Jane Cameron- How Ukulele Changed My Life

Some people buy cars, some people sell everything to go sailing around the world but for my money you can’t beat picking up a uke for a mid-life crisis! I first decided to teach myself uke in July 2010, mainly because I was singing with two novice guitarists who kept changing chords at the wrong time – I needed to play some sort of instrument just to keep them on track! But one thing led to another and before I knew it I was obsessed – every spare moment would find me… read more

Source: Jane Cameron- How Ukulele Changed My Life | Spruke

Warren Buffett and his ukulele: The greatest hits

He’s not just full of advice. The man can sing. Sort of. Listen up!

Source: Warren Buffett and his ukulele: The greatest hits – MarketWatch

Strum Blocking – Advanced Technique

Strum Blocking Pic for blog post
In this post we wanted to share with you an advanced ukulele playing technique called strum blocking. Strum blocking is a way of playing single notes with strums. You block off the strings you don’t want to sound so only one note rings.

There are a few advantages to doing this. It makes for a much smoother transition between chords and single notes in terms of tone and in terms of playing. It also gives you much more attack and makes it easier to play quickly.

The first thing you need to get down is how much pressure to put on the strings. You want to rest your hand on the strings hard enough so they don’t ring but soft enough that you’re not fretting them. Test it out by resting your fretting-hand fingers on all the strings and strumming. If you hear a sharp click like the first half of this MP3, you’re doing in right. If you hear some tones coming through like in the second half, press a little harder.

Keep reading the original full tutorial over at UkeHunt.

If you want to see this technique done really well you have to check out James Hill playing Down Rideau Canal.

 

Seven Tips to Make You Want to Practice

Introduced by Jamie Houston. Original Article by Ralph Shaw.

Jamie Houston - Founder of the LOVE MY UKULELE CLUB

Jamie Houston – Founder of Love My Ukulele

Have you ever wondered what question you would ask if you had the chance to ask some of the world’s top ukulele teachers and educators one question? Well recently Ralph Shaw was at Tutti – an annual weekend of ukulele workshops in Langley, British Columbia, hosted by James Hill, and the teachers were asked to provide one practice tip each. Here is some of what was said:

1) Practice for one minute – every day.

2) Keep it fun. Remember it is called PLAYING the ukulele.

3) Really listen to your instrument.

4) Any time can be practice time so keep your instrument/s within easy reach.

5) Get a good instrument.

6) Practice with performance in mind.

7) Consider the future if you fail to practice now.

So if you won’t practice for you, at least do it for the sake of your instrument.

These tips have obviously been abbreviated, so to read the full explanation of each of them and find out which teachers put them forward, please click here for the original and full article on Ralph Shaw’s Blog.

About Ralph Shaw

Alfredo Impromptu

Thanks so much to Alfredo Canopin Sr and his wife Jovina for recording and sharing this video of Alfredo performing The Shadow of Your Smile with us. His beautiful chord melody style of playing is just beautiful and he plays with such feeling. Why not leave him a comment if you enjoy his performance 🙂

Ten Tips to Write Better Songs (Part 2 of 2)

By Ralph Shaw

Last time I gave you the first five of ten things you can do to improve your songwriting.

Here are the final five tips to help you master melody manipulation and wonderful word weaving:

6) Write From a Place of Emotion.

A good place to start is by writing your song from a place of strong feeling (although it’s not a prerequisite, volumes of wonderful music have come out of emotionally neutral states.) I find that writing from your gut has a way of clarifying the thought processes. However it is quite possible, even likely, that the message the audience hears may have nothing to do with the original intent of the writing. When Chris Difford of 1970s band Squeeze wrote Tempted by the Fruit of Another he was writing about his discovery that their bass player had been approached by another band. Listening to the song you just assume it’s his girlfriend who has been tempted to leave. Howard Kaylan, of the 1960s band The Turtles, wrote Elenore with deliberately flawed lyrics as a way to get back at his record company’s demands for “another Happy Together,” their previous hit. However such inept lines as: You got a thing about you and You are my pride and joy etcetera (who uses etcetera in a song?) came across as heartfelt expressions of teenage exuberance and the record buyers loved it.

Another example is one of my own songs: Movie Stars, High Rollers and Big Shakers which began life as an emotional rant about an aborted Las Vegas performance possibility. I was happy with the chords and tune but the lyrics of the song made it unsuitable for every occasion. On the suggestion of another songwriter I rewrote the lyrics to be about a failed Las Vegas marriage and then the song came together. Do yourself (and me) a favour and get the song from iTunes: for just one dollar you’ll experience a rip-roaring and smile inducing musical ride accompanied by the superb trumpet of Bria Skonberg.

7) Simplicity is King.

Remember when you first felt joy? Or love, curiosity, sadness, playfulness, jealousy, laughter and rage. Probably not, since those moments happened early in your childhood. What was the state of your vocabulary at that time? I’m betting it wasn’t full of words like verbosity, erudition and loquaciousness. Our fundamental emotions are connected to simple ideas that are expressed best through short and childish words. Laugh, fun, like, love, blue, bird, sky, happy and now, tend to work better than their hoity-toity counterparts: hilarity, enjoyment, comparable, endearment, azure, feathered creature, firmament, contented and presently. The same goes for your melodies: beautiful and uncomplicated tunes will connect best with most listeners (although sadly, with a century of copyrighted song already behind us, the best tunes have pretty much all been taken.)

