I have been quite impressed by Tim’s take on John King/James Hill version of Lary O’Gaff so I decided to contact him for an interview.
Tim (aka ukuleletim) lives in Austin, Texas in the United-States and started to play the ukulele in September 2008, a bit more than a year ago.
By means of an introduction, and before we move on to the questions, let’s listen to Tim, playing Tico Tico, a Brazilian song
U&L : You’re initially a guitar player. Why did you choose to play the ukulele ? What do you like about the ukulele ?
Tim : Yes, I have 28 years experience on guitar (and various other instruments) with styles running the musical spectrum. Classical, jazz, folk, flamenco, rock, country, bluegrass, swing, etc… So, I was really looking for a Venezuelan Cuatro to play some Spanish songs with. A friend left one in my care but its condition was such that I couldn’t play it. Well, I couldn’t find a better one but somehow I picked up a ukulele at Guitar Center and realized that it had the sound I was looking for. So soft and sweet. It was very well suited to my Spanish songs. From there I dove into other styles with it.
What I like most about ukulele is the reentrant tuning. It presents a challenge that I am not used to and it brings out different musical ideas when I play it. This tuning has also increased my curiosity in the banjo.
It’s also really fun to work out lines campanella style, like John King did. Campanella is playing each consecutive note on a different string and letting the preceding notes ring. This gives the music a harp-like sound. It’s really lovely to hear and usually difficult to play.
But I can honestly say I considered the ukulele a toy before I managed to pick one up that was tunable. Once I got one I started looking for web sites and music for the uke. I found John King, James Hill, and not to forget many of the folks you have featured here on your site. Any thoughts that the ukulele was a toy vanished.
Learning John King arrangements became my passion. They are really challenging and beautiful. It’s a meditation of sorts as I can’t let my mind wander when playing them. I am still heartbroken over his passing.
At that time someone posted the Larry O’Gaff/Swallowtail medley performance by him and James Hill on youtube. It touched me very deeply. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I found out Al from Uke Hunt had transcribed John King’s part. I’ve been playing it since and have added the Swallowtail part, too.
Tim playing John King’s arrangement of Tarentella Italiana
U&L : Do you have several ukes ? What is/are your favourite(s)
Tim : I have a a Cordoba concert size, a Republic resonator uke, and an old soprano, a Stratovox. I also have two Venezuelan Cuatro’s. (Yes I found one.)
I guess my favorite is the first one I bought.. the Cordoba. I would like to get a really nice soprano as well as a Stradelele from Joel Eckhaus. It’s one of the instruments John King played. And maybe a Beltona… I can dream.
Tim playing the Overture of William Tell on his Republic Resonator ukulele
U&L : Are you a member of a ukulele club ? Do you sometimes meet other players ?
Tim : I’m not a member of a club. The presence of ukuleles and players here in Austin is weak. However, I am currently mentoring a friend on the uke. He has some guitar background and is naturally talented. He picks things up quickly and I am very proud of him. He is now working on John King’s Tarantela arrangement and almost has it finished… with no classical guitar background at all. Did I say I was proud of him? I am also teaching him (my take on) James Hill’s part of the Larry O’Gaff arrangement so look for another video soon, this time with the Swallowtail part in the middle. We play almost every day as he is also a coworker of mine and it is always ukes at lunch. We have about 30 songs worked up as of late.
I would someday like to go to a ukulele festival and meet James Hill. I would study under him if given the chance… and logistics.
U&L : What did you find most difficult to learn on a uke ?
Aside from getting used to reentrant tuning, I would have to say right hand technique. I have a little background in Flamenco so the rasgueado’s come a little bit easier for me, but there is a LOT to learn. There are some techniques that are still a mystery to me, especially some of James Hill‘s stuff. And of course some of the wild split stroke strumming I’ve seen out there.
U&L : What piece of advice would you give to a ukulele beginner ?
Gosh. Just do it and have fun. Take lessons if you can or join a ukulele club if available. You get to play with other people, which is invaluable, and it speeds things up considerably.
If you don’t want to miss Tim‘s next video uploads, make sure you subscribe to his YouTube Channel.
Tim‘s other centres of interest include hooping, and in the next video you can witness how inspiring Jake‘s ukulele music can be. Don’t try this at home if you have not practised before !