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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