Uke Hunt Is Two

The blog officially became two years old yesterday, so it’s time for my annual self-indulgent, navel-gazing, rambling post. It’s very long, quite personal, occasionally pretentious and I won’t hate you for skipping it.

Last Year’s Goals

In last year’s post I set a few goals for the blog that I thought were impossible. So let’s see how I did.

1) Stay number 1 on the Top 50 Ukulele Sites

Result: Success.

I’m still pretty firmly in the top spot.

2) Number one on for:

It should be pointed out the results vary according to where you are. So what I see may be different to what you see. In particular, seems to hate me.

a) Ukulele Tabs

Result: Success

I’ve been number one for a while and don’t seem to move from there. When I said I thought this was impossible, I lied.

b) Ukulele Chords

Result: Failure

This is the one I’ve put most work into. A few months ago I was around position 5 and really worked at it. But at the moment I’m hovering around between 2 and 3. With the benefit of hindsight, it was stupid of me to put the chords and tabs on one page. I also lied about thinking this one was impossible. I still think it’s possible.

c) Ukulele

Result: Failure

I seem to spend most of my time at position 2. But occasionally that Ukulele Gently Weeps guy goes ahead of me.

I told the truth when I said I thought this one was impossible. Wikipedia is next to impossible to beat. Even Google CEO Eric Schmidt can’t beat Wikipedia for his own name in his own search engine. So I didn’t stand much chance.

3) 1 Million Visits

Result: Success.

I’ve had over one and a quarter million hits in the last year with over six and a quarter million page views. When I think about those sort of numbers my head starts to hurt.

4) 1,500 Subscribers

Result: Success.

1,000 people subscribe by email, 700ish by RSS feed and 200 and some by Twitter.

This one scares me even more than the last one. There are 2,000 people out there who want to be informed of what I have to say every single day. What are you people? Stalkers?


There might be a few near misses in there, but I’m delighted the way the last year has gone. I owe a huge thanks to everyone who has commented, talk about the site, pruf red my stuff, been interviewed, offered their advice, subscribed and said nice things to and about me.

I owe an even huger thanks to my family and Jenny who’ve been massively supportive since day one. Unbelievably, when announced that I’d quit my job in accounts and had decided to write about the ukulele instead none of those people tried to slap some sense into me. Which is just one reason why they’re my favourite people in the world.

Next Year’s Goals

This year’s goals are going to be very different to last year’s.

For one thing, the site is plenty big enough now. If it never gets any bigger than it is now, that’s fine with me.

For another, those goals were boring. They were very SMART. I think the SMART system is a great set of training wheels for people who, like me, have had all sense of ambition beaten out of them by education and work.

But since reading Chris Guillebeau’s Guide to World Domination, I’ve been thinking I should set my goals a little more on the way out side.

So my goal is to ensure that:

Everyone in the world who wants to play a musical instrument does play a musical instrument.

That goal isn’t specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or timely. I don’t have the first clue how to go about making it so. I’m not entirely sure what it even means. It’s vomit worthy in its ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ sentimentality. In short, it’s the stupidest goal ever set. But there you have it.

Almost all the TED Talks get me thinking. But this one by Larry Lessig particularly got my attention. He talks about Sousa’s prediction that ‘talking machines’ would stop people making their own music and become consumers of music. He was absolutely right about that (but less right about man de-evolving vocal cords). Lessig points out that the internet is reviving the amateur culture; people are making music (and videos, art, poetry, software, books and even businesses – if an amateur business isn’t a contradiction in terms) off their own backs. He goes on to talk about mash-ups and copyright law. But it’s equally obvious in the number of people recording ukulele videos and putting them up on YouTube, recording music and releasing it on the net or getting together to form uke groups. I think it would be a shame for people to miss out on it because making something is more fun and more rewarding than using something.

From the start, one of my – unstated for being too ridiculous – aims for the blog was to make sure everyone who started playing the ukulele didn’t stop. And this goal is widening it out a bit. I think one of the main reasons people want to make music but don’t is they don’t think they have any musical ability (often because they’ve been told that – often, unforgivably, by teachers). Which makes the ukulele the perfect place to start. No matter what the arguments over how easy it is to play, no-one is intimidated by the ukulele.

