Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! 2012 is Near

First off,an apology for falling off the map. In truth,since my last post I got so busy running the store when the hours at my part time job went to full time unexpectedly due to winter & spring semester registrations,I was coming home from that job and then packing up orders to ship for about 2-3 hours on most nights. I'm still playing catch up on leaving feedback for customers-in a word,I was truly worn out.
I knew I was exhausted when for the 1st time in my life,on the 24th,I nearly said to hell with putting up the tree or decorating. I wasn't upset or depressed-I was tired. It was my Father who coaxed me into the ultra last moment decorating,and I'm glad I did.
After the holiday I rested & shipped items that needed to go out & am catching up on leaving feedback for customers, but aside from that,I haven't done much except play music on uke,my new electric violin,and mandolin, & classical guitar. I seriously needed that time out to recharge.
I was playing Spanish baroque tunes on my Zither Heaven uke last night-lovely compositions and I love the fact I can play tunes that were penned in 16-something.
A New Year is just before us,and I have a good feeling about this upcoming 365 day trip around the sun. What uke playing resolutions have you made for the upcoming year? To start teaching? Performing? learning new tunes or a new style? Lets strum our ukes into 2012!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Latest Adoption: Vintage Lanai Model #50

I confess to having U.A.S. (Ukulele Aquisition Syndrome) There's a few spots on the web where I'll hunt for ukes on a regular basis. Most of the time I get outbid-not to mention I think the bid gets to be way more than the particular uke is worth. Every now & again,I luck out & win a uke at opening bid. That's what happened with my Lanai. For a mere $17.50 & a shipping fee of $8.00,this little gem was now mine. It arrived yesterday and I have already named this little uke "Waldorf". Everyone take a gander at Waldorf!
Now there's a few pointers I'd like to make here on shopping vintage ukes online. I don't regret winning this one,but I will say had there been close up photos and had I been more rested when I was looking at this listing,I would've passed it up. Here's why: There was only one photo in the online listing and it was taken at a distance with no zoom features. While the seller mentioned it looked to have been repaired,they never mentioned it was indeed a sloppy repair job at the bridge. Here's a look at the bridge repair:
I wouldn't be caught dead doing that sloppy of a glue job,and what this grey stuff is I haven't a clue. I'll be more certain in a few days when the new strings stretch out,but there seems to be an intonation problem tho the overall sound of Waldorf is very full and sweet. I have a feeling I'll need to remove the bridge and put it on right.
Hint #2 in the listing which my mind didn't catch. Needs new strings,the listing said and plays great. OK,my mind just believed that tho it's illogical. If the uke has no strings,and is filthy from being in the garage or wherever,how would they know it plays great?? It's scary what the mind will blindly believe when you read something and you want to believe it. Had I been more rested,I would've asked the seller how they knew it played great when there's no strings on it? (I have done that on other listings & never got a response,which meant in those cases I never bid)
The reason I'm sharing my little errors in judgement is I want to save you,dear readers,from making these mistakes. All to often a super cheap price will make us jump and bid before we analyze the description of the uke.
Do I regret buying Waldorf? No. I'm wanting to learn more about uke restoration and repair,and if indeed I need to remove the bridge and replace it,at least it's on an inexpensive to me model.
Waldorf is a great take along to work or any other place ukulele when you want an instrument that you won't get worried about when someone just picks it up & starts plunking or leaving in the car trunk when you're rambling about. This uke was played a lot by someone as the back of the neck is smooth as butter and the feel is wonderful. Only issue with the uke is the bridge.
So when you're shopping online,remember this: if there's only one photo at a distance,ask the seller for more close up shots. If they ignore you,do not bid.
If the uke has no strings on it & the seller states it plays & sounds great,write them & ask how do they know that when there's no strings on it? A lot of dirt & grime on the uke is also a tell tale sign of not being played in a long,long,time. Again,if you don't hear from the seller just pass that listing up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You,Egyptian Uke Players!

What an unexpected and wonderful surprise. I originally went to check this blog for comments (and had to remove a rude one-from now on all comments will be moderated!) After fixing that,I decided to check out my stats,then hit a tab called "audience" I was shown a map of the world with one nation in a very dark green meaning most of my readers at present are there. I have had over 100 page views in one day...all coming from Egypt! Seems my first baritone uke post for carols was a huge success. Which makes me a happy camper.
While I enjoy soprano & tenor uke very much,I feel my main thing is to get baritone uke more into the ukulele mainstream. It often gets treated like the "unwanted step-child" of the ukulele family. This needs to be corrected. To those readers in Egypt,please follow this blog if you haven't yet. And you all have my most heartfelt thanks. Let me know what sort of ukulele posts you'd be interested in seeing. I'll give you a preview of what's coming up: eye candy. I won a vintage Lanai soprano uke at opening bid (which was low!) I'm waiting for it to arrive to clean it up and re-string it,and then I write about it here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Deck The Halls For Baritone Ukulele

Hep Kitten strikes again with another Yuletide carol just for you baritone ukulele players,so here is her version of "Deck the Halls". Enjoy!

Deck The Halls/Baritone uke -

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hep Kitten Shows You Some Yuletide Carols for Baritone Uke

   There is a ton of Yuletide carols arranged for soprano uke but none for baritone (that I know of) So-in order to remedy this malady,I've tabbed out two carols...."O Come O Come Emmanuel",which dates back to the 9th century,and "I Saw Three Ships",which is another happy and old piece. There are chords so others can follow along & strum. I've tried to make these as simple as possible but also rich sounding. If some of the string pinches throw you & you use a plectrum,try using a thumbpick and you'll be fine.Remember to enjoy yourself in learning them!

O Come Emmanuel/I saw 3 Ships Arranged for Baritone Ukulele Sherrie Hoyer -

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review on Kamuke Magazine

I received my first issue of Kamuke today in the mail-and I have to say I think this is one fine magazine. It's been rather frustrating-in the past I've subscribed to guitar magazines,I get Fiddler magazine on a regular basis,but nothing for ukulele. I know there are some fine e-zines out there for ukulele,but as much as I love computers & the internet,there's nothing like curling up in a favorite chair with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and leisurely turning the page,reading articles and drooling over the lovely photos. Call it a generational thing but that's the way it is. (For me,anyway!)
   First thing I really like is the size-much smaller than your standard American magazine,it's a great take along with you read,measuring about 6" wide & 8 1/2" high. It covers current popular players in addition to those who were hot in the past-ukulele makers,and it even sports a centerfold of sorts-a Martin taropatch with info on this vintage beauty. 
   There's a review section covering books,DVD's,and CD's. A photo spotlight for uke players round the globe. The overall quality of the magazine is excellent-from the quality of the paper to the rich photographs. 
   I see room for even more growth should Kamuke add columns-perhaps one for baritone and tenor uke in the DGAE tuning. A repair column for those who are aspiring to become well versed in the restoration & repair of ukuleles. A world of possibilities exist in this petite but powerful publication. I'll be ordering my next issue soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Store on Etsy- Flea Bagatelle!

   I've had synchronicity working with me over the past week-all starting with ukulele gig bag inquiries-and while I've sold a handful of them,they've not done as well as I'd hoped. However,I got a nice compliment from a follower on Twitter showing the first one I ever made. The a few inquiries about some that might go with the banjo uke you see at the top of the page here. And then a grandmother who wants a nice bright bag for her grandaughter's soprano uke. 
   At the same time I placed myself back into creative recovery via Julia Cameron's book "Finding Water". I started my morning pages again after many years of not doing them.
   While this is going on,the little uke boutique I had on another site had it's last listing end,and seeing as I hadn't had any sales there,I closed the shop. I wondered about opening yet another store on Etsy. I looked thru a Thesaurus for words alluding to "bag" or "purse" I found "bagatelle" also meaning trinket or bauble. Flea bag had been on my mind but that name was already taken. Flea Bagatelle came out of nowhere and I loved the word play. I wanted one to think of Paris,of posh accessories so rarely found but cherished and desired. I opened the store yesterday,relisting my fashionable uke gigbags and dustcovers. Designed the banner on the left this morning. I enjoy sewing and creating things...and this is do-able.The morning pages had cleared the static in my head enough to hear the Universe calling.Do visit the store and let me know what you think-what fabric prints you'd like to see. I have jewelry in mind for the shop too-stay tuned! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Fire up Your Creativity Book

     I consider myself a rather odd individual at times because of seemingly strange habits that I have-like buying a book and not reading it for a year,two,or three years. Then the urge finally hits and the plunge is taken.
  What can one conclude from that? Personally,I think it's a part of  myself that knows I'll need the info for that particular book (not talking fictional books,btw!)but that at the moment,I'm not ready/receptive to the info inside. 
  My latest adventure is in finally cracking my copy of "The Creative Habit:Get It For Life" by Twyla Tharpe.If anyone would've said I could learn a lot from a dancer,I'd thought them crazy....but they'd be right.
  The reading style for this book is very random. Rather than start at the first chapter & plod thru,I asked the Universe "What do I need to know now?" as I flipped the pages and let the book open where it will. Wow. Where it fell hit right on what I needed most-how to get started. My biggest flaw in personal projects like compiling a book of tunes for baritone ukulele. This chick has very concrete ways of getting you to focus,start,and proceed. And they make sense! Just so you know there's no fluff methods in here such as perching yourself high in a tree or sitting by a river. It's all how to organize your ideas for a project & get them going. So now in the quiet moments of morning before the house stirs,I wander the pages and have 'ah-ha!" moments in how to bring things from the realm of ideas and "wouldn't it be neat to...." to actually doing it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Musings on Creative Unblocking/Recovery

