Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Ukulele Logos

 In the summer I had a go at adding a photo of one of my ukuleles to a photo of Eric Morecambe's statue. It became the logo for the Morecambe Ukulele Club and was the motif on the front of the 2014 'tour' shirt. The back of the shirt, as is usual, had our tour dates.

The logo, on the right shows Eric holding the ukulele. In reality his fingers are outstretched and I had to remove the ends of the fingers to make it look like he was holding it. The easiest part of the image to add is probably the text as all I had to do was choose a font and get the size of font to fit the length of the image.

Today I had a go at a logo for Ukulele Jukebox - see https://www.facebook.com/ukulelejukebox

Strangely, or maybe not if you know about these things, it was easier to make Eric into a silhouette and add a ukulele than it was to draw straight lines and circles to make a jukebox. I haven't had a lesson in using a computer but maybe I need a lesson or two.

And if you want to see where Morecambe Ukulele Club go on tour, here is the back of the shirt. The trouble with a tour shirt is it can't get printed until we know where we are going. We have had dates that aren't on the tour shirt e.g. last weekend we played Morecambe Library.

I believe we have been invited back to Morecambe Library next year and we should be alright in 2015 for the Paris Olympia, the Albert Hall and New York's Carnegie Hall.


Friday, 12 December 2014

The importance of dynamics

A couple of days ago I posted my first two videos on an Ohana TKG 70 guitalele. The first is Aguado's study in Am which is fairly simple and I played it slowly but I played it as it is written. Then, in take two, with a shift in accent, I recorded it with an emphasis on the melody. It became a different tune which just goes to show the importance of dynamics.

A few weeks ago I won the guitalele from Omega Music. Yes, won. How lucky is that, so thanks to Omega Music I now have a welcome addition to my ukuleles. This one plays like a guitar at the fifth fret and is the size of a tenor ukulele. Four of the six strings are exactly like a tenor (G,C,E and A) with an additional fifth and sixth strings (A and D) which makes it relative tuning exactly like a guitar - hence the name.

I now need to learn a whole new set of chord names. However it is easy to play classical pieces on the guitalele as long as you don't want them to be in their original key. This isn't a problem because most classical music is for solo guitar. Those extra two strings make me think I am playing guitar but all the notes have changed. I can play all my classical guitar music but the sound that is produced is five semitones higher.

I like ukuleles, in fact I prefer them to the classical guitar because they are easy to carry, easier to play, much cheaper than guitars, and mostly I prefer ukuleles because they are a social instrument. There are groups of like-minded ukulele players everywhere. In fact I am off later today to play in Sainsbury's in Lancaster. I don't think you'll find many guitar groups playing for charity this Christmas in your local supermarket.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Best Size for a Ukulele

I have just been asked for advice on buying a ukulele and specifically which size is best. This person already plays guitar and they had already heard about the different tuning of the baritone which may be helpful to her. Here is a copy of the advice...

I have a guitalele which is the size of a tenor ukulele but has six strings tuned like a guitar at the fifth fret. When I play a G chord on the guitalele I am actually playing a C chord and this makes me feel like a beginner as I have to think in a totally different way from when I am playing the guitar. Even if you decide on a baritone, I would treat your ukulele Christmas present like a new instrument and forget that you play guitar. You will have new chord shapes to learn but at least they are all the same regardless of the size of ukulele (apart from baritone). I have Brunswick soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles which aren't very expensive but I bought them to help me decide which size is best for me. I am still deciding.

Sopranos are good for stretching for higher notes but there is more space to move around in first position with the tenor. All of them have chords in the same shape and all I have to do is remember how far to stretch for the notes that aren't in first position... I also have an eight-string tenor which is my first choice playing solo.

I like my soprano as I can carry it in a small bag and it's probably best to start with a soprano and they tend to be cheaper too. It's probably best not to spend too much on your first ukulele. Octopus are cheap and good. Slightly better and slightly more expensive are Mahalo Dolphin ukuleles. For a little more money you get a huge choice including Brunswick. Don't forget looks. If you like the look of a ukulele then you are more likely to play it too. I hope that helps.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

So Many Ukulele Opportunities

We are very lucky in Morecambe to have so many opportunities for playing the ukulele. On Thursday a couple who were staying in Lancaster for a couple of nights sent a message on Facebook to ask about joining us at our regular Saturday morning session at the Morecambe Ukulele Club. From that message they managed to get to Arnside on Thursday evening, Lancaster on Friday and Morecambe on Saturday. I did mention that the Snug Ukulele  group from Carnforth were playing at the beer festival at Carnforth Station on Saturday (yesterday) evening but they were making their way north to Carlisle and to Omega Music.

