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’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.
I’m a big fan of Uke of Carl’s arrangements of various theme tunes for ukulele. A while back I had him write a guest post with a bunch of his tabs. Now’s he’s launched his own website and a series of ebooks so I asked him to write another guest post. And he was kind enough to do just that.
I didn’t begin life as a Ukulele player. I started off on the guitar, and like many have, gravitated toward the Uke. Despite being a metal head at heart, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the Spanish guitar sound. One day I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Julio S, Sagreras Guitar Method and it changed the way I looked at the instrument. For this book, I’ve taken a few of his exercises and tried to do something new with them. I’ve changed some keys to be more Uke friendly, played around with the time signatures and chopped them up so they are almost entirely new pieces.
This book is suited to the beginner who is up for a challenge and for the more advanced player looking to add further tunes to their repertoire.
Example MP3 - Leccion 81
Example TAB - Leccion 5/2 (Original)
This one was tricky begin with, as there are so many great Classical pieces to choose from. However, I scoured my library and carefully picked 8 pieces which I then adapted for the Uke. Classical guitarists will be familiar with many of these pieces but even if you haven’t heard them before, you’ll find them pleasing to the ear. It’s a well paced book which begins with some simple pieces and develops into something a little more challenging.
Example MP3 - Etude-Op.44-No.2-Fernando-Sor
Example TAB – Op.60 No.1 – Sor – Campanella
This is the perfect compliment to book one. It features a further 8 pieces of varying levels. I’ve kept it quite diverse with regard to composers and have chosen memorable pieces from, amongst others, Sor, Giuliani, Carulli and Tarrega. These pieces will really test your playing skills and will serve as ideal party pieces once you master them.
Example MP3 - Andantino – Carcassi
Example TAB - Andantino – Carcassi
There’s something about Jewish music and, in particular, Klezmer that gets me excited. I play a lot of it on my Clarinet and when I scoured the web for Ukulele pieces, I found very few. That’s when the idea for this book came to me. It was a pleasure researching this one. As well as the obvious, ‘Hava Nagila’, I’ve included ‘Hatikvah’ ‘Dance of Delight’ and ‘Ez Pachach’, which is my own composition. You’ll have great fun with this book. There are some challenges but even a beginner will be able to play through some of the pieces.
Example MP3 - Hatikvah
Example TAB - Hatikvah – The National Anthem of Israel
Hopefully there’s plenty to choose from here and you might find something you’ve not tried before. Make sure you subscribe to my site for future updates. I have a couple of more books in the works and have only just finished the tab for ‘Mr. Benn’ and ‘Duck Tales’, which will appear very soon.
Thanks to Al for this opportunity. Without his encouragement I wouldn’t have had half the publicity I’ve had. Also thanks for the inspiration. When I first saw this, I thought, ‘It can be done!’ and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen this.
So transferring the site turned out to be something of a disaster. If you emailed me on Tuesday/Wednesday (including about the podcast) there’s a good chance I didn’t get your email. So I’m not blanking you, just email again. Some comments are currently missing – I’m trying to recover them. And if you missed it you might want to find out more about the upcoming Uke Hunt podcast. At least the site is up more often than Twitter.
The story to go along with last week’s flapper drawing. Along with the evolution of a ukulele.
Craig Robertson has the most accurate theory about the ukulele.
Tri-Tabs has a bunch of new tabs for beginners.
Leona Lewis and Matthew Morrison (off of of Glee) do a ukulele duet) and John Hawkes (off of of Lost and Deadwood) records a ukulele song for the soundtrack of his latest film.
The Daily Growl is offering up a couple of mp3s from Meursault.
The Ukulele for Sale is slowly winding up and is selling off his stock as cheap as he’s allowed to. Jason has also announced a competition to win a Kala Brand Mahogany Tenor (or a Lehua Soprano if you prefer). You can find out how to enter right here. He himself wins the prize of first person to bribe me. He’s offered me some stuff from his site which I’ll be giving away (if I can bear to jump on the bandwagon). Stay tuned for details.