   I remember back in the mid 90's when "The Artist's Way" was a huge hit among blocked creatives in all genres,me being among the blocked. I purchased the book & worked thru it,and while I wasn't completely unblocked,it did enable me to see what mental conditioning needed to be gotten rid of,and sure enough opportunities did present themselves,which had gotten me back to playing for audiences. This is when I was mainly a guitarist. 
    Last night I was having a phone conversation with a friend I considered to know well.Imagine my surprise when we got to talking about music,and after knowing her 2 years,she confided in me she was a pianist in her youth up to college. I asked her what got her to quit playing. It was a teacher she had that she simply couldn't stand in addition to the mechanics of music theory being shoved down her throat as opposed to making music. 
    She still has a piano in her home. The one her mother learned on & played-an old upright. I asked if she ever tickled the ivories & no was her response. At the same time,her job has been in a stressful situation due to changes in her department,which has led to weight gain. We talked about her beginning to have fun with the piano again and different head trips teachers,parents,lovers and friends can cause,and the damage we allow it to do. And how to get past it.
    This gave me ideas for looking for a piano book for her that would be fun & refresh the musical memory at the same time-then Julia Cameron came to mind. Had she written any more books since "The Vein of Gold"? answered the question with a yes & presented other books to look at. 
    I'll admit I'm still blocked when it comes to recording utube videos or sound recordings. In part due to my mother who's mission it was to be sure I didn't act like a "Leo" she made sure I never played guitar for people visiting as I grew up. After all,that would be being the center of attention-a Leo flaw. Even with her being passed on for nearly 10 years,and me in my late 40's,I still contend with this and I come up with "valid" excuses not to record. 
    To my delight,I found two of Julias' books used on eBay-one is called "Finding Water" and the other is "Walking in This World" I'll see what I think of them once they get here,and I may get an additional copy for my pianist friend. 
    Funny in helping another sometimes,we hear ourselves giving advice we need to hear for ourselves. Stay tuned....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Arranging Christmas Carols and Reading Music

   I know I covered this when I had a seperate baritone uke blog,but felt it was important to go over this for all uke players,no matter what tuning or size flea you play. 
   I accidently discovered I have abilities to arrange music from my soprano uke books,"regular" songbooks,vintage sheet music & the like because I taught myself to read music when I was 11. Whenever I hit on uncharted territory with a song,as in "I've never heard that one before" I grab my baritone uke-I'll confess my strongest music reading ability is on baritone from my previous years on guitar. As I have a good working knowledge of the fingerboard up to the 7th fret,I can usually navigate a piece with relative ease. 
   If it wasn't for my being able to read music I'd be stuck with uke tabs only. And that would seriously limit the songs I play. 
   I'd like to encourage all ukulele players to learn to read music for their flea-it's not nearly as hard as some would make it out to be,and you won't believe the doors it opens as far as your being able to pick up any piece of music and see what it sounds like-and that can lead one to arranging tunes for their flea from pieces that weren't written for uke! It's very freeing,really and makes you a better player. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Encore for Eternity" Online Memorial

  I have sponsored two more legendary web memorials- that of Mel Bay and Paul Ash,who had many popular tunes put into sheet music with ukulele arrangements. Not wanting to have too many memorial spots on this page,I've created my own web memorial on the lower left hand side. Click on the picture and you'll see Roy Smeck,Mel Bay,May Singhi Breen,and Paul Ash listed-click on whichever one of those you desire and you'll be taken to their final resting place on the web,where you can leave flowers and a note if you wish-free of course! I suppose this comes from my Celtic roots of honoring those who have went on before us,but I do like to acknowledge those who have aided me musically,or wrote songs that I enjoy playing on ukulele.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Tunes via Old Songs!