8) Declutter Your Song.

It’s distressing to cull those beloved verses that once meant so much and may have taken hours to complete. But if they no longer serve the song then you have to let them go. You’ll know you’ve done the right thing if you feel lighter and better off for having eliminated the excess. It’s like decluttering your home of junk. Songwriting doesn’t reward pack-rats and hoarders. Know specifically what your song is about and make every lyric serve the main message of the song. Watch for unnecessary repetition. If there are lines being sung more than once, ask yourself for what purpose. Repetition can be a powerful way to hammer a message home or it can be a powerful way to induce boredom.

9) Don’t Quit Till It’s Done and Know When to Quit.

One of the greatest mistakes new songwriters make is in thinking their song is complete when there is clearly much work still to do. I’m not the only one to have grimaced while listening to some expensively produced drivel from a singer-songwriter who has gone ahead and recorded a song that still sounds like a first draft. When you think your song is finished keep playing it to yourself. Be hyper-alert for any line or verse that gives you a small but uncomfortable feeling of something not quite right. Be ultra-vigilant for melodic lines that sound like they could have come from any one of a thousand songs. Get super-critical of parts that niggle. Ruthlessly hunt down awkward phrases and make whatever changes necessary. But leave the good stuff alone! Many music and lyric choices don’t make intellectual sense, they just feel right. Develop the wisdom to know the moment when there’s nothing left to add or cut: that’s when your song is finished.

10) Creativity Works like a Muscle.

Make a habit of creativity and exercise it often. Know that much of what you create, especially in the beginning, will probably never be worthy of performance, but that’s okay. It’s more important that you do something. Make songs that take the listener on a journey. Figure out how chords and melodies create tension and release. And craft your song to include those climactic moments. The best way to learn is by actively listening to other people’s songs; memorize them, dissect and analyze them, and thereby become a more effective self-critic.

© Ralph Shaw 2014

See original article here

About Ralph Shaw

Ten Tips to Write Better Songs (Part 1 of 2)

By Ralph Shaw

Today I offer five songwriting tips to help lift your lyrics and make new and mesmerizing melodies.

When a fan of my albums Love and Laughter wrote to tell me that he appreciates my “clever songwriting and wordplay that reward close and repeated listenings” he endeared himself to me in two ways: first he proved there are still some people who engage in active listening and second that there are those who pay close attention to the art of songwriting.

There’s no magic recipe book for manufacturing hits. And it’s a good thing too, for great songs usually contain an element of the unexpected, some surprise to delight our ears. But inventing sweet surprises; that’s the tough part. There is no map for finding serendipity; we can only hope to be in the right place at the right time and to recognize it when it visits. But, despite music’s ability to make our spirits soar, songwriting is still a down to earth craft. And many elements of that craft can be learned and mastered. What makes a well-crafted song and how do we go about writing one?

Here are five of my ten ways to write better songs.

1) Grab the Ephemeral.
Create space for song ideas to come by removing obstructions to your daydreams. Everyone has their own way to do this, find yours: sit in an empty room, travel, meet people, sit up all night, go for a walk, wake up early. Whatever works for you is what you need to do. Make sure you have some means to record song ideas and have the sense of purpose to grab voice recorder or pen no matter how inconvenient the circumstance. Be conscious and aware of your own sense of creation.

2) Write Lots, Edit Later.
Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are highly regarded as wordsmiths par excellence. But their work style differs in that Dylan would often complete songs in a short period of time (hours or days) whereas Cohen might spend years perfecting his lyrics. But both share the technique of writing more verses than would appear in their final work. Both knew better than to accept the first ideas as being the final product. Only by pushing further will you accumulate the material from which you can choose the very best.

3) Which Comes First – Melody or Lyrics?
The overriding philosophy amongst tin-pan-alley songwriters was, “melody first, then lyrics” and it was held for good reason. It’s important to remember that song lyrics are not poetry. They die or fly depending on the melodic wings with which they are bestowed. The less intellectual nature of music makes it far likelier that perfect words will be inspired by a melody rather than the other way round. When a melody is grafted onto a lyric the tune tends to be uninspired and intellectually driven. But as with any general rule there are notable exceptions: Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern wrote their 1937 Oscar winning song The Way You Look Tonight with lyrics first. And classically trained Elton John formed his greatest songs by putting tunes to Bernie Taupin’s lyrics.

4) Try Chords First.
A favourite way I have of writing songs is to look for a chord progression and rhythmic feel that pleases me. If you get those things right then you have a better chance of laying a decent melody and lyrics on top. It’s also possible that words and melody originate together in a leap-frogging sort of situation.

5) Let the Song Tell You What it Needs
Do learn from your predecessors, but know when to go with your instincts. Don’t add extra verses or a solo because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. A song can be shorter or longer than what you consider “normal” and may contain other elements deemed eccentric. Remember the “hook” of a song (some unique quirk that makes the song stand out in a good way) is always different from the run of the mill. Do what the song demands.

