Friday Links

More technical issues this week. If you tried to access the blog on Thursday morning, you might have noticed the site was down. Boing Boing – very kindly – linked to me in their regular cute ukulele girl post. This sent a flood of visitors and shortly after a, “We notice your site is very popular today so we’ve shut it down,” email from my web hosts. We’re back in business, but they forced me to reinstall the plugin that caused the last problem. So if you notice anything acting strange – like new posts not appearing on the front page – let me know.

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will be playing the Albert Hall as part of this year’s Proms.

Bosko and Honey start dishing out ukulele tips (you have to sign up to see them). And they give me top billing over Jake and James (just thought I’d mention that).

Sketches for Amy Crehore’s Ticker 2 ukulele. Which seems to have been ‘coming soon’ since forever.

Bill Tapia shows us his underwear and his “unconventional friendship”.

The French win at cool ukulele book covers and skinny ukes.

MP3s: Dent May’s Daytrotter session including the previously unreleased Eastover Wivez (Thanks Gary). New songs from the legendary Ukuladdie Archie Bester discovered in the archives. Song by Toad has The Empty Set’s Portia, I Dreamt You Were Real.

Avett Brothers – Murder in the City (Intro)

I was knocked out by the Avett Brothers’ The Second Gleam EP so I was pleased to see the Avetts get picked up by ukers like Ken, krabbers and Adelle.

I was challenged by Tim to come up with a tab for the intro. Since there are two fingerpicked guitars playing the intro, it’s obviously an impossible task. So I couldn’t resist.

Here’s my stab at it.

avett brothers ukulele tab


UPDATE: Here’s a version of the tab with the fingering and the chord shapes I’m holding down:

10 Things I Learnt from John King

This was an incredibly difficult post to write. Not for the usual reason that tribute posts are difficult to write – to my regret, I was always too intimidated to even email him – but because everything he did is absolutely fascinating. A quick scan through his writing for a few juicy quotes ends up being half a day spent engrossed in his extensive and detailed histories. A glance through Classical Ukulele turns into hours picking apart his note choices (and trying to my fingers in the position 9058 for Bach’s Prelude). Visiting his YouTube page to pick out a couple of examples results in endless rewinds and ‘How did he do that?’ moments.

As someone who plays, writes about and tabs for the ukulele, I’ve always been a John King wannabe. Here are just ten things I’ve learnt from him.

1. Campanela Style Playing

Truth be told, if I had been rich you wouldn’t be reading Ukulele Hunt right now but Harp Hunt (or possibly Genial Harpes). I love the sound of the close harmony notes bleeding into each other. Which is why I was drawn to John King’s campanela style of playing. A technique he resurrected from re-entrant players of JS Bach’s time.

The idea is to play one note of the melody on each string and let the notes ring into each other. For example, you would usually play a descending E major scale like this:


And here’s how you’d play it in the campanela style (letting the first four notes and the last four notes ring together):


And here’s how they sound (standard technique first).


Playing in this way the re-entrant tuning from a restriction into the element that lets the ukulele ring and shine. It’s been a huge influence on how I arrange tunes: take a look at my arrangement of Baby Elephant Walk for example.

For a masterclass on campanela, watch John playing Carol of the Bells and get his tab for it here.

But it ain’t easy. As John himself said:

The truth is it’s a crazy way to play the uke; ease of execution is all but sacrificed, subordinated to whatever it takes to get that shimmering, harplike sound.

2. You can be classy on the ukulele.

Just watch his performance of Bach’s Bouree. Fluid and perfect.

Whenever I feel the need to impress someone with the classy potential of the ukulele I break out Tarantella Italiana from Classical Ukulele

3. If you’re really good you can make it look easy.

While some idiots can’t get through a tune without gurned and waggling their tongue around, John King made it all look simple and effortless. No matter how difficult it actually is. On his Larry O’Gaff & Swallowtail Medley with James Hill for example.

4. Dynamics are more than just quiet verse/loud chorus.

Take a listen to what he does with Chopsticks. Without a great deal of light and shade in the dynamics, it would be a very boring piece.

5. Every bit of information I trust about ukulele history.

A lot of the ukulele history out there tends to be either dull and superficial or romanticised. But everything John wrote had obviously been thoroughly researched and carefully disected. Whether it’s a quick overview of the uke’s history for a museum exhibition or a post on the development of plastic ukuleles.

6. I’m not the only one who thinks the ukulele is difficult to play.

I might have caused a bit of a kerfuffle with last week’s post, but if John King was on my side I was probably right.

Some people may tell you the ‘ukulele is easy to play, but don’t you believe them… anytime someone tells you something is easy to learn, it’s probably because they want to sell you lessons.

7. Concentrate on your playing by thinking about boobs.

Finally, an aspect of playing in which I can call myself a master.

8. Anyone who tells you they know the origin of the word ukulele is lying.

I love his article debunking one of the ukulele naming myth: taking in discussions of political wranglings, the pestilent nature of fleas, racist stereotypes and whether Edward Purvis got the nickname ukulele by being an asshat.

His conclusion on the real origin of the word ukulele:

Final answer? Your guess is as good as mine.

