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.