I’ve started accepting Bitcoin as payment for my ebooks. I made my first sale the other day and I’m excited to get into it. Right now the ebooks are 50% off when you buy with bitcoins. Partly because transaction fees are lower, partly because I’m interested in the possibilities and partly because I haven’t got an automated system for email delivery (but I spend all my time either asleep or on the internet so it shouldn’t be long. You can buy with Bitcoin here.
- Leeds ukulele troubadour, Look Yonder’s self titled EP.
- Tony Penultimate (aka Peter Brooke Turner aka the tall one off of the UOGB) has a new album out this weekend Adventures in Gibberish. It’ll be available on CD Baby and The Ukes’ website. UPDATE: The release date has been pushed back a little to Wednesday 16th. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.
- Arhoolie’s reissue of Papa Lemon Nash.
I got a request from Justin saying that Alexandre Desplat’s music from the new Wes Anderson movie Grand Budapest Hotel would be perfect for ukeing. And he was absolutely right. As soon as I heard this tune I knew it would suit a campanella-style ukulele arrangement.
And it turned out to be even easier than I expected. Without even changing the key the whole first section of the verses mostly could be played on the open strings.
As with most campanella arrangements the trickiest bit is memorising the string plucking order. If there’s a quicker way to learn it than playing through slowly over and over again I don’t know what it is.
Flicking the Bean
In the bridge section I’m trying to recreate the mandolin tremolo strumming. Tremolo strumming is a bit more tricky on the uke though. So I used a technique I refer to as “flicking the bean”.
It involves turning your strumming hand palm upwards and wiggling your middle fingers across the strings like this:
I regularly get people asking what I use in my playing and in putting together the site. To answer those I did a post back in 2010. Things have changed a bit since then (most notably it makes no mention of apps). So here’s what I’m using these days.
I’d be interested to know what you use: to record audio, make videos and, of course, what your favourite ukulele is. So do leave a comment.
What size/make ukulele do you play?
This hasn’t changed much in the last four years. I play mostly tenors. With my favourites being the KoAloha Sceptre and Ohana TK-35G. I use those almost exclusively in videos. And I play the Ohana slightly more practicing even though it picked up a giant crack when I moved house.
Tuner: Sometimes my ears and sometimes a Snark Tuner.
Capo: Shubb mandolin capo (take note: it doesn’t work on smaller necked ukes).
Stands: Tanglewood Ultralite ukulele stand.
Tabs and Chords
Tabs: Guitar Pro 6. I’ve been using Guitar Pro 6 since I started the blog nearly seven years ago. I wrote a review of it here (tl;dr: I like it). Although this year it has at least got some worthy competition in the shape of Tabular.
Chords: I make the chord diagrams in Sibelius (I don’t recommend buying Sibelius though – I only bought it because I had to – but it does make attractive chord diagrams). Then I write up the chords in Pages.
Slow Downer: For slowing down songs to make them easier to tab. I use Capo (Capo 2 which I think isn’t available anymore). It does claim it can automatically generate chords and show you the notes being played. I’ve found those to be pretty much useless. But it does what I need it to do well.
These are all for iPhone there are some Android alternatives here.
Metronome: Visual Metronome.
Tempo Finder: Tap/Tempo.
Tuner: Cleartune (although I don’t have cause to use it often).
Mic: sE Electronics USB2200a.
Camera: A Logitech that I hate so much I’m not even going to link to. If any has any suggestions for this let me know.
Blogging and Site
Hosting: WiredTree. Highly recommend them.
Domains: UkuleleHunt.com is still on GoDaddy. Which I highly advise against you using. It’s a nightmare buying domains and they make it hard to do anything once you’ve bought them. These days I keep my sanity and buy new ones on Hover.
Site Design: The site and logo were designed by Ben Lew. Who is fantastic.
eBook Selling: eJunkie. Easy, cheap and I’ve never had a major problem with them in the six years I’ve been using them.
Things that no one has asked about and don’t have an obvious effect on the site but without them the site would suck, be hacked or possibly not exist.
Online Storage: DropBox This is even more essential now. It used to be a pain keeping files in sync across computers. Now it’s impossible to keep them in sync across computers, phones, tablets, glasses, watches… without Dropbox. And it’s free (up to a point).
Password Manager: 1password.
I reread these regularly to make sure I never do something stupid like getting a job.
I know from experience that just having Amanda Palmer in the title is going to put off vast swathes of people who read the blog. But all the people who complain when I swear are amongst them so fuck ‘em. But she did win many people over with her TED Talk and even more over with her response to the Faily Mail (you should never trust a paper that doesn’t know the difference between a ukulele and a balalaika). And I’ve had some requests for this one so here goes.
The song hasn’t been released yet so I’ve written up this live version.
Don’t be intimidated if you’re unfamiliar with the chord names. They’re all very easy to play. Most of the time she’s just switching between playing the A-string open and at the second fret.
