Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A New Find, From Oldsmar


My friend William asked me if this could be a photo of his dad playing the uke in 1920 at a picnic in Oldsmar, Florida. 

I said "It might be, but this is not your father's Oldsmar, Bill."

And in the truth-is-stranger-than-Gary's-humor category, it turns out Oldsmar was actually founded by auto magnate Ransom E. Olds. No word on whether REO played the uke himself. 

Here's the photo, from the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Four More Free Uke Tab Books from Uke Hunt

Have you run out of tunes whilst* sheltering in place?

Al Wood, impresario over at Uke Hunt, has released four more free ebooks.
  • Songs of the 60s
  • Gaming Theme Tunes
  • Beatles on Uke
  • US TV Themes

(Al is a Brit, so I used this as an opportunity to say "whilst." Heh.)

10 Year Old Writes Epic BLM Anthem

Meet ten-year-old Naima Nascimento. According to this article in Rolling Stone, Naima "wrote a song to help her process her feelings about the recent deaths of innocent black people. 

"Nascimento’s mom, Sequoia Chappellet-Volpini, posted the video of her daughter singing and playing a ukulele on Instagram and Facebook in June and the video has gained nearly 1 million views on Facebook alone."

Simple, but moving. Video at the link.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Cubby Doesn't Know Jake About Ukulele



As a kid growing up, Cubby O'Brien was my favorite Mouseketeer. He was a swell drummer and got to be paired with Karen all the time. Cubby's had a storied career as a professional percussionist, and here he is hanging out with Pismo. Cubby may not know who Jake Shimabukuro is, but he got to back up the Carpenters, so who cares?

Check out Pismo's video channel, too.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Laura Benanti, Broadway Uker

Broadway musical theatre star Laura Benanti has joined the advisory board of Ukulele Kids Club, a terrific non-profit that provides ukuleles to hospitalized children. Here's the story on Broadway World.

She's also has a UKC event coming up on August 1, 2020:

"On Saturday, August 1 at 6 PM EST, the latest Sunshine Concert will include Ms. Benanti and Ms. Epstein in discussion about the UKC and the #UKCBroadway program and announcing a special auction of a ukulele signed by Ms. Benanti. The Sunshine Concert series grew out of Ms. Benanti's wildly popular Sunshine Songs social media campaign as a way of sharing uplifting video performances with audiences that are more isolated and less active online, including seniors and hospitalized children. The Sunshine Concert on August 1 will be the sixth and final one of the current series."

Complete details of this and related events, here

In related news, Neal Chin, a wonderful ukulele teacher and player, will be holding an online workshop on Saturday August, 1, 202010:30 AM – 11:30 AM PDT. The workshop is free, with donations to Ukulele Kids Club welcome and appreciated. Here's a link to request tickets. Also, here's Neal's site.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bartine Burkett




Buster Keaton was a big ukulele player. Here, Buster's leading lady, Bartine Burkett, plays a sweet pre-1920 Style 3 Martin in the 1921 short, The High Sign. She's pretty good. I'm trying to see if I can guess what tune she's playing. Find the scene at about 16:40 in this video. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Who is That Masked Uker?


None other than the Ukulele Lady herself, May Singhi Breen.

During World War II, May served as the national director of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) for the American Women's Voluntary Services.

Here, from Popular Science magazine in 1942, is May wearing an emergency gas mask she fashioned out of a rubber bathing cap, fly swatters, and a powder puff box. (There's more to it, but those are the novel parts.) 



Here's another image of May, in uniform, crafting the mask.




Remember: Wear your mask, and live to strum another day! Stay safe, friends.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Free Tab eBooks From Uke Hunt

Courtesy of Al Wood, five different eBooks featuring tablature arrangements in popular topics:
  • Beeb (BBC) Themes
  • Jazz Ukulele
  • Queens of Pop
  • UK Comedy Themes
  • US Comedy Themes
Enjoy, and hats off to Al. Link

Thursday, December 26, 2019

So You Got a Ukulele for Christmas...

Our friend Al Wood has posted his annual guide for new ukulele owners. So if you were lucky enough to get your first ukulele for Christmas (or Hanukkah!), download Al's swell guide over on Uke Hunt. Link

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Uketropolis Gift Cards

James Hill dropped us a note to let us know that he's offering gift cards for the first time. They come in three different denominations, good for different learning programs on the swell new Uketropolis platform:
  • Booster Uke (3 months)
  • The Ukulele Way (3 months)
  • The Ukulele Way (6 months)


Complete info on Uketropolis

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Monument to Peter DeRose


Peter DeRose, composer of classics like Deep Purple and A Marshmallow World, is perhaps best known to ukers as the sweetheart (and husband) of May Singhi Breen.

Ukester Brown posted a video of A Marshmallow World today (Ukester's songsheet is here), and I hadn't realized that it was a DeRose tune.

Anyway, a trip to Wikipedia turned up a photo of DeRose's grave. Take a peek and I think you'll see a special love token from May. Link

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Elves or Inmates?


The article says they're inmates. But per the photo, they could be elves busy at work making your holiday uke...Link (via ABS-CBN-cbn News)


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ukulele: The Google Ngram View

My friend and Search Guru Steve Nelson pointed me to the Google Ngram Viewer. It shows you how often a particular word appears in books published in specific years.

I plugged in "ukulele" and it's cool to see three "waves" of ukulele popularity. But here they're not the three we usually think of (The Twenties/Arthur Godfrey/Third Wave). Surprisingly, ukuleles were mentioned with a lot of consistency between the late 20s and the late 50s. You can see when Rock & Roll started killing it off, but check out the unexpected renaissance of sorts in the 70s. Maybe this indicates that the uke was on its way back until something killed it again. (Aftershocks of Tiny Tim, maybe?).

Then, check out the Third Wave. It starts to build in '93, which is where I'd expect it. Lots of cool things happening in the late '90s. Note where things take off in '99. Which is about the time that Mark Frauenfelder founded Ukulelia. The biggest peak coincides with the video of Jake Shimabukuro playing Gently Weeps posting to YouTube in 2006.

Google Ngram Viewer

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Roll Out the Canons!

I've been working on canons with my intermediate students. Most players are no doubt familiar with songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, or Frère Jacques. Canons are simply instrumental forms of these kinds of tunes that can be played in staggered turns and repeated as you desire.

A good introductory canon, I've found, is Russian Lullaby, a copy of which you'll find here. It's part a of a larger article Canons As Reading Weaponry by Lorna MacPhee from Ukulele Yes!

I like Russian Lullaby because it's in the key of C (easy, no sharps or flats!), and most of the phrases are just ascending or descending snippets of the C major scale. (Here's a handy cheat sheet, showing left hand fingering positions for the C scale. It's from The Ukulele Way, which you really should check out, btw.)

Grab a friend (or two, or three) and give Russian Lullaby a spin. Here are a couple of ways to play the canon. I'm sure you'll come up with more!

  1. Play the entire piece in unison (all together)
  2. Assign parts (Player 1, Player 2, etc.) Player 1 starts, then Player 2 starts at the beginning when Player 1 gets to roman numeral II, Player 3 when Player 1 gets to numeral III, and so on. 
  3. Start together, with Player 1 at roman numeral I, Player 2 at II, etc. Play through several times.
You'll be amazed at the lovely harmonies that emerge when the phrases begin to overlap each other. And don't be surprised if what looks like a simple tune turns out to be more of a challenge than you thought. Learning to play your own part while listening to others are playing entirely different notes will take some getting used to. But it's totally worth it, especially if you want to learn to play ensemble arrangements. Uke on and have fun!




 
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