Posts Tagged ‘teaching’


Strum Blocking – Advanced Technique

Friday, December 19th, 2014

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

Monday, October 20th, 2014

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, and unfortunately Ralph has removed the original blog post so we can no longer link you to his original post 🙁

About Ralph Shaw

How To Lead A Great Ukulele Jam

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

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

 

It’s Only Rock’n’Roll – Yet It Moves People

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

By Cliff Adams.

It’s only rock and roll… yet it moves people since… well, name your year between 1942 and 1954. One of the classic rock backgrounds is what can be called the Chuck Berry rhythm. My example will be in the key of C. But bear in mind it can be transposed to any key (and was originally played in another key).

Chuck Berry CD Cover

“Johnny B. Goode” gives us a fine example of an easy Chuck Berry rhythm for the ukulele. It is a simplified 12-bar blues progression: four bars of C, two bars of F, two bars of C, two bars of G, two bars of C. His rhythm has an eight beat swing feel. If you strum each measure with a syncopated down then a quick up motion each quarter note, you get eight beats to every bar.

C C6In this song, Berry emphasizes the third beat of every four. So with eight beats to each measure the strum is: one and TWO and three and FOUR and…, a true back-beat. He not only strums those two beats more loudly, but on them he raises the fifth (of each chord) to the sixth. In a C chord, that fifth is the G note, so he raises the lowest G to an A. If you strum a first position C chord, you play the fourth, third, and second strings open, and fret the first string on the third fret: G, C, E, C. If you fret that third fret with your ring finger, it is easy to place your middle finger on the second fret of the G string to raise it to an A.

F F6Moving the progression to the F chord, in the open position, place your middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string, play the third string open, fret the second string with your index finger on the first fret, and play the first string open: A, C, F, A. The fifth of an F chord is the C, so on that back beat, it needs to raise to a D. If on that strum you place your ring finger on the second fret of the third string, the C raises to a D, the sixth in an F chord. Strum those two measures the same way you strummed the opening four bars of C.

G G6The two bars of G chord offers two easy solutions for this strum. In a G chord, the fifth is a D, so it will need to raise to an E, the sixth of a G chord. If you play the first position G chord with an open fourth string, your index finger fretting the third string on the second fret, the second string fretted on the third fret with your ring finger, and the first string fretted on the second fret by your middle finger, you get G, D, G, B. To raise the D to an E, you can either lift your ring finger off the second string which allows it to play as an open E string, or place your little finger on the fourth fret of the third string raising the D to an E. The first way is easier, but unlike the way you have been strumming the C and F chords, you keep the fifth note of the chord in addition to the sixth, rather than just raising it and eliminating it. Either will work, but the little finger on the fourth fret of the third string is my favorite rock way of playing rock and roll on an ukulele.

Go Johnny go!

ABOUT Cliff Adams

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

Your First P.A. System – Part 1

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

By Ralph Shaw – Professional Full-time Ukulele Entertainer

controls for an AER amplifier

If you’ve been playing for a while you may be getting to the point where you need to supply your own Public Address system, or P.A. This can be a daunting prospect if knobs, buttons and blinking lights generate a cold sweat. Today some help from one non-techie (that’s me) to another (that would be you.) on using a basic P.A.

Being at the mercy of other people’s bad sound systems can be funny but is rarely fun. A friend of mine Paul Latta runs a Las Vegas style Polynesian dance company. His tales of bad PAs that his clients have supplied (usually to avoid renting professional sound gear) are quite hilarious. My favourite is the time he arrived at a gig and the client handed him a childs’ my first Sony CD player. In order to avoid such situations it can be beneficial to get your own gear.

 

What Is a PA Exactly?

PA, Sound System and Amp are fairly interchangeable terms meaning: equipment that makes you louder.

 

PA’s/Sound Systems can have multiple components including: microphones, a mixer, an amplifier, monitor speakers and main speakers which all connect by cables. You don’t really need all that stuff. An Amp (shorthand for amplifier, but it also includes a speaker and inputs for a couple of microphones) is a single device that does the job.

 

What Do I Need?

Think about your requirements. The average ukulele entertainer needs a P.A. that is:

–       Loud enough to be heard at most of the gigs you expect to be doing.

–       As natural sounding as possible. What comes out of the speaker should be like your acoustic sound only louder.

–       Reasonably portable. Think about how you travel to gigs. Will it fit in your vehicle? Can it be carried by bike, bus or on the plane?

–       Reasonably priced. Generally, the more you pay the better you sound.

