Monday, 31 March 2014

Progress at last, I'm playing Mr Sandman instrumental!

I was talking about progress a couple of weeks ago. A piece I've been working on for just about a year is Mr Sandman, the instrumental version so beautifully showcased by Ukulelezaza, Remco Hautmann-Janssen. Here is Remco's,, complete with tutorial and TAB....

It's a catchy tune, quite well-known, and part of the appeal for a uke player keen to develop instrumental skills is that the chords used are easy, basic ones in the basic position... all except for a few.... they are the ones that challenge you. I've put them in bold here..

C | G7 | C | G7 |

C | B7 | E7 | A7 |
D7 | G7 | C | G#7 G7 |
C | B7 | E7 | A7 |
Dm | Fm6 | D7 G7 | C |

They are four-finger chords up the neck with the chord melody built on them, and you need to be pretty nifty on the changes. It's the final G7 (fingered 4535) that had me struggling the longest and hardest. I had to think about which fingers to use on the melody on the preceding D7 (which is 5655), and I'm using the little finger on 7th fret of the A string and leaving it there whilst moving to the other frets of the G7...453(7) then moving the little finger to the 5th fret. It's not easy to play quickly and cleanly. I tended to get lost on the fingerboard, then I'd play it on time but muted, or late but clean! But once you've got used to finding it quickly, turning the hand very slightly whilst fretting that chord helps to exert more pressure on the strings, for a clean sound. And of course, the old mantra - practice, practice, practice!

I don't usually post my own videos on here, I'm no budding star... but I am pleased that persistence with this has paid off at last, so I thought I 'd share. This isn't perfect, but it's as good as it's going to be for a while yet!

Thanks to Remco Hautmann-Jannsen (Ukulelezaza) for the tutorial and TAB... (see link above!)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Phil Doleman - Spring and Summer dates!

A few days ago I posted one of Phil Doleman's excellent videos. If you can get to one of his gigs or workshops, don't miss the chance - I saw Phil at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham last year, and have my ticket for this year's festival, where I shall be highly delighted to see him him perform again... if you haven't got yours, the bad news is you're too late, it's already sold out! But the good news is, see this poster for lots of other dates and venues coming up in the UK! And he's doing a couple of them with the wonderful Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund....

I know a lot of you see this blog on your all-singing, all-dancing smart phones - and perhaps you can't see the dates on the poster because they're too small. In any case check it out here - you may need to be a club member or to buy advance tickets. Good luck!

Thanks for dropping in - it's always nice to see you!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

I sent a friend my latest uke youtube, and her response was "You're mad...."

It's a very cold, very wet, rather miserable spring day. Temperature not set to rise above 6 degrees C all day. Already, at 9.00 am I've had time and cause to ponder deeply about life thus far. I've been wide awake since 4.30 am, mind wandering all over the place. I made tea at 7.00. Husband declared he'd had a vivid dream about his brother, who died nearly thirty years ago. I'd already been planning my day, and had resolved to get out my mother's photo albums from the 1970's. Drinking my tea in bed, (bliss, that first cup of tea of the day!) I opened the first album - and the first picture was of LSH's brother. Such a coincidence... there followed pictures of my family, many of them with LSH's family, as they all shared some holidays back then. Most of the people in the photos are dead now. Pics also of us as a young family around the time our children were born in the late 70's, and when they were still very small. Such a very long time ago. So much water passed under the bridge, and our lives completely different now... careers begun, followed through and ended, parents passed, children well grown and living their own independent lives.

And me, since that Eureka Joe Brown "I'll See You In My Dreams" moment - I play the ukulele now. Nearly every day. I promised I'd talk about my progress over the last two years since I started this blog... well, for one thing, I used to be terrified of my own web-cam, but I've got used to it now - I reckon that has taken a full two years to accomplish... and now, if I want to do a youtube video to take part in the Ukulele Underground Forum "Seasons of the Ukulele" contests, I no longer feel as though the Thing is watching me.