The strumming pattern is dead easy. It’s just down strums all the way through. Eight down strums for each chord for the most part. But 32 on the A7 (best to think of them in groups of 4).
The big challenge with the strum is keeping going. It’s pretty relentless and it’s a long song so it requires a bit of stamina.
Try varying the intensity of the strum in different parts of the song for extra emotional impact.
- A new episode of my favourite ever travelogue Matt Kresling’s Madagascar Diaries.
- Mastering the split stroke (via @WillGroveWhite)
- Ukulele players square off in the Melbourne International Median Strip Table Tennis Tournament (don’t get too excited by the “strip table tennis” bit).
- Savannah Smith is raising money to record her debut album.
Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer is Michael Gove’s favourite rapper (he’s the UK’s Education Secretary and exactly the person you’d expect to have an upper class white guy as his favourite rapper). Perhaps they’ll overturn that rule about rappers in the Bullingdon club. Here’s Mr B’s reaction to it.
The attempt to make the ukulele Hawaii’s official instrument has run up against opposition from the powerful steel guitar lobby. But the Hawaiian legislature is also having a hard time deciding whether it’s totally fine for cops to have sex with prostitutes so clearly they’ve got hard decisions to make.
For this arrangement I’ve taken the intro and outro of the song and made a mandolin solo sandwich. Mandolins are built for speed so I had to slow it down a fair amount to play it. And even still I didn’t play it as smoothly as I’d like.
The intro and outro is mostly octaves picked with thumb and middle finger. If your uke only has 12 frets you can just play the lower half of the octaves and it should work out okay.
The picking for mandolin section is a complete mess! Where I can I’m using running man picking (alternately picking the same string with index and middle fingers). But mostly I’m using whatever finger gets there first. Which would explain why I’m not playing it smoothly.
I’ve long been a fan of ukulelezaza (aka Remco Houtman). In fact he was in the third ever UkeTube in 2007. Back when MySpace was the obvious place to link to. So I was very excited to try out his tab book Happy Days are Here Again. Which Shelley of The Jumping Flea Market was kind enough to send me.
What You Get
A book containing:
- Tabs (no standard notation) for 16 tunes:
Bei Mir Bist Du Schön/Für Elise – Caravan – Drifting and Dreaming – Freight Train – Georgia On My Mind – Happy Days Are Here Again – Home – I Surrender Dear – Margaret’s Waltz – On The Sunny Side of the Street – Pa’au’au Waltz – Painting the Clouds with Sunshine – Sweet Lorraine – When You’re Smiling – Who’s Sorry Now?
- Descriptions of the techniques used in the DVD.
- Two-page histories of Martin and National ukuleles (used in the DVD) and shorter descriptions of a few other ukuleles.
A DVD containing:
- Performances of all the pieces (in a more ornamented fashion than they’re tabbed).
- Short demonstrations of the techniques described in the book.
The Good Stuff
- Having a Style: The biggest lesson I took from the book was an abstract one. The tabs as they’re presented in the book are really straightforward. Then for the DVD he pours that ukulelezaza-sauce all over them. He has a jazz-ear style, sound and set of techniques that make his playing immediately identifiable. I admire that because I feel like I don’t have a style at all. And it was interesting to watch him transform the simple arrangements.
- Clean, Simple Arrangements: All the tabs are simply arranged. Mostly combining single notes for the melodies with chords. If you wanted to play them straight they’re comfortably in an intermediate difficulty.
- Concise Tutorials: The tutorial bits in the book and the DVD are short and to the point. The trend on YouTube seems to be for long, boring ukulele tutorials. I’m much more into doing things the concise way.
- Well Presented: The book is nicely laid out with easy to read tabs and (black and white) photos of vintage ukuleles for some eye-candy.
The Not So Good Stuff
- Tab/DVD Differences: It’s my favourite aspect of the book but I know from experience some people are going to be really annoyed by that the tabs don’t match his performance. They’re just the basis of his version.
- Nitpicking: There were a few points in the book fingering suggestions would have been useful but I picked it up from the videos. And DVD menus are never a pleasure to use.
If you’re a fan of golden era jazz and that style of ukulele playing the book is a must. Ukulelezaza is a master of that style and this is the best book around on that style.
Walk off the Earth do a great job of making the covers they do look like a ton of fun. Every time they make a new one I get the urge to write it up. And I caved once again with their version of Pharrell Williams’s Happy with Parachute. It combines a funky riff with some tricky jazzy chords.
I’d recommend trying out a few variations of the chords. For example, you could use these for the F7sus4 – F move:
You can use this once for every chord in the choruses:
d – d u – u d –
Which sounds like this:
For something more involved you could do this on the first two chords:
d u x u – u d -
Then on F7sus4:
d – d – - u d
And on F7:
u – u – u – u d u
So you’re switching to the F7 on the last up strum of the bar.
Together they sound like this:
And for the intro and the outro just do five down strums.
Here’s the verse riff:
Here it is played slowly then up to speed: