GUGUG Week: Are Friends Electric?

GUGUG/Gary Numan – Are Friends Electric? (Chords)(PDF)

I think I’ll have to do a Beirut on GUGUG at some point and write up all the songs they’ve done. All their songs are fun and easy to play and would work great as ukulele club songs.

I worked out the GUGUG version of Are Friends Electric? from their Are Friends Acoustic? version. But the uke parts for the two are pretty much identical.

Strumming Pattern

For the verses: you can go down, down, down on the C chord (with the last down being very short) and up, up, up, down, up, down on the Gm.

Without the chords and played slowly, it sounds like this:


With the chords, like this:


For the ‘uh-uh’ section: the easiest thing to do is two down strums like Fin does.

For the spoken word section: down, down, down, up, down, up should see you through.

GUGUG Week: Gus Raucous

It’s always a treat when a new GUGUG video appears on the net. They one of my favourite YouTube acts, so I’ve decided to dedicate this week to them. Starting off with an interview with Gus.

How do you pronounce GUGUG and where did the name come from?

The name comes from my name. When I was setting up my youtube account I put in “Gus” which was taken (d’uh), then “GusGus” which my pal Duglas BMX from the Greorgy Girl video calls me that but then that was taken too, so I tried Gugug cos I didn’t really care by that point to be honest. So according to this story I guess it must be pronounced Gugug as in “uh huh” although to be honest it is never really spoken out loud. I should have said something more esoteric like “it’s the most fundamental human sound – the gu-gug of a baby’s first goo-goo”, or “its derived from an ancient Polynesian chant” or “gu-gu-gug’ is the sound of chugging away on a cheapo ukulele with old strings”

What’s your pre-GUGUG musical history?

Fin and I started mucking about musically when we were mere striplings of lads (well I was, Fin was always a big bastard). I used to record us playing bass and drums on one cassette player then Id record us playing along to the recording and I’d add some guitar or a borrowed Casio and we’d both sing. We wrote our first songs that way probably at the rate of about 2 a night. Eventually these musical fumblings developed into a band called Rubber Yahoo. We played fast, rough and noisy songs of our own composition – we were hardly aware of what a cover was at point let alone actually play one. Our “philosophy” if you could call it that, was, that everything must be “off-the cuff” so we wrote songs on the spot, and stuck absolutely with the original spark of an idea; consequently our songs were pretty odd. Still we seemed to be fairly popular in the Glasgow area at the time.

We went on to play in a few rock n roll bands and ska bands. We were in Wray Gunn and the Rockets, and to our eternal amusement went on tour supporting Shakin’ Stevens. I also started playing in a great pub-rock / rhythm and blues band “The Spooks’ with Davie (harmonica king) and eventually joined George’s band The Kaisers. I continued to play drums with Davie and his bands and we had a great laugh playing all over Scotland; At one point we got “blessed” by Lee Perry and had George Melly sing a few songs with us… however, The Kaisers was something else: Already fairly established, so I kind of jumped on the rolling train and immediately went on tour in Europe and the States. The Kaisers were an amazing live experience both for the audience and for us, the band. The last gig I played in with The Kaisers was in New York in 2001. After that I played more with Davie and kind of slowed down the playing in bands as work took over.

One night I was round at Davie’s and he usually has an old guitar or something to show me, but this time it was a Mahalo ukulele that he’d just bought “off the cuff’ as it were, and I thought “not really into those folky things” thinking it was like mandolin or something. But after playing it for a few minutes I thought Ok its better than I though it would be – in fact its quite good. I bought one probably the next day. Fin bought one a few months later.

You seem to have an extensive ukulele collection. Which are your favourites?

Once I’d got the ukulele bug I started buying random £15 ukes from ebay: non brand or Harmony-type with the plastic fretboard, but I don’t have them anymore cos I ve lent them all out.

My favourite ukuleles are the plastic ones. The reason for this is that I keep getting outbid on the really nice old Koa ones and vintage wooden ones on Ebay – so I opt for what I think, is the most interesting option – the mass-produced 50s plastic ones. I’ve got a few now – all from America. Specifically, I like my TV Pal; Flamingo; Lisa; Mauna Loa. Ive got about 2 of each ( I can never get my hands on a decent unwarped Islander) Ive also got a Singing Treholipee, but I broke it pretty quickly.

There was talk of you recording an album. How’s that coming along?

That’s coming on slowly. Not because Ive been labouring over it, but because I’m constantly forgetting to do it. I will do it one day soon I promise that’s all I can say. Its in the pipeline; its work in progress; its err coming along

What makes a song perfect for a ukulele cover?

Well I wouldn’t know the answer to that one, except that some bloke out of the Ukulele Orchestra of GB said “you can tell a good song if it can be played on a ukulele” or something resembling that. I suppose that’s true. I usually just try to see how a song feels on the ukulele when I play it – ie are the chords easy enough? Some songs I try are crap by the way – but hopefully you don’t get to hear them.