Next time: Five more tips to help you write better songs!

© Ralph Shaw 2014

See original article here

About Ralph Shaw

How To Lead A Great Ukulele Jam

By Jim D’Ville

As the popularity of the ukulele grows, so does the number of ukulele groups and jam sessions. How to make yours better than average? In this article Jim D’Ville shares practical tips that EVERY jammer and jam leader should know!

Ukulele Jam

This article is in C6 tuning (g, c, e, a).

Introduction

Join the ukulele revolution and after an incredibly short learning curve you are ready to jam! Yes, the jam session, crown jewel of the phenomenon known as the ukulele club. But how does one go about facilitating an “interesting” jam, not one in which people sit stone-faced like Easter Island statues staring at their music and strumming in a rhythmically mono-syllabic down-up-down-up pattern with the musicality of someone dribbling a basketball?

Get The Group In Tune

If you want your jam session to sound good from the very first note, get the group in tune. Have everyone tune-up their ukuleles, then have the group tune their ears and voices. I use an A-440 tuning fork to accomplish this (since the first string on the ukulele in C tuning is tuned to A). Strike the A fork on your knee and place it on your uke. Hum the resulting A tone. Get the group to join the hum fest. At this point you can introduce the concept of playing together in time. Strike the fork again, place it on your uke and count off 3-4-1 (4/4 time-four beats per measure). On the 1, get everyone to loudly sing: “AAAAAAAAAAAA!” In a group setting, this usually comes out sounding pretty good.

How does one go about facilitating an “interesting” jam, not one in which people [strum] with the musicality of someone dribbling a basketball?

To read the complete article in full click here to go to James Hills’ www.ukuleleyes.com website

The headings in the rest of this brilliant article are as follows:

  • Use The Numbers
  • Choosing The Right Songs – One-chord Wonders
  • Scrap the Sheet Music
  • Move Up To Three Chords!
  • Call-and-response
  • The Blues
  • Create Simple Arrangements
  • Get Some Harmony Going
  • Playing In Different Keys
  • Bring Everyone Along

 

Care and Feeding of Your Ukulele

By Gordon and Char Mayer

From buzzing and broken tuners to storage and re-stringing, Gordon and Char Mayer take you through the essentials of ukulele maintenance and DIY repair.

Introduction
We’re Gordon and Char Mayer, otherwise known as Mya-Moe Ukuleles. In this article we’re going to cover three things:

1. how to take care of your ukulele
2. how to fix some common issues
3. how to recognize problems that are best left to a professional.

Restringing your uke headstock image

Most importantly, you bought your ukulele to play it. It is made to be used. In fact, a strong argument can be made that playing it will keep it in better condition. If you keep it in a case, then you likely won’t play it much; strange, but the very act of getting up out of your chair and opening the case is often too much of a barrier. Better to keep it on a wall hanger or floor stand where you can just pick it up and pluck it if only for a minute or two. Just don’t put it in a place where it receives direct sunlight (more on this later).

To read more please click here to see the original and full article on James Hills’ www.ukuleleyes.com website.

It is a very useful resource that we highly recommend you take some time to read. The sections are as follows:

  • Cases, stands and transportation
  • Heat and humidity
  • Care of the finish
  • Re-stringing and changing from a high 4th to a low 4th
  • Intonation
  • Buzzing
  • Sharp Fret Ends
  • Broken or loose tuner
  • Other issues
  • Summary

We encourage instrument owners to play and enjoy their instrument. It doesn’t need to be handled like an egg, but following some common sense measures will help to minimize problems.
Re-stringing your instrument is the best thing you can do for its tone; this often fixes apparent buzzing and intonation problems that have crept up as well. You should be putting on new strings about every 3 months. When you do, you’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes.

 

New Ukulele T-Shirt Has Companion Song

Following the launch of our latest Limited Edition T-Shirt titled “UKES NOT NUKES!”,  we were sent a link to this great song by one of our members and prolific singer/songwriter Mookx Hanley of Byron Bay, Australia. We think it is very cool that he already has written a song that embodies the spirit in which we designed this cool t-shirt.

You can listen to his song by clicking the play button below…

And if you want to get your very own “UKES NOT NUKES!” T-Shirt to wear, click the shirt below for all the details. But make sure you do it NOW as this Limited Edition design, available in 4 eye-catching awesome colours, is only available until March 27th.

Ukes Not Nukes Limited Edition T-Shirt Image

Now the way the T-Shirt works is that we must hit our goal of 40 tees before they get printed. So if on the end date (March 27th) we have hit target then your credit card will be charged, the shirts will be printed and posted out all over the world. If, however we don’t hit target, no one will be charged and no one will get their tees. So let’s get ordering and we can all enjoy wearing them.! 🙂 They can be sent just about anywhere in the world, and if you combine your order with a friend or with your uke club members, you can save heaps on shipping costs.

We are hoping this tee will bring about world peace in no time LOL! Click here to get yours now!

These T-Shirt sales allow us the budget to keep the Love My Ukulele community alive.