A new Bon Iver album means a new Bon Iver post. It’s another great record. This time with very strange song titles. 00000 Million immediately struck me as being great for ukeing with its strong melody and simple chords. And it does transfer well. It even works out nicely in the original key.
It wouldn’t be Bon Iver without a bit of weirdness. And this song’s weirdness is changes in the time signature. Bar two switches to 5/4 time (i.e. there’s an extra note in that bar). And there’s a bar of 2/4 leading into the Fionn Regan sample. But these fit so naturally into the song that if you know the melody well you won’t have any problems with timing.
The brackets around some of the notes indicate they are played softly (they’re backing notes rather than part of the melody).
Eddie Monnier, the organiser of Luthiers for a Cause, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project.
Luthiers for a Cause sounds like a fantastic project. How did it come about?
While attending the Ukulele Guild of Hawaii Show in November 2016, I was sitting with two industry friends (luthier Jay Lichty and Kinnard Ukes distributor Kevin Beddoe) and we were discussing the roles of the luthier versus the tonewood in the final sound of an instrument. We started brainstorming a project that might be educational/informative on the topic while also raising money for a worthwhile cause. We were all three really excited about the idea of creating a project that could let a handful of top-tier luthiers demonstrate different voicings and aesthetics with virtually identical wood.
Then that evening at dinner, the three of us were sitting with Steve Grimes, a very highly respected luthier in the guitar and uke world. We shared the idea for his thoughts. He was immediately supportive and said he’d love to do it. I was pleasantly stunned. Steve had been involved with a famous project called The Blue Guitar project. Back in the 90’s, renown guitar collector Scott Chinery asked 22 top luthiers to build their ultimate version of an archtop guitar with the only constraint being they had to be blue in homage to his blue sunburst D’Aquisito Centura Deluxe, which he considered one of the most perfect guitars he ever played.
So with Steve genuinely excited about our project, I was pretty certain we had something special in the works.The next day on my flight home, I put the idea to paper and started fleshing it out. I reached out to a few other highly regarded luthiers and continued to get very favorable responses. The project’s momentum just kept building on itself. Patchen Uchiyama, another ukulele enthusiast I met at UGH, asked how he could help when I shared the project with him and shortly thereafter Jay Lichty’s wife also offered her assistance. I was very thankful to have the help given how the project was really taking off.
Can you tell us a little about Ukulele Kids Club? Why did you choose to support them?
The Ukulele Kids Club is a 501(c)3 whose mission is to harness the healing power of music by supporting music therapy programs and gifting ukuleles to hospital-based music therapy programs so that children in need can be sent home with the gift of music for life. Founder Corey Bergman and his wife Edda formed the charity when they reacted to their own personal tragedy by committing more of themselves to community service. While using his music skills to perform community service in a children’s hospital, Corey learned about and became an ambassador for the healing power of music. The ukulele is a great instrument for hospital music therapy because its compact size allows it to be comfortably held in bed, kids can learn a few basic chords and start making music very quickly, and its joyous voice.
Why did we choose UKC? Well, it’s certainly an obvious fit but we did go through a process to discover that. First, we wanted a charity of the right size. Small enough that our target of raising at least $25K would make a material difference to their mission but large enough that it could put the funds to use effectively. Second, we wanted to know that a very high percentage of our founds would directly benefit the charity’s target audience. Third, we wanted a charity focused on children. And lastly, we felt a music connection would be an added bonus.
Patchen, Corrie and I researched charities and developed a short list of candidates which we compared against those criteria. UKC was such a strong fit on paper. We then spoke with Corey several times about our project and got very comfortable with his vision and ability to effectively use the funds we raise. The instruments are given by a music therapist, so every child gets some of the basics in a lesson. This is so important so that the children can start making music and realizing the benefits of music therapy.
All the instruments are going to be made with wood from two trees. What’s so special about these trees?
