In Heaven (from Eraserhead) (Tabs)

Peter Ivers & David Lynch – In Heaven (Tab)

If you’re ever in the mood for a strange but hilarious movie, I highly recommend Eraserhead. One of the film’s many joys is the Lady in the Radiator song. The song has had a life outside the movie as In Heaven becoming a Pixies live favourite and a jazz odyssey by Julian Lage.

I’ve arranged the tune in D minor for ease of playing. And with it being so slow and sparse, it’s a pretty simple one to play. The only oddity is Ab chord in bar 8. Ab isn’t a chord you expect to find in a song in D minor. So it adds a dissonant and unsettling edge to the song (to match the rest of the movie). I bend the notes on the E-string, 4th fret in that bar to accentuate the dissonant sound.

Links

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Frank and Nancy Sinatra – Something Stupid (Tabs)

Frank and Nancy Sinatra – Something Stupid (Tab)

Something Stupid was made famous by Frank and Nancy Sinatra and written by C Carson Parks (who I just learned is brother of Van Dyke Parks). More recently, Lola Marsh recorded a ukulele version for Better Call Saul.

There’s plenty of scope for your own noodles if you want to take them. I stuck close to the original in the intro but you can let loose as much as you like here. After that, I’ve thrown in a lot of my own twiddles. Keeping them nice and cheesy to match the rest of the song. I using the C major scale and throw in a few chromatic notes.

Links

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UkeTube: Willie Nelson and Jake, Mr B, Grupo Semente

Watch on YouTube

Playlist
Brian Teaches Music – Autumn Leaves
Jake Shimabukuro and Willie Nelson – Stardust
Grupo Semente – Palhaço On cavaquinho.
Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer – Lessons Learned From Lockdowns One To Three
Yuki Saito – Turbulence
mxmtoon – in the darkness
Jonathan Lewis – Morrison's Jig
The Emerald Ruby – James Falls Over Stargazing

Spice Up Your Playing with Modes

I’m sure I’m not the only one who often feels like they’re trotting out the same licks and scales all the time. When I feel like that, I like to dig out a new move (or an old move I’ve forgotten about) and experiment with. One place to find these ideas is in modes.

There’s a whole world of theory to explore with modes and I’m going to talk about almost none of it. The intention here is to pull out a few ideas to liven up our playing. If it whets your appetite for more, don’t be intimidated by the outlandish names. Modes aren’t that hard to get your head around.

Mixolydian Mode

It’s no secret that the lamest note in the major scale is the major 7 note. The Mixolydian mode fixes this by lowering the major 7 to a minor 7. In the key of C, that means going from a B to a Bb. Making the Mixolydian mode look like this:

This cools off the cheery sound of the major scale and makes it sound more confident and strident.

For example: The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

The confident, strident sound of the Mixolydian mode makes it perfect for this Verve song (sampled from a Rolling Stones song).

Phrygian Mode

Like Mixolydian, the Phrygian mode changes just one note of a familiar scale to create something more interesting. It is the same as the natural minor scale, but changes the major second to a minor second. In the key of C, that’s a change from D to Db.

That change makes the scale feel darker and more mysterious. Which explains why the Phrygian mode is common in metal music.

Phrygian also has a distinct flamenco feel to it. If you want to lean even further into the flamenco sound, you can use the Phrygian dominant scale. This moves from a minor third to a major third. In C, that’s moving from an Eb to E to create this:

It’s a fun scale to noodle around with. I recommend having a go.

For example: Metallica – Wherever I May Roam

Whoever created the rumour that Metallica were copyrighting going from E to F knew a thing or two. E to F is the minor second move that is characteristic of the Phrygian mode in the key of E. A mode Metallica have used often. For example, this Phrygian heavy riff from Wherever I May Roam which hammers-on and off from E to F many times.

Locrian Mode

Everyone hates the Locrian mode, thinks it smells and finds it hard to work with. Which is why I relate to it so much.

The Locrian is only one note away from the Phrygian mode. It has a flattened fifth. In C, that means a Gb instead of a G:

It’s the only mode that has this feature and it’s what makes it difficult to use. Without that fifth, a song will never feel settled. But I do find it comes in useful in a couple of situations. Firstly, it’s useful to slip into when you want to create a feeling of being unmoored and adrift. Then when you move back to something more settled, it’ll be all the more satisfying.