When it comes to the solo GUGUG multitrack stuff; then the perfect ukulele cover is one that I really want to play, like Guns of Navarone, Phoenix City, or the Joe 90 theme tune. I have to really want to cos it takes a little bit of time and effort. At the moment Ive stopped doing these as at the moment I don’t have the equipment that I need for the Gugug “Overdub” sound. As for the Gus and Fin stuff: Fin comes round to mine one evening and we just do one “off the cuff’. Usually I have half worked out a song; or we both know it a bit – but not always.

What plans are there for the future of GUGUG?

None. Maybe an instructional book “The Gugug Ukulele Method” because everyday I get asked for chords, advice on technique and what ukulele to buy. Maybe I’ll start a monthly magazine “What Ukulele?” (not that I know anything) Oh – and we’re playing at the Belgian Ukulele Festival I think in 2009. That’s it. Oh, yeah and the CD.

Super Mario Bros Theme (Simplified Version)

Super Mario Bros (Tab)(PDF)


First off, Seeso cropped up on Julia Nunes’ YouTube Live performance. The poor lad’s cable fell out (that should get the ladies clicking over). Wade Johnston looks like he’s going to be the next UkeTube hero that I just don’t get (beyond the fact no one can make a comment about him without using the words ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’). But if anyone’s opening a book on the Bushman Contest, I’ll have a tenner on him.

Down to business.

Dominator has already tabbed James Hill’s barnstorming version of Super Mario Bros Level 1 (you can download the tab here). Which is great if you’re a ukulele super hero like Dom and James but a bit beyond us mortals. So I thought I’d put together an easier version – heavily based on the James Hill arrangement.

Notice I said ‘easier’ not ‘easy’. There are still plenty of tricky parts. There’s a great deal of switching between picking and strumming and a few big jumps up and down the fretboard.

Buy Super Mario Bros. Theme
Visit James Hill’s website.

WIUO, Julia Nunes, Minor Constellations: UkeTube

Loads of great stuff this week including a new video from the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (who you can also watch playing Dancing in the Dark with Uni), Julia Nunes, my favourite Minor Constellations song and plenty more of those very low quality songs played poorly that I love so much. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukulele Case & New Pineapple Flea

I’m not sure why it is, but the most popular design for hard ukulele cases seems to be a very Gentlemanly tweed. It’s a step up from the black box, but not as fun as this rising sun case. But the ultimate has to be this koa ukulele case – so long as you don’t mind people thinking you’re carrying round a baby coffin.

Pineapple Fleas used to look like this. now they look like this.

My favourite ukulele of the week is this Kumalae koa taropatch.

If you’re one of the people bidding crazy money for The Ukulele Orchestra of GB’s new album, stop right now. It’s only a tenner on their website. You are, however, free to bid as much as you like for Darren Hayman’s Ukulele Songs from the North Devon Coast because the cover is adorable.

A few weeks ago it was Lisa and Maggie, this time it’s Bart’s turn to be on a uke.

I wasn’t aware that Mahalo had made a Lyon and Healy Camp ukulele style uke, but on eBay Australia there’s this Mahalo UK290.

Speaking of camp ukulele, the ukulele kitsch of the week.

Duke of Uke and Other Ukulele Links

The Duke of Uke website looks like it’s finally up and running. As well as the shop, there’s a bit of a blog thing going which is suitably Smeck heavy. If anyone’s looking for a birthday/xmas present for me, I’ll have one of these.

Julia Nunes will be appearing on the first ever YouTube Live along with Obama loving cavaquinho player, dipstick lesbian Katy Perry, baldy widdle-merchant Joe Satriani and OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111! The Mythbusters.

Kate Miccuci wins at puns.

Gnarls Barkley and Silent Night on Uker Tabs.

Vogue’s Roald Dahl/ukulele shoot. (Thanks Anne).

YuppiePunk has MP3s from and an interview with The King Blues.

Jacob Borshard comic strips.

Excessive hula dancing causes mass outbreak of nosebleeds.

How to meet Jake Shimbabukuro without trying.

Por onde andará Stephen Fry? Down a treacherous path in Hawaii with a ukulele player (uke commences around the 49 minute mark).

Careful, love, I can see your g-string.

A guitar that never grew up.

A ghost keeps bothering me with a ukulele song, what do I do about him?

Friday Timewaste: Flaming Lips game Xmas on Mars.

Buddy Holly/Hellogoodbye – Everyday

Hellogoodbye – Everyday (PDF)(Chords)

Mentions of a ‘Ukulele Recordings’ EP from Hellogoodbye have been cropping up around the net recently, but I couldn’t find any mention of it from an official source. It seems to have leaked onto the blogs, but I assume it’s headed for official release. The EP contains The Thoughts That Give Me the Creeps and this cover of Buddy Holly’s Everyday.