     I'll confess it-I have a weak spot for vintage uke sheet music. And I won a huge lot at opening bid which arrived yesterday! It's amazing how interesting & catchy the lyrics are on most of the tunes,and the titles can be just as catchy. "Heard Hearted Hannah the Vamp of Savannah" is a favorite right now tho I need to copy it for myself and learn it. Humorous lyrics that are right down G rated but you get the point the songwriter was aiming at. Marketing was pretty innovative too-back in the 20's you not only got the song you paid for but snippets of others the publisher had available. No one does that today for fear of giving away a freebie. The covers often have a portrait shot of whoever was performing/composed the piece-I have to remind myself that the female performers in their flapper do's & dress were right down daring in their day-so quaint by todays' standards but so on the edge in their own. I think every uke player should have a fat stack of antique sheet music to pour over for inspiration,making sure songs don't die out totally,and for preserving ukulele history!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hep Kitten's Bari Uke Notes Moving Here,New Look

   Spent the morning designing the new banner-and getting ready to move Hep Kitten's Bari uke notes over here-it'll be easier to have both on the same blog as opposed to two different blogs. I'm thinking of having Hep Kitten do a once a week insert so the posts will be available in the blog archive. If the demand for more bari uke notes gets to be greater,the posts will increase from once a week to more frequently.
    Repaired a crack in my favorite Harmony uke-I'm uncertain as to whether I never spotted it before or if it's a new one,but it's all glued now & good as new. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Web Memorial Added For Roy Smeck

  As October is traditionally associated with remembering those who walked the earth before us,I am now sponsoring the web memorial for Roy Smeck,whose contributions to the ukulele still affect us today. It's on the lower left hand side of this web click on the candle photo and you can leave cyber flowers & a note of appreciation if you wish,and you can also do the same for May Singhi Breen-DeRose if you wish-another major player in the first wave of ukulele popularity. Just my way of showing appreciation for what they did during their lifetimes,and to make sure they're never forgotten. :-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Time is flying-Halloween Ideas for Flea Pluckers!

    Here it is the 6th already and I'm still preparing for Halloween,and it's a joyful process. Just because it's a night of costumes and candy giving doesn't mean your flea has to sit in it's coffin-er-case all alone. How many of you ever thought of dressing in costume and assuming a uke playing vampire or witch? A mummy? Scarecrow? 1920's flapper? The possibilities are endless. Try learning "them bones",Hangmans's reel,"Monster Mash",or any other Halloweenish tune that comes to mind. You'll probably be able to find free versions of the songs on the web. You'd only need to know two or three-the kids won't hang around that long....they want to get to the next house before the candy runs out!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October is Here!

   And here I was going to cut back on my blogs,and I see this one has 6 followers!
   I have decided to combine my bari uke blog with this one then,to cut back on the amount of blogs I have as this has resulted in my not doing any writing-I want to update one blog,then knowing I should update all of em,I get overwhelmed. 
   Halloween is coming and I'm plucking Yuletide carols-I got out my vintage Hilo and Harmony ukes as I haven't played them for Zither Heaven uke has become my main tote along tho I still have a deep love of vintage fleas. To my amazement,I'm finding out I'm memorizing more chords than I thought I knew! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An apology....

For my absence of late! I've been busy with increased orders in my store,along with unexpected home happenings,like the bathtub plugging up & finding a mouse in a cupboard. (no,I'm not kidding) not to mention gardening. In an effort to eat more healthy,I've been planting different veggies in addition to onions & garlic. 
   Songwise,I'm learning to flatpick "The Wabash Cannonball" using my latest uke so I can do a Utube of it for those of you wanting to hear what it sounds like. So stay tuned and I'll post the link as soon as it's made.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Zither Heaven Ukulele Review A+!

     After being delighted with the banjo uke from Zither Heaven,I wanted to see what their "regular" uke was like. (So did a reader who asked my opinion) 
     I got a model made from North American cherry wood. I was delighted. It not only looks awesome,the tone is rich and resonant. Lots of sustain and the tuners slide as smooth as glass. Barre chords are a breeze due to the low action. And I love the string thru the body feature. No more having to get string ends tucked into the bridge. 
This uke is made to last-very sturdy,and as an odd side note-it smells good too. I've always
enjoyed the smell of wood. 

I should note it has a floating bridge-so change your strings on it as you would a fiddle-
don't take all the strings off at once-do the two outer,then the two inner strings. And I asked the makers if it was ok for me to treat the fingerboard with oil-the frets are plastic,as on the banjo uke model and I wanted to be sure I couldn't mess anything
up. You can treat the fingerboard with oil. 
This is now my main take along ukulele. The wood is blonder looking in person than in the photos,btw. Gorgeous grain and it's nice to know my ukulele didn't call for the destroying
of any forests as the woods used for theseare gained from sustainable sources. 
I'm offering these for $49 plus shipping. A wheel of a deal and made in the USA! get one here in the ukuleles section


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Zither Heaven Banjo Ukulele Review

