The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival kicks off today in Huddersfield.
Carrying on with this week’s posts inspired by the UOGB’s all-punk album (Ever Such) Pretty Girls with some riffs and licks from UK punk and post-punk bands. Some on their album and some not.
The Stranglers – Peaches
Ian Dury and the Blockheads – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
The Jam – Town Called Malice
Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy (Intro)
The Rezillos – Good Sculptures
Gang of Four – Damaged Goods
I’m a sucker for a new gadget. The more useless and ridiculous the better (e.g. I’ve spent the last year trying to not buy an Apple Watch). So I couldn’t resist picking up the most ridiculous bit of ukulele kit: a spider capo.
What the Hell is a Spider Capo?
A standard capo frets all the strings on the fret you put it on. But a spider capo lets you choose which strings it frets and which are left open.
For example, in this photo I have the capo on the second fret with the levers on the g-, C- and E-strings down and the A-string left open. That means when you play all the strings you get a D chord.
They claim you get “hundreds of open string tunings”. But if you want to be picky – and I certainly do – I make it 15 possible combinations per fret (2^4 total combinations less one for none of the strings capoed). Being generous and saying it can fit on 12 frets that’s 180 combinations (181 if you count gCEA).
Why not just use an open tuning? The biggest reason is that all the chord shapes and scale patterns you know still work when you use a spider capo. E.g. if you tuned the ukulele to an open D chord an A chord is 0234 and C is 3213. But with a spider capo set up to a D chord an A chord is just the G shape (0232) and C is a Bb shape (3211).
The spider capo is also more adaptable than using open tunings. In the second piece in the video above I have the g- and A-strings fretted at the fifth fret. Making them higher than is practical through retuning.
The Good Stuff
Highly Adjustable: You can adjust the width of the entire spider capo and the distance between the levers a great deal. It’s fits on all my ukes from soprano to baritone without any problem.
Creates Unique Patterns: I had a lot of fun messing around and came up with things I wouldn’t have been able to play any other way. And it’s a fun trick to play below the capo as well as above it.
Quick Lever Switching: Flicking a lever on or off the string is lightening quick. Quick enough you could switch levers mid-song if the situation called for it.
Well Made: It feels like a sturdy and durable piece of kit.
The Not So Good Stuff
Fiddly to Attach: It’s certainly not like a standard capo that you can slap on in two seconds. Even once you have all the levers properly aligned for your uke it takes time to get it fixed properly. It’s a lot easier to attach the capo wonky than to attach it correctly. You have to be careful that the little ridges under the capo rest on the fretboard rather than on the frets or dangling in mid air. And they really seem to repel the fretboard at every opportunity. Trying to make it flush against the fret often means that the ridges at the back of the capo are over the fret behind it.
Holding Thin Strings: I found that quite often it would produce buzzes or mute high-g and A-strings. The levers are concave where they touch the strings and the middle isn’t low enough to fret properly. So you have to position the string on one side of the lever.
Here’s a video with the capo attached as well as I can get it but with the string in the middle of the lever:
Not All That Useful: I had fun playing around with with it but I’ve not thought, “A spider capo would be useful to play this.” I haven’t found much practical, day-to-day use for it.
I can’t recommend getting a spider capo mini to most ukers. There are few situations where they’d come in handy.
The only type of player I’d even reservedly recommend a spider capo for are people who like writing their own tunes and has plenty of time to spend attaching it. If you use one I’m sure it’d inspire a few tunes you wouldn’t have otherwise come up with.
Quick word of advice: If you’re in a situation where staying is trouble, bad as that may be, if leaving is double the amount of trouble then it’s clearly better to stay. No need for a song and dance about it.
I’ve been enjoying the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s new all-punk album (Ever Such) Pretty Girls recently. And it’s inspired me to do some UK punk and new wave this week. (Related fact: UOGB’s Kitty Lux used to be in a punk band called Severed Head and the Neck Fuckers.)
To play along with the UOGB you can use the same chords but with a capo on the first fret for the version on Pretty Girls. Or on the second fret for the live version on Anarchy in the Ukulele.
In the intro, verse and break the chords are broken up into sections of three (e.g. D-G-D). On those, do this for the first chord:
– u d u
This for the middle chord:
d u d u
And just one down strum for the last chord.
The one exception is the A chord where you combine all the strums on the A to give you:
– u d u d u d u d
In the choruses double up the speed of your strumming to use this strum:
d – d u – u d –
Once for the first and second chord in each batch and twice for the third. Again, combine the strums together for the A chord.
