Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to turn a guitar into a ukulele (using a capo)

It's a magic trick! Ok, so it's just putting a capo on the 5th fret and only playing the bottom four strings. Probably not worth a video, but here's one anyway:



I think it's just cool that the standard tunings match up like this. If you learn exclusively on the ukulele, you can make a very easy switch to playing the same stuff on the much more prevalent guitar if you need to. And THAT IS COOL.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to play In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

This is really a guitar song that won't sound exactly right on the ukulele. I originally learned most of it on guitar and it seemed like a pretty easy choice, but in making this video for the ukulele version I realized it's a bit more complicated then I gave it credit for. Here's my instructional video for it:



First off, the strumming pattern doesn't loop in the more common 4 or 8 or 16 beat pattern--it's in 12. It's not too complicated and it is a pretty easy rhythm to hear, but I think it's why such a simple song with common chords still sounds original. The strumming pattern, where each beat is an up or a down strum, is:

1) down
2) miss
3) down
4) up
5) down
6) up
7) down
8) miss
9) down
10) up
11) down
12) up
(switch chord and repeat)

Here are the chords with the lyrics.

The song only has four chords: G, Em, C, and D. For most of the song, the chords are played in that order with one 12-beat loop for each chord. There is one part (starting at "Now how I remember you...") where the chords switch their order and are played Em, C, G, D and for two 12-beat loops each instead of one.

It's a pretty song rife with nostalgia and epic sadness. Like a lot of that album, actually, which makes sense if you consider the inspiration.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If anyone has any idea how Israel strums...

...this song, PLEASE let me know. The song is the beautiful Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World ukulele mash-up, by deceased ukulele hero Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

I need to find a slow motion tutorial... which is exactly what I'll post if I can figure it out.

The song is just a ukulele and it sounds like it should be easy to figure it out, but there is something deceptively complex about the beat. I wonder if it's possible he uses a different tuning too. I did find this discussion, which only told me people are having just as much difficulty as I am having.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jukes was a stupid pseudonym.

...which I only chose because it had "uke" right in the middle.

From now on, I'm going by the much more ridiculous pseudonym "Paz".

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

How to play Keep the Car Running by Arcade Fire

This is probably my favorite song off the newer Arcade Fire album (Neon Bible), so it was cool to see it as the first song listed under "beginner chords" on ukulelehunt.com. They do a more detailed description of the song, along with some tabs to do the melody here (there's a pdf file with the lyrics and the chords).

The version I play and do a little video of here has none of the tabbed stuff. It's all rhythm strumming. The ukulele is tuned to the standard GCEA tuning, and there are only three chords: D, Gsus2, and A. The chord switches are very slow, which I guess is why this is a good beginner song.



Basically, I tried to play this song with as much body as I could get out of the ukulele, because the original by Arcade Fire is a such a full, rich song with so many different instruments. They have a hurdy gurdy doing a background hum, they have french horns, banjos, drums, guitars, and other percussion. By playing the song loudly and without ever clamping down on the strings, I think you accomplish three things:

1) You get a percussion sound from hitting the strings and the body of the ukulele itself,
2) you get the melodic twang of the individual strings, and
3) you get a constant resonance or hum in whichever chord you're playing.

This is not a very advanced way to play the song, but I hope it gets the feeling across with just the one instrument. If you want to check if you will like the results or not, skip to near the end of the video to my demonstration of the first verse of the song (singing added only for timing purposes).

The strumming pattern I describe in the video loops in eight beats, where each beat is a down or an up strum:
1) down
2) miss up
3) down
4) up
5) miss down
6) up
7) down
8) up
(repeat, switching chords if necessary)

If you get this pattern down, try mixing in some measures where you don't miss on the 5th beat. I think it gives a bit of emphasis to that loop.

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