David Beckingham – West Coast Blues (Tab)


David Beckingham – Blind Blake (Tab)

Here’s another great tab by David Beckingham. This time of a tune by, ragtime blues innovator, Blind Blake.

Here are a few notes on the tune from David:

The arrangement has Blake’s intro, but I didn’t play it in the clip – mainly ‘cos it’s hard to fit it in with the backing track.

I’m using thumb and two fingers more than usual in this one. Blind Blake’s “sportin’ thumb” is a notoriously difficult thing to replicate and I’ve really just given up on authenticity and gone for fun (and added my own little variation up the neck)

Here’s a link to his original recording.

Links

Buy the Blind Blake version
David Beckingham on YouTube
More David Beckingham tab

Campanella – Putting the Melody First

I’m a big fan of campanella style picking on the ukulele and of Jonathan Lewis’s playing. So it’s no surprise I love Jonathan’s new ebook Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele. It’s a great selection of arrangements.

I asked Jonathan if he’d like to do a guest post and he was kind enough to agree. So here’s a primer on campanella playing and tab for his arrangement of The Blarney Pilgrim.

Many of us who play ukulele first started on the guitar, and we fell in love with this instrument because of its cheerful image, its versatility and its portability – it weighs virtually nothing and takes up no space. But what really makes the ukulele so special? For me it has to be re-entrant tuning, which makes campanella picking possible.

So what exactly is campanella? It actually means “little bell” and that’s the effect we’re trying to get – when you hear church bells, one doesn’t stop ringing before the next one starts – they all ring at the same time. The same for a harp. A harp doesn’t have a neck where you can put your fingers to change the pitch of a string, so one string, one note. On the ukulele (charango and baroque guitar too), campanella picking means avoiding playing two notes on the same string whenever possible, taking advantage of the re-entrant tuning, where two strings are only one tone apart. Using open strings as much as you can and alternating between strings rather than playing successive notes on the same string really does make the uke sound like a little harp.

Listen to a few scales played in the campanella style.

Tab for the scales here.

Why campanella is best for traditional tunes

Fiddlers, whistlers and bagpipers have a whole bunch of tricks to make simple tunes sound more interesting. Ornamentation is always a bit hit and miss on fretted instruments but the harp-like sounds you get from campanella can make up for this. And you can always insert into your campanella picking the odd hammer-on, pull-off or slide to ornament your tunes.

Practice: The Blarney Pilgrim

Let’s look at the popular jig, the Blarney Pilgrim. Play the first four bars like this (non-campanella):

blarney-normal

Then play the same melody like this (campanella):

Blarney-camp

Notice how you can always hear more than one string ringing at the same time? That’s the beauty of campanella. And it’s all thanks to re-entrant tuning. I completely get it that some people prefer to have a low G on their uke (lots of people own more than one uke so they can have both) – you can do a lot more in terms of accompanying your own melodies or if you’re singing.

Campanella gives the melody first place

And rightly so. That’s what music is all about. Even in classical music, the most popular pieces are the ones that people can whistle or hum. So what’s wrong with playing a single-line melody on your uke? Maybe you think that it sounds thin or weak, in that case get a friend to play along with you. I’m not talented enough to be a one-person-band but the upside to that is social: I can always get friends to play chords for me or I’ll play chords for them.

Learn the Blarney Pilgrim in Campanella style

Earlier I showed you one line from this traditional Irish tune, so now here is the full tune. You can download the tab here:


The Blarney Pilgrim (Tab)

A few tips on playing campanella

1. Use keys where you’ll use open strings. As the open strings on a uke make a C6 chord (or Am7 if you prefer) it’s probably best to arrange in keys that use a minimal number of sharps or flats.
2. Look for shapes and use barres so you can keep those strings ringing.
3. You won’t always be able to find a suitable campanella fingering. Don’t get obsessed with campanella – sometimes it’s better to play two notes on the same string rather than a difficult or clumsy campanella fingering.
4. Think about where you can play the same notes in different places. For example, a triplet of As could be played like this:

campanella_triplets

Author Bio:
Jon has been a fanatical ukulele player since discovering campanella fingerpicking. As a guitarist he is fascinated by open tunings, mainly because he wished he could have been a harpist! Since learning campanella tunes and arpeggios from ukulelesecrets.org (Tim Keough) Jon spends too much of his free time arranging traditional tunes for campanella ukulele. You can get his collection of Irish tunes here.

Jonathan Coulton – First of May (Chords)


Jonathan Coulton – First of May (Chords)

Warning for those who don’t get the name of the blog and complain about the swearing: this song contains multiple uses of the fuck word.

Warning for everyone else: the album version of the song is tuned slightly flat. But you can play along with the live version in the video without retuning. I’ve simplified the chords a little to make them more ukeable so it should be easy to get them down by May 1st.

Suggested Strumming

This simple strum will fit most of the song.

d – d – d u d u

For the C chords in the intro and at the end of some of the lines in the verses I like to substitute this in:

d u d u – u d u

For short chords (such as the third line of the verses and the “Celebrate spring…” bit) just do one down-strum per chord. Then on the C9 on “Outside” just do a bunch of down-strums.

Here’s an example of the strumming for the first part of the verse:

Twiddly Bits

FirstOfMayRiffWeb

Here’s a uked version of the intro I like to use.

Links

Buy it from JonathanCoulton.com
More Jonathan Coulton tabs and chords

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Raelyn Nelson, Yoza: UkeTube

Full Playlist

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Friday Links

New Releases

A whole lot of new uke records:
– Traditionalists The Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave Trio’s self titled record.
– Two new ones from Seeso: Little Brother and Kuya.
– Shredder Danilo Vignola’s Ukulele Revolver.
– And the experimental williwaw’s poem tones.

Videos

Ben’s Ukulele Road Trips – a worldwide trip meeting ukers and making music.
– Ever wondered how they typed sheet music before computers? Me neither, turns out it was pretty crazy.

Ukes

– Urbanmeister reviews his rather magnificent Emerald Guitars harp ukulele.
BanjoUke SideKick.

Election Section

David Cameron was heckled ukulele style. The chords are here if you find he’s visiting your area.

Massive Attack – Teardrop (Instrumental Tab)


Massive Attack – Teardrop (Tab)

Teardrop is one of my all time favourite songs. As well as the original Massive Attack version (used as the theme tune to House) there have been a bunch of great covers. The version by Jose Gonzalez and Acoustic Labs’ instrumental guitar take on it had a big influence on my version.

There are a couple of unconventional techniques in this arrangement. The first is in the percussive section (bars 13-14). Here I’m using muted strums the rapping my finger nails against the bottom edge of the uke. In the tab the muted strums are an x on the C-string and the nail-strums are an x on the A-string.

I tried out a few different percussive techniques (e.g. bashing the body of the uke with the side of my hand in place of the muted strums and tapping my fingernails on the sides of the uke) and some are very effective. I settled on these because they’re the most straightforward but I’d recommend trying out a few variations for yourself.

The trickiest parts are the harmonics in bars 27-30. Harmonics at the fifth fret give the high ringing required but they’re a real pain to play. I screw up a few of them in my version. If you want something more forgiving play the harmonics at the twelfth fret. They’ll sound right but be an octaves lower.

Links

Buy the Massive Attack version on iTunes
More TV theme tabs
Learn to play harmonics.

iOS Ukulele Chord Finder App Comparison

The last time I reviewed ukulele chord finder apps back in 2010 I wasn’t that impressed. Time to find out if the situation has improved at all with a review of five apps that have been released since.

I’ve scored the apps out of 20 with five points available in each of these categories:

Chords: One point for each of these it passes:

C test: Pass if the A-string is fretted with the 3rd finger rather than the first finger.
Em test: Pass if g-string is played open rather than at the 4th fret.
Fmaj7 test: Pass if the default chord is playable (i.e. not 2413) and another point if 5500 is there at all.
C9 test: Pass if both C9 and Cadd9 chords are available and have playable default shapes.

Looks: This one is subjective but I give points if everything is clean and readable and it fits with the iOS 7/8 look.

Usability: Particularly how easy it is to select the root note of the chord, change flavour of the chord (whether it’s major, minor, 7 etc.) and switch between inversions.

