Posts Tagged ‘ukulele’


Jane Cameron- How Ukulele Changed My Life

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

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

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

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

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 🙂

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

Monday, June 30th, 2014

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

About Ralph Shaw

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

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

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

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

 

Care and Feeding of Your Ukulele

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

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.

 

Ukulele Song Writing

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

By Matt Hicks

So you’ve been playing the uke for a while. You’re pretty happy because every time you video a cover of a song YouTube fires back that it recognises it as a possible infringement on copyright. You’re there. You’ve arrived; but something is missing. You find yourself thinking that you’re just churning out the same songs as everyone else.

Now there is nothing wrong with churning out the same old songs. The ukulele is best as a community instrument on many levels but occasionally you’ll feel you want to do something different. What better way is there to turn peoples heads at the uke club or even on YouTube than by writing your own song?

I know that many people will think that is a near impossibility. Many people think songwriting is a skill that only a few people are blessed with. Well I’ll let you into a little secret: For every great song even the best songwriter creates, there will likely be about ten really bad ones. No one is born a great song writer. It takes a lot of persistence, bloody mindedness and a bit of cheek.

Top Hat & Wand

A bit of cheek? What could I possibly mean? Well writing a song is a bit like learning a magic trick. Most people who learn how to do an illusion are usually a little disappointed that the explanation for how the trick is done is very simple. It’s the delivery that makes it astounding. Writing a song believe it or not is very similar. Have you ever learnt to play a song by your favourite artist and, once you’ve mastered it thought “Why couldn’t I have written something so simple?” The truth is that most people can and the following guidelines I hope will help you.

Three Chord Wonder: You may have heard this term before. Most of the early Beatles songs and many great hits consist of just three chords. The first stumbling block of anyone aspiring to write on an instrument is getting the tune together. Believe it or not it’s not necessarily about having an ear for music. There are some specific rules which, if you follow, will help you come up with a tune.

All chords follow some specific rules in that the notes that make up the chord will sit at specific places within the scale of that key. Many simple songs are made up of chords in the 1st position and then use the 4th and 5th. Take the chord of A to start a song. The next chord will be the 4th note in the scale which will be D and then the next on the 5th will be E. AD and E are a popular mix for the twelve bar blues. Below are some chords with their 4th and 5th position chords. I’ve chosen them because they are fairly easy to play on the uke.

A D E
C F G
D G A
E A B
G C D

Now depending on what kind of song you want to write, it’s always worth having a play with the many variations of those chords to give the uke song a bit of variation and make the listener think you really are the mutt’s nuts at song writing. A great way to do this is by playing a 7th chord rather than the basic version. That means playing, for instance C7, F7 and G7. Or you can just put in one 7th chord such as the G7. Take a look at the video below. It’s a cover of an old Hank Williams song. The chords are C F and G7 is immensely simple but very effective.

So forget about the amazingly complex chord run downs, the ukulele is an instrument that is both forgiving to the player but also demands that the song is strong enough to stand on its own. Often the simpler the music, the stronger the song.

Lyric Writing

Now to writing lyrics. Well now I can’t teach you about what to write. To be honest this will be your most daunting task because not many people are happy to put their necks on the line by writing something and then putting it out there for people to love or not love. Here are some rules that I go with when I write on the ukulele.

Limericks- Start off by writing lines to fit into a limerick. This is whether you are writing a serious song or a jokey song. If you’ve not written a song before frankly the more practice you get using a format that you have grown up with the better. Perhaps you were brought up with gospel music or country etc: Use your roots to fit your words into. It will come a lot easier. Using limericks means that you can fit in quite a few words but you only need two of them to rhyme. i.e:

The boy stood on the burning deck
His trousers made of cotton,
The fire travelled up his pants
And made his mother feel just rotten.

Rhyming couplets such as the limerick above means you can put a lot of information in the lyric with only minimal rhyming needed. You’ll find that you can fit this format into most genres and music styles.
Cliches-Don’t avoid lyrical clichés. You may think they can be cheesy and vomit inducing and mind numbingly unoriginal but the simple fact is that clichés are clichés because they work and they continue to do so to convey what the writer wants to say. Even if you find a better way to say it later on, just go with the flow with some time honoured imagery. Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire is a perfect example. Simple, a huge cliché but one of the best three chord wonders ever written.

Accept it for what it is-Whatever you write accept it for what it is. It is the best reflection of your talent and ability at that moment in time. Don’t be ashamed of it. You may not want to play it in front of anyone for the minute but you have made your mark and you have begun an infuriating but exceptionally fulfilling process. Remember that when you play something on a ukulele, more often than not most people are not expecting to hear great things. They either think it’s a toy or they just think there is no way you will get a decent tune out of it. In other words you just can’t lose. If your song crashes, it doesn’t matter. If it does well it’s a real bonus. Regardless, most people whether friends or in an audience are often very receptive to the fact someone has shown balls enough to not only write their own song but play it in front of someone else. That takes guts and most people know it.

What you write about is up to you of course. I tend to like writing a story in my head and often the words then follow sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. For instance last Christmas I decided to write a song. I chose to write about a Turkey. Turkey starts with a T so that means the name of the bird has to start with T. I chose Tarquin. Turkeys get eaten at Christmas so I thought I’d inject some human relationships into the mix and discuss how his Mum uses euphemism to hide the fact that he is destined for the chop i.e. he’s going to be Santas Little Helper. Helper rhymes with Belper which is somewhere in the North of the UK which happens to have a lot of poultry farms.

When you get a bit of practice, you’ll be amazed at what comes together. Don’t force it. Don’t start with a preconception of the sort of song you want to write. I started trying to write serious, off the wall, philosophical songs and ended up writing about Turkeys and online gambling. The trick is to conserve energy and go with the flow. Don’t wear yourself out putting conditions on a song which will write itself if you let it. Don’t burn yourself or take yourself too seriously or you’ll get writers block before you’ve started.

The last tip is don’t write for yourself. The ukulele is a community instrument. It is made for playing to other people. In pubs and gatherings there is nothing worse than a self indulgent songwriter pouring out complex lyrics about their love life that only he or she understands. It’s a real turn off. If you can show the audience that you wrote the song for their enjoyment then you have won them over already. Singing and playing a song is a bit like giving a sales pitch. If you look convinced the audience will be convinced. That takes some balls to do if you can pull it off but it works a treat.
Below is a little song I wrote a while back which you may like. Go get writing and all the best.

About Matt Hicks

Support the LOVE MY UKULELE CLUB

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Jamie Houston - Founder of the LOVE MY UKULELE CLUB

Did you know that the LOVE MY UKULELE CLUB is run 100% by me, Jamie Houston – that’s me in the photo. I live in Wellington, which is the capital city of New Zealand, and I have a huge passion for all things UKULELE!

My biggest challenge with the online community that I have created, is the cost of funding it. As I write this we are approaching Christmas 2013, and since launching the LOVE MY UKULELE CLUB in January 2013 I have spent over $5000 designing, building, creating, maintaining, updating, posting, outsourcing, promoting, responding, collaborating, troubleshooting and the list goes on!!! And most of this has come from my own pocket, along with some help from T-Shirt sales and other fund-raising.

The exciting news is that we currently have over 7300 Likers on our Facebook Page, and have a very popular Website that is almost 100% populated by great content from you, the members. We have an informative BLOG, a section that features your PHOTOS with over 250 submissions, and the newest addition is the VIDEO section, which you are loving, based on the massive number of views some videos are getting, and we are getting new submissions almost every day! We also have other social media sites setup and linked to our website. We have Pinterest, Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube. I also have lots of new ideas for 2014 and just wish there were more hours in the day. Among other things, we are planning to have a classified section for buying and selling ukes, an international directory of ukulele players and ukulele clubs, as well as a directory of teachers. How does that sound?

Recently, some of you awesome people have expressed a desire to support the CLUB, so I have put up this page so you can do just that.

I welcome any and all donations, big or not so big, and you can be assured that they will be used to continue spreading the spirit of the ukulele worldwide as this awesome community grows even bigger!

Thanks for being part of the journey with me 🙂

Click the DONATE button below to make your contribution.

 

                                                                     

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