If it hadn’t been introduced by the incredibly irritating Grimshaw I might have given this song a long enough listen to realise there’s a cute little ukulele riff in it. As it is, it’s not until now – months later – I realized it was there and got round to tabbing it up.
It sounds like it’s being played with a pick – ugh.
I first ran across Welsh indie rockers Toy Horses on YouTube. Suitably impressed, I badgered band ukulelist Tom into answering a few questions.
Your ukulele playing in Toy Horses is very different from the usual uke fair. How did you develop your style?
I started playing the uke a couple of years ago after hearing George Harrison’s Brainwashed album. I’ve always played the guitar previously so I kind of thought of it as a mini guitar and played it like that. In fact I’ve never really played much lead before but when you’ve only got four strings it’s easier to get your head round! I think it’s such a great songwriting instrument too. I have written many songs on the ukulele that I would never have written on the old six string.
What’s in your ukulele collection?
Not a lot!! My electric Risa which I love to bits. I had such feedback problems with my acoustic uke, also it’s a bit of a talking point at gigs. Not many people know what it is. My only other uke is a Vineyard, it’s pretty good instrument but does start to go out further up the frets. Actually I lied ‘cus I do have a third, the trusty £10 mahalo, that’s the one that got me started on this uke trip!
What can we expect from Toy Horses in the future?
Toy Horses have only been going since last December but we’ve had a great run of luck. As well as quite a bit of radio play we are in the final of the Intel unsigned bands competition in Camden in November. We are also off to Clonmel in Ireland for the final of a songwriting competition which features my uke heavy tune ‘But What About The Future’
In January we head off to Nashville to record a few tracks with Ken Coomer(Wilco) and in breaking news we’ve just found out that we are playing SXSW in Austin Texas next March!
Where can people get their hands on Toy Horses stuff?
MySpace. We currently put our songs up as and when we record them and let people download them for nothing! ( there does seem to be a problem with the myspace player at time of writing this) This is subject to change of course if we become global superstars!!!! :o)
I’m flabbergasted that Bond is still going. The whole idea is outdated and they ran out of ideas decades ago. The theme tune, on the other hand, still sounds fantastic.
I’ve been working on this arrangement for an age (I think Sean Connery was Bond when I started) and it’s tough to play – I cock it up a couple of times in the mp3. I’ve tried to cram as many parts of the original onto the uke and there’s a great deal of changing between picking and strumming.
Bar 2: Not a triplet, but I use a triplet strum in this bar: down, up with index, up with middle.
Bars 3 – 6: The bass line crops up on the G string played with the thumb along with strums (up, down, up) on the other three strings.
Bars 7 – 14: This is where it starts to get really tricky. You’ve still got the bass line on the G string and the strums on the E and A strings, but now you’ve got the guitar part on the C string as well. A good rule of thumb (and fingers) is to pluck the G string with your thumb when there are no other notes and strum when there are other notes. There are also quite a few rolls in this section.
Bars 19 – 26: Another step up in difficulty with the brass section. The bass line is still going, but this time it’s moving over the strings.
Bars 28 – 33: Finally a bit of a rest. You can just strum out this section.
Outro: My favourite part of the tune. I love the last chord: Cm6add9.
It’s an old joke, but I’ve never seen it done as well as this (thanks to krabbers for the tip-off). Other videos this week include Seeso taking an early lead in the Bushman Contest, Carl Ray Villaverde ripping up Keep Your Eyes on the Hands and plenty more. Read the rest of this entry »
No doubt due to the influence of Jake, there seem to be more and more, classical guitar style, slotted headstock ukuleles cropping up. As well as the high end stuff like this custom Mana’e tenor, more mid-range brands like Kala are turning out ukuleles like this and this.
Natural finish Polka-Lay-Lee.
If you’re asking five grand for a ukulele, you could give us more than one small photo and a two line description.
The Million Ukulele March is, British writer, Sylvie Simmons’ attempt to get a million ukuleles to pledge their support for Obama. You can sign up for the march (it’s virtual – you don’t have to get off your arse) on MySpace.
I get quite a few emails asking me about strumming, so I thought I’d put together a ‘How to Strum a Ukulele’ post. This is how I strum – any resemblance to good technique is pure coincidental.
UPDATE: For a more comprehensive coverage of the subject check out my ebook on ukulele strumming. And there’s also a healthy section on strumming in my real-world book Ukulele for Dummies.
Strumming Hand Position
1. Make your strumming hand into a loose fist.
2. Hold it infront of the centre of your chest.
3. Point towards your left boob (or right boob if you’re left handed).
4. I like to have my thumb steadying my strumming finger. It gives it extra strumming support.
Where to Strum
If you strum your ukulele too close to the bridge it sounds very tinny (which might be an effect you want sometimes) and the strings have very little give there. The ‘sweet spot’ on the soprano and concert ukes are around the point where the neck hits the body. The sweet spot for tenors is a little closer to the bridge than this.
As any teenage boy will tell you, moving your arm rapidly up and down gets tiring very quickly. When you strum, use your wrist rather than your whole arm.
When you strum down, you should be hitting the strings with your nail. When you’re strumming up, with the fleshy tip of your finger.
Lots of forums of music popular on the uke use swing time – such as Hawaiian, jazz and blues. In swing time the down strum lasts twice as long (ish) as the up strum like this:
This makes a simple up, down strum sound much more interesting.
Simple Strumming Patterns
You can create some more interesting strumming patterns by keeping the same up, down motion but not hitting the strings on certain strums. In this clip the actual strums are down, down, up, up, down. But I’m doing a constant up, down motion (I strum down, miss the strings on the up strum, strum down and up, miss the down strum, strum up and down, miss the up strum).
You can funk up the strumming a little with a few ‘chnks’. With a chnk you strum down and hit the strings with the underside of your hand, so you get a percussive sound from the strum. In this clip I strum down, up, then a chnk followed by an up:
Dead or muted strums are another way of creating a percussive click from strumming, but this time you’re creating it with your fretting hand. To create them, you stop the strings ringing by laying your fingers across all the strings like this:
Advanced Ukulele Strums
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start checking out the advanced stuff.
I thought this song was going to be easy to work out and play, it wasn’t. There are very few open chords in the song – most of the time you have your index finger clamped across the fretboard. By the time I’d finished working it out, my hand was sooore. To stop that happening, you might want to throw in a few variations for chords like G.
For the strumming, down, up, chnk, up will get you through most of the song.
At various points in the song, there’s a repeated D-Dsus4-D move. I’ve written it up as just D – Dsus4, but it’s more complicated than that. Here’s how it goes.
The strumming is just down, up all the way through that.
Ben Lerman is another hilarious uke-comedian from the ukulele comedy capital of the world New York. It’s only fair to those of you with a delicate disposition to stay well clear. But the rest of us who like to chuckle at song parodies involving genitalia and hot, sweaty man-on-man action can sit back and giggle our rocks off at his Ace of Base parody.