Secondly, it can be used to create loops that feel like they don’t have a start or an end. Such as…

For example: The Strokes – Juicebox

The Locrian is so rare in pop music that everyone gives the same two examples: Juicebox by The Strokes and Army of Me by Bjork. Both use it in the same way.

Because the Locrian mode never sounds settled, you can use it to create endlessly looping riffs. Both songs have looping Locrian basslines that add an unsteady undercurrent to everything that’s happening above them.

David Bowie – Space Oddity (Tabs)

David Bowie – Space Oddity (Tab)

I covered David Bowie’s Space Oddity in the first ever “band” I was in. So this version has been about a quarter of a century in the making.

I’ve used some artificial harmonics in the intro because they’re the spaciest sound you can get on a ukulele. But you can play this section without them and it won’t be a problem. Or you could come up with your own intro.

The first verse is the simplest part of the song. Then comes the “Lift Off” section. Pretty much any rising figure will work here. You can go as simple as grabbing a note and sliding up the neck. I took the opportunity to have a bit of fun with effects.

The second verse is more much of a challenge. There are a lot of moves up and down the neck and a few finger-twisting bits. On the upside, it has the strange change from F major to F minor that mirrors the shift in the song from triumph to tragedy.

After some quick chord changes, the solo starts up. I’ve stayed fairly close to the original here. Just adapting bits for uke. But I couldn’t resist throwing in a Day Tripper reference on the A chord (bar 44) as the original comes so close to it.

Links

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Roy Orbison – Crying (Tabs)

Roy Orbison – Crying (Tab)

A version of Roy Orbison’s Crying which Rolling Stone declared the 69th greatest song of all time. Nice.

Roy Orbison’s unmistakeable falsetto is in full effect in this song. So the big challenge here is jumping up and now the neck accurately.

In the second chorus, the melody goes all the way up to the 15th fret. If you can’t access that fret on your uke, you can just play it the same as the first chorus. Or, if you really want to go for it, you could use artificial harmonics.

Links

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Friday Links: Tales of Mystery, Uke Sculpture and a Good Posse

From Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery, Don’t Play that Ukelele. (Via @ukeist)

Assembling a posse to retrieve a stolen ukulele.

Ukulele Girls circa 1940.

Window Shopping
Ukulele Sculpture by Arman, 2002. Yours for £10,685. (Thanks to @hermanvdc.)
Horseshoe Banjolele.
RIGuitars Tahitian ukulele.
9 course orpharion from 1617.

Patreon

A massive thanks to all Uke Hunt’s Patreon backers for keeping the site up and running. And double thanks go to these unmatched patrons of the arts:

– Arthur Foley
– Colleen Petticrew
– Dan
– Elizabeth Beardsley
– Fiona Keane
– Jeff K
– Katherine Penney
– Kie77
– Leia-lee Doran
– Lisa Johnson
– Mr Daniel Barclay
– Mulberg
– Nick Parsons
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– Pauline LeBlanc
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Seven Movies About Music You Haven’t Seen

Over lockdown, I got tired of the usual Netflix fare and embarked on watching a wider variety of movies including, horror of horrors, movies with subtitles. And I found a bunch of great stuff. Here’s a round-up of films about music and musicians I enjoyed (order from weirdest to least weird) that you might not have seen. If you have seen them all, congratulations on being cool.

And if you want a list of all the musical movies I’ve watched recently, you can find it here.

Ashik Kerib (Sergei Parajanov)

Sergei Parajanov is one of the wildest and most original filmmakers of all time. He’s best known for the masterpiece The Colour of Pomegranates. Ashik Kerib is in a similar style and follows the story of a musician as he tries to raise enough money to impress the father of his bride-to-be. If you can ignore that the actor has clearly never seen a musical instrument before let played one, it’s a fun ride.

You can find it on YouTube in okay quality. But I’d recommend finding a higher quality version if you can.

The Silence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

Iranian cinema was on one hell of a tear in the 90s. Kiarostami gets all the plaudits in the west. But Mohsen Makhmalbaf is my favourite. He packs his movies with visually arresting scenes and they are so heartfelt they even touch a cynic like me.

The movie is about a blind kid, Khorshid, with outstanding hearing. He’s employed to tune instruments before they leave the factory and needs to convince his boss to give him an advance so his mum doesn’t get evicted. Unfortunately, Khorshid keeps being distracted by music (he’s particularly obsessed with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) and is constantly wandering off track despite the best efforts of his buddy Nadereh.