9. I should be more pro-active with my emailings.

10. Always end on a joke.

At the ‘Ukulele Guild of Hawai‘i Exhibition and Conference in Waikiki last November, someone was interested in buying one of my collections of uke music, but after attending my workshop she was worried it might be too difficult for her. “No, no, you should try it,” I assured her. “It’s easy.”

Death Cab for Cutie – Talking Bird (Demo) (Chords)

Death Cab for Cutie – Talking Bird (Ukulele Version)(Chords)

Death Cab for Cutie’s new odds-and-ends EP, The Open Door, includes the original ukulele filled version of Talking Bird (you can listen to it on Stereogum). It is, naturally, far superior to the full band version (for which Zakulele has already written up the chords).

Stereogum were, unusually for them, very musically astute to mention Beirut in that post. The song contains a lot of Beirut like touches: it’s in waltz time, the C chord is played up the neck, there are Fadd9 chords all over the place.

I’ve written the chords up in a slightly simplified way (just make sure you pay attention to the C chord – the A string is played at the 7th fret rather than the 3rd). The do occasionally add in passing chords. This sort of thing:

talking bird ukulele tab

Monday Exposure: Karinne Keithley

Karinne Keithley – Sweet Child of Mine (MP3)
Karinne Keithley – Black Dog (MP3)
Karinne Keithley – Immigrant Song (MP3) via her website.

Playing stripped down versions of huge rock songs isn’t a new idea, but it’s incredibly difficult to do well. I think these tracks are the best I’ve heard it done since Mark Kozelek’s AC/DC covers.

It seems Karinne is a bit of Renaissance Woman. As well as the ukeing, she’s an Avant Garde choreographer, playwright, film maker and other stuff you can read about here.

Neal Paisley – Throw Me In The River

Neal Paislay – Throw Me In The River (Tab)

Before you start playing this one, you’ll have to fiddle with your knobs. His uke is in open-F tuning: FCFA. So you need to tune your G string down two frets and your E string up a fret. It’s a tuning that’s a lot of fun to play around with. More restricting than standard tuning, but you will come up with ideas for it.

But the altered tuning does make it a little more difficult to figure out what’s going on. The song is a basic I – IV – V in F. The F chord is 0000 and 0578. The Bb chord is 0201. For the V chord he’s using C6 which is 2020.

If you’re planning on using this tuning, here are a few more chord shapes you could use:

Dm – 0200
F7 – 0343
F/D/B/Ab diminished – 0232
F aug – 0100
Fsus4 – 0001
G7 – 2202

Neal’s very eager to hear any covers of this song. So if you record one, let him know.

Subscribe to Neal’s YouTube Channel.

UkeTube: Art Fowler, Caracol, Tinyfolk, JoCo, Dent May

A busy week this week. I’ve completely broken my 10 video maximum and left out some stuff I really liked. Those that made the cut include Emily Ritz, Dent May camping it up (again), Tinyfolk, daniellesmagic, a catch up with Caracol, and Sweetafton by herself and Kristen back with JoCo after – I imagine – a vicious ‘getcha hands offa ma man’ type cat-fight.

But my favourite this week is Art Fowler’s performance with Gene Austin. I’ve been trying to find some of his solo stuff to buy with no luck. But I did find a track on Internet Archive. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukulele Window Shopping: Cole Clark, Honu

This Cole Clark Tenor is interesting in that it has two pickups. As well as the usual under-saddle pickup, it has what Cole Clark call a ‘face sensor’. Apparently, it picks up the higher end frequencies.

MGM has a batch of new Hono ukuleles. Including one with a ‘lasered design’. I’m not keen on turtles but I like the idea.

Lovely Style 3 Martin. I think I might be switching the 3K on my wish list for a 3M.

Friday Links: April Fools, Adam Green

Ukulele Underground did their best lesson ever this week: a masterclass on how to pull an April Fool. It’s just on the outskirts of believable (there really isn’t any level of stupidity beyond the record industry) and the put in a huge amount of work – replacing all the videos changing every mention of Aldrine to A.G., blurring his videos and bleeping his name – so much that it makes you wonder consider if anyone would go to that much trouble for an April Fools gag.

Ukulele MP3s: New (free) album from Minor Constellations. Warning: contains guitar tracks. Maybe the Complete Beatles Ukulele thing was entirely a bad idea: Adam Green does I Will. That Death Cab for Cute ukulele demo.

Australia is going to get a ukulele festival. At least I think it is. Damn April Fools Day.

Who knew so much work went into making ukulele strings? (And I’m totally crushing on Mrs Aquila).

Win a tuner from Howlin’ Hobbit.

Fix your intonation with a stolen paperclip.

On Uker Tabs: My Way, Paddy McGinty’s Goat, Some Days Are Diamonds and Space Oddity, Karma Police.

People keep giving Warren Buffett stuff for free.

Bishop Allen – Click, Click, Click, Click (Tab)

Flicking through the previews of Bishop Allen’s new album, Grrr…, I didn’t come across any obvious ukulele tracks (perhaps there’s one in the background of Don’t Hide Away). Same story with Mirah’s new one (a)spera (although it does make up for it with a terrible cover).So, a little ditty off Bishop Allen’s last debut.

The intro goes like this:

With the verses using a fairly random selection from those patterns. In the later verses, you can just strum out the chords (A – E – F#m – D).

The only other chords are in the bridge: D – A – E – A x2

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