Dr Liz Price at the University of Hull is surveying ukulele players to find out how the ukulele might, “protect and enhance mental and physical well-being.” In my experience, not at all but…
– … clearly my experience isn’t universal: Madeline’s Story: Conquering Muscular Dystrophy with a Ukelele.
– Madonna picks up a ukulele for True Blue.
– The best way to play Esus4.
BBC Radio 4 documentary on cricker WG Grace with uke playing from the UOGB’s Will Grove-White.
I’ve tackled Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters theme once before way back in 2007. But I wanted to return to it to tidy it up and make it into a full instrumental version for a ukulele group. Also because it’s a stone-cold classic.
This version has five different ukulele parts of differing levels of difficulty (including one that just involves smashing the strings in time) and each one can be simplified or fancied up as suits.
This part takes care of all the chord work. For almost all the song the chords are just C – Bb – F. You can choose whichever inversion of those chords suits your playing.
This part plays the riff for most of the song. For the intro and middle sections I make use of campanella style. Letting close harmony notes ring into each other makes them extra spooky. If that’s not your bag you can play the intro like this:
And the middle like this:
It’s important to make this part as expressive as you can to give it the feel of a vocal melody.
As well as handling the vocal melody, this part plays the guitar lick in bars 27-28 and 43-44.
My original plan was to combine this part and the melody part. In the end I split them off so I could have the vocal part more prominent than this one. But the two parts are never playing at the same time so you can easily combine the two into one part if you wish.
The part starts of by plucking the strings with a pick between the nut and the pegs. It’s always high-pitched and out of tune up there so you’ll always get a spooky effect from it.
The intro spooky noises do include one additional uke. I scrapped a pick along a wound low-G string to get a bit of a creaking effect.
No notes at all in this part. I’m just muting all the strings with my fretting hand. I’m using two main patterns. The first one in the video I strum down right in front of the bridge to create a thud. Then up again in that area. Then and other down-up where the fretboard hits the body.
The next pattern is the same sort of idea. Start with the same down-up near the bridge. Then three down-ups at the fretboard.
The bridge strums do give you a good sound but they’re a bit tough on the fingers and not essential. You can also emphasise beats just be strumming more forcefully.
I’ve written up a fair few Halloween songs over the years and have spotted a few common traits that make for a spooky song. Here are some tricks you can use to write your own terrifying tune or spook up an existing one.
The quickest way to create a creepy, unnerving chord is to play notes together that are a semitone (i.e. one fret) apart. Since the strings of a ukulele are tuned so close together it’s perfect for doing this.
Similarly playing chromatic notes (notes that are a fret apart) in sequence also sounds spooky.
The classic example of this is the theme to The Twilight Zone. Here’s an example that uses a similar idea:
Low + Slow = Suspense
High + Loud = Terror
You can create suspense by playing slow, quiet and low (or as low as you can on a uke) and build the tension by getting faster and louder. The most iconic use of this is the Jaws theme (which, again, uses chromatic notes)
When the time comes to release that suspense get as high, loud and dissonant as possible. Just like the shower scene in Psycho.
This example combines those two ideas:
Almost all common chords contain a perfect fifth note (e.g. a C chord contains the root note C and a perfect fifth G). Moving the fifth note up one fret you get a sharpened fifth (in a C chord you’d move the G up to G#). Because it’s so unusual an unexpected it has a very unnerving feel.
Similar to the sharpened fifth but this time you’re moving the fifth note down one fret (in a C chord you’d move the G down to F#).
This is known as the devil’s interval. It was considered so evil it was banned in churches.
The most famous use of the devil’s interval is during the octaves the very start of Purple Haze. Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter goes one step further and uses a flattened fifth and a sharpened fifth together (bar 21 of that tab). Perhaps those nutty evangelicals were right about Harry Potter being satanic after all.
This example is in C minor. It shifts octaves up the fretboard and includes flattened and sharpened fifth notes:
I had a go at using some of these techniques to come up with my own spooky ukulele tune and this is the result:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Now you’ve got your immoral zomboni costume together, here are some tunes you may wish to bone up on before the big night:
Addams Family Theme Tune
Chopin – Funeral March
Jonathan Coulton – Re: Your Brains
The Fall – Mansion
The Gothic Archies – Freakshow
Harry Potter – Hedwig’s Theme
London Bridge Is Falling Down (From Halloween)
The Misfits – Dig Up Her Bones
The Misfits – Halloween
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (from The Exorcist)
Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
This is Halloween (From Nightmare Before Christmas)
Tom Waits – Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard
Twilight Zone Theme
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
And a tutorial on spooking up your playing:
Holy Cribbins! Now that’s a comeback song. I managed to see through the floods of tears long enough to write up some chords.
As well as being incredible, it’s sparse (in the first half at least) which makes it ideal for ukuleling. Strap on a capo at the first fret and the chords are dead easy. The only chord that isn’t entirely beginner friendly is Bm. If you haven’t got your barre chords down here’s an alternative chord you can use in this case.
Because the song is so sparse you can do just one down strum per chord most of the way through (or even all the way through if you like). If you want something more full for the chorus try this:
Note that you’re changing chords slightly before the second half of the bar. Here’s how it sounds:
I don’t like to break with regular scheduled posting, but I had to take today to flick on the klystron HV, turn the variable autotransformer up 130 and blast this one out.
Back to the Future (Alan Silvestri): Alan Silvestri wrote the score to all the BttF movies but he was clearly channeling John Williams for the epic theme music.
Mr Sandman (The Chordettes): This one is already a bit of ukulele standard thanks to the opening lick being perfectly suited to re-entrant tuning.
Time Bomb Town (Lindsey Buckingham): This one is a bit more incidental than the others (it’s the tune on the radio when Marty wakes up before the first DeLorean scene) but I had to include it because if it’s not played on a ukulele it sure sounds a lot like one.
Power of Love (Huey Lewis & the News): The first bit of this is just switching between different inversions of F and C. It shows how effective just changing up inversions can be.
Doubleback (ZZ Top & Alan Silvestri): The only part of the medley that doesn’t crop up in the Part I. It’s the tune from the ZZ Top bit in Part III. It’s supposed to be the ZZ Top song of the same name although any resemblance is lost on me.
Johnny B Goode (Chuck Berry. You know, Marvin’s cousin.): The climax of local rhythmic ceremonial ritual the Fish Under the Sea Dance and this medley.
– Jake Shimabukuro has a new album out: Travels. Most tracks featuring a full band.
– The Uke Hunt Ukulele 2015 Spotify playlist has hit 50 tracks and almost 3 hours of uke music.
– Another new album of Craig Robertson: Something to Do.
– The Introducing Buke and Gase EP lets you get your hands on the best of, squeal-master baritone ukulele/guitar and guitar/bass duo, Buke and Gase for $1. Highly recommended.
– Derick Sebastian plays Star Spangled Banner before LA Lakers vs Utah Jazz game.
Kimo Hussey is running a Ukulele Retreat in Oahu in November. If you’re going, I’m jealous.
Herman Vandecauter was kind enough to send me tab for his version of Franz Schubert’s Die Forelle (The Trout). It’s a great distillation of the tune and he’s made it work exceptionally well on uke.
I liked it so much I did my own recording of his version. In mine I used one finger per string picking. My version is quicker than Herman’s (because that’s what appealed to me) and more sloppy (because I’m a worse player).
Here’s Herman’s version:
You might notice a couple of thick black lines on the tab. I added those to remind myself which section I’m supposed to be repeating.