Since I spend a fair proportion of my time writing about the ukulele, so it’s only natural that I’m fascinated by my uke teaching forebears and their ukulele books. One such person is NB Bailey and two of his books are currently available on eBay: A Practical Method for Self Instruction for the Ukulele and Banjo Ukulele from 1914 and The Ukulele as a Solo Instrument with Keoki E. Awai from 1916. Also available is the Sam Fox Modern Method for the Ukulele and Banjo Ukulele by H. Kahanamo.
Ukulele Photos: The Flikr picture I mentioned yesterday has cropped up on eBay along with what is titled Vintage Gay Int Photo Ukulele Banjo Violin Music Men. Although that could just be an affectionate man-hug between handsome, stylish friends.
At the more expensive end of the price scale, there are a couple of nice custom ukuleles for sale from Ana’ole and Peter Lieberman, a vintage bowl-backed/peanut soprano from Turturro.
As if I didn’t blather on about the ukulele enough, I’ve gone and set up another ukulele site: Ukulele Online. The original idea came from all the Yahoo! Answers questions I was answering. I decided I was going to answer every single ukulele question that’s ever been asked online. Then I calmed down a little. So the blog is going to consist of Yahoo! Answers inspired questions and my rambling thoughts thereon. I put it on it’s own site because I didn’t want to clutter up Uke Hunt with it, a lot of it’s going to be obvious to Uke Hunt readers and it’s not the sort of thing you’ll want to subscribe to and read religiously – just there for people who need a particular question answered.
The legendary Ukulele Force Star Wars cover album, is more talked about than it is listened to. It’s only available in Japan and if you can find an import, it’s massively expensive. But you can download a medley of clips here.
From all the darting eyes, I’m guessing that people are just reading the guitar chords and transferring them straight to uke. The trouble is Oberst plays this song with a capo at the fourth fret. That puts it close to uke territory. I’ve written the song up for a ukulele tuned one step down (so the chord shapes used are mostly those he uses), but kept the chord names the same as standard tuning to avoid confusion. It’s much easier to play this way, you avoid the dreaded E major.
My chords are a little different to the guitar ones floating around the net in a few other ways. Some of them are chords in the song that I think they’ve missed (the Bbadd9 in the intro and the C7 at the end of the verses) and some of them have been changed to make them work better on the uke (using a C as a passing chord rather than a B note, and the Gm at “But I realise that I need you…”).
The biggest problem area in the song is the F – ? – Dm progression at the end of what I’ve called the bridge section. The guitar chords use the same progression as the verse, F – A – Dm in our terms. But I don’t think that sounds right. I think he’s playing 021200 which would be Amaj7sus4 (1200) for us. It’s fairly discordant; the A and Ab are one fret apart rather than 13 and the A note doesn’t read as the root strongly enough. It does just about work in context, but I’ve written it up as Asus4 which is a little more pleasing to the ear. Those are your choices. Try them and see which you prefer.
I felt like a Burmese monk that hadn’t been through Poy Sang Long, I really did. It’s a rite of passage for any UK uke player to own a Mahalo ukulele and I never did. Back in my day, there was no useful website to tell you which ukulele to buy, so I ended up with a real piece of junk.
But my Mahalo deficiency was set to change when I saw their Les Paul copies.
Mahalo don’t have a great track record when it comes to Gibson copies. Their version of the Flying V looks awful and sounds worse. But when I saw their Les Paul copies, I just couldn’t resist.
The Good Stuff
– The Look – The uke looks great. It’s available in tobacco sunburst, cherry and black (I went with the black – to match my heart). They all look great. From a distance at least. As you’d expect from a cheap, Chinese made uke, the attention to detail isn’t quite there. There are a couple of areas that are a little messy up close. But they’re nowhere near bad enough to spoil how it looks.
– The Price – Not as cheap as the cheapest Mahalos, but at £35 it’s irresistible.
– Plays Easy – The action is low and it feels right.
– Good sound – Even with the strings it comes fitted with, the uke sounds great for the price. These mp3s were recorded without any adjustments other than tuning up.
– Intonation The intonation leaves a bit to be desired. I don’t know why they’ve bothered with a compensated bridge if they’re not going to take care with setting up the intonation. Having said that, the problem doesn’t rear its head in the first seven frets. So it’s fine for basic chord strumming.
In this example, I’m playing a harmonic at the 12th fret then playing the note at 12th fret itself.
If you find yourself in Canada with nothing to do on 11th September (and I’m told that’s the default setting for Canada), you might want to make your way to Edmonton for the Ukulele Fest. The bill includes Uke Hunt favourites Switchblade Death Derby and The Be Arthurs. The bill will be headed by The Burning Hell. That’s only fitting since, Burning Hell frontman, Mathias Kom has declared he wants to be buried naked with a ukulele (a thought Ukulelezo found worryingly arousing). The event is in aid of Ukuleles for Peace, so get there if you can.
Last Will and Testament is played with DGBE tuning, but I’ve written up the chords for GCEA (coz that’s how I roll). To avoid big gaps in the middle section, you might want to imitate the cello part thusly:
Ukebucket are a geographically scattered band. How did you get together?