–       Simple to use. Forget any piece of equipment that is so complex you feel you need a Masters degree in acoustic sciences to work it.

 

What’s Available?

The good news is that many PA companies now sell portable amps tailor-made for independent small-scale performers. Just plug in your microphones, adjust the sound controls and sing. They require little expertise, are reasonably priced and sometimes have a built-in battery for outdoor gigs where no electricity is available.

 

How Much Should I Spend?

An “okay” sounding amp can cost two or three hundred dollars. That was my budget twelve years ago when I went shopping for an amp at my local music shop. Rob, the owner, insisted on showing me an amp that had just come in (German-made by AER) it could be lifted with one hand. The sound was clean and powerful and without distortion at loud volume. It was also five times over my budget but I knew right away I had to get it. To pay for it I sold all my multi-component gear-a purchase I never regretted-the new amp was an improvement over the old PA in every way. I’m not necessarily saying that and AER amp is what you should get. Look around, these days there are more choices and prices have come down. Try some out and see what works for you.

 

What Do All Those Knobs and Buttons Do?

To illustrate this I’ve grabbed a picture of the control panel of a guitar amp (cross out the word guitar and put in ukulele if it makes you feel better.) You can see it has two main sections called Channel 1 and Channel 2:

 

Channel 1 – If your instrument has an electric pickup plug the ¼ inch cord from your instrument into the Channel 1 “input”. If your uke doesn’t have a pickup you’ll need to play it into a microphone.  

Note: Most microphone cables have an XLR connector – that’s a chunky connector with 3 pins inside. You can buy an adapter to take your XLR so you can plug into the ¼ inch socket.

 

Channel 2 – This is for your vocal microphone. You can see that this input takes the XLR 3-pin connector from a standard microphone cable.

 

Gain – Each channel has a Gain control meaning that your instrument and voice each have their own volume knobs. When turning on the amp always start with each Gain and Master volume set at zero. Increase the levels slowly so you don’t blow your speaker. Turn up the Master a little and then adjust each Gain so voice and ukulele are in good balance. Then turn up the total volume to the required level using the Master.

 

Clip – If a red Clip light is coming on then your Gain is set too high. So turn down the Gain and increase the master volume. If your master is turned up full, your Clip lights are on and you’re still not loud enough – it’s time for a bigger amp.

 

EQ Controls (equalization) – Bass, middle and treble are used to adjust the frequencies of your sound. Set them to center position. Listen to your sound. Is it too tinny? Then turn down the treble a little (or turn up the middle). Too boomy, then turn down the bass. Different rooms and different crowds require different EQ settings. If possible get someone with experience to stand in the audience and inform you what adjustments should be made. If you’re not sure, keep them centered.

 

Effects – Some amps have effects built into them. The most common two are reverb and echo. I never use echo but reverb is useful. It fills out your sound (like singing in the shower) and that’s good, up to a point. The Return knob gives you more and more reverb. But keep it subtle. If it’s turned up to where people notice you’ve added reverb then it’s too high. The eff. (effects) pan allows you to put more effect either onto your voice or your instrument.

 

Not all amps are exactly as described. You’ll find every PA has its own idiosyncrasies to figure out, so don’t be afraid to learn on the job.

 

Having your own gear will add to your performing confidence. Many facilities, such as community and old folks centers, for example, will boast that they have a PA for you to use. But be wary – it may be a my first Sony!!

 

Next time: Some microphone basics for you.

ABOUT Ralph Shaw

 

 

Play Ukulele In 2 Minutes

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

By Marylou Stout Dempler

Now that you have your ukulele, you can learn to play it in just two minutes without reading music or tablature. Just follow these easy steps:

Berry Bernson of Fox 41 TV gets a Ukulele Lesson from Marylou

Hold Your Ukulele

Hold the neck of the soprano, concert, tenor or banjo ukulele in the left hand. If you are left handed the ukulele must be restrung and the steps reversed.

Cuddle the ukulele like a little puppy in your arms resting it upon your chest.

 

Tune Your Ukulele

I recommend an electronic tuner like the Intellitouch © professional tuner with a backlight or the Intelliouch © PT-2 Tuner “Bare-Bone” which has no backlight. Lanikia also sells a programmed electronic tuner. Find the one that works best for you and fits your budget.

The strings are tuned G C E A.

The First String A, is the string facing the floor.

The Second String E, is above the A.

The Third String C (Middle C on the piano), is below the top string.

The Fourth String G, is the top string.

 

Finger Positions

The left hand index finger is #1. The second finger is #2. The middle finger is #3. The pinky finger is #4. Do not count the thumb.

Rest the thumb behind and in the middle of the instrument’s neck.

The right hand index finger is in a pointing position (all other fingers closed) and pointing to the strings over the sound hold.

I use a pick and I prefer that my students use one. There are several different brands, shapes and sizes for different effects. Many ukulele players use the felt pick, which produces a flat, dull, soft sound. As a guitarist, I changed that immediately. I wanted my strings to be heard. Take your uke and go to your local music store. Try out several different brands and thickness of picks. Find the sound you like when you strum your ukulele.

 

Fret Board

The ukulele has frets on the neck.

The first fret is from the nut right below the tuning pegs to the first fret wire.

The second fret follows and continues down the fret board.

Fret markers (dots or symbols) are placed at intervals on the fret board to help locate frets quickly. The markers usually begin at the third fret, fifth fret and so on.

 

Finger Positions On The Fret board

Each finger corresponds with each fret. Finger #1 is played on the first fret. Finger #2 is played at the second fret. Finger #3 is played at the third fret. Finger #4 is played at the fourth fret. Now you are thinking WHOA! I’ve run out of fingers on my left hand. You are right but don’t panic! The #4 finger is used on the fourth and fifth frets. When you play notes or chords through the fifth fret, you are playing in the first position on the ukulele fret board.

 

NOW START YOUR STOPWATCH. You are going to play the ukulele in 2 minutes or less.

 

Step 1 Place your #3 (ring) finger on the third fret. You have just made a C chord.

Step 2 Strum the strings down over the sound hole while holding the C chord formation.

Step 3 Keeping Strumming and sing. This symbol / means down strum.

 

/ / / / /

 

Row Row, Row, Your Boat

 

/ / / / / /

 

Gently Down The Stream

 

/ / / / / / / / / / / /

 

Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily

 

/ / / / /

 

Life Is But A Dream!

 

YOU DID IT! YOU SHOULD HAVE A BIG HUGE SMILE ON YOUR FACE!

You just played your first song on the ukulele!

 

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

 

BARITONE UKULELE

If you have a baritone ukulele follow the directions and steps above however the tuning will be E B G D.

The chord formation is a G Chord. You can also play this on a guitar but do not strum the fifth and sixth strings. You need to form other notes on the guitar for a full G Chord.

 

That was EASY and now you are playing music on your ukulele!

 

If you have musical questions, email me at [email protected] Play Ukulele In Two Minutes (c) 1998 by: MaryLou Stout Dempler All rights reserved.

ABOUT Marylou Stout Dempler

Thank You For Being Part Of This Amazing Ukulele Group

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

The founder of LOVE MY UKULELE, Jamie Houston talks about the growth of this community thanks to all the wonderful members.

 

Are you doing what you love more than anything?

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

By Matt Hicks. One of my favourite songs of all time and a lovely ukulele song. God Bless Ukulele Ike!

ABOUT Matt Hicks

The World’s Easiest Ukulele Song

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

By Steven O. Sellers. If you are new to the fascinating instrument known as the ukulele, here is a song that will get you jamming with your friends in no time. All you need is one ukulele, one finger and one chord, plus access to You Tube. Go to You Tube and look for the song “Lime and the Coconut” by Harry Nilsson. That’s the one chord song you are about to learn.

You Put the Lime in the Coconut

Listen to the song and get the feel for it, then prepare to have fun. Grab your uke and put the index finger of your left hand on on the first fret of the first string, that’s the A string. Give it a strum and you are making the C7th chord, the only one you need to play “Lime and the Coconut”. Practice getting the rhythm down with just a straight ahead up and down stroke and you are on your way to learning a classic song from the 1970’s.

You and your buddies can jam for hours on “Lime and the Coconut” and have a great time, and it will be even more fun if you find ways to change up that C7 chord for a bit of musical variety. You might try rocking back and forth between the C Major Chord (first string,third finger, third fret) and the C7th chord in rhythm to the tune. 

For a bit more variety, practice some finger picking instead of just straight strums. You will see that the song lends itself to some simple finger picking very nicely. One other tip to spice up your playing on this one chord song: Grab your chord book and find ways to play C7th up the fingerboard. My favorite is playing the C7th on the 7th fret of the uke. To do that, just play the standard G7th open chord, and move it up to the 7th fret and there you have a nice substitute for the standard open C7th chord.

One thing I hope you will take away from this tutorial is that it’s fun to start with a simple song and find ways to make it sound better by putting your own mark on it with varied strums and chord substitutions…a pretty nifty way to learn!
ABOUT Steven O. Sellers.