James Hill is launching a new e-zine called Ukulele, Yes!. You can sign up for it on Ukulele in the Classroom (although I haven’t been able to get it to work or get any reply to email).
I’m not much of a festival goer, but I’m in serious danger of going to this year’s IndieTracks festival. It features a bunch of my favourite uke acts: The Bobby McGees (download one of their tracks here), ‘Allo Darlin’ (formerly The Darlings), Darren Hayman and MJ Hibbett (who seems to have been barred from the festival itself but has found a work around). Also on are The Wedding Present, Ballboy, Los Campesinos and a whole mess of bands I’m nowhere near hip enough to have heard of.
John Mayer’s Heart of Life on Uker Tabs. Thanks to Nelson.
Guess which song is being played on the uke by The Wikimen on Spicks and Specks.
Other festival news: Latitude has Learn to Play Ukulele in Under an Hour. It’s a comedy sketch show/ukulele lesson with Sam Brown (not Sam Brown daughter of Joe Brown), Donal Coonan (This Is A Knife) and Sally Phillips (Green Wing, Smack the Pony). Ukuleles will be provided.
Ukulele mp3s: The Richwoods have a bunch of top ukulele mp3s on their listen page, a ukulele protest song over newsreader Wendy Chioji, Dr Forrest has the Rutles’ My Little Ukulele and Ivor Biggun’s Formby take off (click the dancing cheese).
KoAloha’s blog. Not much there as yet. And I have no idea why they went with blogspot.
Ukulele in Waking Life (thanks to Minamin).
Ukulele quiz… erm… in Norwegian.
Ukulele Song [yoo-kuh-lay-lee song; Hawaiian. oo-koo-lay-lay song] -noun
1. A song primarily associated with the ukulele.
2. A song everyone tells you to play when they find out you’re a ukelelist.
There are certain songs that will be forever associated with the ukulele. Occasionally, these were written for the ukulele. But, more often than not, they are songs that have been taken and performed so memorably on the uke that it will be thought of as a ukulele song from that day on. This is a list of those ukulele songs that no uker can get away from.
Tonight You Belong to Me
Written by: Billy Rose and Lee David in 1926.
Essential version: Lyle Ritz, Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters. Watch the video.
Tonight You Belong to Me was written in the heyday of the ukulele, but it wasn’t until the song was used in the film The Jerk that it became almost exclusively associated with the ukulele. Although Steve Martin does a good job with the miming, the uke is provided by jazz ukulele legend Lyle Ritz.
You’ll find endless ukulele covers of this song on ukulele including versions from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder with Sleater Kinney’s Janet Weiss and Cathy and Sarah Lee Guthrie (Cathy Guthrie also recorded a version as part of Folk Uke).
You can learn the chords to Tonight You Belong to Me from ukulele chanteuse Janet Klein and find a solo version in Jumpin Jim’s Ukulele Masters : Lyle Ritz. And here’s my transcription of the Jerk version Tonight You Belong to Me Ukulele Chords.
Written by: Gus Kahn and Richard Whiting in 1925.
In the 1910′s and 20′s, Hawaii was all the rage. Songwriters, never being slow to let a bandwagon passed un-jumped-upon, aped the Hawaiian sound and filled songs with references to an idealised Hawaii (this came to be known as Hapa Haole). Obviously, this included many ukuleles with songs like Ukulele Moon and Ukulele Island. But, moons and islands couldn’t match the appeal of ukulele ladies.
An early version of Ukulele Lady was recorded by Vaughn De Leath. Since then it has become a favourite of people wanting to conjure up a bit of Hawaiian exotica and has been covered by Bette Midler and Kermit the Frog. Of course, it’s become a must-play for ukesters and you can watch top-notch versions by Howlin’ Hobbit and Victoria Vox. But, somehow, Petty Booka’s kitsch version of the song seems be stuck in my head permanently (you can listen to a clip via their website).
Tip-Toe Through the Tulips
Written by: Joe Burke and Al Dubin in 1929.