    I've been wanting two things for awhile now-a ukulele maker that will supply me with
ukuleles for Mandolin Babe's Pickin Parlour and a banjo ukulele. I found both thru Zither Heaven,who touts their instruments to be "toys". Let me assure you this is one seriously made for musicians banjo uke & the word "toy" doesn't belong here. Not for this. It's tenor/sized at nearly 25" in length and sports features I've seen on vintage ukes like a zero fret and borrowing from the old Harmony ukes that used plastic fingerboards & frets,the Zither Heaven has plastic frets. I raised an eyebrow on this till I remembered my Harmony uke. 
    I love the thru the body stringing and solid birch wood "skin". I don't have to worry about strings popping out while stringing,or the banjo "skin" on this splitting. The bridge isn't fixed,but comes set at the right spot. Harmonics at the 12th fret sound gorgeous.
    Speaking of intonation,this is spot on. It's the most perfect intonation I've experienced except for my Savannah baritone. 
    Playing it is easy-I've never played a tenor before,so there was a little adjustment to make as far as the fingerboard went. It's made like the USS constitution-this is the most sturdy built uke I've ever seen in my life. The pot is black walnut,and there's nearly 1/4" clearance between the backside of the birch skin and the reinforcement brace you see on the back shot below:
And the tone? It's made to be played with a pick,thumbpick or fingerpicks,in my honest opinion. Playing with thumb alone wasn't personally impressive,but with a pick this little gem has a twangy banjo-ish tone about it. It's not a super loud uke,however. Great for a banjo feel or for playing bl-ukegrass on. The pot is app 1 3/4" wide.
    Now on to the tuning. This doesn't sport the traditional tuners you're used to seeing on ukes-it uses the same type you see on autoharps,which requires the use of a "tuning wrench". Upside is you don't have to worry about tightening the screws that's on most vintage tuners. To be honest,on the banjo uke,two of the ones on mine were a bit tight in the beginning and I had to really crank it the first time or two to get them going. Zither Heaven says these can be replaced with traditional tuners at a luthier,but I'm not so sure on that as the headstock is app 1/2" thick,and I don't know if replacement tuners would work on that thickness. For this reason,I cannot recommend these instruments for small children-I feel having to use a tuning wrench and effort required would totally frustrate a small kid...and some adults.


   But for a kid 11 years and up,esp one that's familiar with autoharps & the like,and for adults with an open mind & a little patience,I feel this is a well made,eclectic ukulele that may well end up being collectible down the road. A very inexpensive and good buy if you want a banjo uke and don't want to spend a lot of $$ as the vintage ones go thru the roof,and new ones are very high priced.
    Other suggestions for Zither Heaven would be to put a strap pin in the end of the body as well as marking the 10th and 12th fret-I didn't realise how much I rely on that till I didn't have them as "roadsigns". 
      These ukes are made and assembled in the USA using sustainable woods. Perfect for the environmentally minded.
   If any readers are interested in purchasing one,please contact me thru this blog as I am a Zither Heaven dealer.                                    

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Planning Ahead With The Seasons

      One of my worst habits is learning "Holiday" themed songs in time for the actual event. I come up with a ton of excuses for each one except Yule cause I love playing carols. However-with the 4th of July and Halloween,I have a terrible tendency to get lazy. So- figuring I'm not the only one,I thought I'd get you kids inspired to plan ahead. For me-the next big holiday is 4th of July-meaning I'll be wanting to learn some Patriotic tunes and some old time ditties. That means getting to work on those songs starting tonight,as I'll have a lot of time between now & then to get them down pat. 
       No doubt you're thinking that there's no Halloween songs out there. Well there is in a sense-you can learn tunes from movies like "Ghost Busters",classics like Bach's Tocatta & Fugue in DM (I looove that piece!) or old time fiddle tunes with spooky titles like "The Hangman's Reel". In fact,with Halloween you may want to step it up a notch or two. Ever think about dressing up as a zombie uke player? One from the roaring 20's? If you're a storyteller,so much the better. Think about what costume you'd like to wear,(thrift stores & yard sales are a great place to find costumes & accessories) Sit on your porch if you have one,playing your flea next to the candy bowl. scare the dickens out of the kids. The reason I'm bringing this all up so far ahead is you won't be able to give yourself the excuse of not having enough time to prepare. Just think-you could be a ukulele wielding vampire this year......:-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Porches...A Player's Paradise!

      I didn't mean to be away for this long-I must confess the news from Japan has had an effect on me,and when I haven't been watching news updates I've been packing orders and working in the yard. And speaking of gardening,(in a sense) now that spring is near,it's warming up,the sun is shining,I have to ask you......aren't you sick of playing in the house?!?

