Tuesday, 17 March 2015

With the Sound of Purple! Ken Middleton improvisation - My Bonnie


I love what Ken Middleton does. He's a great player. Improvisation and what he calls "noodling" are his specialities, I think, and every now and then he comes up with something that just grabs me. This is one such, turning the old folk song "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" into a jig by altering the timing. The hammer-ons and pull-offs are magic.

I noticed Ken's use of triplets here, but didn't notice immediately that he's using the thumb-led triple. I'm used to the fore-finger led triple, but the thumb-led triple isn't tricky, it's just different!

Ken says....

"I wanted to try the well-known Scottish folk tune "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" as a jig. The song is normally played in triple time (3/4), but, after the slow intro, I am playing it in compound duple time (6/8). A jig should have a clear 2 beat feel, with each beat subdivided into 3. Pretty much any tune with a good melodic line can be played as a jig, but folk songs work really well.

The strum I am using is basically a triplet strum: thumb down, pointer up, pointer down. But I don't always play the full triplet. And, I do use other finger and the tune is sometimes played as the triplet, sometimes with just thumb and sometimes with hammer-ons and pull-offs.

I chose to play it in G and often use the 4th string as a melody note."

I do hope you enjoyed that! I've watched it about four times already... one to try and play along with?

Oh - and did you clock that beautiful purple-coloured uke? Custom built for Ken by Rob Collins of Hebden Bridge here in England. It's a deep-bodied uke, 6mm deeper in the body than the normal tenor, for a fuller sound. And the purple colour comes from the wood itself, it's not painted. Purple Heart wood. There you go. For the sound that Ken wanted.

To find out all about this beautiful Purple Heart uke, see Ken's full youtube review... check it out here!

Thanks for dropping in - do call again!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Clawhammer ukulele? Try lesson 1 by Aaron Keim

A few uke players sometimes play clawhammer style. Aaron Keim, AKA "The Quiet American" is one of them ... are you in the UK? You want to see him live? He'll be at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield, England - 22nd to the 24th May this year, 2015. And he will be doing a workshop on fingerpicking - NB, fingerpicking, NOT clawhammer.... anyways, I've got my ticket, booked my workshops, including this one.

Better be quick if you get in on it - there are not many tickets left, and workshops have begun to sell out!

Thanks for dropping in... I'm getting back to my practice now!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival

The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival - Huddersfield, England.

22nd - 24th May, 2015.

The tickets for this stupendous ukulele event in the North of England have nearly all gone - they really have! Last year's festival was phenomenal - I know, I was there... and I have my ticket for this year's, so I'm All Right Jack! If you want to go, get in there sharpish. Because many of the greatest names in the ukulele world are going to playing there.

Manitoba Hal Brolund, Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee, Aaron Keim, the Quiet American, Phil Doleman - and many more, including Mike Warren of the GFS, Zoe Bestel, Dead Man's Uke, ... and still more!

A snippet of hot news is that Remco Houtman-Janssen (Ukulelezaza) is returning to do something new. He's put together a collaborative set called, "Ukulelezaza & Friends" where he'll be playing music with a range of different performers. That's going to be really exciting to see, what a great way to enjoy talented performers doing their thing!

Also. Mim from Mim's Ukes in the USA is going to be at the festival. It's her first ever visit to the UK!

Workshops - The Festival Workshops will led by some of the top ukulele players, performers and makers in the world. These all take place at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival (23-24 May, 2015) at the main festival site - the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. To attend workshops you'll need a festival ticket... and look out, be quick - Phil Doleman's workshop is sold out already! For one, I'm not surprised.... but that's another story!

Getting time to blog hasn't been easy these last couple of weeks again - life is such a Ukafrolic, there's little time to write about it! A couple of weekends ago LSH and I were at a rather exciting uke weekend in the very north of England near Hadrian's Wall - haven't had time to tell you all about it. Well, I will, just as soon as I can.

And I'll tell you all about the uke lessons I've decided to take after all this time.

And right now, I'll get back to my uke "homework"....!

Thanks for dropping in - I appreciate it. I really do.

Monday, 16 February 2015

"Rondo alla Turca" by Mozart - Andreas David and Corey Fujimoto, ukulele

This is rather special. Mozart. Now really, it doesn't get much, if any, better than that, does it - The MASTER musician and composer..... simpl takes your breath away. Want to get as good as this? In your dreams! Or - practice, practice, practice!

Just a quickie.... couldn't resist!

Thanks for dropping in!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

George Elmes demonstrates percussion techniques on ukulele!

Wonderful stuff, this! A bit of percussive tapping on a uke can really enhance a piece. I was thrilled to see George Elmes doing this lovely tuition video! George, who hails from Dublin, is simply one of the most accomplished players around, but he's not so well-known as many. I've featured his playing many times on here, he's one of my favourites! Just find him on the label-cloud at the bottom of the page to find more posts.

The video speaks for itself, as does any good tuition video.