Essential version: Tiny Tim Watch the video
Tiny Tim, I think it’s fair to say, is not universally popular amongst ukulele players. His warbling, falsetto voice and camp, novelty act pretty much killed off the popularity of the ukulele for the best part of a quarter of a century. Even so, he is one of the first players people think of when considering the ukulele. To his credit, he was responsible for rescuing a number of fantastic old songs and claiming them for the uke. None more so than Tiptoe Through the Tulips.
I’ll See You In My Dreams
Written by: Gus Kahn and Isham Jones in 1924.
Essential version: Joe Brown at the George Harrison Memorial Concert. Watch the Video.
This song was first claimed for the ukulele by Cliff ‘Ukulele Ike’ Edwards. You can listen to his version here. When Joe Brown performed it at the George Harrison Memorial Concert, he stole the show and the song. George himself was a big-time ukelelist and member of the George Formby Society and also prompted a ukulele tribute from Paul McCartney. Ingrid Michealson also did a fine ukulele version on her album Slow the Rain which you can hear on Last.fm.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Written by: Harold Arlen and Yip Harbury in 1939
Essential version: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Watch the video.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow is the latest song to enter the ukulele canon. As far as I’m aware, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is the first person to release a ukulele version of the song. But since he did, the song has become a ukulele staple.
It has come to greater public attention thanks to its regular use in film and TV (including 50 First Dates and Meet Joe Black). It has also been covered on ukulele by Jason Castro on American Idol and Ted’s group The Blanks on Scrubs.
You can find the chords to Jason Castro’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Dominator has tab of Britt Paiva’s solo version.
When I’m Cleaning Windows
Written by: George Formby, Harry Gifford and Frederick E. Cliffe in 1936.
Essential version: George Formby. Watch the video.
In the UK, the ukulele is almost synonymous with George Formby. It’s very rare that the ukulele gets a mention in the mainstream media without someone dropping the F-bomb. However, he wasn’t a traditional uke player, but a banjolele player.
Like many Formby songs, it has some light innuendo. Unbelievably by today’s standards, this song was banned by the BBC until Formby’s immense popularity during the Second World War forced a climbdown.
Formby acolytes are a particular subset of ukulele players, but those that like him love him. You’ll find many note for note recreations of his solos on YouTube. You’ll also find version of this song by Peter Sellers and Patrick Stewart on Family Guy.
Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Girl?)
Written by: Joe Young, Sam Lewis, Ray Henderson
Five Foot Two might be the perfect ukulele song. It rips along at a rocking tempo, the chords flow perfectly (you can find them on Dr Uke) and the words are ripe for parody. There are at least two Eight Foot Twos: Allan Sherman’s ode to an alien (as covered by Craig Robertson) and Mary Anne McTrowe’s Bigfoot love song.
Ain’t She Sweet
Written by: Milton Ager and Jack Yellen in 1927
There are plenty of great ukulele versions of this on YouTube including GUGUG, Tommy Mattiniero and Winin’ Boys. A uke version of the song even got a perfect score on the Gong Show. But watching The Beatles play it on the lawn can’t be beaten.
Ain’t She Sweet is another song that fits perfectly on the uke. Not surprising since it’s very similar to Five Foot Two. In fact, the two songs are often mashed up as Dan ‘Cool Hand Uke’ Scanlan does in his instructional video. (Suggested by Nina Coquina).
Written by: Queen Lili’uokalani in 1877.
Certainly the best known Hawaiian song and a ukulele staple which has reached a new generation after its use by Lilo and Stitch.
You can read notes on the song and the song sheet on Nalu Music.
Written by: Jason Mraz
No matter what people tell you, there’s no ukulele in Jason Mraz’s original version (although there is one in the video) but the laid-back island vibes appealed to many ukulele players and the tune became on of the most covered on YouTube. So much so it created a rash of parodies such as this one by Mary-Anne McTrowe.
But, with a view count comfortably into eight figures, this version by an itchy-faced little boy is the most well known.
Hey, Soul Sister
Written by: Train
Train’s Hey, Soul Sister was a massive hit single and has caused huge amounts of people to rush out and buy a ukulele (and subsequently put their version up on YouTube).