      In modern America I fear we've forgotten what a fun place the porch can be. It is the perfect place to sit and play ukulele while sipping your favorite beverage on the porch. What? Your porch is a mess? Well-now that the weather is nice,consider this a musical assignment. Go out and take a nice,honest look at your front porch. Make a list of what it needs, and don't forget comfy chairs without arms. And plants. The ones you really think look dandy. Need a table? Chairs are good but needs new cushions? If you're on a budget my "places to shop" would be as follows: 
  •        Chairs & tables,stools,etc Garage sales,Big Lots if they're in your area,Thrift Stores. 
  • Cushions-I always buy these new!!! Big Lots,Lowes,Home Depot
  • Flowers & plants,etc Pots at yard sales (ceramic ones) or Big Lots. Flowers at Home Depot or Lowes or a reasonable nursery. Plant seeds if you love to garden. 
   Clear off the porch and sweep it off-I like to hose mine down,but if there's water rationing in your area,don't chance it-make a clean sweep. Now before you put everything back "where it was before" experiment and re arrange things in a different way that may work better for you. 
   Bear in mind this is also applicable to the back porch if you don't have a front porch,the deck,or a nice spot in the backyard. 
   Apartment dweller? (I 've done that!) If possible,pick a place that gets a nice amount of natural daylight,preferably by a window. A window with a pretty view is great. Bring the outdoors in with houseplants,(some blooming varieties too!) an indoor fountain,bird feeder hooked up to the outside of the window if possible. Make sure you have a nice chair or stool to sit on & play,with a small table for your cup o java,tuner,& books to sit on. 
   When all is done,take your ukulele to your new "playin place" and enjoy. Bless it with sound!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Restored Uke.......

I was scared to start & but once I got going,my confidence grew,and now I have the coolest sounding uke-esp for bluegrass! And I figure I probably saved myself around $60 in luthier fees. My only investment was a bottle of Titebond glue-recommeded by @Doug Berch & @cursleyukuleles,who are two great guys to ask luthiery questions of. She had heat cracks on the front & back,and the small clamp that was picked up at Harbor Freight turned out to be worth it's weight in gold. All mahogany,it's got the thinnest neck I've ever seen. Thinner than my vintage Japanese made Hilo,which I considered to be pretty trim. I've noticed the modern ukes have chunky necks-not good for doing barre positions personally speaking. I found a very helpful article online for repairing heat cracks-that told me all I needed to know. I've been playing "Sally Goodin" on it-my own arrangement heavily influenced by a guitar version I had memorized as a teen. The Tab for that will be appearing shortly-and as I've been asked for a utube presentation,that will also be forthcoming.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Repairs are underway!

     You're looking at my unlabeled Harmony uke that I won in an online auction nearly 2 months ago. It came with heat cracks,which was mentioned in the listing. I don't know if any beginning luthiers go thru this,but I went thru an indecision cycle that nearly drove me crazy. I originally had in mind to repair the cracks myself-which I've never done before. So then I thought perhaps it would be better to take to someone with experience. However-my budget has been tighter than I'd care to admit lately,and there aren't any local luthiers in my area. That being said,I ordered the glue recommended by a repairman or two and set to work. I started on friday with the cracks in the back,then the cracks in the front,saving the biggest one for last. I nabbed one of these handy dandy clamps off my father,and tomorrow I'm hoping to get the rest of the strings on & see how it sounds. The mahogany on it is beautiful-it just glows in the sunlight. My skills are growing ever slowly-I can now replace tuners,tuner buttons,and fix heat cracks. The mahagany Harmony ukes are slightly bigger than your standard soprano,and this one has an arched back. Will take a pic of it when it's all fixed up & ready to sing. All in all I'm glad I walked thru my fear and fixed it up myself-very empowering. 

Friday, March 4, 2011


         Today the copies of "Ukulele Bluegrass Solos" arrived for the store,and I think a new era has dawned in the ukulele world and bluegrass music. I believe the term I coined,"Bl-ukegrass" says it all. Kids,get prepared to see bl-ukegrass bands springing up like dandy-lions. I expect traditional bluegrass bands may get a ukulele player joining up here & there. Don't forget banjo ukes or baritone,either. This book,by Ondrej Sarek,is absolutely wonderful You get to learn right hand techniques like banjo rolls,flatpicking,using fingerpicks,and a capo.
         The author got a lot of the standards in,like "Sally Goodin" (one of my faves) "Soldiers Joy" and "Red Haired Boy". It's in TAB and standard notation. Wish a CD would've been included with the book. I can't help but think that this guy has started something. I'll bet he does a volume II for this,in addition to other uke arrangers writing these old time tunes for ukulele adding their own flair. I'm already looking at some old time tunebooks I have for soprano & baritone arranging. 
         Fun to play out of,too! Started using a thumbpick to see how I like it. Nice thing about thumbpicks as opposed to plectrums is you never have to worry about dropping them. 
         So what would make a great name for a bl-ukegrass band?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ukuleles Are Good Medicine

