UkeTube: Tallest Man on Earth, The Burning Glass

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Friday Links: Those Darlins, Burning Man

More sad news, I’m afraid. Singer and ukulelist with Those Darlins, Jessi Zazu has died of cervical cancer at the age of 28.

New Releases
– Wilfried Welti has just released a new tab ebook of tunes by Renaissance composer Tielman Susato.
– Phredd has another barrel-of-fun kids’ album out Ukulele Awesomesauce.
– The Burning Glass Happiness is Egg Shaped.

Kickstarting
– Tyrone and Leslie are raising funds for a new album Optimism.
– The Survivor Girl Ukulele Band is an excellent charity teaching ukulele to young survivors of human trafficking in India. You can back the Kickstarter for their album.

Burning Man had its own emergency ukulele station with a familiar looking logo (via Ukulelia).

Dam Busters March (Group Tab)

Continuing this week’s Kitty Lux tributes with a live UOGB favourite: The Dam Busters March by Eric Coates. This isn’t a direct tab of their version but is heavily influenced by it.

I’ve divided up the duties in the piece so that each ukulele part has a different skill level. If you’ve got more players in your group you can divide these up further or devise your own complementary parts.

Lead Ukulele

Dam Busters March (Lead Tab)

A load of tricky sections in this part (yet somehow it was the easy section at the end I managed to screw up in the video). The hardest section are the rapid-fire notes and moves up and down the neck in bars 40-44. But all the way through the first half there are bits that might trip you up. Luckily, things are much more stately in the second half.

I’m using fingerpicking to play this part. But it’s arranged in more of a UOGB than my usual style so it’s easier to play with a pick.

If, like me, you have no friends here’s a backing track to play this part along with:


Backing Track (MP3)

Baritone Ukulele

Dam Busters March (Baritone Tab)

The baritone tone is a little easier than the lead part. It’s mainly a simplified version of the lead part played an octave lower. The biggest challenges are the descending runs in bars 13 – 16 and bars 40-44.

Again, I’m playing this with my fingers but it’s arranged so it’s easy to play with a pick too.

Rhythm Ukulele

Dam Busters March (Rhythm Tab)

I’ve kept this part as simple as possible. It’s all played with down-strums and it’s almost all beginner level chords.

There are a couple of slightly unusual sections where I’m just playing the top three strings. I’m playing these by strumming down with my thumb to give them a softer, rounder sound. But you don’t have to do that. And if you want to play all the strings it happens to be the second fret on the g-string that’s missing in every case.

Guitar/Bass

Dam Busters March (Guitar/Bass Tab)

I’m playing this part on guitar but I’ve only used the bottom four strings so you can transfer it directly to bass if you prefer.

Here you’re playing staccato quarter notes almost all the way through. The one challenge is the descending run in bars 13-16.

Links

Buy the UOGB version
More UOGB tabs and chords

A Tribute to Kitty Lux

The death of founding Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain member Kitty Lux leaves a huge hole in the ukulele world. The UOGB set the template for the current ukulele revival 25 years before it started. As well as establishing the ukulele as a sociable, group instrument they expanded the uke’s repertoire to include everything from classical to funk. As well as carrying on the tradition of the likes of Ukulele Ike and George Formby by combining a respect for musicianship with keen sense of the ridiculous.

Lux’s music career started when she was art student in Leeds. She was a member of various punk bands including Sheeny and the Goys (whose song Ever Such Pretty Girls the UOGB recorded for their album of punk covers) and the excellently named Severed Head and the Neck Fuckers. And went on to post-punk band Really with original UOGB bassist Dave Bowie (not that one) and later UOGB co-founder George Hinchliffe.

When Lux and Hinchliffe formed the UOGB 1985 the ukulele was as far from popularity as it would get. When Marty McFly travelled back to 1955 he’d be able to watch Arthur Godfrey teaching ukulele on primetime TV. When he went forward to 2015 he could walk into a pub and seen a room of people Johnny B Goode-ing it up on the uke and find the ukulele LaserDiscs piled high out back. But in 1985 the only ukulele was barely known outside of Hawaii and the George Formby Society.

The Orchestra’s membership shifted around through the 80s and 90s as the group developed a repertoire of covers and original material. You can hear many Lux/Hincliffe originals on the 1989 album Hearts of Oak. Including some revealing in the Uke's artsy side like the slide ukulele and poetry number Anything is Beautiful Which.

But it’s for their covers that they UOGB are best know. Kitty described what made a good song for the Ukes like this:

We say that the ukulele is a good bullshit detector, if a song is weak then the ukulele reveals this. A bad song can be dressed up and made to seem good with lots of effects and a big production but the ‘stripped down’ ukulele treatment let’s you know if the song is good musically or not.