I worked out this tune on the assumption that they were using a capo on the first fret, then I saw this video. But I’ve left it as it was because the chords make more sense that way and it gives you the opportunity to use the more familiar open chord shapes rather than the more difficult barre chord shapes he’s using.

Harmonizing Melodies – Beginner’s Guide

Listening to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s CD, inspired me to do a little post on harmonizing on the ukulele.

When you’re soloing on the uke, playing just one note can sound a bit wimpy. A great way to beef it up is to harmonize the notes.

For an example, I’ll use the simplest tune I know: the Fall into the Gap jingle which goes like this:


Harmonizing with Fifths

The tune is in C major, so you can use notes from the C major scale to harmonize with it.

The easiest way to harmonize is using fifths i.e. the note five notches higher than it on the C major scale. The C major scale goes like this:

C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

The first note of the tune is G which makes the fifth is D:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
G – A – B – C – D

The second note is F which makes the fifth C:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
F – G – A – B – C

Going through the whole tune creating fifths, you get this:


Those with razor sharp minds will have noticed that all you have to do to play fifths with the C string is add the G string at the same fret. The same is true of every note on the scale with the exception of the last one – in this case B – which is one fret lower. Easy as that.

Harmonizing with Thirds

Harmonizing with thirds works in the same way but is a little more tricky.

The first note of the tune is G which makes the third B (four frets higher):

1 – 2 – 3
G – A – B – C – D

The second note is F which makes the third A (four frets higher):

1 – 2 – 3
F – G – A – B – C

For E the third is G which is only three frets higher:

1 – 2 – 3
E – F – G – A – B

When there’s a gap of four frets, it’s know as a major third. When the gap is three frets, it’s a minor third. Think of a G chord; there you’re playing G and a B which is 4 frets higher making it a major third and a major chord. With a Gm chord you’re playing G and Bb, a distance of only three frets, which makes it a minor third and, therefore, a minor chord.

So the tune harmonized in thirds will be:

In the major scale the only major thirds are the first, fourth and fifth notes of the scale (C, F and G in the C major scale).

Harmonizing with Thirds and Fifths

You can combine the thirds and fifths to create a harmonized melody like this:


Using this idea, you can start to build up chord solos from the melody of the tune. And don’t feel restricted to just thirds and fifths. You can throw in any number of other notes.

If you want to learn more about harmony and harmonizing, check out my ebook How to Play Ukulele Chords Progressions.

Ian Dury – Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

I really should have included this one in one of my Guitar Riffs for Ukulele seasons, but it took hearing it on the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s album to make me get round to tabbing it.

If you’re playing along with the Dury version, this tab is for D-tuning. For the UOGB version, use C tuning.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Live In London #1

With the ever increasing number of ukulele groups scattered around the globe, it’s difficult to remember that once upon a time the idea of a whole bunch of people playing only ukuleles seemed absolutely ridiculous. Despite all the ukulele orchestras and ensembles that have started up since their inception, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are still the best around. Their arrangements go far beyond just bashing out the chords. All the ukes add something musically and texturally. And that aspect of their playing is very much in evidence on their latest album Live in London #1.

And it’s about time they got round to making a live album because this is the best album they’ve ever made. As you’d expect from a group having spent the last 164 years touring together, the playing is tight as a Christmas waistband and the arrangements are more fully developed than their studio counterparts. Best of all, the recordings are packed with the energy that you can never really get from a studio album.

Live in London kicks of with that energy bursting out of the speakers on spirited versions of Running Wild and Born to be Wild. They then lean back into a sedate and elegant version of Misirlou, closer to the traditional version than Dick Dale’s. Listening to the musicianship on that track, they raise themselves way above the ‘novelty act’ tag they’re sometimes pinned with.

Not that there aren’t any gimmicky songs on there – Anarchy for the UK is too flimsy a song to be anything else. But on some of the tracks The Ukes give the song a whole new perspective as with their take on Sympathy for the Devil. It’s much easier to have sympathy for their introspective, world-weary satan than it is the preening knobhead of the original (making it a bit of a shame they’re singing half a dozen other songs at the same time on the track Melange). They even sound great when they put down their ukes for an unaccompanied rendition of Pinball Wizard which sounds like Blue Murder Sing The Who (which is an album that doesn’t exist but definitely should ).

But tongues never stray very far from cheeks and this is one of the most grin-tastic albums I have ever heard. If you don’t own a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain album, then this album is absolutely essential. For everyone else, it’s the perfect stopgap until they next roll into town. Roll on Live in London #2.

Standout tracks: Running Wild, Misirlou, Hot Tamales, Pinball Wizard, Wuthering Heights, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll.

The Ukulele Orchestra Live in London #1 is out tomorrow and you can order it and listen to clips on their website.

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