Here is the evidence for one of those events, the Beer Festival at Carnforth. Thanks to Glenn Bennett - https://picasaweb.google.com/103639…/SnugBeerFestival221114…"


P.S. Take a look at the Lancashire Ukulele website.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Lancashire Ukulele

I have a website which went live a few hours ago and here is the link for 'Lancashire Ukulele'.

There are plenty of photos and videos as well as an advert for lessons in classical guitar and ukulele.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

GNUF and my most inspirational ukulele player 'award'

This time last week I was in Huddersfield at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival (GNUF) - and what a festival! There were ample opportunities to play the ukulele, there were workshops galore and there were the top ukulele players from around the world. The photo on the right shows one of the groups, the Mother Ukers.

GNUF is the type of festival where everyone seems to know everyone else. This may be because a large proportion of the audience attended last year or it may be because of social media throughout the year. It may be because ukulele players are free to go and play with other ukulele groups - and there are plenty around, or it may be something to do with the tours organised by GNUF. It may also be something to do with the mini-festivals that are arranged by many clubs. I have written about Lancaster's Malarkey but I also got chance to play at Chester back in July and there are plenty of others including the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. However mostly the ukulele ambience is mostly due to the friendly nature of ukulele players and performers.

There were many performers in a great variety of styles and the Mother Ukers were among my favourites. They played on the Saturday and the following day I spoke to the three of them. I told them that I had enjoyed their music and my 'award' for most inspirational ukulele player goes to their bass player, Barnaby Wild (his photo is on the left and the right just in case you don't recognise a ukulele bass). I was asked if that's because he sweats a lot - and if you look closely you can see that his shirt is wet through. The answer is partly yes because of the energy that he puts into his performance. I don't use flash which means that the performers have to be fairly still when I take the photo otherwise the image is blurred. You can see the effect of movement on the left with the movement of Barnaby's right arm. I did manage, after a few more attempts, to get two or three photos of him without blurring. There's one of them on the right.

The other two told me I shouldn't have mentioned my award to Barnaby because they won't hear the last of it. Fortunately they told me, he doesn't understand the word inspirational and they will tell him it means something different.  I did see a few more performers after this conversation including the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain who were excellent,  but my inspirational 'award' still goes to Barnaby.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Perfect Fourths and Fifths and Intel

Some notes, and for that matter chords, go together better than others. Take the note C and then play an F and then play C to G. The F is the fourth note of the C scale and C to F is called a perfect fourth because these notes go so well together. You don't get a perfect second because these notes don't fit together as nicely. However C goes well with G and this is called the perfect fifth.

It doesn't matter if we are talking about individual notes or with full chords, C, F and G go really well together. There are many songs that just use those three chords because they fit together so well. It doesn't have to start with a C chord. If you start with a D then the fourth is a G and the fifth an A, and there are many songs in those three chords too.

If you take the notes and go from C to F then back to C then G this is exactly the melody of the Intel theme commonly heard on adverts. You can't get much simpler than a perfect fourth and a perfect fifth. OK the Intel advert has the notes C, C, F, C and G (or whichever key they are in) but someone has made a lot of money out of that. Maybe that's why they are called perfect intervals.


My Dog Has Fleas

If you have never picked up any musical instrument and have no background knowledge of music then how do you start to play a ukulele? I know how I started. As a teenager I played guitar and I was taught how to hold it and how to play it but I didn't have a ukulele. A friend did have a banjolele and he showed me how to hold it and the George Formby strumming patterns as well as how to play basic chords. So I suppose the best way to learn is to have a friend to show us. Failing that, I suppose the first step is to buy a ukulele.

When I bought my first guitar I took another friend with me for support and advice. I had a paperback book full of information as to what made the best guitar but it couldn't tell me which guitar would be best for me. Whichever guitar (for guitar read ukulele here) I chose, it had to have good intonation - it had to play the right notes! It had to be easy to play. If the action, the distance from the strings to the fretboard is too high then it isn't easy to play, but too low may lead to their own problems. I don't want to sound shallow but how a ukulele looks is very important. If you like the look then you are more likely to play it.

You are even more likely to play it if what you are playing sounds good, and that starts with the ukulele being in tune. The common tuning is GCEA from the string nearest the ceiling to the string nearest the floor, and the biggest difference between a ukulele and a guitar is that the G has a higher pitch than the following C and the E strings. My banjolele owning friend had pitch pipes as well as a piano to help him get it in tune. Nowadays electronic tuners are a wonderful aide to tuning even if it stops everyone thinking and makes us just follow a flashing light. However I have no hesitation in recommending their use.