       Ahhh my faithful readers.....I know you've been awaiting another exciting blog entry from me-I got a decent post done for the Hep-Kitten blog,and I confess I've momentarily run out of gas for this one. I caught some sort of sinus/cold bug over a week ago and let me tell you,it is a most stubborn strain. I got the deluxe version that also comes with a cough that likes to wake you in the middle of the night.
       I've had enough cough drops to make a suggestion to the cough drop makers: could you please please come up with a variety pack of different flavors? Like life savers? Coconut flavored cough drops would be delicious with cherry,lemon,strawberry & perhaps raspberry. No black cherry cause that's all I've had for nearly 2 weeks. I'm not sick enough to warrant a visit to the dr,but I am feeling draggy. 
      Ukulele has been my best medicine,along with getting vintage sheet music delivered  to my house that I won online. I scanned my copy of "The Sun Is At My Window" (Blowing Kisses at Me) Cool tune and I love the lyrics. We need more "feel good" tunes in this day & age. I think sometimes with all the technology and hi speed stuff we've forgotten how to enjoy ourselves & lighten up,even if just for a little while. I wish I sang cause this song is just wonderful. I'll be working on the melody tonight with my Hilo. (pictured above). 
      That Hilo was a Goodwill Auction win for under $20 & all it needed was a new set of tuners and strings. I did add a little cushion to the bridge as it had a slight string buzz. Sweet sound & good feel to the neck. 
       Ever since I got a video camera to do some songs for my utube channel I've either needed a haircut or had sinus probs. At this rate I'm thinking of going & doing a song,sniffles,dark circles & all! *laughs*

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beater Ukes...A Must Have!

      Everyone needs what I call I "beater uke" definition for a good sounding,unlabeled uke that's went thru a rough time cause you can see it in the finish. The one you see here I got off of an online BIN for a mere $9.00 because the sellers thought it was a kids toy. The instrument has some really rough spots where the finish has been scraped off-like it has accidently gotten smacked into something & drug along,and there's a couple of impact dings. Good thing I got it as it was not tunable due to the original tuning buttons disintegrating from age,and one of the nut slots was a hair too low so I cushioned it for now with a teeny piece of fabric. Most would've probably given the seller bad feedback due to it not being in playing condition.The description said it came from the estate sale of an elderly man so I knew this was more than likely a safe buy. I replaced the buttons,and it tunes just fine-very good craftmanship on the inside and while it's the smallest soprano I own,it has the most amazing sweet tone! Out does my beginner level Mahalo. 
      I try to learn life's lessons thru other peoples examples,and while I drool like anyone else over heavily inlaid expensive wood type ukuleles,I doubt I'll ever own one. Why?
     Here's real life example. I know a girl who took up ukulele -purchased a student model,took lessons,and she seemed to be really digging it. Then a music store that was going out of business had one of those rich looking koa wood dripping with abalone instruments with the high gloss finish that you just oooh and ahhh over. She purchased it with the hardshell case,and then something wierd happened.
     She quit playing right afterwards. No,I'm not kidding.
     She had braught the new fancy uke to where I worked & had shown it to me when I was on a break. This thing was gorgeous & I was shocked she let me handle it. Played & sounded great-and in the following weeks I would ask her here & there how her playing was coming. "I haven't played anything" followed by really poor quality excuses,became the norm. Needless to say I quit asking her about her ukulele. That girl played more when the student model was the only one she had. I've seen this happen with guitar players and so on-they get a "dream" instrument and the playing ends. There has to be some mind thing going on with that.
     "Beater" types of ukes are the best ones in a sense cause you'll take em anywhere-no worries about leaving it in the car,or someone wanting to try it out. These are the ones you carry along so you can play while your tires are getting changed,waiting in the car while Aunt Frannie does her shopping,and for taking with you to work so you can play on your lunch hour. In my opinion,every player should own one for the reasons listed above. 
     And don't go by looks-those messy ones can be the best handling and sounding!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Collecting Vintage Uke Sheet Music-A Treasure Hunt!

