Ukulele & Languages

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

Ukulele Learning Posts

Herman Vandecauter has recently uploaded a new video in which he performs a Courante he has arranged for the ukulele. A ‘courante’ is a tripple meter dance from the late Renaissance or the Baroque music era.

I have asked Herman for more information about the piece, but let’s first listen to and enjoy the Schmitt Courante beautifully performed on a soprano Ohana SK 100G.

Here is what Herman can tell us about the piece :

This piece made my new Ohana a pleasure to play.

There is hardly anything to say about the origin of the piece: I got it with the annotation Anonymous and a wrong estimation about its century of origin which is the 16th century and not later.

When I did play the piece I got the impression that I had heard it before and thought it could have been Thieleman Susato or Michael Praetorius and indeed I did find a similar courante from the German composer Michael Praetorius where the second part is the same. This can’t just be pure coincidence! But the first part doesn’t really fit.

The tremolo part is uncommon for lute pieces but it can be that the original was written for another instrument. Since the base part is too slow for a nice tremolo I played a quadruple tremolo with 4 notes instead of 3.

Today’s post will focus on fingerstyle or classical ukulele with beautiful playing from Herman Vandecauter, Wilfried WeltiJosh Skaja and Ken Middleton.

Check out the end of this post to find out about the latest releases of classical style ukulele ebooks.

Herman Vandecauter from Belgium performs Paisanne, a piece by Silvius Leopold Weiss and treats us with a slide show of nice ukulele pictures and cunning photo montages.

Wilfried Welti from Germany plays Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór, the first composition by Turlough O’Carolan on his Glyph soprano ukulele.

Josh Skaja from Tall Grass Ukes in the United-States plays John King‘s arrangement of Gloria. It is great to hear such lovely performances of John King‘s arrangements as John is sorely missed in the classical ukulele world.

New fingerstyle ebooks released :

Ken Middleton has released a new ebook entitled 12 Hymn Tunes for Ukulele. The hymn tunes featured included Abide With Me, Amazing Grace, Away In A Manger and nine others, all very neatly laid out with explanations on the ukulele techniques used. You can purchase the ebook on Ken’s website.

Listen to Ken performing his arrangement of Abide With Me :

Jamie Holding has released 2 new ebooks, one ebook aimed at beginners in classical ukulele, entitled 20 melodies, featuring 20 one-line melodies from famous British composers such as Campion, Purcell, Dowland and Rosseter. The book can be purchased from Jamie’s website.

The other ebook consists of 5 arrangements of pieces by John Dowland and one piece (Pavana) by Gaspar Sanz. It is entitled John Dowland – 5 pieces. Purchase the ebook from Jamie’s website.

I have been asked several times when Rob MacKillop‘s ebooks will be published by Mel Bay so I will update this post as soon as I find out.

Today multi-string-instrumentalist Herman Vandecauter from Belgium discusses the importance of using the little finger when playing the ukulele and illustrates his point with an exercise for ukuleles in GCEA tuning which you can hear and download further in this post.

Here is what Herman says :

I am always impressed when I see good left hand technique on the ukulele. I attach the greatest possible importance on the use of the fourth finger (the little finger or pinky) of the left hand, so often neglected.
Your little finger can become extremely flexible and fast if trained in the right manner.

The 4th finger should be your first choice when you reach the third fret of the first string.
Using it instead of the 3rd finger grants freedom to your other fingers and  this technique is used in nearly all embellishments.

Keep the 3rd finger free for the third and fourth strings where it belongs unless you are using the ukulele as a violin in melodic passages.
Besides, keeping your little finger in the air is a form of inefficiency.

In order to help you train your little finger, download and practise Herman‘s exercise. The idea is to practise daily in order to gain the necessary strength and flexibility in your little finger.

The exercise sounds very nice when Herman plays it. You can download the MP3 here.

Ukulele Exercise by Herman Vandecauter

– Subscribe to Herman’s YouTube channel

– Listen to ukulele recordings by Herman on SoundCloud

Today I’d like to take a look at the latest fingerstyle videos and include some useful fingerpicking tutorials.

First a really lovely ukulele duo performed by Herman Vandecauter and one of his students. The piece, arranged by Herman, is called Le Rossignol (The Nightingale) and shows how good a teacher he is!

Relax and enjoy this beautiful piece of Renaissance music. If you’d like to learn to play along, Herman has posted the tabs of the first part here.

Next comes some Celtic ukulele with Lord of the Dance performed by Valéry Sauvage and arranged by Ken Middleton.

And now for the tutorials :

This tutorial by Mark Gordon teaches one type of fingerpicking used in classical music and explains the difference between low and high G.

For a basic fingerpicking pattern, check this tutorial by music teacher Ukulele Mike.

And for more advanced patterns, this video by Hawaii Music Supply should be of help :

And if you haven’t seen them yet, check Herman‘s explanations on the Rasgueado technique

Ken Middleton has just released an ebook entitled 12 tunes for Celtic Ukulele and has been very kind to send me a copy so I’d like to share some information as to what is in the ebook. I haven’t had time to try the arrangements myself yet, but I am looking forward to it.

First things first, let’s listen to Ken himself playing one of his lovely arrangements, Fisher’s Hornpipe.

The other arrangements on the ebook include Brian Borouhme, Castles in the Air, Humphrey’s Hornpipe, Lady’s Fancy, Larry O’Gaff, Light and Airy, Loch Na Garr, She Moved Through the Fair, The Gipsy Rover, The Harp That Once Trough Tara’s Halls, and last but not least, The Lord of The Dance.

Here is Ken playing The Lord of the Dance with a choir of birds singing along.

One of the great thing about this ebook which is very neatly laid out is that if you don’t already know the tunes, you can listen to the MIDI files played at different speeds (Slow, Medium or Fast). This should help you find out how the different pieces should sound. The ebook also includes technical details on how to play the different techniques that are used in the arrangements (such as hammer-on, pull-off, and a new one for me, acciaccatura). All arrangements are written both in tabs and in standard notation.

The ebook can be purchased on Ken’s website. Read my interview of Ken Middleton here.

Jamie Holding has also recently released an ebook of 16 pieces by Fernando Sor arranged for the ukulele (GCEA high G tuning).

I have already tried several pieces from the ebook and I must say that Fernando Sor‘s work translates very nicely to the ukulele.

Jamie‘s ebook provides historical information about Fernando Sor and the interpretation of its work . I love the following quote by Lawrence Johnson in an essay about Sor:

How should one perform Sor’s music? I believe the answer is with considerably more freedom, expression and passion than has, for the most part, been done in the recent past.

The 16 arrangements are from Opus 31, 35, 44 and 60. The pieces have various levels of difficulty but quite a few are rather easy and very pleasant to play. The ebook can be purchased from Jamie Holding’s website.

Although I couldn’t find any videos of Jamie performing any of the arrangements, Valéry Sauvage aka Ukeval has uploaded quite a few lately.

Valéry Sauvage performs Study Nr 8 from Opus 60.

And here is my attempt at one of the pieces, Study Nr 1 from Opus 31 with my usual dose of imperfections.

Ukulele Beginner ?

You’ve chosen to learn to play the ukulele. Read interviews of skilled ukulele players and find out about tips they are giving. See posts on useful tutorials and links.
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