It wasn’t enough to choose the same species of tree, we wanted wood from the same exact tree. I initially started out trying to source figured maple from the same tree but was encountering logistical and timing issues. We then decided to pursue The Tree, a famous one-of-a-kind Honduran mahogany tree that is truly unique visually and tonally from normal mahogany. While sourcing that wood, I learned about Lucky Strike redwood and then sourced that separately.
To have six highly distinguished luthiers each building an instrument from woods from the same specific trees at the same time is unprecedented. And to do so with such storied woods and for such a worthy cause make Luthiers for a Cause a very special project.
The best way to support our project is by helping spread the word about it and by donating to The Ukulele Kids Club via our Donation links on our web site and Facebook page (all proceeds go directly to them). Every $50 results in a child in need being able to take home an instrument. And for those who have the interest in high end custom instruments, buying an instrument when they are ready later this year!
This is my song of the year so far. Absolutely heartbreaking. Who knew it was possible to be this sad about Mandy Moore?
There’s an interesting little songwriter trick in this song. Each verse ends with the refrain, “Nothing really matters any more.” On every verse but the third this is sung over the F – Eb9 – Bb progression. But the third verse is a line shorter so the, “Nothing really matters anymore,” is sung over Gm7. It’s a subtle change that introduces variety into the song.
Here’s a simple strum that will get you all the way through the song:
d – d – d u d u
In the intro: Play that 8 times on F.
In the verse: Twice on each chord up until the F – Eb9 – Bb progression at the end of the verse. Just once each there.
Break and solo: Once per chord. Here’s how that sounds:
The solo starts and ends with a classic country rock move. You hold down the top two strings (at the eighth fret here) then while those notes are still ringing you bend the third string at the seventh fret. On guitar you’d usually bend up a tone (which would create a major chord triad). That’s a bit of a problem on ukulele since bending it that much would push it off the fretboard. So I’m only bending it up a semitone. Which creates a minor chord. Making it a bit more bluesy than countryish.
– Chinese phone manufacturer, Xiaomi have unexpectedly dipped into the ukulele market with a, “smart ukulele,” the Populele. Which hooks up to your phone via bluetooth and lights up the fretboard to help you learn. Al for the suspiciously low price of $58.
– Lichty’s “Django” Archtop Ukulele.
A double bill of classic British comedy themes today. Starting with the Fawlty Towers them by Dennis Wison. Not the Manson loving Beach Boy. The composer of music for many British sitcoms including Till Death Us Do Part and Rising Damp.
My arrangement has two parts: the lead part in standard tuning and a baritone part playing the backing. I’m having fun with this set up at the moment so don’t be too surprised if you see more of it.
The backing is mostly arpeggios with a couple of runs thrown in. Here’s a recording of just the backing if you want to play along. The metronome taps out a full bar for the intro and you start playing on the third beat of the second bar.
Dennis Wilson also wrote music for Steptoe But the theme tune, called Old Ned, was by Ron Grainer. Most famous for the Doctor Who theme. I was prompted to put together this short version by the recent death of the Simpson half of Galton and Simpson who created the show.
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.
C, F and G (or G7)
If you prefer, you can use G7 in the place of G or vice versa for any of these songs.
Bowling Green was the Everly Brothers’ last big hit. They were certainly taking cues from Simon and Garfunkel and The Turtles at this stage to stay relevant. But it works fantastically on this track. I first heard it when Neko Case covered it in a Peel session. Her version uses exactly the same chords just with a bit chopped off in the intro.
You can use this as your main strum:
d – d – d u d u
In the verses, intro and outro: There are two chords in each bar. So you play d-d- on the first chord (G or Am) and dudu on the second (C or D). Which sounds like this:
The only exception comes right at the end of the second and fourth verses where you play G for a whole bar.
In the middle: It switches to one chord per bar in the middle. I like to use this strum for the first three chords
d u x u – u d u
Then there are triplets on the Am. You can either use your favourite triplet strum or just do all down strums. Then it’s one strum per chord until the final D where you can do a whole bunch of down-up strums.