So, this week, having finally found a space in time to take part, and a friendly theme for last week's activity, ("choose a song - or lots of songs - written or co-written by a woman") I bashed off three videos in three days - in one take, two takes and three takes respectively. Quite fun. I adore the lyrics of Dorothy Fields... she wrote "On the Sunny Side of the Street" in 1930 - a song that I also dance to twice a week at the tap class I go to - another childhood pleasure revived.... and the third song I made a video of was this very one. Feeling reasonably happy with my effort, I did a rare thing - being one of our dance tunes, I emailed the video to two of my tapping friends. One of these friends is also an ex-work colleague - knows me from a former life in the classroom .... so has a different view of me from that of newer acquaintances... is that relevant? I don't know. I only know this... when I asked her, as we put on out tap shoes "Did you get my email?" she just laughed and said "You're mad!" and that was that.

So here I am, perusing photos from the 1970's when I was young with small children and a life in front of me, and looking at myself now, in my 60's, playing my ukuleles, tap-dancing, my dear Long-Suffering-Husband still supporting me in all I do, as indeed I do him. I'm thinking of that poem that used to get passed round a lot among women of a certain age,


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in the slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

-Jenny Joseph, 1961

Marilisa Sachteleben expresses my views entirely in her words about this poem here...

In my youth I was sober and sensible, we married young and took on all the responsibilities of adulthood, mortgage, bills... brought up children on a tight budget, worked hard... and now it's purple clothes and red hat time. LSH has been scuba-diving. Me, I play uke and make cr*ppy youtubes. And if I'm mad, I don't care a kipper!

And just to prove it, here's a link to that vid.

Thanks for dropping in - and now I'm of to do something useful. Or perhaps I'll go out in the rain in my slippers and pick the flowers in next door's garden.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Here is an Aussie stunner - Azo Bell with a blistering original piece!

This one can speak for itself right now.... I heard it a few minutes ago, courtesy of another Aussie ukey friend.... thanks, Jason - it blew me away and I just had to share it with you. Not a long piece, please enjoy.....

When I've recovered from the aural freak-out, I may have more to say!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Here's Phil Doleman, Chasin' Rainbows in some style!

We are fortunate in the UK to have quite a few first class ukulele players, and without doubt, Phil Doleman is one of them.

I saw this video this morning and fell in love with the song right away! What a great little song to brighten anyone's day, and delivered by Phil with real fingerpicking panache!

I talked to him about his use of finger picks, and this is what he said...

"My fingerpicking style come from years of playing Fingerstyle guitar. I never used picks (well, I toyed with them, but they really require a level of commitment to get used to!) until fairly recently when I took up lap steel guitar. As most lap steel players use them I thought I should at least have a go and found they worked brilliantly (I use Dunlop plastic thumb and fingerpicks, by the way). I tried them on uke and found that I could get much more volume, so fingerpicking whilst singing became possible without my voice drowning out the uke. I also found it allowed me to do very fast runs - as I don’t have long fingernails, those can be difficult to pull off, but the picks made it quite easy. Keeping time with fingerpicking like that is all about the thumb. On guitar that would be the ‘bassline’, but on a uke (especially with a high G, which is what have) you have to just ‘suggest’ that. It took me a few months of playing with them on all the time for it to start to feel natural.

Chasin’ Rainbows is a great song, isn’t it? I first heard on a Cheap Suit Serenaders album (the album is actually called ‘Chasin’ Rainbows’), and I know that the Dallas String Band did it so it’s probably from the 1920s."

Thanks for that, Phil - wonderful!

Take a look at Phil's website.....

And now I need to check out the Serenaders, and the Dallas String Band!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

This blog - 2yrs old today.

Two years ago today when I started this ukulele blog,
I wasn't at all sure, whether I would still be doing it one year hence, let alone two... but here I am, still strumming, still learning, still enthusing, still writing, still sharing my ukulele loves. I'm not exactly proud, but I am pleased. And you're reading this, so whoever you are, thank you for sharing with me right now!

When I began, I had just the two ukes in my cover photo - a Greg Bennett laminate mahogany (UK50) bought for me by my husband , and a newly bought little darling of a near-mint 1920's Slingerland banjo-uke in bird's eye maple. This time last year that had swelled to four wooden ukes, (two concert and two soprano) and three vintage banjo-ukes.