As the band’s lineup settled in the 90s their popularity increased and they were soon performing all over the world. Culminating in record-quick sell-out performance at the Albert Hall as part of the usually high-brow and serious Proms. A performance Lux gave only shortly after receiving a kidney transplant.

In a band often known for its comedic moments, Lux’s performances provided a beautiful counterpoint with her warm, earnest singing. She particularly shone on traditional songs such as those on the much underrated collection of traditional songs The Keeper.

The ukulele has benefited from the support a long line of women musicians. From Queen Lili’uokalani, through Mae Singhi Breen and Tessie O’Shea. Kitty Lux joins these legends with her contribution to reminding people of the music that can be made on the uke and the fun that can be had with it.

Lou Reed/UOGB – Satellite of Love (Chords)

UOGB – Satellite of Love (Chords)

In tribute to Kitty Lux, this week is going to be dedicated to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Starting with the live favourite: Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love.

For this write-up I used the version on their Live in London #1 album.

Suggested Strumming

For the main strum you can use:

d – d u – u d u

Intro: Once for each chord. Like this:


Strum 1

Verse: Same as the intro in the first two lines. Then on Em play:

d – d u d –

One down strum on D. Then back to the main strum.


Strum 2

Chorus: One strum pattern for each chord. Then on the last line one down strum per chord.

Middle: Play d – d u once for each chord. Except the G at the end of the second and fourth lines where you can play d – d u d u d u.

Twiddly Bits

At the end of each G-A7-C-D progression there’s a very clever pair of interlocking lines. One rising and one falling. I think the rising line is played using George’s mandolin tuning and falling line is played on baritone. But here’s my take on it using two standard tuned ukes.


Lick

Links

Buy it on iTunes
More UOGB tabs and chords

UkeTube: Leftover Cuties, Bolo, Amelia Coburn

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Friday Links: Kitty Lux

Founding member of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Kitty Lux has died at the age of 59. Kitty made a huge contribution to the ukulele world and the current scene wouldn’t be the same without her. I’m sure all ukers will join me in sending love to her family and to her bandmates.

Videos

Adam Savage records a ukulele song at Jack White’s Third Man Records.
Deaf ukulelist, Mandy Harvey has made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent.
Martin 5K assessed on Kentucky Collectibles.
The Game of Thrones band.

Ukes
– The Art on a Ukulele project has revealed all the ukes that will be up for auction to aid The Hepatitis C Trust. I got myself a plectrum painted by Andrew Galbraith.
RIGuitars ’85 BC Rich ukulele.

The Beatles – Blackbird (Tab)

The Beatles – Blackbird (Tab)

With there already being plenty of Beatles ukulele material around, I tend to avoid adding to the pile. But I couldn’t resist having a go at adapting the gorgeous picking of Blackbird for ukulele. I love the rising and falling lines. Particularly the chromatic rise and fall on the E-string in bars 5-8 of the tab.

It’s a challenging piece to play on the uke. There’s plenty of movement up and down the neck and some tricky picking. There are also loads of time signature changes in the song. But none of them are jarring. So if you know the song well they’re going to feel natural.

My arrangement uses thumb and two finger picking almost all the way through. There are two main patterns:

– The pattern in bar 1 alternating index and middle fingers (picking the E- and A-strings respectively) and the thumb picking the g-string.
– The pattern in bar 2 where the thumb alternates between the g- and C-strings.

There are 2 big exceptions. One is the picking is in bars 6 and 21. For those I’m alternating by thumb between the g- and E-strings. the other is bars 32-34 where I switch to strumming.

Links

Buy it on iTunes
More Beatles tabs and chords

Best Ukuleles According to Uke Hunt Readers

For a few years now I’ve been collecting people’s ratings of their ukuleles on the review section of Uke Hunt. It’s been interesting watching the list of the highest rated ukes take shape. Now that there are plenty of ratings I thought I’d take a look at those at the top.

The list is determined by a Bayesian average of ratings submitted to the site (that means the number of ratings as well as the average of the ratings is important). So if you think your uke deserves to be on the list you can help get it there by rating it. There are links to ukulele makers here and luthiers here.

There are two notable trends. The first is how many of the top five are very much family owned and run concerns. The other is that four of the top five all start with K. There must be something special about K.

1. Kamaka Ukuleles

Top of the list is the oldest surviving ukulele maker Kamaka. They were founded in Hawaii in 1916 by Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka. Kamaka’s most enduring innovation was the introduction of the pineapple ukulele. Kamaka realised that ukuleles have no need for the figure-8 shape (they’re just mimicking larger instruments that need to accommodate legs and arms) so you could significantly reduce the time and cost of ukuleles by making them oval shaped.