I would also recommend knowing about 'my dog has fleas'. If you haven't heard this before then it is nonsense but you can't play the ukulele for long without hearing the phrase and someone singing the words to the notes - you've guessed it - GCE and A or 'My(G) Dog(C) Has(E) Fleas(A). It is nothing to do with dogs, nothing to do with fleas and nothing to do with any song that I know but it certainly helps you recognise the pattern of open notes on a ukulele.


Thursday, 4 September 2014


I am a member of a few ukulele groups on Facebook. I find them useful as an aide to communication within those groups. You can't beat going to clubs and speaking with other ukulele players but social media is not a bad addition to communication. One of those groups is called Ukulel-itis and there is a question of the day, you've guessed it, on a daily basis.

Occasionally I will make a comment  and this is my comment from yesterday when a question was asked about fingernails...

I have played classical guitar for years and now I generally use a pick with the ukulele if I am bashing out tunes to save my nails. I was initially taught that the nails should be regularly filed to keep them smooth (and they should be, and the best and cheapest way is to use the finest sandpaper which really gets into both sides of the nail) and have a flat end because I should be playing parallel to the strings. Then I was taught that the nails should have a round end like the living part of the nail because finger position changes in relation to the string - and this is how I have kept them for years. If they are too long then the sound becomes tinny and, as Paul Green says, the nail is more likely to break, so I keep index, middle and anular to 2 or 3mms and the thumb maybe a ml or two more. I save my nails for when I need to use them on the ukulele so I avoid a thrash, and this also means no housework and no manual labour of any kind 

It is a public group so you can take a look at all the comments - and you can join the group too!


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Levy Uke Up

Two days ago I visited the ukulele club in Levenshulme, otherwise known as Levy Uke Up (I should ask how they got their name) and of course there was a warm welcome. It is also an excuse to see my brother who is occasionally in Manchester so this was my third visit of the year.

I had printed out the music for the evening, and this was a dress rehearsal for a performance on Saturday. When I say dress rehearsal I don't know if they have clothes for the stage but we were standing up as if performing. So this evening was about getting the starts right - and the ends - and the bit in the middle. It was also about timing for the whole programme and one or two songs had to be cut. However they may make it back into the schedule when the crowd goes wild and encores are added.

Thanks to Mike for letting me know which music was being played - great bass playing by the way. I printed out this music and I now have a Levy folder which is almost full. Thanks also to Ed for his welcome and for asking if my brother wanted to borrow a ukulele. It looks like he has the same idea as George Harrison and always has a couple of ukuleles with him in case he can play with others.

I'll be seeing Ed in less than two weeks as he is the official photographer at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, and I dare say there will be a few more Levy players there too.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Trimpell Family Fun Day

Today the Morecambe Ukulele Club played at the Trimpell Family Fun Day. It would seem that we went down well from the feedback that was received. The players enjoyed themselves anyway, and for the second time in the last few months I heard that we could have been louder. That has to be a compliment!

The Trimpell is a sports and social club in Morecambe and also happens to be where we have rehearsed every Saturday morning for the past couple of years. Prior to that we rehearsed in the Park Hotel until it closed but when the club formed over five years ago the meeting place was Morecambe Fire Station. Five years may not seem long but in ukulele club terms it makes us one of the oldest clubs around.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Chonkin' Choons Day

Chonkinfeckle is a group from Wigan. I first came across them in September 2012 when I went down to Radio Lancashire to watch Sally Naden's show. I didn't need much persuading as I had read that ukuleles were involved. It was a really enjoyable show and with free entrance too. I didn't know it at the time but the three people who were sat in front of me in the audience were from Hebden Bridge and had (and still have) a large part to play in organising the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. I know now because Tim Cooke (on the left in the photo below) told me at this week's Chonkin' Choons Day.
10170679_823888017624891_1485681582_nI came across Chonkifeckle again at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival last year and I have seen them at other festivals since then but this week I went to their open mic, Chonkin' Choons Day which is held every Tuesday at The Raven pub in Wigan. I had been told about it by a fellow ukulele player who had been there the previous week. What I hadn't realised was that this had been their first ever Chonkin' Choons Day. I received a report that it had been a great night and my experience of the second event couldn't have been more positive.
There are two things that stand out from Chonkinfeckle's open mic night and that is firstly that guitars are not allowed and secondly the group were very happy to support any participant. They didn't even need the music as a quick photo gave them all the information they wanted. Isn't technology wonderful! 
I had taken my eight-string ukulele which sounds like a mandolin but is tuned like a ukulele and it seemed to go down well as three people told me they enjoyed my playing! There are open mic nights everywhere. There are even open mic nights like my local pub on Wednesdays that are mainly ukulele based. However you have to go a long way to find an open mic night which is led by such a great group which makes the journey from Morecambe to Wigan very short indeed. No doubt I will be making further visits to the Raven in the future and I can look forward to seeing Chonkinfeckle in a few weeks at the next Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Over Kellet and Preston

