Every year around this time, when days become shorter and it is still dark when you drive to work and you know that in a few weeks time it will also be dark when you drive from work, I am subject to what I have called “the October blues”.
This year, I will try my best to stay away from the latent October blues. Valéry Sauvage‘s world of colourful naïve paintings sends my thoughts to the world of fairy tales and listening to his lovely ukulele videos seems like a good way to keep the October blues in check.
If you’ve subscribed to Valéry’s ukulele channel on YouTube, you will not have failed to notice the beautiful ukuleles made by Régis Thullier that he has been trying out lately.
There is, for example, the “Maccalele“, a Maccaferi-style ukulele, which you can hear in a tune called The Skaters Waltz, arranged by Goschenhobel.
There is also the astonishing resonator “Violinlele“, in this Polka Mazurka arranged by Kailimai.
Different style uke, different style of music with this ukulele reproduction made after Jose Do Espirito Santo. The tune is a traditional song from Brazil arranged by Jean-Jacques Reymond.
To further investigate Valéry’s world, I asked him a few questions :
U&L : How long have you been playing the ukulele ? How did you learn ?
Valéry : I have only been playing the ukulele for a couple of months. I haven’t really learnt since I have been playing the guitar and the lute for more than 40 years. I use the same technique as the lute’s. I have been longing for a ukulele for a very, very long time. When I was a teenager, a Tahitian friend showed me one (it was a Hawaiian type ukulele, Tahitian ones are different) and I loved it. Then I forgot about it. But since I’ve started posting ancient music videos on YouTube (lute and guitar), I have been in touch with Wilfried, Ken Middleton, Jamie and many other ukulele players. That’s how I got into the ukulele too. I play a bit of everything (in fingerpicking style) with a preference for classical music (I admire the late John King, clasical ukulele specialist). I really like arrangements of ancient pieces done by Wilfried Welti, Rob MacKillop and Jamie Holding.
U&L : Which are your favourite ukuleles ?
Valéry : I’ve got 2 ukuleles, a soprano and a concert. I feel there is too little space on the soprano which I keep for simple pieces. The concert size ukulele suits me better. I’ve just ordered a tenor and I am thinking about buying a long neck soprano so that I can get the soprano sound together with the comfort of a concert’s neck.
U&L : Do you have any piece of advice for beginners ?
Valéry : I’d suggest a bit of training on classical or picking guitar… I don’t really think there is a fingerstyle ukulele method and it’s a shame. But anyway I always recommend people get some training with a teacher or a friend. It is easier to get started that way and you will avoid picking up bad habits or being discouraged because you don’t understand basic techniques. A teacher will also guide you on how to tune your instrument, how to change strings, and on the choice of the instrument itself. On your own, you are prone to making mistakes.
U&L : Can you suggest any easy tune for beginners ?
Valéry : There is one very easy tab that I recommend, a movement from the Spring of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (yes, indeed!), tabbed by Timog on his blog Ukucafe (Note : look for : “Les quatre saisons – printemps” ~ Vivaldi on the page). You only have to use 2 fingers, only the 1st and the 2nd fret and many open chords. It’s fun and you quickly get a musical result. Besides, everyone knows the tune.
Here is another demonstration of Valéry’s uke skills with a piece called What If A Day by John Dowland, arranged by Jamie Holding