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Ukulele Hunt

UkeTube: My Sun and Stars, Claire Hastings, Tove Styrke

Full Playlist

Tracklist

My Sun and Stars – Married in Las Vegas
Mathias CéVé – Them There Eyes
Claire Hastings – Caledonia
August Green – In Front Of You
Tove Styrke – Say My Name
The Helmsmen – Riverside
Brit Rodriguez – What Gods Prevent
The Sonder Bombs – Shitty Boyfriend
Craig Chee & Sarah Maisel – Bluesette
The Peter Moon Band ft. Cyril Pahinui – Lepe ?Ula?ula

Friday Links: Peter Moon, What Type of Ukulele Player are You?

Ukulelist and Hawaiian Music Hall of Famer Peter Moon has died. I highly recommend checking out his playing on Pua Lilia with his band The Sunday Manoa.

Videos
What type of ukulele player are you?
Melania Trump ukes a lament on Colbert.
– Rob Bourassa talks to luthier Gary Zimnicki about his Martin 5K style baritone ukulele.

Ukes
One of only six ukuleles made by KoAloha in 2002.
1920s hipster and his uke (via Jake Wildwood).
Custom Martin Tree of Life.
Custom Martin “blister koa”.
Santa Cruz Guitar Company UK-3.

Jonathan Lewis – Lonesome Fiddle Blues (Tab)

Lonesome Fiddle Blues (Tab)

UPDATE: Jonathan has released an ebook of minstrel banjo tunes arranged for ukulele. So if this tab is your thing give it a look.

A guest tab today from Jonathan Lewis. This time a campanella arrangement of Vassar Clements‘s classic bluegrass tune Lonesome Fiddle Blues. Perhaps best known for the part it played in Devil Went Down to Georgia.

If you enjoy Jonathan’s arrangements and are looking for something to play on St Patrick’s Day do check out his ebook Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele.

Links

Buy it on iTunes
Jons-Ukulele.com
More Jonathan Lewis on Uke Hunt

Tab Reading FAQs: Xs, Brackets and Arches

I’ve written up a full guide to reading tab but there are few questions I get asked a lot. So here’s a little post clearing up any problems.

What do the numbers in brackets mean?

There are two ways brackets are used. The first is to indicate these are background notes that should be played more quietly. I use them to indicate that notes aren’t part of the melody. You need to play them more softly so the listener doesn’t mix them up with the melody.

Here’s an example from my Claudia’s Theme tab:

To illustrate the difference, here’s the example played first as if the brackets weren’t there and then played taking the brackets into account.


MP3

If it’s just a note by itself in brackets like above, it’s a background note. If it has an arched line connecting it to a previous note, then it’s a tied note. Which brings us on to the next question.

What do the arches between notes mean?

Again, this could mean a couple of things. An arch between a note and the same note in brackets or a blank space indicates that the notes are “tied” i.e. you add the length of the notes together.

So in this example from Ziggy Stardust there’s a tie from a quaver (or eighth note) to a semi-quaver (sixteenth note) making the note as long as a dotted quaver.

Sometimes you’ll see ties between all the notes, sometimes (like in this example) it’s just a tie at the top.

If the arch links to a different note then those indicate a transition between notes without repicking them. That means a hammer-on (if the second note is higher) or a pull-off (if the second note is lower). Often the arch will have a “p” above if it’s a pull-off or and “h” if it’s a hammer-on.

This example from The Lumineers’ Ho Hey includes first a tie and then a pull-off. Plus the note being pulled off to has its own tie.

The other type of transition it could indicate is a slide. When there’s a slide you’ll see a diagonal line between the notes as well as an arch. Here’s an example from Fraggle Rock where you slide a whole chord up one fret:

What do the X’s mean?

X’s in tabs indicate dead or muted notes. They’re not notes with a specific fret. They’re just used as percussion.

You can mute strings by resting a finger or two on the string without fretting it. Or, as in this example from the Countdown Theme, rest your picking hand on the string firmly.

Often you’ll see X’s on all the strings. There you can use a chnk or chnk alternative to get the percussive sound.

Here’s an example from the Better Call Saul Theme:

What do the bendy arrows mean?

These arrows indicate bends. Bends don’t work too well with the uke’s nylon strings so I try to avoid them. But sometimes nothing else will do.

At the top of the arrow you’ll see either “1/2” or “full”. This is referring to the number of steps up you need to bend the string. Half a step is the equivalent of one fret and a full step the equivalent of two frets.

So in this example from Cantina Band you bend the string at the third fret until it’s the same pitch as a note played at the fourth fret.

And this example from Crazy (the Willie Nelson/Patsy Cline one) has full bends so the bend on the E-string 10th fret will result in the same note as the A-string 7th fret played directly after it.

You will sometimes see variations in the arrows. They’re usually fairly intuitive. For example, in the tab of The Ventures’ Diamond Head there’s a vertical arrow up followed by an arrow bending down. Here your pre-bend the string before you pluck it. After you pluck it, you slowly release the bend.

Why don’t you include standard notation?

Because I don’t think it’s useful enough to double the length of the tabs. And because so few people read it. Tab has meant that few people feel the need to learn to read standard notation. And now YouTube has meant fewer people learn to read tab and prefer to learn from tedious, interminable videos going through notes one at a time. So it goes.

The Pogues – Waxies’ Dargle (Chords and Tabs)

The Pogues – Waxies’ Dargle Chords)

It’s St Patrick’s Day this weekend so time for the annual Pogues post. Waxies’ Dargle is a good old, traditional three chord romp. The chords are dead easy but it’s played so fast it can be hard to keep up. I like to play it with a capo on the second fret (or in D-tuning) and use the chords F, Bb and C in place of G, C and D respectively.

If you’re looking for more to play, there’s a list of all my Irish tabs and chords here. And check out Jonathan Lewis’s ebook Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele for a challenge.

Suggested Strumming

I use this as the main strum:

d – d – d u d u

Verse and Chorus: Each line is two strum patterns long. So if there’s one chord on the line you play the strumming pattern twice. If there are two chords you play the strum once per chord.

The exception is the penultimate line of each verse and chorus. There you can just play a down strum and let it ring. There is a bar of 2/4 in there while he’s yelling “AAAAAARRRRGHHH” then the drum comes in as it returns to 4/4.

The pattern is different when there are three chords on a line. When it’s G – D – G strum down once each for G – D then twice on the final G. When it’s G – G – D you play the main strum on the first G then one down strum each for G – D.

Solo: Do the main strum once for each chord until the final G – D – G when you strum down once each for G – D and twice for G again.

Twiddly Bits

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The solo is a lot of fun to play but the speed makes it very challenging. To get it all in I’m using a combination of pull-offs and campanella elements.

Links

Buy it on iTunes
More Irish tabs and chords

Vangelis – Chariots of Fire (Tab)

Vangelis – Chariots of Fire (Tab)

A quick bonus tab. In tribute to Roger Bannister I knocked together a simple version of the Chariots of Fire theme tune. There were a bunch of requests for a tab so here it is.

Links

Buy it on iTunes
More movie theme tabs and chords

UkeTube: Ukulele Death Squad, Dustbowl Revival, Daniel Ho

Full Playlist

Tracklist
Ukulele Death Squad – Not Afraid
Dustbowl Revival – Call My Name
Jerome Koko & Daniel Ho – Hi’ilawe
Joao Frazao – Blue Bossa
Tyrone and Lesley – Moth Song
Black Gardenia – No Moon at All
The Ladybugs – Tennessee Waltz
Phredd – Son You’ve Got Problems
Kyle Frazer – I’m Still Standing
Jonathan Lewis – Daffodilly Rag
Wilfried Welti – Mille ducas en vostre bource

Friday Links: Stretching Exercises, Grateful Dead and Background Radiation

The documentary Street Punk! Banda Aceh is now free on YouTube. It follows Indonesian punk band Marjinal who are living under Sharia Law while protesting the system, sheltering young homeless kids and teaching them ukulele.

Banjo wizard Clifton Hicks shares some hand stretching exercises he uses to prevent injury. And be sure to give his music a listen too because he’s an excellent musician.

A new series of Festival of the Spoken Nerd has just started on Radio 4. You can listen to Helen Arney’s ukulele song about background radiation (at about 6:40 if you can’t wait).

Marlowe runs her uke through an effects processor.

Vance “Riptide” Joy has new album out with some ukulele songs.

Window Shopping
– Alvarez have a series of pretty cool looking Grateful Dead ukuleles.
Daniel Round painted pirate ukulele.
1920s Kumalae.
Ludwig Wendell banjolele.

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Lumineers – Ho Hey (Tab)

The Lumineers – Ho Hey (Tab)

I’m about five years late to this one. And three years late to anyone caring about it. But I still love this tune. And it works very well on ukulele. All beginner chords and you don’t even have to move past the third fret.

The melody uses exclusively notes from the F major pentatonic scale: F – G – A – C – D. Here’s how the scale looks:

And shifting it to the first three frets where this tune is played you get:

Links

Buy it on iTunes
Ho Hey chords
More folk tabs and chords

Capo 3 Mac App Review

Learning songs by ear and tabbing them out is hard work. You’d think after all these years I’d have got good at it. But it’s still a real grind. So I need all the help I can get. One tool I reach for is Capo 3 from SuperMegaUltraGroovy.

I’ve used Capo since version 2 and have been using Capo 3 for four years now. So I’ve finally gathered my thoughts on it and am ready to review it.

This review is for the macOS version of the app. There is also an iOS version. If you want to try out the Mac version, you can find a free trial here.

What It Does

Capo helps you to transcribe tabs and chords of a song from an audio file.

When you open a file (WAV, AIFF, MP3, MP4 or M4A) Capo 3 will present you with something like this (I’m using James Hill’s legendary Uke Talk for these examples):

At the top you’ve got the track itself. Then in the middle you have the spectrogram. This shows the pitches of all the notes Capo picks up in the track. Below that are the chords Capo thinks are played at that point in the song. And at the bottom is where the tabs appear.

You generate the tabs by drawing over the notes on the spectrogram (you can see that in the image below). Each note you select on the spectrogram gets transferred onto the tab below.

Capo also allows you to manipulate the sound of the song. In the left-hand column there are sliders that adjust the tempo of the song (between 0.25 and 1.5 speed) and the pitch (plus and minus an octave).

Capo will also isolate sounds in the recording. You can select by where the sound is panned in the speakers or by the frequency of the sound.

The Good Stuff

Sound Manipulation: I most often use Capo to slow down a piece of music. You can slow it down as far as quarter speed. And it does that very well. Producing a sound that’s cleaner than anything else I’ve tried at low speed.

I also regularly use it to change the pitch of a song to a more uke-friendly key. I’ve found that within 7 or 8 semitones you get a very clear sound. More than that and you can get some audio artefacts particularly when pitching down. Helpfully, it adjusts chords and tabs along with the changes to the pitch of the audio.

The sound isolation can also come in handy. If you’re lucky enough that the instrument you’re focussing on is panned either left or right I’ve found that isolation can work well. Isolating by frequency I find more fiddly and harder to get a helpful result.

The Spectrogram with One Instrument: You can often get very good results from the spectrogram when there’s just one instrument on the track. Here I’ve marked up the spectrogram for Uke Talk:

The tab there was automatically generated from the marked up spectrogram and it’s pretty much spot on. I didn’t even have to adjust the string each note was on (something that Capo isn’t always great at doing).

Ukulele Options: The app has a good range of ukulele options in the instrument tab. It has all the tunings you’re likely to need: standard, low-G, D-tuning, D-tuning with low-A, baritone and baritone with high-D.

Well Designed: The app is easy and intuitive to use. And it looks great. It has a huge range of options and makes them easily found without cluttering the app.

They also do a good job keeping the app updated and fixing bugs. It even supports the ridiculous MacBook Touch Bar.

The Not So Good Stuff

Price: Capo 3’s $50 price tag will put most people off. It is more expensive than apps with similar functionality like Anytune at $30 and Transcribe (Windows, Mac and Linux) at $40.

And if you’re just looking to slow music down there are free apps like VLC that’ll do the job (albeit not as well).

Chord Detection: Capo 3 is supposed to automatically work out the chords for a song for you. It doesn’t.

Even in the simple James Hill example it doesn’t work correctly. The chords at the start are A5 – E7 – A7 – D5 but it transcribes them as Am – Bm – A7 – D. But at least it’s in the same ballpark. With anything more complicated it’s only useful in giving you the vaguest idea of what’s happening.

Sometimes it gives up entirely. I’ve been working out the solo to Waxie’s Dargle recently and put it into Capo 3. The auto-generated chords just showed a G7 at the beginning and a G at the end. Nothing in between. You can click a button to force it to add chords at each point. I did that and…

Capo will also attempt to detect the beats in the track and add bars. This is more accurate than the chord detection but still hit-and-miss. If you look at the James Hill track above the bar lines don’t correspond to any of the notes in the slightest. Perhaps not a fair test since he varies the tempo throughout the track.

It does fare much better with songs with simple rhythms and played to a click track. Here’s a more successful attempt with Ho Hey:

Spectrogram with Full Band: The spectrogram is not as helpful when a track has many instruments playing. Here’s what you’re likely to see when you load in a track with a full band:

You can still pick out some parts but it’s much more difficult. But when it looks like this it’s easier to use your ears than it is to use the spectrogram.

Lack of Export Options: The only export options you have is to export the audio (the same track you imported but slowed down and pitch adjusted by Capo) or to export the tab and chords as a midi file (as far as I can tell the midi file is just a piano track keeping none of the actual tab). You can’t export the tabs or chords in any useable format.

Overall

The glorious future when you can plug an MP3 into an app and it’ll spit out perfect tabs and chords is a long way off. Capo 3’s sales pitch over-promises and under-delivers. Particularly for transcribing chords.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be without the app. It helps a great deal in working out songs and the app is a pleasure to use. The $50 price of entry will put off casual users. But if you’re doing a lot of song working out I highly recommend trying it.

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