Options: One point for each of these options it has: sound, left handed mode, D-tuning, baritone tuning, chord lookup (i.e. you can put in a chord shape and it’ll tell you the name).

Winner: Ukulele Toolkit

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Ukulele Toolkit in the App Store

Overall Score: 19/20

A fantastic app. Very well thought out, helpful chord suggestions and looks great.

Price: $3.99/£2.99

Chords: 5 points

C test: Pass
Em test: Pass
Fmaj7 test: Pass with bonus point. 5500 is the default shape.
C9 test: Pass

Looks: 5 points

Easily the best looking app here. Everything is clean, easy to read and fits well with the iOS 8 look. The only thing I don’t like the look of is the app icon (a lot of EUMLab’s other app icons are much nicer).

Usability: 4 points

The chord section of the app is very good. You select the root note of the chord at the top of the screen and that brings up a cards showing all the different flavours of the chord. From there you can click on the expansion arrows on each card. That takes you to a page with a fretboard and the inversions of that chord.

The fingering suggestions are my only big gripe with the app. They’re off by default and I assumed they weren’t there at all until I found the option buried in the settings. With the setting on you get a cartoon hand with coloured fingers. The colours on the fretboard tell you which finger to use. I didn’t find it intuitive and quickly turned it back off.

A few minor niggles:

– The little expand arrows on the cards are a small tap target. I had trouble getting them open sometimes. My instinct was to press anywhere on the card to go to that screen.
– When a chord is played up the fretboard the diagram indicates the fret the chord starts on but still has the thick line at the top. The convention is to have a line the width of the frets to make it easier to spot that you’re up the fretboard.
– Because I wasn’t using the tuning option, I didn’t allow the app access to the mic. And it bugged me to allow it access every time I opened the app until I relented.

Features and Options: 5

Has all the options plus the option of a capo. It also has a metronome and tuner and other gubbins that aren’t part of this review.

UkeBank

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UkeBank in the App Store

Overall Score: 15/20

Price: Free with in app purchase ($2.99/£2.29) without the purchase only major, minor, 6 and m6 chords are available. So pretty useless without paying. But there are no ads in either version.

Chords: 3 points The most comprehensive app in terms of chord inversions and most of them are in the realms of playable. Some of the fingering suggestions could be better though.

C test: Fail.
Em test: Pass. Although slightly unusual in that the first inversion shown is 0402.
Fmaj7 test: Fail on the main test but a bonus point for showing 5500 (although it suggests barring the g and C-strings which seems unnecessarily tricky).
C9 test: Pass.

Looks: 4 points

Very good. Everything is clean, readable and pleasant to look at.

If I’m nitpicking, it is a bit of a jumble of textures at the bottom. There’s the flat white box, the slightly wood-grained wheel and the marbled box with grey text. But it didn’t bother me much.

Usability: 4 points

Unusually, it presents the chord names in a circle of fifths. That might be a little confusing for beginners but has the big advantage of having the chords you use together close to each other. I like it.

You change the flavour of the chord by clicking the square in the centre. That brings up a grid of options. The grid is laid out very well with most common chords at the top.

Features and Options: 4 points

There’s a left-handed mode and the sound is pretty good. It has C-tuning, D-tuning and baritone tuning. It actually goes a bit overboard on the tunings and lets you have the same tunings in soprano, concert and tenor (if there’s a difference I didn’t find it) and low-G tuning (which does change the sound but not the chord inversions). But there’s no chord lookup.

Guitar Toolkit

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Guitar Toolkit in the App Store

Overall Score: 14/20

It’s a guitar centred app but also includes ukulele (and bass, banjo, mandolin). It’s a strong contender. If you’re a multi-instrumentalist it’s definitely worth considering.

Price: $3.99/£2.29

Chords: 1 point

It does suffer from being a guitar-focussed app. For exmpale, it includes slashes with the lowest note in the chord name.

C test: Fail.
Em test: Pass.
Fmaj7 test: Double fail.
C9 test: Fail. The default C9 is nuts. Mysteriously, it has Cmadd9 and C5add9 but not Cadd9.

Looks: 4 points

The app is more busy with the textures than Ukulele Toolkit (with a textured background, lighting effects on the fretboard dots and a busier fretboard). But it’s executed well and looks good.

Usability: 4 points

You select the chord using a three part wheel (one for the root, one for the flavour, one for the inversion). It feels a bit more clunky than some of the other methods but still easy to use.

Features and Options: 5 points

All the tunings plus the rarely used gCEG, decent sound and left-handed mode. Also has chord lookup.

UChord

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UChord in the App Store

Overall Score: 11/20

Price: Free with in app purchase ($3.99/£2.99). The free version has ads and has a restriction on the chord flavours shown (although you do get more flavours in the free version than you do with Uke Bank).

Chords: 2 Points

It does have the largest list of chord flavours of all these apps. To a fairly preposterous extent. If you’re the type of person who regularly has use for mM7-5 chords this is your app. But it’s a bit weak on the basics.

C test: Pass.
Em test: Fail.
Fmaj7 test: Double fail.
C9 test: Pass.

Looks: 3 points

It does look dated and I’m not a fan of the black and gold look. But the information is clear and it’s obvious what is what.

Usability: 3 points

There are two columns of buttons. One for the root and one for the flavour. Which would be great and I like the everything happens on one screen. But the order of the list of flavours in unfathomable to me. To get to the M7 and m7 chords you have to scroll a long way down the list past the likes of 13-5-9 and 9+11.

Features and Options: 3 points

No D-tuning or baritone tuning. The sound is okay and it has a left handed mode. It does have chord lookup but I’m only giving it the point reluctantly. It works by matching the chord symbols rather than by matching the notes. For example, because 0432 isn’t listed the app doesn’t recognise it as an Em chord.

Basichords

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Basichords in the App Store

Overall Score: 10/20

It is that it’s the only app here that’s free without any feature restrictions. And it does have chords for many instruments including some that Guitar Toolkit doesn’t (like cavaquinho, bouzouki and mandola). It is useable if you’re absolutely set on not spending money.

Price: Free (with ads).

Chords: 2 points

C test: Fail.
Em test: Pass.
Fmaj7 test: Pass on the default chord (5453) but there’s no 5500.
C9 test: Fail. There’s no add9 chord.

Looks: 2

The app is still stuck in iPhone 4 size. So on anything more recent than that it has the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The text is pretty small. In general, it’s not a pretty app.

Usability: 3

Not too bad. You tap on a root note at the top then tap on list of flavours (no need for scrolling). The default chord shows at the top with other inversions on the right (you can select these to enlarge them). The text for the chord flavours is very small but other than that it works well.

It also has a “Vintage view” that uses wheels for chord selection. The advantage of this mode is that the text is much more readable.

Features and Options: 3 points

It has a left handed mode. Sound is there but it’s not great. There’s no baritone tuning or chord lookup. But it is the only app here that has a horizontal view.

Schmoyoho – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Chords)


Schmoyoho – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Chords)

Netflix’s new comedy show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is absolutely hilarious. And it has an insanely catchy theme tune by songifiers and occasional ukers Schmoyoho which I felt the need to ukeify.

First job: put a capo on the first fret.

Suggested Strumming

I like to do just down strums for the verse. Using d-d-d-d- for everything up to the G at the end (but keep the strums short by muting them right after you strum). For the G I double up to dddddddd. Together they sound like this:


Strum 1

For chorus I do this twice for each chord:

d – d – d u d u


Strum 2

For the ‘One, two, three…’ section I like to do one down strum then three muted down strums. Which goes like this:


Strum 3

Links

Schmoyoho on YouTube
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix
More TV theme tabs and chords

Corner Laughers, Happy Gland Band: UkeTube

Full Playlist

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Ukulele Window Shopping

Martin have been putting out some ornate custom ukuleles: Tree of Life soprano, Plumeria, custom tenor 3K.

But if, like me, you’re more into their classics: 1930 Martin 5K and 1931 Sytle 3K.

Mahalo are hopping on the bandwagon and releasing a bass ukulele.

Custom 8 String Kamaka with baritone-size neck.

Electric harp ukulele.

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