Friday, 28 February 2014

Ukafrolics galore as winter turns to spring!

The last day of winter, spring is at last on the doorstep and the garden is white, yellow and purple with all the crocuses I planted last autumn. We are so lucky here. We live on a hill, so we don't get flooded, but driving across the city yesterday, a sudden hailstorm soon had the streets covered in surface water as the drainage system, already overloaded from the wettest British winter on record, struggled to cope and the drains overflowed across the roads. But walking a little later, I actually felt warm sun on the back of my head. Glory, glory. Spring fills me with joy, and a great ukafrolic weekend for me to look forward to!

Tonight, a local concert and uke workshop by Peter Moss, (see previous posts on here); then tomorrow,Andy Eastwood appears in Dudley with one of the greatest comedians Britain has ever produced, Ken Dodd. How fabulous is that! I will report, have no fear!

If you are in the UK and nearer to Greater London this weekend, there's the "Ukes for Unicef" Festival in Berkhamstead, between Aylesbury and High Wycombe. You'll find Ken Middleton and Sam Brown (Joe Brown's daughter) there as well as a host of other fantastic acts! Entry by donation, suggested donation per adult, £5. Shame I'll miss that one...

In any time I have left this weekend, I'll be polishing up 12th Street Rag as in Marcy Marxer's tuition video, - love that number - and polishing up my Formby - after all, the convention is only two weeks away! Another ukafrolic...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Joe Brown talks about playing ukulele. Lovely stuff....

I came across this video the other day and decided it was a "must share"... after all, like so many other ukulele players, it was Joe Brown's rendition of "I'll See You In My Dreams" at the concert for George (Harrison) that knocked me for six and began my love affair with the ukulele.

A lot of interesting points here... the first thing that grabbed me was the chord progression in EXAMPLE 1.... I'll figure the whole thing out if it's the last thing I do - and when I have, I'll share it with you!

Also - interesting to note that Joe talks about buying a banjo-uke for the president of the George Formby Society in 1964 - I must check up who that was!

And - the "scissor-movement" Joe talks about at the end of the clip is what Formby players call a "triple"... not difficult with a little practice - but it has other names - a thumb-roll for example.

Check the tag cloud at the bottom for my earlier "Joe Brown" posts ... and thanks so much for dropping in! Nice to see you - and watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Peter Moss plays two of my all-time favourite songs at the George Formby Convention, Nov 2013

This was so special. These two songs, played so beautifully here by Peter Moss, are among my top few all-time favourites. Til There Was You, and The Way You Look Tonight. I play them a lot, strumming versions, no melody-picking but beautiful chords - songs crafted by real song-masters.

Now, I've featured Peter on "Life's A Ukafrolic" several times before, but I didn't meet him until November, when at last he came to a convention of the George Formby Society and wowed everyone with this beautiful rendition. Isn't it gorgeous? Songs and playing that just melt your limbs. And the reason this is so special to me is because we'd been chatting during a break as he gently played through these songs, and I mentioned that they were my favourites - I didn't know he was actually going to play them on stage - well, when he did - and it's just before this video clip starts - he mentioned my name and sort-of dedicated them to me..... you can imagine how I felt! Such a lovely thing to do, and such a very nice fella... and of course, he was playing his lovely custom-built Pete Howlett tenor, which I've talked about on here before.

Now LSH, (Long-Suffering-Husband), had gone for a pint and a little walkabout round Blackpool, in spite of the cold and drear... so he missed my moment of.... I can't quite find the word! Perhaps its specialness.... that's what happens when you leave the room....

Thanks, as ever, to Peter Pollard for the video....

Next convention - less than two weeks away, 15th-16th March, Imperial Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool.

This weekend will see Peter Moss doing a ukulele workshop for Go Ukulele Crazy near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Play 12th Street Rag on banjo-uke with Marcy Marxer - tuition video

12th Street Rag was written in 1914 - yes, 100 years ago - by Euday L Bowman, and was one of the most popular and best-selling rags of the ragtime era.

I've seen a lot of videos and versions of 12th Street Rag for ukulele, but I do like this one, a chord melody version which looks achievable for the likes of me - i.e not TOO hard! Marcy shows us the basics and then shows some fancier moves and chords which you can put in just to put the icing on the cake. Great to see a good tuition video for this great and enduring number, and using a banjo-uke too!

Do take a look at this video .... First Marcy talks about meeting the great Roy Smeck, who famously played a blistering ukulele version of this catchy tune. Then she plays it with Cathy Fink and James Hill! A few years back, now... 2008.

Right - I'm off to have another go at this! Catch you again soon!

Update, next day....

Having a go at this again I realised that I needed extra help after the first three lines of music, and searched on Google again. I came across this website. Chicks With Picks Melbourne, with the same Marcy Marxer video..... and a link to a tab. Now, I clicked on the tab and could print it, and all became clear - but as it isn't my tab to share, I'll just direct you to the page and you can go to it yourself. It does help with the middle and the end hugely!

Good luck! Getting on like a bomb with it now.....

Friday, 21 February 2014

Lonesome Moonlight Waltz - Ukulelezaza plays by ear so well.....