Of course, as well as songs, the ukulele is associated with plenty of solo, instrumental pieces. You can read about those here: ukulele music.
You can do likewise with these chords for Hey, Soul Sister.
Let me know if you think I’ve missed out one of the essential ukulele songs.
Jake Shimabukuro and his haircut appear on Conan O’Brien. Is Conan gargantuan or is Jake the size of an Action Man?
The Paris Uke Fest will be taking place on the 30th and 31st May. The lineup includes Victoria Vox and Michael Wagner.
You already know that weePop! is my favourite record label, but now they’ve become my even favouriter. They’ve got new releases from Jacob Borshard and One Happy Island. I’m sure you’ve already downloaded and fallen in love with Jacob Borshard’s two albums. You can check out a track from One Happy Island on Logical Logic.
An excellent piece on the ukulele in The Guardian. Which is what you’d expect as it’s written by Rock That Uke director William Preston Robertson. “Yes, there are other instruments with greater range, but none that can exist so innocently, so vulnerably, so fearlessly and precisely in that duality of time and space that is both joy and sorrow as can the ukulele.”
The Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson plays the ukulele to Paul McCartney at the Brit Awards.
More from Trixie Tangway the ukulele sweetheart (a.k.a. Kristen Schaal off of Flight of the Conchords). She even picks up a ukulele this time.
Can you guess what the hell Shaun Keaveny off of BBC 6 Music’s Breakfast Show is playing on his flying V ukulele? Beats me.
iWantUkeTunes. I stumbled upon this this site today and I’m not quite sure what to make of this site yet. It lets you search for free ukulele mp3s, but it seems to spit out the same few songs whatever you search for. I’m guessing it’s in early stages of development. My advice: do a blank search and pick up any mp3s that take your fancy.
I’ve been working my way through the archives of Amoeba Music’s in-store perfomances. There are some rollockingly good videos (and there’s a live webcast with Kimya Dawson tonight). On the uke front, they have Uni and Her Ukulele.
Message from Stephin Merritt: Don’t play the ukulele, it’s too dangerous.
Uke Hunt is worth $27,662.46. That seems fantastically unlikely.
I’ve just released a brand new ebook called, “Ukulele 101: 101 Things Every Ukulele Player Needs to Know.”
When I’ve been looking through beginners ukulele books, I’ve always been a little frustrated about the things they leave out. They teach you to strum and play a few chords, maybe play a nursery rhyme or too, but leave out so many things. These might not be about physically playing songs on the ukulele, but are essential knowledge for people wanting to get the most out of the ukulele such as which ukulele to buy, how to look after it, the best ways to practice. In particular, books rarely even mention all the ukulele related resources that are online.
Ukulele 101 is intended as kind of a Ukulele Beginners Book 2.0. It fills in the blanks that other books leave.
Some of the information in the book has been rejigged from posts on my blog (and some of it will turn up there in future) so if you want a taste of the book, check out my how to read tab series.
The book answers a hundred and one questions (questions people have asked me, questions that often crop up in forums etc.), these questions, to be exact:
Buying a Ukulele
1. Where should I buy a ukulele?
2. Which Size Ukulele Should I Buy?
3. How Much Should I Spend?
4. What’s the best ukulele for under $50?
5. What’s the best ukulele for under $100?
6. What should I bear in mind when buying on eBay?
7. What sort of wood should a ukulele be?
8. I’m left-handed, do I need to buy a left handed ukulele?
9. What’s better geared or friction tuners?
10. Should I buy a banjo ukulele?
11. Should I buy an electric ukulele?
12. What’s a ‘low-G’ ukulele and should I buy one?
13. Does it matter what strings I use?
14. Which strings should I buy?
15. How do I replace strings?
16. How often should I replace strings?
17. Do I need different strings for different sizes of ukulele?
18. Do I need different strings for C-tuning and D-tuning?
19. Can I use guitar/mandolin/banjo strings on a ukulele?
20. How do I make strings last longer?
21. Where can I find tab and chords online?
22. Where can I learn chord shapes online?
23. Where can I find ukulele lessons and tutorials online?
24. What ukulele forums are there online?
25. Where can I hear ukulele music online?
26. How can I pick up a bargain on eBay?
27.What ukulele blogs are there?
