There are rumours flying around about me planting subliminal messages in mp3s telling people to set fire to guitars. These rumours are a half truth.
I assume everyone is subscribed to Bosko and Honey and has already seen the incredible Kamatetsu. If not, go there right now.
With that done, check out this week’s videos including some cheerup music, some throat singing, a tribute to ukulele girls and – this week’s Boing Boing contender -a song about cannibalism.
A rather gruesome piece of ukulele history up for sale this week: the Beltona ukulele Tiny Tim was playing when he had a heart attack. Complete with the dents that were made at time.
About a month late, but here’s a heart-shaped Valentine ukulele.
Keith Ogata gets more metal with each ukulele.
The new electric Oscar Schmidts obviously owe their design to Gibson guitars. The really interesting part is the sales copy: “Face it — there are thousands of smart, good looking guys just like you that will be at Spring Break. You need to be different to stand out. Since it now costs $75.00 to check a guitar on an airplane a uke might be the next best thing.”
Three videos that had me clutching my sides with laughter: Hilary Clinton and John McCain do the Ukulele Forum Rap, Ukulele en Francais and Unicorn Fantasy (that last one is NSFW and via Zym).
The Guardian Music Blog discusses the ukulele resurgence with Dent May, Jens Lekman (who seems to be a titanic knobhead) and the world’s handsomest ukulele blogger. If you’re at all interested in what I said in the rest of the interview, you can read it here.
Win an Ohana by designing the logo for the Wine Country Uke Fest.
Getting Serious… about Ukulele: “The thing is — with a very few exceptions — for my money there isn’t that much creativity around in the world of uke design.”
Come Sail Away by Styx on Uker Tabs.
WIUO rock the hat and goatee look (and, gosh, doesn’t Megan have hairy shoulders).
The Ukulele Bible: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Ukulele shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not Ukulele, and that obey not the gospel of our Ukulele. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Ukulele, and from the glory of his power.” (Thessalonians 1:7-9)
It wouldn’t be a series of guitar riffs for ukulele without AC/DC. To give this one plenty of rock, do all down strums and dampen the open string strums. You play these dampened strums by resting the underside of your strumming hand just in front of the bridge, so when you strum it sounds muted. This is a little different from chnks since you keep your hand on the strings the whole way through.
I am completely in love with my iPod Touch. Not in that way. It’s not like I make out with or anything (and everyone who tells you they’ve seen me making out with it is lying because I always make sure the curtains are shut first). It’s a deep, caring, understanding love that will never die (until something better comes along – just like with person love). So, of course, I availed myself of the various ukulele related apps available and here are my findings (the prices are those in the UK, but I expect the US ones are comparable).
What it does: Shows you how to play chords. It’s similar to Sheep Entertainment. You select a pitch and a chord type and it has shows you how to play the chord on a fretboard.
Good Stuff: Simple, attractive, easy to use layout. Comprehensive. Shows three chord inversions for each chord. Indicates the interval (root, 3rd, 5th etc.) for each note. Lets you hear the chord.
Not So Good Stuff: If you try to select a chord with more than four notes it craps out on you. Granted you’d have to drop a note, but it would be useful to be shown suitable options. C tuning only. Vertical display only.
Overall: Excellent app. The best one I’ve tried for the uke.
What it does: Show scales for the ukulele and many other instruments. You select the key and the scale and it displays all the notes in that scale on a plain text style fretboard (with the root notes in green).
Good Stuff: Good selection of scales – 16 in all from essentials like minor, major, pentatonic and blues to more unusual scale such as super locrian and kumoi. Includes C tuning and baritone.
Not So Good Stuff: Fairly nasty to look at. Can’t hear the scales being played. In the vertical display the fretboard is cut in half – so best to use it horizontally. Goes with ‘ukelele’.
Overall: It’s a handy reference but there are a lot of improvements that could be made. Worth the money.
What it does: Virtual ukulele (and guitar). You can watch Gio Gaynor rocking out with his here.
Good Stuff: Fun to have a mess around with – particularly dialing up the reverb and distortion.
Not So Good Stuff: It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it – more than I’m willing to put in.