In my last post I shared with you my little triumph and milestone on my ukulele path in figuring out the song "Sway" by ear... and here is another of my very favourite players, Ukulelezaza, Remco Hautmann-Jannsen, with his new video Lonesome Moonlight Waltz... which he also figured out by ear!

This is what he has to say about it..

"I first heard this Bill Monroe instrumental at a late night jam at Haapavesi Folk in Finland and was immediately hooked. As soon as I was back home I figured it out. Here I'm playing my wonderful new Historia soprano ukulele in dreadnought "Ditson" style, made by Valerio Pennisi from Italy."

It just goes to show what you can do when you really know your way around a uke fretboard, which chords belong in which key, and what different sorts of chords sound like.

Jim D'Ville is a great exponent of the value of playing by ear. His website is well worth exploring thoroughly, and he does some great tuition DVDs for sale and download - I can recommend because I bought one!

Playing ukulele by ear is a skill I'm determined to develop... visit Jim's page if you want to find out more about learning this so useful skill!

And thanks once again, for dropping in - much appreciated!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Get that Latin Mambo vibe and "Sway" with me....

I've always enjoyed Latin-American music but really fell in love with it during a visit to Cuba last year. Away on holiday again a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to play the 1953 Dean Martin hit "Sway", but being away from the internet just had to fall back on trying to work it out by ear.


(Em) When marimba rhythms (Am) start to play
Dance with me, (Em) make me sway
Like a lazy ocean (B7) hugs the shore
Hold me close, (Em) sway me more

(Em)Like a flower bending (Am) in the breeze
Bend with me, (Em)sway with ease
When we dance you have a (B7) way with me
Stay with me, (Em)sway with me

(Em)Other dancers may (B7) be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will (G)see only you
Only you have that (B7) magic technique
When we sway I go (Em) weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Of course, these are the most basic chords that will work, and if you search for the chords on the internet you'll find a version with more spice and pezazz. Curt Sheller has one... but for me. working it out by ear for myself was a challenge I enjoyed - and with these chords and this song, it isn't too difficult to find the melody notes and fret them in with the little finger, or pinky. The melody starts on the note B, 2nd fret, 4th (A) string. Try picking it out on its own, first, then have a go at incorporating it with the chords! My effort is simply too rough to share - just yet!

Trying to work out songs and melodies for yourself is a really good way to progress on any instrument. See what you think about this - and thanks for dropping in!

("Sway" is a mambo - the dance originating in Cuba. Read more about the song on Wikipedia here....)

Sunday, 16 February 2014

I packed my Little Blue Uke again - and discovered the progress I've made...

Any faithful followers among you must have wondering where I'd got to these last couple of months... if you missed me, I'm sorry - but sort of glad as well, if you know what I mean! You are reading this, so whoever you are, welcome back - and thanks.

In truth, there is so much that I have to share with you that I don't know where to start, but the problem has been simply one of a lack of time. Since I posted in early November the demands on my time just seemed to pile up - but I have no intention of boring you with the details, have no fear.

So - the things I should have been writing about? Well, I wanted to tell you about the thrill that was having a song played just for me by one of my favourite players at the George Formby Convention in Blackpool in November.

I wanted to tell you about the new electro-acoustic uke I finally bought for myself, and the gorgeous solid koa tenor that my lovely LSH (Long-Suffering Husband) bought me for Christmas.

I wanted to tell you about the blogger and player whose book and DVD I have bought, and whose blog postings are always hugely informative and entertaining. Who is it? You'll have to wait just a little while, sorry....

And I wanted to tell you about my own progress with my ukulele-playing journey. Because I am making progress, I know that, and sharing that with you is really the number one reason for writing this blog in the first place.

So, what progress, then? Well... having escaped the rigours of an English winter for a couple of weeks, Little Blue Mahalo tucked firmly in my case, I had to fall back on playing by ear when wanting to try out a song. I had packed a little sheaf of song sheets, but of course, I couldn't take everything. I have reams of song sheets here at home... and the song I wanted to play was "Sway".

Songs with a Latin rhythm seem to be particularly tricky.... but I managed to find suitable chords. Hurrah. HOWEVER - the big triumph was - I managed to work it out as a chord melody, Woohoo! Now, if I could do it well enough, I would do you a Youtube, but it's not there yet, not fluent enough, but you know, the sense of achievement in managing to do this was such a blast.....

I'll share the chords next time, see what you think.

And where did we go? Egypt. By the Red Sea. Camels, star-gazing in the desert... fabulous. But I tell you, riding this camel gave a whole new meaning to the word "Sway"... I really would not want to cross a desert on one!

See you next time..... thanks for dropping in!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

George Elmes plays Happy Feet

George Elmes from Ireland is such a very, very talented player; I love everything he does. Wooden uke or banjo-uke, his playing is up there among the very best. Precise, "clean" playing that is simply not easy..... here he is playing a hand-built banjo-uke by Phil Cartwright.

This song Happy Feet was written by Cab Calloway in 1930 and is perhaps best known for the dance routine by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

I think George Elmes has Happy Fingers.... I wish mine were that happy!