Ukulele & Languages

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

Questions to Al Wood, Ukulele for Dummies and Uke Hunt author

26 2011

As you may or may not have noticed, I have considerably slowed down on my blog writing lately. Fear not, although I have made myself scarce to reflect on some essential life questions, I have no intention of giving up writing about Ukulele and Languages and I am hoping to come back to speed from November 2011 onward.

While I have been taking time off the blog, Al Wood, the witty web author of Uke Hunt has striven and achieved the amazing mark of 1500 posts written. Being a blogger, I can easily imagine what kind of hard work, tenacity, creativity and organization such a feat requires.

Hard Times Come Again No More by Stephen Fosters, ukulele cover by Al.

2011 is definitely Al Wood‘s year as he has also written a book, Ukulele for Dummies which has recently been published.

These amazing achievements make Al Wood a forefront contributor to the ukulele community.  I wanted to hear how Al felt about it all so I asked him a few questions.

U&L: In the interview I did of you a couple of years ago, I asked you where you saw yourself in 10 years time. This is what you said :

‘Looking at the history of the ukulele, it seems unlikely that it’ll be as popular in ten years as it is now. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a living out of writing about ukuleles like I am now.’

Do you have a different view on the subject now that your book, Ukulele for Dummies, has been released? It seems to me that such a book is a contribution which makes the ukulele accessible to a greater number of people thereby potentially increasing its popularity.

Al: No, my opinion hasn’t changed. The history of the ukulele hasn’t changed. It’s always been an instrument that goes in and out of fashion.

I heard an interesting idea – I think it was James Hill – that there’s a ukulele boom whenever a new method of communication takes hold. So there was a ukulele boom after the radio took off, one after there was a TV in every home, and now one on the internet. So I think we’re still following in the pattern of the past.

Maybe this time will be different. Who knows? Certainly not me.

U&L: With Ukulele for Dummies, you have written a book which explores many different styles of music, demonstrating the versatility of the uke while at the same time making it interesting both for the beginner and the more advanced ukulele player. How did you go about structuring the book ?

Al: Thanks very much!

It was really important to me that I covered the different ways that the ukulele is being used now rather than just covering the traditional ways of playing.

The Dummies books have quite a set way of doing things. Their books are always structured like reference books. So you can dip into a certain section and find what you want. So Ukulele for Dummies is structured a lot like Guitar for Dummies and Banjo for Dummies.

U&L: Even though Ukulele for Dummies is written with a certain sense of humour, there is quite a difference with your usual Uke Hunt writing style. Can you tell us about some memorable editing you’ve had to make?

The editing process certainly made me realise how out of touch with mainstream morality I am. I wrote a line that pointed out the similarities between ukulele parts and body parts and listed, “necks, bodies and nuts.” And that was a no-go. On the other hand, a reference to torture techniques used in Guantanamo Bay was waved through with a giggle.

Quite why testes are worse than torture, I haven’t managed to fathom.

Another big difference was in the references I can make. On the blog I have no problem referring to something maybe only a handful of people will get. For the book I made reference to Barney the Dinosaur and that was questioned.

Al performs a cover of the King of the Hill Theme by The Refreshments. Tabs available on Uke Hunt.


U&L:  You have just reached the impressive amount of 1500 posts published on Uke Hunt over four and a half years which tells a lot about your dedication to the Uke World. What are your best and worst experiences with your blog writing?

Al: The best part is hearing from people that the site has helped. It’s always great to hear that people are using what I put up and are enjoying it.

I remember one email I got. It was from a girl who learned ukulele songs from the site and then played them for her Grandad when he was in a hospice.

I’m trying to think of a worst experience. It never gets as bad as having a real job. Writing books/ebooks is always testing. The size of it is overwhelming. It turns into an endless and very painful grind.

U&L: You have written a book, published 1500 ukulele posts, do you have any new projects up your sleeve? Any more things you’d like to achieve ?

Al: It’s starting to seem like the reasons I started the blog don’t apply so much any more. You couldn’t really say that the ukulele is under-utilized or over-looked. Or that there aren’t enough learned materials.

So I’ve been thinking about starting a site about playing world music. It’s impossible to find tab or much instruction on that stuff. And there are a few bands picking up on the Afropop sound like Vampire Weekend and Fool’s Gold. Even in the ukulele world you’ve got people like Tune-Yards and Givers. So I think that’s an interesting area.

U&L: What is your most controversial Uke Hunt Post (judging from the amount and the vehemence of comments it generated).

Al: There are two that spring to mind. When I said Stairway to Heaven was the worst Led Zep song I got racist and homophobic insults for that one.

And when I did a write-up of the Wukulele Festival. I got so much shit for that I took down the post and vowed never to go to a ukulele festival ever again.

***

You can get a copy of Ukulele for Dummies from the various Amazon sites. It’s the perfect book to let you figure out the many possibilities of the uke.

Buy on Amazon.co.uk

Buy on Amazon.fr

Buy on Amazon.de

Once you have explored the different styles of music with Ukulele for Dummies, you can get more detailed aspects of the various styles from Al’s many ebooks available on his site.

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8 Comments »

  1. Franco on the 28th of September 2011 @ 19:18

    Get the Kindle version of his book. It is enhanced with audio and video. Works great! The book is excellent. I am an intermediate player, so 1/2 the book was old new but the rest is worth it’s price in gold! Get it!

  2. Armelle Europe on the 29th of September 2011 @ 08:58

    Franco: thanks for sharing about the Kindle version.
    I have the standard book version and I strongly recommend it too.

  3. Scott Stahlecker on the 2nd of October 2011 @ 01:58

    That was a nice number. Cool site too, I just stumbled across it. Cheers

  4. Armelle Europe on the 2nd of October 2011 @ 19:00

    Scott: glad you enjoyed the interview. Welcome here and thanks for your nice comment.

  5. Ron Hale on the 14th of October 2011 @ 07:29

    Did you know, Armelle, that Al’s publisher
    couldn’t even be bothered to give him an original
    cover photo? Take a gander at “Country Songs For Ukulele”, Hal Leonard, 2010. Something look familiar?

    I’ve taken a couple of months off from playing now to put things into a better perspective. Not a single one of life’s essential questions involves the ukulele. As I’m sure you’re aware.

  6. Armelle Europe on the 16th of October 2011 @ 20:27

    Ron: No I didn’t know. Well spotted. I must say I focused on the contents of the book rather than its cover.

    Essential life questions might not involve the ukulele but playing the uke certainly does help to put things into perspective.

  7. Stephen on the 2nd of November 2011 @ 13:26

    Excellent interview and love the idea of a Ukulele for Dummies book, great stuff.

  8. Armelle Europe on the 4th of November 2011 @ 12:16

    Stephen: Thanks for the feedback, I’m glad you liked the interview. And the Ukulele for Dummies book is ideal to discover various musical styles.

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