Lelele no Onsan
What it does: Plays notes for you to tune to.
Good Stuff: Simple. Free. Low and high G tunings.
Not So Good Stuff: The notes don’t sustain for very long. It would be much easier to use if you could just switch the tones on and off.
Overall: It’s free. Why not?
Guitar Rock Tour
What it does: Guitar Hero/Rock Band game. Blobs come rolling down the screen and you have to touch them at the right time to play the music. Not strictly a ukulele app, but it has four strings, so I’m claiming it.
Good Stuff: Top game and very addictive. May yet rescue the guitar solo from oblivion.
Not So Good Stuff: “Ouch, my thumbs”. Liable to lead to rockstar tantrums. P!nk and Avril. Loading… Loading… Loading…
Overall: I’ve wasted far too much time on this game. Don’t buy it if you’ve got things you need to do (except buy it anyway).
There are also some tuning apps, but I haven’t tried them out as I don’t have a mic for it. So if anyone has, let us know your opinion in the comments.
Sophie Madeleine – Take Your Love With Me (The Ukulele Song)(MP3) can be downloaded on Bandcamp
Turns out my prediction that Rocky and Balls would be on Boing Boing in three weeks was wrong – it took three days (I may have hastened that process). It turns out that Sophie Madeleine – the Balls half of Rocky and Balls – has a back catalogue of knock-out ukulele songs. So I quizzed her for more info.
As a multi-instrumentalist, what particularly appeals to you about the ukulele?
It’s tone and it’s simplicity. It makes such a happy little sound. I found that I always ended up falling into the same patterns on a guitar when writing, so I tried to write on a uke and started coming up with a completely different style of song. It’s also so much nicer to pick up and play than a guitar – it’s quite a dainty little instrument!
I’ve seen mention of Life. Love. Ukulele. What is it and how can we hear it?
Love.Life.Ukulele is an album made up of mostly ukulele-based songs, and they all run on the themes of love and/or life (funnily enough!). There’s even a song specifically about my first ukulele! I made it last summer during my MA in Songwriting and it is currently unreleased. You can hear some of the tracks from it on my myspace profile. It will be released and available to buy online soon, so stay tuned… [UPDATE: It’s now available on Bandcamp]
What three songs should everyone listen to right now?
I could shamelessly plug my own music here, but I shall resist the urge.
I’m afraid I can’t think of any ukulele based songs, but three songs I can’t get enough of at the moment are:
“I’d like to walk around in your mind” by Vashti Bunyan (because I wish I’d written it myself.)
“True love will find you in the end” by Daniel Johnston (an acquired taste, but I think it’s naive and simple and beautiful).
Lastly, “She’s a rainbow” by the Rolling Stones (just because it makes me happy).
UPDATE: I’ve just heard that song “Oh What A Day” by Ingrid Michaelson on a tenor uke and have fallen in love with it.
Being an official master of songwriting, what are your top songwriting tips?
Firstly, collaborate. Writing with other people is great. I haven’t hit it off with ALL of the people I’ve written with, but you never know what’s going to happen, and you could come up with something amazing. I also find that talking to other writers and gaining their perspective on things can inform or inspire my own writing. Songwriters are generally very nice people too!
Secondly, it sounds strange, but I find that spending time NOT songwriting is really important. If I’m stuck with a song I just have to go and do something else. As long as it’s a task that’s not too taxing or distracting I find that I continue to write the song without realising it, and before I know it I’ve thought up a solution. It just takes the pressure off I think.
What have you got planned for this year?
Aside from trying to get my album released, I’m going to be working on a couple of other projects in various forms of collaborations. I’m already writing a new album, but most importantly, I am currently rehearsing with my band. We’re preparing for some shows around London and my hometown Brighton.
Buy Sophie Madeleine songs on Bandcamp. I highly recommend The Stars
More Sophie Madeleine
I never thought it would happen but there’s a ukulele cover of The Beatles I like. But you still won’t find it in this week’s roundup as she also has a heartbreakingly brilliant original song. As much as I like light-hearted ditties about facial hair and bunnies, I love it when people sing a song and really mean it. Read the rest of this entry »