The bass riff works well on the ukulele and is played on the lead uke in the UOGB version.
Here’s a tab for low-G tuning that also includes the guitar noises in the intro:
– Following on from last time’s firewood ukulele a ukulele made out of wood reclaimed from a barn.
– Better call Saul about this Lichty cocobolo baritone.
– The earliest electric ukulele I know of the Gibson ETU3 (1949). They didn’t quite have the aesthetics down.
– Shimo Ukulele Mania.
– Swiss cheese Cheezy ukulele.
New ukulele exhibit at Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center. If you happen to be in the area.
Another beautiful ukulele track from The Staves: Roses on their new EP Sleeping in a Car.
I did a tab for the intro of King of Spain a few years ago. But I love that song and had to extend it out into a full instrumental version of the song. The song can be played with mostly strums and barrels along at a good pace so it’s perfect for a ukeing.
I’m using open-F tuning to mimic the open-C version of the original. You get that by tuning the g-string down to F and the E string up to F.
The main chords used are F (0000 and 0003), Dm (0200), Bb (0201) and Cadd11 (0403).
In bar 5 there’s a chord played with 7th fret harmonics. If you’re having trouble hitting that cleanly try playing the harmonics at the 12th fret. There’s more room for error there and you get the same effect.
Other than that I’d recommend barrelling along with it and not worrying to much about the occasional flub (as demonstrated in my version).
It’s Uke Hunt’s ninth birthday tomorrow. According to WebMD 9 year olds, “recognize basic social norms and appropriate behavior”. So this might be your last chance to read puerile, offensive posts like these (although I wouldn’t bet on it):
In tabs: If I Had You and David Beckingham’s takes on Leo Kottke and Bent Fabric.
In chords: Elliott Smith’s Waltz #2 (XO) and ukulele scremo phenomenon twenty one pilots’ We Don’t Believe What’s on TV.
In tabs: A whole bunch of theme tunes and I ventured into tabbing for multiple ukuleles with a UOGBesque version of Miserlou.
In chords: UOGB’s take on Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights and songs from Steven Universe.
– Happy Birthday to You finally got released from the fraudulent clutches of Warner/Chappell and I celebrated with chords and two tabs of the tune.
– I set up a new system for rating ukuleles in the ukulele review section which produced a list of the top 10 rated ukuleles. Kamaka and KoAloha have, not altogether surprisingly, been fighting it out at the top. At the time of writing Kamaka are ahead by 0.02 of a point of KoAloha and Mya-Moe in second place. If you want to have your say, find your uke in this list of ukulele makes and rate away.
– I started doing short video tabs on Instagram.
– The big ukulele chord quiz.
In tabs: An instrumental version of Tiptoe Through the Tulips and Gwent Flute Song from The Witcher 3.
In chords: I was surprised by how successful The Libertines’ reformation was and did Don’t Look Back into the Sun.
In tabs: After years of trying to get a version I liked, I finally finished an arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. Plus a group arrangement of the Ghostbusters theme ,a medley of songs from the Back to the Future trilogy and Schubert’s Die Furelle.
In chords: Adele’s stunning comeback Hello and Hall & Oates’ Rich Girl.
In tabs: Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s ukulele-cuatro duet Paul’s Dance and the theme to 90s British sitcom Men Behaving Badly.
In chords: Eagles of Death Metal’s I Want You So Hard and The Smiths’ Unhappy Birthday.
– The second edition of my book Ukulele for Dummies was released with new chapters and digital downloads.
– Ukulele festivals 2016.
In tabs: Best Bowie intros. Jonathan Lewis shared a tab of Loftus Jones from his Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele ebook.
In chords: Bowie’s Life on Mars and Hoagy Carmichael’s I Get Along Without You Very Well.
In tabs: Damien Rice’s 9 Crimes, Sufjan Stevens’s Death with Dignity and Langtree’s Lament from Over the Garden Wall.
In chords: The Pogues’ If I Should Fall from Grace with God and Chris Stapleton’s Tennessee Whiskey.
It’s so good to have a rock band around that are fun and look like they’re having a good time.
The chords for this one are dead simple. The only slightly tricky bit is the chromatic move down from C to A (which is going to remind of that bit in that Fratellis song forever more). If you want to simplify that bit you can play a standard C chord then just play single notes on the second then first frets of the A-string (in place of the B and Bb chords respectively) then play an A chord.
You can start off with just one down-strum per chord in the first verse. Then use this as the main strum:
d – d – d u d u
You can use that for everything but the C-B-Bb-A move where you can do one down-strum per chord.
Here’s a ukulele version of the song’s solo: