Mahalo are hopping on the bandwagon and releasing a bass ukulele.
– Uke Nut has set up some useful games to help ukulelists to learn note identification and fretboard note identification.
– I did a quick chording of the new Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared song.
– New album from western swing and blues uker James Clem: Sugar Moon
Election time here in the UK and the politicians are busy courting the ukulele vote. Boris Johnson was first off the block taking advantage of the Electoral Commission’s decision not to allow the Ukulele Independence Party on the ballot.
I was inspired to arrange this one by Brooke Pallson’s ukulele version and somehow it’s taken me two years to get from that to a finished version. That might suggest it’s a deeply complex arrangement but it’s pretty easy to play (although I still manage to jack it up at about 1:20 in the video).
The trickiest bit is the solo section that starts in bar 31. The first four bars ape the keyboard solo and the next for the “ain’t nobody’s business” vocalising. It took me a bit of practice to be able to switch between those. They’re just similar enough and just different enough to make it tricky.
An intro acts like an ice breaker in a conversation. They get people’s attention, set the mood (usually by establishing the key and the tempo) and set people at ease that you’re not some nutjob Ukip supporter. There’s a bit of a tension there between being interesting and setting your audience at ease. A good way to achieve that is to take a familiar intro and mix it up a bit.
To that end, here are the five best old school ukulele intros. They’re all in the key of C but the ideas can be transferred to any key.
Intro 1: The Traditional Ukulele Intro
D7 – G7 – C – G7
This is the classic intro. It does a great job of setting up the the song. The opening two 7 chords create a bit of drama and – because the 7 gives them an unsettled feel – they’re pushing towards the C chord and setting up the key of the song. Then the G7 brings in the tension to make you anticipate the song itself starting.
It also works nicely if you use Dm or Dm7 in place of the D7 (e.g. Meghan Trainor’s Baby Doll).
Intro 2: The Fancy Traditional
D9 – G9 – C6 – G+9
Here’s a great example of taking a familiar theme and mixing it up that I nicked from Peter Moss’s tutorial. It takes the traditional progression and includes a bunch of jazzy touches.
That last chord is a pain in the arse to play smoothly so I take the lazy option and switch it with a Gaug.
Intro 3: The Hot Tamale
C – A7 – D7 – G7 – C
This intro shares the D7 – G7 – C move but extends it backwards a little. You might recognise the progression from songs like They’re Red Hot and Hurry on Down.
Intro 4: The Blues Intro
C7 – C6 – C+5 – C – G7
In this progression you have descending chromatic notes on the g-strings. That’s a classic blues move that crops up all the time in intros, outros and turnarounds.
If this is your jam, there are a lot a variations on this theme in How to Play Blues Ukulele.
Intro 5: The Shimmy
The Sister Kate version is in G and easier to play. This one is further up the neck which, if you ask me, is more fun. In the video I play it slow then up to speed.
Bonus: The Pharrell
The Pharrell Williams intro is the route one of intros. It’s just four or five chord stabs. It’s short and simple but it does establish the key and tempo. And it makes it a very short journey from to the hook.
Here’s how it sounds:
For this version I’m using the barre chord version of C (5433) to keep the chord stabs short.
I love how this song builds. I rarely make strong pronouncements on how you should strum a song but if you use the same strum all the way through this song you will ruin it.
With a bit of octave switching the riffs fits onto the uke nicely as a series of thirds.
I’d highly recommend not using the same strum all the way through this song. If not you’re playing the riff, I’d recommend just one down strum per chord for the first two verses and the first chorus.
Then punch it up a bit in the second chorus to something like:
d – d – – u d u
Back to one strum per chord for the middle and then another chorus with the chorus strum. For the second middle section I recommend really building up the tension with double-time down strums:
d d d d d d d d
Ukuleles for Ukraine: a charity project to supply orphans with basic necessities and ukuleles. You can help by donating to their GoFundMe (which is close to reaching its target as I write this) or by attending their fundraiser if you’re in the Southsea area.
– Kahiwa – First Kiss.
– Two new instructional DVDs from Play Ukulele by Ear: Strumming Ukulele by Ear and Picking Ukulele by Ear.
– New album from Craig Roberston: STAB.
– Heidi Swedberg is Kickstarting Color-Along Ukulele a ukulele-learning/colouring book. You know, for kids.
The Guardian encourages people to pick up a ukulele with words from Will Grove White and a mention of Uke Hunt.
If you’ve been following my riffs for ukulele series you’ll have heard me encourage you to use it more creatively than just playing one riff at a time. One way to use them is to cram a bunch of them together to make a melody. That’s what I did with my Arctic Monkeys medley and this collection of Strokes riffs.
The songs in this medley are:
Barely Legal/Take It Or Leave It/Hard to Explain/12:51/One Way Trigger/Reptilia/Barely Legal (again)/Someday/Under Cover of Darkness/Last Nite
I like to keep a list of songs that use just the most common ukulele chords. Arranged by the order people usually learn them in. That way you can find some songs to play no matter how few chords you know.
And here’s the updated list including notable additions like:
C, F and G
If you prefer, you can use G7 in the place of G or vice versa for any of these songs.
NeverShoutNever! – Your Biggest Fan/Did It Hurt?
Noah and the Whale – Five Years Time
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
Paolo Nutini – High Hopes
SoKo – I Will Never Love You More
The Bobby McGee’s – A Dog At All Things
The Lancashire Hotpots – He’s Turned Emo
Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime
The Tiger Lillies – Start A Fire
Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra/Kings of Leon – The Bucket
Plus Am, Dm and Em
Addams Family Theme Tune
Alton Ellis – Rock Steady
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance With You
Blondie/Imelda May – Dreaming
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Darren Hanlon – All These Things
Electrelane – Cut and Run
Garfunkel and Oates – Me, You and Steve
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days Are Over
GUGUG – California Sun
Israel Kamakawiwoíole/Jason Castro – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Julien Dore – Cet Air-La
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Micucci/The Gooch – Mr Moon
Kelli Rae Powell
Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me
LP – Into the Wild
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Phosphorescent – Wolves
She & Him – Sentimental Heart
Allo Darlin’ – Tallulah
Allo Darlin’ – Space Christmas
Amanda Palmer – In My Mind
Antsy Pants/Bear Creek – Vampire
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
Daniel Johnston – Living Life
Damon Albarn – Mr Tembo
Garfunkel and Oates – The Fade Away (you can use D instead of D7)
Gothic Archies – Shipwrecked
GUGUG/The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
Keston Cobblers’ Club – You-Go
Phredd – Elmer’s Electric Tricycle
Skinny Lister – Colours
The Dubliners and The Pogues – The Irish Rover
The Pogues – Fiesta
The Little Ones – Tangerine Visions
Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Velvet Underground and Nico – I’ll be Your Mirror
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
Plus A and E7
Camera Obscura – Cock Up Your Beaver
Florence & the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (don’t panic, you can use E7 instead of E in this song)
The Pogues – Sally McLennane
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation
Junior Brown – Better Call Saul
Kate Micucci & Ted (Scrubs) – Screw You
Paolo Nutini – Pencil Full of Lead
The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey
The Weavers – Pay Me My Money Down
Beirut – A Candle’s Fire
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (You can use C instead of C5)
Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK
Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
Lorde/Walk off the Earth – Royals
Lorde/WIOU – Team
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
Nevershoutnever – First Dance
Neutral Milk Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers
Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love
Sufjan Stevens – Lumberjack Christmas
The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Mastered all those? Tackle more: