– The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has new album of traditional folk tunes coming out on May 1st. You can pre-order and listen to clips on their website.
– New EP from Brit Rodriguez: How to Burn.
– The Surprisingly Awesome podcast has an unsurprisingly awesome episode on the circle of fifths.
– I turned to the darkside this week and made a guitar tab. It’s for the theme to Firewatch Stay in Your Tower and Watch. Here’s how the tab sounds.
To end up my Prince tribute week here’s a collection of his best guitar and keyboard riffs.
Let’s Go Crazy
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
The Bangles – Manic Monday
Prince – Gett Off
Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
Prince wrote some of the greatest chord progressions in all pop music. He had all sorts of tricks up his sleeve. But he really loved to use 9 and add9 chords. They’re peppered all over his songs and it’s well worth adding them to your own bag of tricks.
Prince’s most iconic use of the chord is the E9 in Kiss:
Can't think of a better tribute than strumming 7677 nine times. pic.twitter.com/HQFPCURfGq
— UkeHunt (@UkeHunt) April 21, 2016
He often used it where you might expect a 7 chord e.g. at the end of a chord progression to create tension and propel the progression back to the beginning. But while 7 chords are strident, 9 chords are more diffident and melancholy.
For example, he used F9 at the chord progression in the verses of How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?:
And a D9 the end of the little cadence leading into The Most Beautiful Girl in the World:
But the best use of them ever has to be in Purple Rain. In that song he used 9 chords at the start and end of the progression:
As always with chord progressions, if you hear something you like feel free to steal it and make it your own. You wouldn’t be the first to do it with this tune. Take the F chord out and you have Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins:
Prince had some really juicy chord moves. This song (originally a Prince B-side before Alicia Keys made it a big hit) has two of my favourite chord moves of all time.
The first is C – Ab6 – Abaug – F. I always think of the interval between C and Ab as the Goldfinger move. But making in an Ab6 replaces the bombast with a melancholy edge.
Secondly is the ascending notes against a Dm7 chord at the end of the chorus and bridge. The downside is that it’s pretty tricky. A simpler option is just to play Dm7 for the first four chords in the run then replace the last chord with 0010.
Warning: Capo at the first fret if you want to play along with either version.
You can be pretty minimal with the strumming. In the verses and intro you can just use one down-strum per chord for everything but Fadd9 where you do three up-strums. Alternatively you can strum the same rhythm used in the tab below.
In the chorus and bridge I like to do double-time down-strums up to the D chord run at the end where I do one strum per chord then a down-up on the last chord. Like this:
Here’s a little picking version of the piano riff.
– Ukulele puppet and pets.
– Trailer for the upcoming Garfunkel and Oates special Trying to Be Special.
– Lego men help restring a ukulele.
– Jimmy Fallon free-throws a ukulele filled with Fruity Pebbles
– Port orford cedar, maple, mahogany and ebony tenor ukulele by Mya-Moe.
– MP tenor Peruvian maple & Adirondack spruce
– I’iwi Premier-Series soprano.
– Martin custom “blister koa” soprano.
– Bolivian Rambert Ferrufino Alba Ronroco.
– Deng Nan-Guang, Some Day, 1935-1941.
– Craig Robertson – Big Town.
A primer for the uninitiated: Neko Atsume it a mobile game where you lure increasingly fancy cartoon cats to your yard. Until recently it was only in Japanese and inscrutable to non-Japanese speakers.
In short, it has all the ingredients to make it an inevitable massive hit. Including the most important: a smooth, lounge-jazz soundtrack (the favourite music of all cats). And Neko Atsume delivers with chilled major 7 and 9 chords just crying out for a ukulele cover.
I play this part on a standard C-tuned uke with a capo on the second fret (so it’s the same as D-tuning).
There are a few big jumps up and down the fretboard. It took me a good amount of practice to get them smooth. Also, when you’re leaping up the fretboard remember that the capo means that you actually play two frets higher than indicated (not a problem if you’re using D-tuning, of course).
If you just want to play the melody part, here’s a backing track for you:
If, on the other hand, you want to play the backing part (or you have a friend who does) you’re going to need a baritone ukulele and a mellow, cat-like outlook on life. I highly recommend stealing a few of these chord moves next time you’re looking for a laid-back jazz sound.
