Whether you’re spending your summer lounging on the beach or – like me – curled up in a darkened room praying for it to end, you’ll need a good book to read. If you’re looking for suggestions here are six great books by ukulele players. Some are ukulele related, some music related, some just excellent reads.
- If you’re looking to fill in on wider Hawaiian history Sarah “off of This American Life” Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes. It’s informative, humorous and occasionally snarky. And it finishes up with a thought provoking comparison of IZ’s take on Over the Rainbow with his Hawai’i ’78.
Charlie Connelly – Our Man in Hibernia: Ireland, the Irish and Me
As well as being a ukulelist and a top bloke Charlie Connelly is one of my favourite authors. If you’re into Bill Bryson’s understated humour and sharp observations you have to check out his books. They’re all great but the account of the move to his ancestral homeland of Ireland Our Man in Hibernia is my fave.
If you’re more into audiobooks then Charlie’s are a no brainer. Most of his books have been adapted for BBC Radio 4′s Book of the Week and Attention All Shipping was voted second best audiobook of all time after Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Her latest book is a biography of Leonard Cohen. She’s been promoting it with performances of Leonard Cohen songs on her uke. Thus becoming the first person in history to do a ukulele cover of Cohen song that isn’t Hallelujah.
After his blues band couldn’t get a gig Mark Wallington took refuge in the one place where musical ability is never a bar to performance: ukulele open mics. The Uke of Wallington tells of his trip around the country playing his uke at every open mic he could find.
This one was also a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. They clearly hold ukulelists in high regard.
Official Wizard of the Strings Roy Smeck was a master of the ukulele and an unsung hero of music. Vincent Cortese sets the record straight with a biography of the great man. Cortese was a student of Smeck so he can offer personal reminiscences as well as a thorough history.
I’m slightly dismayed I managed to miss this when it was released last year. Perhaps I had to wait for the hot weather before I could take the song in. But I’m very glad I did. You should certainly check out their music if you’re digging their modern-day Dexy’s Midnight Runners/Mumfords without rods jammed up their arses thing.
Colours is a lot of fun to play and a very good piece for beginners to play.
The actual strumming pattern on the ukulele is dead simple. It’s just all downstrums:
Anyway, their performance inspired me to have a go at this instrumental piece. I first tried it on standard uke but it didn’t work out. I moved on to low-G with was better. Then I went insane and decided to drag my aNueNue harp ukulele out of deep storage.
The harp strings on the uke are supposed to be tuned C, D, E, F. But I retuned the bottom two to A. One to pluck and the other to give a bit of sympathetic resonance. The sympathetic resonance turned out quite well. You can particularly hear the reverb-like effect at the beginning.
Important: The letters above the tab represent the bass note being played in that bar they’re not the chords.
The strings tabbed are just tuned like a normal low-G. And it’s tabbed in the same key as the original. So if you’re playing a low-G you can just play this tab along with the record or a bass-playing friend.
Standard Tuning Version
To play it with a high-g ukulele you’ll need to move the whole thing up an octave. Here’s a tab for that. This time with the chord names above the tab.
Campaigning against ukuleles in schools: “These taxpayer-supported schools are hell-bent on indoctrinating your innocent, unsuspecting children into the ways of the ukulele, an unholy instrument of Satan.” Couldn’t agree more.