Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

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11 2014

Some ideas on how to play ukulele with a guitar player

In fact, this post could just as well have been entitled ‘Some ideas on how to play the guitar with a ukulele player’. If you are playing the ukulele and your best friend is playing the guitar, there is a chance that you might tire after long hours spent arguing which of the two instruments is best. How about trying to combine both instruments to play together instead ?

My friend Gwilym and I would like to share our experience on playing the ukulele and the guitar together. Gwilym is playing the guitar and I the ukulele. For a few years now, we have been trying different ideas to play our instruments of choice together in a way that allows both of us to make progress. We have chosen to write this post and to make two videos to illustrate how the ukulele and the guitar can play different roles when played together.

Of course, in order to play together, we needed to have a common structure, which could be seen as the ‘spine’ of our tunes. This is where playing the blues is interesting : the ‘spine’ consists of 12 bars following a set pattern (see below). We have opted to play a minor blues in the key of (Am and Dm are among my favourite chords). We have used the same structure for both videos but each of us improvised his/her part according to his/her fancy.

Our 12 bar blues is very standard and uses the following chords in I-IV-V progression :
(Am is I, Dm is IV and Em/E7 are V)

Am / Dm / Am / Am   (The Dm here is a quick four)
Dm / Dm / Am / Am
Em / Dm / Am / E7

Chords for A Minor Blues

09 2014

A selection of ukulele videos from Poland

High time to update our Polish ukulele tour with this Sunday selection of ukulele videos from Poland ! Enjoy !

Previously discovered on Balcony TV and featured in this postMaja Koman with a new video My dear deer :

17 2014

Halloween ukulele songs : The Haunted Ukulele

It is about time, with Halloween nearing, for me to wake from the dead…
Rest assured, dead I have not been, I have merely chosen for a while to remain unseen!

Ryan Taylor, a composer, conductor, baritone vocalist and ukulele player from the US recently sent me an ebook for review, entitled The Haunted Ukulele, which consists of “a monster collection of 59 spooky songs”.

Cover of The Haunted Ukulele

Buy on Amazon.com (paperback format)

Buy on Sellfy (PDF version)

So Trick or Treat ?

General presentation :

The book definitely falls into the treat category. Besides being  a vocalist, Ryan Taylor leads the UFO HUM (Ukes for Others : Happy Ukulele Movement). Over the years he has collected over hundred songs on the theme of Halloween from which he has selected the 59 he found most compelling. Drawings by Ryan pleasantly illustrate the book and emphasize the humorous side he is taking on the macabre theme.

The Haunted Ukulele has been written by a musician and it shows : you will find scores that are professionally laid out for each song. The songs selection covers several musical styles, from traditional, ragtime, to classical. All arrangements are very neat with a good mix between strumming and fingerpicking. A diagram of the chords used is displayed for each song which come in quite useful as there are many songs with numerous chords. Where the songs are strummed, rhythm patterns are indicated. When the songs use fingerpicking, Ryan gives guidelines using different types of notation according to the complexity of the song.

25 2014

Language post : Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation

A friend of mine pointed me to this great video in which David Crystal, a renowned British linguist and his son, Ben Crystal, actor and writer, explain how Shakespeare‘s plays performed in the accent that was in use at Shakespeare‘s time reveal many puns and jokes that are lost in modern pronunciation. Read more on Original Pronunciation (OP), on David Crystal’s dedicated website.

In this video, you will be able to listen to several excerpts from a few Shakespeare‘s plays in both modern and original pronunciations. Ben Crystal also explains how performing Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation affects his acting. You need not worry, although there are many differences between modern and original pronunciations, you will still be able to understand the plays performed in original pronunciation !

I strongly recommend David Crystal‘s The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, one of my favourite books.

04 2014

Nature and ukulele World Tour

In need for some music to unwind after a stressful week ? How about ukulele videos set in the middle of nature to start the weekend ?

UK band Cardboard CarouselCalliopi McDowell and Richard Dawson perform their song Does Anybody Know ?

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