28. Which YouTube channels should I be watching?
29. Where else can I find ukulele videos?
Making A Good Sound
30. How can I hear how I sound?
31. How should I hold the ukulele?
32. Where should I strum?
33. Can I use a guitar pick?
34. How can I look after my uke?
35. Why won’t my ukulele stay in tune?
36. What should I wear when I’m playing the ukulele?
37. What’s the best portable recorder?
38. What microphone should I get?
39. What software should I use?
40. How far from the mic should I be?
41. How can I put my music on the internet?
42. How can I sell my music on the internet?
Fonts, Software and Other Downloads
43. How can I put ukulele chord charts in word processing documents?
44. How can I make my own ukulele tabs?
45. How can I get in tune with my computer?
46. Where can I get a metronome online?
47. How can I improve my ear?
48. Where can I get ukulele icons?
Adjusting Your Ukulele
49. That sounds scary, should I do it?
50. What is intonation?
51. How can I measure how good my ukulele’s intonation is?
52. How can I improve my ukulele’s intonation?
53. How can I stop my ukulele buzzing?
54. How can I plug my ukulele into an amplifier?
55. Do I need to buy a tuner?
56. What’s a capo?
57. Do I need a strap?
58. Can I play the ukulele with a guitar pick?
59. Should I buy a metronome?
60. How often should I practice?
61. Do I need to warm up?
62. What’s the most important thing when practicing?
63. How can I play faster?
64. Do I need to use a metronome when I practice?
65. How do you read ukulele chord charts?
66. Why are there different chord shapes for the same chord?
Tab and Techniques
67. How are strings tabbed?
68. How are notes tabbed?
69. How is a sequence of notes tabbed?
70. How are notes that are played simultaneously tabbed?
71. How are chords tabbed?
72. How are strums tabbed?
73. How are rhythms shown?
74. How is rhythm shown in tab?
75. What are bars/measures?
76. How is fretting hand fingering shown?
77. How is picking hand fingering shown?
78. How are repeats tabbed?
79. What are tremolo strums and how are they tabbed?
80. How are rasguados played?
81. How do you play dotted notes?
82. How do you play tied notes?
83. What are triplets?
84. What is swing time?
85. How do you play hammer-ons?
86. How do you play pull-offs?
87. Can hammer-ons and pull-offs be used together?
88. How do you play slides?
89. How are shift slides different from normal slides?
90. How are slides into and out of a note tabbed?
91. What are all those crazy squiggles on the tab?
92. How are accented notes shown?
93. How do you make dead notes?
94. How do you play trills?
95. How do you produce vibrato?
96. What are grace notes?
97. How do you bend a note?
Easier Chords and Chord Changes
98. What’s the easiest way to play a D chord?
99. What’s the easiest way to play an E chord?
100. What’s the easiest way to change from F to Fm?
101. Your own question.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain‘s latest album, Precious Little, contains a version of this song (made famous by Nancy Sinatra’s version on the Kill Bill Soundtrack) but they’re not the first to do it on the uke. Former Miss France, Mareva Galanter did a ukulele version on her Ukuyeye album (which combined two of my musical loves that I never thought I’d see together) she also has the only flash website so cool it doesn’t make me run away and look at a blank sheet of paper for half an hour.
Ukulele Boogaloo has the chords and tab for the intro but the way they’ve written up the intro strikes me as crazy. It makes more sense to play it this way:
At the start of the intro bar your index finger across the third fret and leave it there until bar 4. Let as many notes as possible ring into each other – to recreate the sound of the original. The notes in brackets are ‘ghost notes’ i.e. played more softly than the others. These aren’t fully part of the tune but help to support it – it’s your choice whether to play them or not.
(that must be the first time I’ve anything cheaper in the UK than in the US)