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”.
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.
If you’d like to widen your range of chords from the usual major chords, there’s plenty to learn from The Haunted Ukulele as there are many challenging songs with frequent chord changes using fancier chords. These may look complicated for beginners but the book also features several two-chord songs so you need not worry, there are songs for all ukulele levels. To help you learn the songs, Ryan Taylor has recorded 33 of the 59 songs from the book on his YouTube channel, The Haunted Ukulele. You cannot see him play on the videos (apart from this one : “Welcome,” Said the Spider) but you’ll get to hear the melody of the song as well as the ukulele strum/fingerpicking. Ryan also intends to write tutorials to go alongside the book.
The selection of songs in this ebook is very interesting on many accounts and you will find :
Nursery Rhymes, Children Songs :
Classics such as Three Blind Mice, The Crocodile, Old Roger and many more…
If you’d like to add some language spice into your playing, I suggest learning The Cat Came Back. Once you know the lyrics in English, try practising in French. Lyrics in French can be found here (Le Matou Revient). Here is the video for The Cat Came Back :
Traditional songs :
The book supplies many pleasant traditional folk songs such as Sweet Molly Malone, She Moved Through the Fair, The Three Ravens (a favourite version of mine, sung by Alfred Deller can be heard here) and Waltzing Matilda to name but a few. There is even a song in Old English by Thomas Campion, Thrice Tosse These Oaken Ashes.
Here is Ryan Taylor‘s version of Sweet Molly Malone, nicely fingerpicked :
Songs composed by Ryan Taylor :
Ryan seems to enjoy playing with the English language and he has composed a certain number of the songs that are found in the book.
His tongue twister song Midnight Applicant is very enjoyable and will get you work on articulating while increasing your strumming speed :
Danse Macabre is a piece written in 1874 by Camille Saint-Saëns with a French text by poet Henri Cazalis.
Poetry – Nonsensical :
Last but not least, Ryan has put to music the famous poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll thus exploring yet another aspect of the language. There is no video available for this song yet, but I’d love to hear Ryan‘s version one day, I am sure it is quite difficult to learn. Here is an excerpt :
” Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. ” […]
I too have been inspired by Lewis Carroll and the sense of rhythm that emanates from his poetry. I put the poem Dreamland into song a while ago. Thinking about it, it would have been a good choice for Halloween too : “When midnight mists are creeping / And all the land is sleeping / Around me tread the mighty dead / And slowly pass away ” [ …] You can read the full poem here.
I certainly recommend this ebook, a lot of work has been put into it and the selection of songs is excellent. It will have you navigate through time, history, language in a fun and musical atmosphere ! You’ll have plenty to sing for Halloween !