Posts Tagged ‘live performnace’


The Original Ukulele Songs Project

Friday, December 1st, 2017

By Matt Hicks

The Original Ukulele Songs Project - OUSThere’s something strange happening in the ukulele world online. Swathes of ukulele players have joined a very special community that has developed over the last 6 months. The brain child of singer songwriter and front man for The Small Change Diaries, Nick Kemp, the Original Ukulele Songs project was set up to provide an online space for existing ukulele songwriters to showcase their music. But something extra special has occurred. Between the team of Nick Cody, Bianca Brochet and myself who moderate, mentor and encourage and the songwriters who regularly contribute, new aspirational songwriters have joined in the experience. Some people who have never written before tune in to see what its about and then very often begin to put pen to paper themselves.

The facebook OUS page is totally supportive and encouraging to those who want to give it a shot and it has paid dividends to the likes of Harry Parker who says:

“I started to learn guitar and wrote my first song in 1962. That would be an impressive background if I hadn’t given up in 1964 and didn’t think about making and creating music again until 2015 when I retired (a short 51 year break).”

The OUS group works on the idea that good music and songs all come from strong communities and that is essentially what it aspires to create online. Harry has steadily built up his confidence and songwriting ability to the point where his output is deeply appreciated by OUS and ears outside of it.

People are encouraged to join the group with an open mind and a supportive heart. Some come to the group knowing exactly what they want to achieve. Harry says:

“My overarching plan (still is) was a determination to learn to play and sing well (struggling with that but persistent*), write a body of work (*as above) and to make a good quality CD of my music to leave behind for my granddaughter to have always after I’ve gone.”

Having gone some way to achieve that, what is it about the OUS community that has put Harry in the right direction?

“OUS is the most inspiring place for a ukulele player/writer. It’s the first thing I do every day, to check the new song posts (there always is). It’s the most eclectic mix of creative song writing and hearing new stuff all the time really keeps up your own enthusiasm and desire to create. I’ve contributed regularly – too much at first – churning out a new song every couple of days, not the best when I look back but a necessary part of my creative development. What’s great about the group is there’s not a trace of negativity or criticism – just good solid helpful advice, suggestions and thoughtful critique from other members. I’ve collaborated with others a couple of times which really teaches you a lot and improves your writing. More recently, I spend more time tweeking, refining and re-recording before posting and I’m learning about recording and mixing. My contribution, aside from my own songs, is that I listen to EVERY song that’s posted (a few times over if I like them) and if there’s anything I like (and I mean anything) I say so.”

So on any given day you may well here a songs ranging from novices like Harry to well respected professionals such as Victoria Vox who is headlining this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in the UK. The variation is unlike many other pages and this has been compounded by the fact that many of the songwriters are encouraged to collaborate.

This year at the Grand Northern Ukulele festival, I met up with a man called Alan Thornton form the United States for the first time. Despite there being a rather large pond between us, Alan and I have been songwriting together after meeting through the OUS. But we’re not the only collaboration. On the main OUS website you will see countless artists and their collaborations with each other taking establish writers down paths they never expected.
The OUS community sponsored a stage at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in the UK last May, where a select handful of OUS songwriters performed. The Facebook page, the website and the stage all had a global village feel, and we are looking to continue our work with representatives in many different countries from the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

With Love My Ukulele being based in New Zealand, we would be delighted if any songwriters from New Zealand felt they were encouraged by visiting our online page or website and contributing from an already well establish and beautiful New Zealand songwriting tradition.

You can visit the facebook page and join up here.

The website for the OUS is here.

You can get a taste of Matt Hicks’ music here.

Your Microphones and You (P.A. Systems Part 2)

Monday, November 18th, 2013

By Ralph Shaw – Professional Full-time Ukulele Entertainer

Last time, I gave you some basic tips when getting and using your first P.A. Today we’re looking at important choices to be made when purchasing microphones to plug into your P.A.

Before we discuss microphones I feel it is important to first say a few words about:

The Microphone Stand

Tall, thin, silent and elegant; the presence of a microphone on a stand adds focus and gravitas to a performance. Think of the singer who walks out and stands at the microphone. The seemingly inanimate mic. stand, as it is usually called, is a pedestal for an object that makes humans sound like gods. Somehow it draws the audience focus as much as a bright spotlight. For sheer charismatic appeal, a friend of mine, singer/guitarist Josh Minsky, equates the presence of a microphone stand to having a second performer onstage with you. The microphone and its accompanying stand are seldom pondered but they’re as vital to the performers’ stage presence as the costume and the smile. I urge you to consider this phenomenon if you are considering getting a headset microphone. Such a microphone may be suitable for dancers, clowns, evangelists and anyone else who needs to jump around and wave their arms about. But unless you absolutely need to be fully mobile I’d suggest staying with the traditional setup.

The stand can have a weighted base or tripod style with folding legs. I prefer the latter as it’s lighter and easier to store. In order to make room for your ukulele plus strumming arm you’ll want to stand back a little from the stand, so you’ll need a microphone boom (pictured above). This is a rod that attaches to the top of your stand and holds your microphone exactly where you need it. If you’re also using an instrument microphone then you don’t need to buy another stand. You can get a clamp which attaches to your existing stand. The clamp supports a second boom which holds your instrument microphone.

The Vocal Microphone

The industry standard for vocal microphones is the Shure SM58 microphone. It’s the cardioid, dynamic (ice cream cone shaped) microphone you always see performers using. There are better sounding mics in the world but this is a reliable and robust microphone that rarely lets you down. For optimal sound quality you need to sing close to the microphone; say about three or four inches. In other words your mouth needs to maintain a distance from the microphone equivalent to the breadth of a hand. Your body can gyrate all it wants but your head needs to stay still if you don’t want the sound to get louder and quieter.

The Condenser MicrophoneA different way to go is to use a condenser microphone, such as the Shure SM87A. With this microphone the performer, or performers, can stand up to several feet behind the microphone. If you use a condenser microphone to pick up the total sound from both your voice and the ukulele then positioning is very important. The microphone needs to be placed in such a way that the voice and ukulele volumes are in balance. This microphone is more forgiving with movement than the dynamic microphone and the sound quality can be excellent. Sometimes whole bands will stand around a single microphone to play. But it doesn’t work in all situations. Condenser microphones pick up more external sound than you expect, so watch your mouth when you turn away to say things that you think the audience can’t hear. Feedback can also be a problem with these mics. especially in group situations. They also usually require a power supply such as a battery or 48V phantom power (usually supplied by the mixer). Before buying a condenser microphone make sure it’s what you need and that your mixer/amp can supply the phantom power if necessary.

The Instrument MicrophoneIf you want to plug your instrument directly into an amp then your uke needs to have a pickup either built into it or stuck onto it. I will be making another blog post about ukulele pickups soon so keep an eye out here, or better still you can read about all things ukulele and ukulele performance in my book, which you can buy here.Truly though, you’ll usually get a better sound by using an external microphone. Once again the Shure company can claim the most widely used instrument microphone of all. The Shure SM57 invented by Shure engineer Ernie Seeler, is a microphone you can use onstage or in the studio. It shouldn’t let you down, in fact, it’s been used to amplify speeches by every president since its introduction in 1965. Mr Seeler, expected his microphone to be used for classical orchestras. He despised rock music which, ironically, is where his microphone has been most used for the last four decades. There is no word on what he thought of ukuleles.

When buying sound equipment: Remember that being louder does not equate to sounding better. Seek equipment that retains as much of your natural acoustic sound as possible.

ABOUT Ralph Shaw