Posts Tagged ‘ukulele performance’


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.

Alfredo Impromptu

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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 ūüôā

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

‚ÄúJohnny B. Goode‚ÄĚ 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 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 ¬ľ 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 ¬ľ 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 Рit may be a my first Sony!!

 

Next time: Some microphone basics for you.

ABOUT Ralph Shaw