Well, I’ve known Rikk since we were kids. He and my brother were in the same preschool class and were best buds growing up, so he was always around. When I was about 16 or 17, I was in a community theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Rushville, Indiana, and I enlisted Rikk to play lead guitar for the pit. I drove us back and forth so we got to know each other and we started jamming. We’ve been great friends since then. I met Barry…well…honestly, I can’t remember really how I met Barry. Sometime in college, which might explain why I don’t remember. I think he knew one of my roommates and we just kind of came together and started playing. Barry, Rikk, myself, and countless other random individuals have been jamming since we were all in the early years of college. Talk of an album has been bounced back and forth for several years, but we’ve only been really serious about it for the past year or so.
Why’s the album called ‘Bad Ukulele’ when it’s obviously very good ukulele?
Why, thank you! The name of the album is good proof that all three of us are pretty ridiculous. We really had fun making the music, recording, making the art, and just hanging around. I think I was just doodling and ended up with a rough idea of what the cover art is now. I remember that the phrase, “bad ukulele”, at the time, was kind of a running joke. I would say it often as a way to make excuses for my amateur playing:) I’m a second grade teacher, so I thought the ukulele in the corner was pretty cute. In all honestly, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s just a combination of randomness, quirkiness, and a hearty passion for self-deprecation.
Do you ever get the chance to break out the uke at school [as a teacher rather than student]?
Yes! I do! The kids really like it. It’s a chance for me to get more comfortable making things up off the top of my head and a chance for the kids to be around live music. Last year we wrote a couple songs together. It was pretty cute.
How come everyone’s favourite Ukebucket song, Pig Latin, didn’t make it onto the album?
It’s so crazy how the songs that folks seem to like are the songs that I wrote in ten minutes. I should work with that. The songs on “Bad Ukulele” are pretty old, with the exception of a few. Most have been around for as much as 3 or 4 years, we just never really did anything with them. We wanted to finish this thing because we had been talking about it for so long. I think the only really new song on the album is “Who Are We” which was a part of Project 52. I’m currently working on more of a “solo” CD. “Pig Latin” will definitely be included on that, as well as other Project 52 songs. It’ll be more of a simple sound, mostly just me and a ukulele, and some harmonies.
What can we expect from Ukebucket in the future?
Well, because of the physical space between band members it’s difficult to perform together. We’re going to continue to send music back and forth, visit each other, jam, record, and so on. I’m going to work on a solo album which I had mentioned in the previous question. We are currently really focused on purchasing better recording equipment (for me, anyway) so that what we send back and forth can be more easily edited. Once those ducks are in a row, the Project 52 songs will be more collaborative. I did want to mention that Project 52 has dwindled as of late. Life happens, but it started out and remains a mostly personal project, to kick my butt into gear when it comes down to composing music. I’ve got several songs to hammer out, and they’ll make an appearance when the time is right. So, in the future, expect better quality and more frequent updates on the MySpace and YouTube site, a solo album, and, if everything goes well, a winter album consisting of mostly original tunes.
The song at the end of Whose Line Is It Anyway? is always the best part. Particularly the people who are heroically bad at it (Colin Mochrie). The Irish Drinking songs are always hilarious and chaotic. Unfortunately, that makes the funniest song ever useless for fitting chords around. So, I had to go with a Chip Esten verse for the song sheet.
I was debating whether to go with Hoedown or Irish Drinking Song until I realised they had exactly the same chorder* with the addition of the extra ‘ai-dee-die-de’ section. The Irish Drinking Song is in the key of D as opposed to G for Hoedown.
You can play the little intro part either as chords or, my preferred method, with a little finger picking:
*I’m changing Ukulala’s definition. I’m using it to mean a chord progression which is the same but in a different key. Since, if there’s a word for it, I can’t remember what it is.
I go one week without talking about ukuleles on eBay and look what happens. A Leonardo Nunes goes begging for $200. Granted, it’s fairly ugly for a Nunes, but still. Perhaps with everyone on their holibobs, it’s a good time to be watching the auctions. The uke has been listed again and already has a bid with a week left.
The budding Poirots amongst you may notice that this Nunes-styled vintage ukulele has had some serious attention from me already. I’ve officially banned myself from buying a new uke until my blues ebook is finished (it’s on it’s way and it’ll be worth the wait). I’ve already broken that rule once, but I’m still tempted.
Ko’olau have a pretty fearsome reputation for the exacting standards of their ukuleles (and a price tag to match) so it’s interesting to see their electric ukulele. They put me in mind of the Pete Howlett uklectics (another ukulele that is seriously threatening my uke embargo).
The Mahalo Les Paul copies have disappeared from eBay UK, but you can still find a boatload of them on eBay Germany. Not only that, they also have an electric Mahalo Les Paul for sale. It makes you wonder who won the war.
Anyone who knows me knows there’s nothing I hate more than kids and peace. But watching Siwar and Hillai playing of the Ukuleles for Peace project might just be enough to change my war-mongering, child-kicking ways. You can find out more about Ukuleles for Peace in these videos: Part One, Part Two and on the Ukuleles for Peace website.