The "Brajao", a "Serious Joke" of an instrument by Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues

A fourth and final (for the moment) post on the Madeiran instruments which are the fore-runners of the ukulele, the machete (braguinha)and the rajao, and on the Madeiran luthier who is still building them. If you read my last few posts, you'll know that last week I was fortunate and privileged to visit the workshop of the highly esteemed Madeiran luthier Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues in Funchal, Madeira.

I haven't said much about the rajao in my posts as yet, but actually it's the rajao that has the most in common with the ukulele, because of the way it's tuned.

About the size of a concert uke, it has 5 strings; strings 1-4 are GCEA exactly like the ukulele, and the 5th string is tuned to D (2nd fret of the C string.) In fact, Dan Scanlan writes here that there are real grounds for believing that it was the rajao, not the machete, that was adapted to become the ukulele, simply by the removal of the 5th string! Do read that article, it's very interesting!

Well, here is an instrument built by Mr Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues twenty years ago as a "serious joke" - a hybrid braguinha/rajao, which he calls a "brajao"!

And here is this amazing instrument being played by two of the very best players of the braguinha and rajao! Roberto Moniz and Roberto Moritz. I don't seem to be able to embed it, it's on vimeo. Just give the link a click. It's delightful.

There are several videos on Youtube and vimeo by these two superb players. Here's Roberto Moniz playing an original piece on a rajao built by Carlos.

And if your appetite for "uke porn" has been whetted, just look at these beautiful instruments!

I've learned a lot about these Madeiran instruments over the last few days. I hope you've enjoyed reading about them and listening to them too. Thanks for dropping in!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Surprise workshop visit, Funchal, Madeira - Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues


Life for a lady with a ukulele or two just gets more interesting!

We were on holiday. A chance encounter led to us being directed to the workshop of Carlos Jorge Periera Rodrigues, luthier of the Madeiran machete (braguinha), the father of the ukulele (see posts from yesterday and earlier in the week). We got there, LSH and I. LSH didn't mind one bit - he's golden. The door (always decorated with a hibiscus flower) was opened by a very handsome young man with black curly hair and a beard - Carlos's son, who made us very welcome and showed us his father's work as best he could. Henrique was particularly proud of the tiny and exquisite machetinho which his father had made - (see photo yesterday) and here are some more of the pics we took.

This is a machete from the early 1900's. Of course, Carlos Rodrigues did NOT build this one!

And here I am with Carlos's son, who was so lovely to talk to - and the lovely tiny machetinho made by his father.
The machete (braguinha) is a solo instrument, tuned DGBD, low to high, traditionally with metal strings, I believe but also with nylon strings in Madeira. The top is always solid spruce. (For more information see also my posts from yesterday, and from a couple of days earlier.....)

What an array of instruments! Awaiting restoration...

Mandolins and guitars too...

Henrique with "a challenge" - a very damaged braguinha, which he plans to try to restore as he learns his father's craft.

and finally...

A piece of reclaimed spruce from a piano - perfect for the top of machetes! Old wood is superior, Henrique tells me.

Our surprise visit to the workshop was a wonderful experience, it was a shame that Carlos was not there as I would love to have met him, but his son was so kind and spoke of his father's work with such pride. What a joy, a real holiday highlight. My thanks to Henrique and to Carlos for his input since our return.

If anything need correcting in this post, Carlos will tell me and I will put it right. Meanwhile, here is a lovely Youtube video of Madeira, showing Carlos in action talking about his work and the machete, (braguinha) with subtitles in English and some music played by Roberto Moniz.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. One more amazing thing about Carlos's work to show you - next time! As for me, I plan to tune a ukulele like a braguinha (machete) DGBD to try it out, very soon! Thanks for dropping in!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The machete (braguinha) still built and played in Madeira....

Yes dear friends, the little fore-runner and father of the ukulele, the machete, also known as the braguinha, is still being built and played in Madeira. LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I have just returned from Funchal, the capital... where the highlight of the trip for me was a sudden and unexpected visit to the workshop of the luthier Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues. He who builds the machete...

Here's my Little Blue Uke, a constant traveling companion, hurriedly snapped among the greenery of our hotel (Littel Blue Uke woz 'ere)

And here's the exquisite, tiny machetinho built by Carlos, held here by his son. Absolutely not for sale, he told us.

And here is one of Carlos's happy customers, playing his Carlos Jorge Pereira Rodrigues braguinha - or machete, the two are the same as I understand it.

Carlos tells me "Both the Braguinha and the Machete have the same tuning (Ré Si Sol Ré), but on the 19th century they sometimes used Mi Si Sol Ré (french guitar's 4 first strings) on the Machete. The difference between the both instruments is that the Machete was an erudit instrument before the end of the 19th century, then at the end of the 19th century people started "popularizing" the Machete (Machete de Braga), so they started calling it Braguinha."

The machete is tuned DGBD, low to high. I haven't tried to play a uke tuned that way; I understand the fingerings can be tricky.

I have more to share - and I will! But I like to keep my posts short and snappy so for now, I recommend you get over to Al Wood's uke blog, Uke Hunt, where he did a Madeiran Music Special about three years ago -I won't reinvent the wheel, Al is a superb blogger, one of the very best. So get over there and have a look at all the information he shares on the machete!

Al Wood's blog Uke Hunt - Madeiran Music Special