I absolutely love this movie. Images from it are burned into my brain. I relate to being diverted from money-making activities by music and there’s a scene I think about every time I tune an instrument.

Two warnings. Firstly, the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense (instruments don’t get tuned at the factory by a kid with perfect pitch for starters). Secondly, thanks to the Iranian penchant for casting non-actors, the performances from the adults are so wooden you could carve a tanbur out of them. Luckily, the two kids in the lead roles are great.

There’s a watchable version on YouTube but you can pick up a much better version on Amazon. And it’s well worth it just for the colours. I also highly recommend A Moment of Innocence and Gabbeh.

Youth (Paolo Sorrentino)

This is the only film on the list with proper Hollywood actors in. It’s set in an impossibly grand resort in the Swiss Alps and stars Michael Caine as a retired composer rebuffing attempts from the Queen to perform for her and Harvey Keitel as an aging director trying to come up with an end for his movie.

Paolo Sorrentino’s music choices – whether sublime or ridiculous – are always outstanding. Youth is no exception, taking in acapella Old Testament horniness, post-rock grandeur and electro grooviness. It also features cameos from Mark Kozelek and Paloma Faith.

Félicité (Alain Gomis)

Félicité follows a singer in Kinshasa, DRC trying to raise money to pay for treatment for her son after a traffic accident. The film deals with contrasts. It explicitly talks about the contrast between night and day. The movie itself is split in two with a realist first half and a dream-like second half.

But the most exciting contrast comes in the music. Félicité sings in a sweaty bar back by the Congolese rumba of the Kasai Allstars. While l’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste play the music of Estonian contemporary composer Arvo Pärt while bathed in blue light. As the band’s music becomes increasingly driving, thudding and distorted, the orchestra’s music becomes more ethereal.

And if you want more Arvo Part, the man himself shows up in the documentary Sounds and Silence.

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda)

Cleo from 5 to 7 is a gem of French New Wave cinema by the loveable genius Agnes Varda. It follows the pop star Cleo in real time as she hangs around her kitten filled apartment, rehearses new music and tootles around Paris while waiting for the results of her cancer test.

As I Open My Eyes (Leyla Bouzid)

I was promoted to check out this movie when I found out the soundtrack was by the outstanding oud virtuoso Khyam Allami. As I expected, the music is excellent and combines traditional Tunisian sounds with copious amounts of rocking out.

The movie centres on a young woman who fronts a politically outspoken band in the run up to Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution which kicked off the Arab Spring.

They Will Have to Kill Us First (Johanna Schwartz)

They Will Have to Kill Us First is a documentary following musicians who fled the north of Mali after the takeover by hardcore religious nutjobs Ansar Dine who banned music. Most notably, Songhoy Blues who go from exiled local band to playing the Royal Albert Hall over the course of the film.

For another perspective, check out Timbuktu. A fictional account of a musician who choses to stay in the extremist held region while doing his best to stay out of their way.

Portishead – Glory Box (Tabs)

Portishead – Glory Box (Tab)

Today’s tab is the 90s trip-hop classic Portishead’s Glory Box.

The song is built around a sample of Ike’s Rap by Isaac Hayes (the same sample used in Tricky’s Hell is Round the Corner). So the whole song is on an Em chord (Ebm in the original) with descending bass notes on the C-string of E, D, C#, C.

By far the hardest part of the arrangement is the artificial harmonics in bars 21-22 (“A thousand flowers could bloom”) played at the same time as the bass notes. If, like me, you struggle with that bit, you can ignore the harmonics all together and just play it as written.

The solo starts off like the original but I go off on my own from there. I suggest you do the same. I’m using notes from the melody plus a Bb (A-string, 1st fret) that lends some gritty dissonance to the solo.

Links

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The Beatles – Till There Was You (Tabs)

The Beatles/Meredith Wilson – Till There Was You (Tab)

Till There Was You was originally recorded by Meredith Wilson. But, of course, is much better known by The Beatles’ cover.

This arrangement is heavily based on The Beatles’ version but is closer to the tempo of the original. I’ve taken a few liberties including adding my own intro and solo. Feel free to do the same for your version.

I recommend one finger per string picking for everything but the solo. I just used whatever falls under my fingers in that section.

There are a few fancy chords in the arrangement. Including my favourite chord: C7(#5). C7 is already an unsettled chord and adding that #5 creates even more tension that is released when you move back to the F chord.

Links

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