As a great admirer of Alfred Deller, the first thing I did when I started to play the ukulele was to look for arrangements of pieces he had sung, especially traditional folksongs and songs by John Dowland that I could picture being played on a ukulele. I did find a few traditional songs at the time but nothing by John Dowland.
Then about a month ago, I discovered Jamie Holding’s arrangements. Jamie Holding, a young musician from near York is initially a guitar and lute player but has recently been smitten by the ukulele virus. To date, he has written 2 e-books, Blame not my uke (30 easy ukulele pieces arranged from the lute) and John Dowland – 18 pieces which you can purchase on his site. He also has quite a few free arrangements (GCEA tuning) from Fernando Sor, Robert de Visee, Bach as well as some Renaissance music pieces.
Sharing Jamie’s interest in Renaissance music and the ukulele, I have asked him a few questions.
U&L : How long have you been playing the ukulele? How did you learn to play ?
Jamie : About three or four months now, but I’ve been playing the guitar for four or more years and lute since the new year so I have experience with plucked stringed instruments and the switch I found quite easy. I taught myself, but again, I’ve had teachers for the guitar and lute which are basically the same.
U&L : You are playing the lute and the guitar, why did you decide to play the ukulele as well ?
Jamie : I have been in contact with Rob Mackillop and went to visit him as well earlier this year. I saw his ukulele site and was blown away by the beauty of the instrument when fingerplucked, so I bought one along with a book of his. I love the sound and feel of the instrument (and the fact that it’s cheap!). I then started arranging for it simply because I wanted to play more music on it!
U&L : Do you have any piece of advice you would like to give to ukulele players who would like to learn to play fingerpicking ukulele ?
Jamie : Don’t try to play pieces out of your depth – it will only depress you and you’ll make a worse sound than you’re capable of. I can play quite hard pieces now on the uke and guitar but I never find them nearly as fun to play as the simpler ones…
U&L : Can you think of any tune to recommend for beginners in fingerstyle ukulele ?
Jamie : I don’t know any modern or pop music for the uke so I would suggest the first study in my short free booklet of Fernando Sor pieces – he’s a master of the classical guitar and this study I think works beautifully on the ukulele and is easy to play. Other than that, Greensleeves is a fun tune to play. (I’ve got that in my ‘Blame Not my Uke’ book). Also, there are some wonderful easy pieces in Rob Mackillop’s books – I’ve got his Gasper Sanz book and it is excellent – although some of the pieces are a little too hard I think for beginners.
Here is a video of an arrangement from Jamie’s Blame not my Uke e-book, a renaissance lute piece called Bella Gioiosa.
And another lovely Renaissance piece called Packington’s Pound
To keep up with Jamie’s videos, subscribe to his YouTube channel