After Kamaka Sr’s death in 1953, Sam Kamaka Jr took over the company and introduced the iconic double-k logo and the Gold Label series of ukuleles. Followed by the White Label line in the 70s.

Sam Jr and his brother Fred continue to stick by Sam Sr’s warning: “If you make instruments and use the family name, don’t make junk.” Their ukuleles are the top of the field and clearly loved by their owners including their biggest endorser Jake Shimabukuro.

Quintessential ukulele: Kamaka pineapple ukulele.

2. Kanile’a Ukuleles

Currently only 0.01 of a star behind Kamaka comes another of the famous Hawaiian K Brands: Kanile’a. Kanile’a was set up by husband and wife team Joe and Kristen Souza in 1998. They make their ukes in Kane’ohe, Hawaii.

As well as their top end ukes, they have the more affordable Islander ukuleles made in Asia.

Kanile’a are also big supporters of young ukers (and Uke Hunt favourites) Honoka & Azita, Karlie G, UkuLise.

Quintessential ukulele: Kanile’a K1

3. Mya-Moe Ukuleles

The youngest company on the list and another husband and wife team: Gordon & Char Mayer. They exploded onto the ukulele scene in 2008 rapidly attracting high praise and a stellar list of players including Eddie Vedder, John Paul Jones, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling and Jerry Douglas. Their process is slow and meticulous. Making each ukulele to order and checking for quality at every stage.

Gordon and Char were later joined by Aaron Keim luthier of Beansprout ukuleles and musician with The Quiet American and Boulder Acoustic Society.

If this has whetted your appetite and you’re hoping to buy one then tough titties. They’ve announced they’ll stop making ukes in June 2018 and are completely booked out until then.

Quintessential ukulele: The Classic

4. Kala Ukulele

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Kala who pump out ukuleles by the barrowload. They’ve ensured that there’s been a supply of cheap and reliable ukuleles all through the ukulele boom. As time has gone on they’ve moved up the price range and released higher and higher quality instruments.

As well as the standard ukulele, Kala have had huge success with their bass ukuleles. And have recently launched a line of high-end ukuleles made in their hometown of Pentaluma, CA.

Quintessential ukulele: Kala KA-S

5. KoAloha

The third for the big three Hawaiian K brands, KoAloha. KoAloha were established in 1995 by the Okami family and have been releasing, in my opinion, the most beautiful ukuleles around.

KoAloha’s chief designer is Alvin Okami. His innovative and sometimes outlandish ideas are showcased in KoAloha’s Signature Series ukes including the Pineapple,Juke-a-lele, sceptre“>Sceptre, and Gambalele.

Quintessential ukulele: KoAloha Sceptre whose unusual body shape apparently came to Alvin Okami in a dream.

Six to Ten

6. Cordoba: A bit of a surprise to see them on the list. You don’t hear much about Cordoba’s ukuleles. But their showing here has got me interested in giving them a go.

7. Gretsch: Best known for their guitars, Gretsch have also been putting out ukuleles since the 50s.

8. Pono: I’ve long been tempted to buy myself a Pono. Their ukuleles look and sound great.

9. Luna: Mostly known for their highly patterned guitars, Luna moved into the ukulele world a few years ago and have picked up plenty of fans.

10. Martin: A legendary name in ukuleles who have been in the game since 1917. Their vintage ukuleles are treated with something approaching reverence. But their more recent attempts have been more hit and miss.

Woody Guthrie – All You Fascists Bound to Lose (Chords)

Woody Guthrie – All You Fascists (Chords)

Who knew we’d have to dust off Woody Guthrie’s old anti-Nazi songs. Looks like Billy Bragg and Wilco did since they recorded a rollocking version of it a few years ago. Bragg rejiggered the song as part of the Mermaid Avenue project. But I’ve written up the Guthrie version that he apparently only recorded in a radio session.

Suggested Strumming

I like to use this strumming pattern all the way through:

d – d – d u d u

In the intro I’ve spaced out the chords into bars. So you play the strum twice for each chord with a big gap. Then the two chords with a small gap (C and G) you play it just once. It’s the same pattern in the verses. And in the chorus it’s just twice for each chord.

Twiddly Bits

A post shared by @ukulelehunt on

Here’s a little figure I cooked up for the intro using alternate picking (i.e. the thumb alternates between the g and C strings).

If you’re playing the rest of the song with the capo on the second fret the chord shapes will change from G, C and D to F, Bb and C respectively.

Links

Buy the Billy Bragg and Wilco version

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