrics/chord sheet, in the usual way.

Then literally split the lyrics from the chords, to learn them separately -

Put the lyrics on one side of a sheet, without the chords cluttering up the page, and then write out the chords in sequence on the other side.

If there's a chorus, make it stand out by typing it in bold. Anything you need to remember about the lyrics, make it stand out - but as I said, leave the chords off.

Then try to sing it from memory, learning a verse at a time, with the sheet in front of you.

The other thing is to fix the chord sequences in your head, and writing them on the back of the sheet helps with that, because it helps to show up patterns - the lyrics are not getting in the way. So with the uke, play the song from the chords, without the words, perhaps humming your melody as you go.

Learn a line of music at a time; play it and repeat it, get used to the sequence of chords, and look for patterns. You'll know when you feel you can go on to the next line. Just build the song up line by line.

I learn the words and the music separately, like this, and as I go, now and then put them together from memory until I can do the whole thing. Then I just keep doing it, with no paper there, until I'm confident. It all takes time and lots of repetition to be properly learned. Eventually you'll know your song, and eventually with lots of playing from memory, you just can't forget it, which is perfect!

Lots of repetition is really important, but the method of getting there that I've just explained is what I find works for me. It may work for you, if you try it! I hope this helps!

Happy strumming - and happy singing! It's great exercise too!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Another must-watch..... Some of These Days - Julien Staudt

I haven't seen Julien Staudt's videos before, but after this I'm a subscriber to his channel..this great old song, written in 1911, gets a hum-dinger of a treatment here.... a slow, bluesy intro lulls us into a false sense of security, only to lead...... find out!

What a scorcher! And chock-full of jazzy chords. First recorded by Sophie Tucker, it became her theme song.

If you like these old jazzy numbers, take a look at this list of pre-1920 jazz standards - you'll recognise many, and it's amazing just how old these enduring favourites are!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

I have discovered - Patsy Monteleone

One by one it is my joy to discover wonderful ukulele artists, and some of them can back up their talents with great vocals. One such is Patsy Monteleone, one time of New York, whom I discovered on a newly recorded Youtube. It's one of those videos, one of those performers, one of those songs, that just hits that spot.... Patsy has just done this video to show off his beautiful new Argapa resonator uke, built for him by the very talented luthier, Sven Nyström of Sweden.

Please watch and enjoy another great Tin Pan Alley number, Love Me As I Am..... from 1941,music by Louis Alter and lyrics by another New Yorker Frank Loesser, (think for example "Guys and Dolls", "Baby It's Cold Outside") It's a song which should be learnt by any male uke songster, in my opinion! If LSH were to get further than a C chord, I'd surely make him learn it! And he would. Because it would suit him perfectly...... "I snore in my sleep..." yeah.....

You can read all about Patsy Monteleone in the on-line Uke magazine Ukulele Player Ukulele Player Issue 6, Artist Profile Patsy Monteleone

Friday, 5 April 2013

It's a funny thing about singing....

It's a funny thing about singing, and I've found this before.... it's so hard to sing a song aloud that means something to you... LSH and I have a few songs that for one reason or another are a bit special, and I came across the chords for such a one last night. So after running it through, I went downstairs just now and sat beside him on the sofa, armed with uke and chord sheet...."Look what I found...!" but do you think I could sing that song aloud while I played? No way.... not to him.... the voice went, the tears just streamed..... "I Just Called to Say I Love You" ... perhaps if I work on it I can de-sensitize myself to it, and get that I can sing and play it with him. Perhaps.

If something moves you, a song or a poem, a passage in a book, it touches the emotions in a way that comes right to the surface when the voice is involved. It begs questions about performing certain songs in public. There are poems that I just can't read aloud, it's just the same. Words and music touch the soul.

Just thought I'd share that with you.