One of the pleasant aspects of the ukulele is the nice symmetry between the four strings and your four fingers. But there are very few times in life an extra finger wouldn’t come in handy and for the non-polydactyl amongst us a capo does a pretty good job. And they’re so easy only a moron could get it wrong.
Capos are most useful for changing the key of a song. For example, if the song is in F but you want to play it in G you can put a capo on the second fret and play the chords exactly the same. It can also make a song easier to play. If you’re trying to play a song in Bb you can put a capo on the first fret so now the A shape gives you a Bb.
If you don’t have a capo I’d recommend picking one up. They often come in handy. And it’s not often you get the opportunity to buy a new finger (although there was that time I bought a human toe – long story).
Types of Capo
Capos come in all sorts of weird and wonderful (and batshit crazy) forms. But the three most common forms (from left to right) are:
– Clamp/trigger capo.
– Screw capo.
– Band capo.
Recommended: Clamp/Trigger Capo
This is the type of capo I’d recommend getting for ukuleles. Its big advantage is the variety of sizes of uke it fits. It works on all the ukuleles I own from my baritone to my tiny Kala Pocket Uke sopranino.
– The fastest to put on.
– Secure and no buzzing.
– Fits all sizes of ukulele.
– Tend to be the heaviest of the capos so can off-balance your ukulele.
– If you’re as clumsy as I am you might find it flying out of your hand with a frankly terrifying amount of force. Here’s some footage of the last time it slipped out of my hand.
– Can be a little too firm. If you’re not careful, it can bend the strings out of tune.
Tip: You can mostly avoid the bending problem if you rest the capo against the back of the neck before clamping it down on the strings.
UPDATE: Since writing this post my clamp capo broke. I still recommend this style but go with a less junky brand than I did.
Most of the trigger capos I’ve seen look like the were made in the same Chinese factory and had a logo put on them. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the brand.
This is my favourite type of capo. But I don’t recommend them above trigger capos as they are limited in which ukuleles they fit. Mine works great on my Ohana tenor (which has a thick neck), not so great on smaller ukuleles. If you do get one of these make sure it’ll fit all the ukes you want to use it on.
– Very durable.
– Easy to put on and take off.
– Firmly holds the strings down.
– Very easy to fine tune to suit your uke.
– Won’t fit all ukuleles.
– Usually more expensive.
The big name in these capos is Shubb. Mine’s a Shubb screw capo and I can recommend it on the proviso that you’re sure it’ll fit your uke.
This is one step up from a pen-and-elastic-band capo. The concept is the same: it’s a piece of plastic held on by an elasticated strap.
The capo in the gif is actually for guitar rather than ukulele. I never bothered getting a ukulele one because they’re pretty crappy.
– Very light.
– Cheapest option.
– Fits most sizes of ukulele.
– Complete pain in the arse to put on and take off.
– Least secure. I find I knock it out of place when playing now and then and it does create more buzzes than the other styles.
– The elastic does mean it can fit a bunch of ukuleles but not all of them well.
If you really must.
This is my all time favourite Rolling Stones song. And it’s proved of interest to a few ukulele groups too. Most notably it’s the tune that kicks of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s medley track Melange and Sinfonico Honolulu did a great version.
The song is very straight forward. It consists of just four chords (E, D, A and B). You can just stick with those chords all the way through if you like. But the piano does throw in a few Esus4 chords and I’ve included those as well.
Chord dictionaries can include a few janky versions of Esus4. Here’s the version I like to go with:
An alternative is to use this version of chords throughout the song. If you’re in a group, it’s a good idea to vary the chord inversions to create a fuller sound. Here’s a set of inversions that you can use:
To start of with you can do just one down strum per chord. When it gets going you can use this as the main strum:
d – d – d u d u
The tricky bit comes in the switch between E and Esus4 chord. In those bits play the main strum once then one down strum on E. Then switch to Esus4 for:
d u – u d-
Together they sound like this:
The solo is a decidedly rough around the edges affair but I love it for that. If you want to take a similar approach to it just arm yourself with your E minor pentatonic scale and have at it.
I fancied doing it close to the original and just moved a few bits around to make it ukeable.
Here’s my go at it (with another uke playing the chords underneath):