It’s also one of the reasons I was keen to do something for Ukuleles for Peace. There are plenty of other good reasons to support it as well. So if you haven’t bought that ebook yet – do it.

If you have any idea how to set about achieving it, do let me know. (Just don’t mention the word ‘school’.)

Coming Up (Or Not)

I get a lot of suggestions – many of them ending with the words, “off and die.” But some of them are very good. I even have my own ideas some times. Here are a selection of things that you can expect to see, some you might see, and some you won’t.

Will Happen

– Various people have told me I should be doing Uke Hunt t-shirts and they were absolutely right. But I didn’t want to do a boring shirt with just a logo on. So I searched and eventually found the right person to design them. The first set of shirts are being designed by Art Grootfontein. And here’s a glimpse at the first one and here’s the second.

– How to Play Ukulele Strums. By far the most requested ebook. It has been in the works for a long time. I’m finding it really difficult to write. Perhaps because so much of the stuff out there about strums misses the point entirely or is just plain rubbish. But it is slowly coming together and I think it will be really useful once it’s finished.

Might Happen

Feel free to voice your opinions on whether you want these.

– Captain Obvious Week. I get buckets of requests for songs like I’m Yours that have been done so many times on the ukulele they make me want to stab my ears with an icepick. Usually I just reply that I’m Yours would never work on the ukulele. But that just ends up in me being called a douche by the semi-literate. So I’m tempted to get this sort of thing out the way. Except I think my so-hip-it-hurts regular readers will – quite rightly – leave never to return.

More videos.

– Some sort of membership area of the site that would be closed off to passers-by.

– Uke Hunt net-label. I like the idea and, with the record industry in such rude health, how could it fail? But orgainising things that involve more people than just me isn’t my strong suit. (This one probably belongs in the ‘Will Never Happen’ section).

– Retire the Fingerpicking mini-course.

– Regular Twittering. During my break recently my blog muscles started to atrophy. So I decided to start Twittering properly. It doesn’t appeal to me anywhere near as much as blogging. There’s not much long term benefit to it. After a few hours no one is ever going to see your tweet ever again. But it does have its uses.

Will Never Happen

– Uke Hunt festival. Suggested by James Hill and seconded by Jimmy.

I don’t have my shit together anywhere near enough to pull something like this off. My organisational skills are stretched to the full making sure I wear enough clothes to keep myself out of jail when I venture outside.

– Bosko and Honey style world trip of ukulele players. Suggested by Ukulelezo.

It worked for Bosko and Honey because they’re friendly, affable, talented and generally adorable. I, on the other hand, am a surly, anti-social douche. But the idea does appeal to me in theory. And if I could come up with a way to make it more interesting than just a poor-man’s Ukulele Safari it might move itself into the maybe category.

Sophie Madeleine – Take Your Love With Me (The Ukulele Song) (Chords)

Sophie Madeleine – The Ukulele Song (Chords)

Sophie Madeleine might have hit it big with The Beard Song, but I think this song is a really impressive piece of songwriting. There are quite a few ukulele songs around that could have been written on any instrument. But I think this one could only have come out of a ukulele.

There are a lot of traditional ukulele touches in the chord progression: the move from C to E7 (familiar from Five Foot Two), the use of diminished chords, the I7 chord (both of which are classic George Formby tricks). But it doesn’t sound dated and kitsch at all.

Buy the MP3 on BandCamp.

More Sophie Madeleine

Sophie Madeleine interview
Beard Song (Chords)
Rocky and Balls – I Heart You Online (Chords)
The Stars (Chords)

Tinyfolk: Monday Exposure

Tinyfolk – Lunches (MP3)
Tinyfolk – Do Animals Get Lonely Late at Night? (MP3)
Tinyfolk – Lost and Found (MP3) via CLLCT

CLLCT is a great place to hunt around for interesting new uke acts. I’ve already spread the good word about Madeline Ava. And today it’s the turn of Tinyfolk. I caught up with Russ, Mr Tinyfolk, for the essential details.

What appeals to you about the baritone ukulele and how did you get started with it?

I really like the smallness of the instrument, it’s really easy to take with me to shows or wherever. The sound is also really great because it’s somewhere between a ukulele and a guitar, and I kind of feel like I get the best of both worlds there. It makes Tinyfolk sound different from other acoustic acts, for sure.

I started out with a cheapo soprano uke in 2005 and taught myself to play. I didn’t really know how to play any other instruments, I just thought ukulele seemed really pretty easy to pick up, so I did. And it was pretty easy.

You’ve got a big back catalogue. Where do you recommend people new to your music start?

I would recommend starting with Owling, which is what I call the “greatest” “hits” record, then decide which you like and listen to the full albums or EPs those songs are from. Tinyfolk is really all over the place, and not all of it’s ukulele, though the vast majority of it is. The songs without uke are probably all either electronic or classical guitar, though there might be an a capella number or two in there.

Is that a standard ukulele on Lost and Found? Do you play much re-entrant uke?

Yep. That’s my original soprano uke that I started out on. It’s broken apart and has been glued back together, but it works just great still, or as great as a thirty dollar ukulele can be expected to work after four years.

I generally play one song on the soprano per show, sometimes more if I’m in the mood. I don’t write songs on it as often, but I’d like to. I played it ad nauseum when I first got it, so by the time I got the baritone uke, I was tired of writing songs on the soprano. Now I like it again.

You give most of your music away for free on the net. How has the internet changed the way you make and release music?

I started making music in 2005, so the first thing I did when I first made the first song was to put it online. I quickly learned that when I made it free online it was a good way to get feedback from people, and I also quickly learned that I wasn’t going to make any money selling CDs, except for occasionally at shows. Thus, I put out an online-only EP with the now-defunct mp3 label/blog Bunch of Beatniks Riding a Rocket in 2005, then started putting out of print releases up there, then whenever 001collective (now CLLCT) was created, I just put everything up there. I haven’t been on tour in over a year now, so really promoting with free music online is the best way I have to let people hear what I’m doing.

Who are your favourite ukulele acts?

Ukulele Ike, Herman Dune (I was inspired to pick up the uke after seeing David-Ivar Herman Dune play a lovely little set on a soprano in Bloomington), Dennis Driscoll, Jens Lekman, Jacob Borshard, Ki(10)z and my friends bands like Watercolor Paintings, Madeline Ava, Your Yellow Dress and Blanketarms.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, I’m working on a barry uke album that will be out on the wonderful Swim Slowly records before the end of the year, and I’m working on a three-song split of electronic music that will be a benefit for We Heart Arts and will be out by the end of the summer. Maybe a tour after that. I’ll be on Shrimper Records 20th Anniversary 2 CD compilation alongside amazing lo-fi acts like The Mountain Goats, Herman Dune and Jad Fair, so that’s pretty exciting. I’m moving from central Indiana to Chicago by July, so who knows what wonders will await Tinyfolk in the big city.

Download more Tinyfolk at CLLCT and visit his MySpace.

Red Dwarf Theme (Tab)

Red Dwarf Theme (Tab)


Well, the new episodes of Red Dwarf stank to high heaven. Even the presence of Big Suze didn’t help. I do hope there’s some sort of Royal wipeout and we end up with Queen Big Suze.

As you might have noticed, I’ve done a video for this one for the first time in about two years. I think the low quality audio, weird light and facial gurnings should answer everyone who’s asked me why I don’t do videos more often. But it does serve to illustrate a few points in the tab.

The intro is played campanela i.e. letting the notes ring into each other as much as possible. The trickiest bit is getting the end of the first phrase to sustain over the echo part (I did a much better job of making it sound like an echo in the mp3).

I considered arranging the vocal version of the tune but I couldn’t resist the tasteless guitar-widdling version (it’s a trick the piece’s composer Howard Goodall also used in the titles for Blackadder II.

The trickiest part of this section is bar 11. I did try playing it like this for a while:

red dwarf ukulele tab

Which is much easier to play but sounds too wimpy.

In the ‘fun, fun, fun’ bit (someone should make that into a ukulele song) I’m using my favourite triplet strum: down with middle and index fingers, up with index, up with middle.

One thing I struggle with in this tab is the time signature. There are parts that don’t seem quite right. I looked at some guitar tab and they had it in 12/8. But that makes even less sense to me.

Requested by Jimmy (so long ago he’s probably forgotten by now).

Peggy Sue, Bird and Flower: Saturday UkeTube

I haven’t been paying as much attention as usual over my break, so I’ve probably missed something. But what I did find is excellent. The most exciting discover came when I went to see Peggy Sue (and the Pirates). I like them so much I did a Monday Exposure on them even though they didn’t play ukulele. But now they do – as you can see in a fairly badly recorded video.

I would have included this song from Marie Darling but I can’t get Dailymotion videos to embed.
Read the rest of this entry »

Kumalae, Inlays, LOCALS: Ukulele Window Shopping

This week’s must have is one – oh, what the hell – both of these Kaumalae ukuleles: Kumalae 1, Kumalae 2.

It seems like there are an increasing number of ukes around with inlays on the soundboard. The most stylish has to be the Ana’ole. Ohana go for a floral design. This bocote wood ukulele keeps it’s show piece for the back. And this one is an all out cheese-fest.

LOCALS ukulele is a new name on me. They’re Hawaiian made and solid koa. They also claim to be the same quality as Kamaka and Martin at half the price. Hmmm…

If the name Tombo Ukulet isn’t reason enough to buy this, it also looks great.

If you want your Kala archtop to look even more like a Gretsch, get yourself one of these pickguards.

Classy Keech banjolele.

Ukulele photo of the week.

London Ukulele Festival: Friday Links

The London Uke Festival 2009 will be held on 20th June. They’ll be attempting to break the world record for most ukuleles played at the same time. You can read more about it in this PDF and register on their website.

More festival news: the Milwaukee Ukulele Festival will include Victoria Vox, The Fabulous Heftones, Boulder Acoustic Society and Lil Rev.

Amy Crehore’s Ticker #2 ukulele is revealed. More pictures on Flickr.

Armelle is posting videos of ukulele songs in different languages (and part two is here and part 3 here). If you know of any others let her know.

The tragedy of the T-Rex in t-shirt form.

Ken Middleton has a new job: Official European envoy for Ohana Ukuleles.

Watch the KoAloha Story here – worth signing up to the site for. But skip about the first 1/3 of the main film and go straight to the animation.

Rod Thomas’s award winning song Same Old Lines is now being used in a DFS ad. And Mr Kazookeylele flogs Doritoes.

Trying to win Zooey Deschanel’s heart by building her a ukulele.

‘Ukelele’ spells trouble for Clint Eastwood.

Ukulele Mike sees himself as the Susan Boyle of the ukulele. He also seems to be spamming the hell out of Twitter in the hopes that Perez Hilton and Jessica Alba are fans in the making.


Back on 8th May

I’m taking a blog break and I’ll be back on the 8th May.

I’ll be trying to get How to Play Ukulele Strumming written. So far it’s been an absolute nightmare. I have to get it done because if I don’t Armelle will kill me. Hopefully a couple of weeks focusing on it will get me somewhere.

If you are missing me already, you can read an interview I did for Live ‘Ukulele. I hope you like it more than they did. Btw, I would never write, “an ‘ukulele,” (unless it’s preceded by the words, “I would never write…”).

Saturday UkeTube: Black Kids, Ukulele Loki

Videos this week include Black Kids doing a ukulele session for KEXP (not as spunky as the full-on version but enough to feed my craving for songs with girls shouting numbers), Ukulele Loki, a particularly fine version of St James Infirmary, WS64 ripping through a couple of rock and roll classics (now go la-da-dow) and Kalei Gamiao getting smooth. Read the rest of this entry »

Oscar Schmidt OU7, Ohana Deluxe TK-70CG

Oscar Schmidt go one louder with the OU7. It looks cool, but if they’re going to keep jacking up the price they’ll have to switch to solid ukes pretty soon.

A ‘deluxe’ and ‘limited edition’ Ohana TK-70CG. Sexy cutaway, but not sure about the pink tuners (and I usually love pink).

One uke that might want to think about adding a cutaway is this Mike Chock Mango ukulele. What’s the point of 23 frets if you can only reach 12 of them? But I do quite like the pear shape.

Every time a vintage Martin 5K crops up on eBay I do a quick ‘pros and cons’ list of selling one of the kids. And in this case the uke has a lovely battered case – making the list dangerously close to even.

We’ve been total idiots. Practicing when all we had to do was learn to play the ukulele subliminally.

Easel style ukulele stand: classy solution.

Older Entries
Newer Entries