The toll now? Total of ten. The same three banjo-ukes, and seven wooden. People who are not uke people don't understand, they don't get it ... but uke people do, and guitar people do. Different instruments for different music. And the love of a beautifully-crafted, beautiful sounding one. During the last seven days, I have played all ten - I played four yesterday. You see, they don't just sit there.

There's a new tab at the top, labeled "My Ukes"

As for my playing, yes I know I'm getting better, little by little; I have to keep stretching myself, trying harder things, I get bored strumming three and four chord songs all the time. At last I don't feel that I'm a beginner any more, but there's still such a long, long way to go before I could consider myself "good at it". I promised you a video to show you how I'm getting on, but I just haven't had time for that yet. Perhaps next week, after the George Formby Society convention in Blackpool this weekend. There's nothing like the sound of strumming getting closer and closer as you walk down that corridor at the Imperial Hotel, and walk through the door into that wonderful atmosphere! So many friends have been made there since our first visit in June 2012. Lovely people, great fun. Roll on Saturday....

Thanks for looking in, bless you - now I must get back to my split-stroke, down-up-down down-up-down-down-up.....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

George Elmes - A Sweet Melody on Kiwaya KTS-7

You know, I post videos when I just can't resist them. So as far as I'm concerned, they are the Best, with a capital B. George Elmes is so very talented, I love everything he does, and could happily post every single one of his videos on this blog because they are all of the Best, without exception.

I've listened to this lovely original piece three times now and to me it's just full of sunshine, like a lovely spring day hereabouts, glittering light, easy warmth and full of promise... that's special to these islands, unlike anywhere else in the world. And this music speaks of this to me.

George is playing his lovely Kiwaya KTS-7, a top grade solid mahogany soprano uke crafted in Japan. I have a KTS-4, and I love it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Caroline Stewart sings "Baby"

Here is my great friend and ukulele kindred spirit Caroline (Robson) Stewart at Castleford GFS performing that rare kind of George Formby song, a romantic ballad - "Baby", recorded 1933, and from the film "Boots, Boots"

Doesn't she do that beautifully? I'm so jealous! What a lovely voice! I do believe she's playing her Gibson solid mahogany soprano uke here. Thanks to Peter Pollard for the video. Lovely ....

Monday, 10 March 2014

The 2014 March Convention of the George Formby Society approaches - and I'm still flitting...

Just quickly - In a day or two, this blog will be celebrating its 2nd birthday, and I'm hoping on that day to give you a roundup of my ukulele journey so far. I'll do my best, the intention is there - but as my mother always used to say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions!" Meanwhile, let me report on last week's ukafrolics, as promised.

Peter Moss's ukulele workshop and concert for we members of "Go Ukulele Crazy" in Alrewas (Staffordshire, England) did not disappoint. We explored all sorts of jazzy intros and endings to songs, in different keys, and everyone got something out of it, even the real beginners who just knew a chord or two. Peter's warm and easy style made the atmosphere just perfect. And as for his performance for us afterwards - spellbinding. LSH had to agree. What a player! See him perform his signature piece "William Tell" here... Of Peter, Steven Sproat (great player) commented here "he's the only uke player who makes my jaw drop.." Praise indeed!

On Saturday we trundled off to Dudley to see Andy Eastwood open the second half for Ken Dodd, of Knotty Ash Jam Butty Mines fame.... stupendous. Andy performs with such energy and versatility - banjo-uke, ukulele, violin... a real professional. You need plenty of stamina to perform with Doddy - he's famed for not closing a show until 1.00 am....

My personal ukafrolics over the last week or two have involved lots of Formby-style banjo-uke practice, as next weekend it's Blackpool - the March GFS convention. I hate to admit that my good intentions apropos of the "thrash" for that have gone astray once again - at every convention I promise myself that I'll learn more songs ready for the thrash, (where everyone just gets up and joins in the playing) - and I always disappoint myself, I always fall short, through not putting enough time in on them. I then have to position myself where I can watch a good player's fretting hand, to follow the chords... good fun though! For my sins, instead of concentrating on Formby, in my playing I flit from piece to piece, from Formby to jazz, from Tin Pan Alley to pop, from folk to blues, from songs to instrumentals and back again, round and round, round and round... and just make slow progress, albeit across a pretty wide field.

But I am making progress, I know I am... and you know, I'm having so much fun....