    One of the great things about being able to read music on your flea is the absolute blast one can have by learning new tunes by shopping online for vintage uke music. All you'll need is the skill of note reading, and a uke chord dictionary,a chord stamp and some spare time to relax and peruse listings online. I had no idea as to how any of the songs would sound when I got them-either the cover or the title would get my attention,and if the price was right,I'd either buy it outright or place a bid. It's so much fun to see how advertising was done back then-often there is a bit of another song included promoted as "bits of hits" or some other catchy slogan to get you to buy the sheet music for that piece as well. 
    More often than not,your vintage music is going to be somewhat fragile-so what I do with mine is I scan a copy for my own personal use,and keep the original stored in a protective magazine cover and in a special folder of my file cabinet. I can then use a chord stamp on the scanned copy for chords if I don't know them by heart. The chords are more complicated than what we use today,often diminished or augmented,and the lyrics are far superior to today's drivel. Nothing like knowing your sheet music was also available on talking machine,gramophone,or for player piano! 
    Amazingly enough,99% of the music I have has the uke arrangements done by May Singhi Breen,whose memorial I have sponsored and have a link to on this page should you want to leave flowers and a note to the "Ukulele Lady" 
    Now one thing I want to warn you about is shipping fees-check those before you bid or buy-I have been known to email a seller and ask if they'd mail using media mail rate if I feel the shipping is outlandish. Most of the time the seller will do this without any fuss. As you get into collecting,you'll find yourself liking certain arranging teams-I have found I like the works of Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Once you discover your favorite arrangers,that will help greatly in your shopping. 
     Remember to look for lots as well-and should you receive some music in a lot you don't care for,you can always place it up for sale or bid to make your deal even sweeter. Just be sure to place a cardboard backing in the envelope with the sheet music you sell to prevent it getting bent up. Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sharing Talants Thru The Year

     We learn chords,songs,melodies,and share them with others-but what about sharing the journey that got us to that spot to begin with? Teaching. The very word tends to make us want to run into a closet or go into a speech about how we don't really "know enough" to teach someone else. Belittling inner chatter kicks in about how ridiculous the notion is. Yet-if you've been playing for a year or more,I'd say you could teach a beginning class without a problem. 
      Next choice is what age group do you work best with? Kids? Teens? Adults? Seniors? Picking the group you work easiest with is very important-because you don't want to get home from teaching being worn out and drained. Personally speaking,I work best with teens to jr college age kids,as well as senors. 
       You can select a beginners book for your teaching material and have include it in the student fee for the class- or you can also out together your own chord charts,song sheets,etc.  
       Make sure your students have their own electronic tuners or the entire time will be spent tuning. Also be sure to start promptly and end on time as well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Re-Discovering Tuning to the Key of D

     I started playing uke tuning in the key of C,and even tho I've been playing for a little over a year,I was having a horrible time memorizing chords,and forget reading music-which I can do on mandolin and baritone uke,but something seemed amiss with the tuning I was using.      So,I took one of my ukes & restrung it with a set of Black Diamond strings made for D tuning (A D F# B) and a wierd thing happened. It suddenly felt right,I've had no problem reading music for it in this tuning and chords are easily memorized. What did I do-play uke in a prior life or something? Genetic memory kicking in? My grandmother played banjo ukulele but I have no idea what tuning she used,nor did I ever hear her play. I did inherit her banjo uke tho.
     There's an amazing amount of vintage sheet music out there made for this wonderful tuning in addition to a copy of May Singh Breen's "New Ukulele Method" Man I wish there were more uke books made like that today-she shows you 3 ways to play each chord,and offers a wealth of musical knowledge in an easy to understand format. She truly wanted ukesters to understand their instrument so they could sound fantastic. There seems to be a lot of books in C tuning that teach such bare bones about playing it's no wonder the public looks at as a toy rather than a instrument to be taken seriously. 
     If you're also having a rough time learning & you're using a C tuned uke,I'd give the D tuning a try. For those who are at home in C tuning,there's a wonderful book that is influenced by May Singh Breen-you'll see the link to it on this page. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Latest Addition to the Family.....

    Try as I may to control my aquiring "new" ukes,eventually one comes my way that I bid on,& win!
This one will need to go to the shop before I play it-an unlabeled all mahogany Harmony uke. Just gorgeous with the trademark plastic fingerboard and tuning pegs. It has 4 cracks in it which I've been heavily tempted to repair myself-I've been wanting to learn how to do minor repairs on ukes anyhow,but am leery as it is made of such nice wood-bigger than you standard soprano,too. Has a wonderfully thin neck-I notice many of the modern day ukes have chunky ones.  Seems to be made more heavy duty,as it were. The pic you see above was taken the day it arrived-I've since cleaned it up and have been humidifying it to plump up the wood before having the heat cracks repaired. And as I'm one of those key of D players I want to make sure she'll hold up to the higher tuning.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to the Blog!

  This is something I've threatened to do for ages and I nearly didn't-there's sooo many uke blogs out there already. But I felt there was a need for a 21st century flapper girl to post about ukulele from a different genre-I'll be focusing on fingerstyle,melody chord playing, & 20's-30's tunes,in addition to playing tips and photos of my own uke finds,the latest gig bags I've made,so on & so forth. A lot of uke players blog about the Hawaiian roots & style of playing,but there seems to be a lot that is overlooked and/or ignored in other styles and technique. There will be a fair amount devoted to baritone playing here as well tho the soprano will by no means be ignored. The pic you see is of the "Rocket Science" gig bag I made and is currently up for sale in my Etsy store.