I have two ukulele events to report on today. The first was held in Over Kellet at their village hall when the Gillow group from Lancaster were playing for a 'Vintage and Craft Fair'. It looked like everyone, players and listeners, enjoyed themselves but that's generally what happens when you play the ukulele. We didn't have our usual leader, Sue Parish but we didn't play too badly. The starts and ends could have been a bit sharper, and for the first time I heard a comment that we could have been a bit louder but that must be a good comment!

This evening I went to the Preston Ukulele Strummers Society and was made very welcome. I play with four clubs on a regular basis and have visited quite a few more, but the music choice this evening was different from what I usually expect. We started with Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd and went on to play Brain Damage and Eclipse. We played a Robert Palmer song that I'd never heard previously but it reminded me of Supper's Ready by Genesis. I'll take this one with me next time I make a visit. It made my first choice of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Universally Speaking, look quite tame.

They all enjoyed their music at Preston but the thing that impressed me the most was the way they played together. It looked like they all had an in-depth knowledge of the music that they were playing. It may well be the case that there are people in every club who like this type of music but today it looked like they all did.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Lancaster's Ukulele Malarkey 2

Lancaster Ukulele Malarkey took place two days ago and I have just recovered enough to write this blog. It was a full day of ukulele playing starting with the Morecambe Ukulele Club's usual session between 10am and noon at the Trimpell Club in Morecambe. The Malarkey began with a beginners' workshop and was followed by performances from five ukulele groups at St John's Church in Lancaster. On the right is a photo of the Morecambe group.

In the evening small groups and individuals played in the Robert Gillow pub in Lancaster. I managed a couple of supporting roles and sang a couple of songs on my own and I certainly managed more than Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame.

I spoke with many people and they all agreed that the whole day was a great success. Everyone wants to come back next year. The day concluded with songs from a couple from Manchester, Lou Armer and Alice Brockman who can be seen on the left. Lou plays ukulele and Alice is on violin.

The whole event was organised by Sue Parish who runs ukulele sessions on Fridays, also at the Robert Gillow pub, and yesterday she even managed to organise another ukulele event for a Lancaster charity, the the Neuro Dop In Centre. No wonder it has taken a couple of days to write this blog!


Monday, 7 July 2014

Lancaster's Ukulele Malarkey

The next event in Morecambe Ukulele Club's calendar is a 'malarkey' organised by Sue Parish in Lancaster on the 19th July. All the details may be found here and it promises to be a full day of great entertainment.

Here is a photo taken a couple a few weeks ago at St John's Church, during the sound check in the venue where the group performances will be held during the afternoon. In the evening we move to the Robert Gillow for the open mic session, and to finish the evening there is a performance from ukulele player, Lou Armer (from Lou and the Llamas) and her violin-playing llama, Alice Brockman.

Photo: On the 11th June some Ukulele enthusiasts tested the aucoustics 
All are welcome to the Ukulele malarky with Sue Parish on 19th July.
Photo credit: Mandy Holten.

There is also a workshop and opportunities for 'pub-based strumming' and probably a lot more too.

See you there?



Welcome to the latest addition to the "for novices" blogs. The ukulele has been getting more and more popular in recent years and for the past four years I have been lucky enough to be a member of the Morecambe ukulele club - lucky because there aren't many clubs older than mine here in Morecambe. Four yours doesn't sound like ancient history but it is in terms of ukulele clubs which are now all over the country and the world. I have also joined other clubs in Lancaster, Arnside (and another club in Morecambe) and I am a frequent visitor to other clubs in the North West.

Ukulele festivals are also springing up everywhere. Last year I attended the inaugural Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, (GNUF) in Pontefract and this year GNUF will be held in Huddersfield on the 13th and 14th September which I am sure will be another full house. I have also been to the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain (also sold out) which is held in Cheltenham and there are some very professionally organised free festivals like N'ukefest and the Chester Summer Strum. In fact I managed to get on the main stage at Chester yesterday and on the left is the evidence.

I have already posted quite a few ukulele-related videos on my YouTube channel, but I thought it would be good to have a blog specifically for ukulele-related matters, with the space for discussion on all matters related to the world of the ukulele.