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.


Anonymous said...

Yo. I just started playing the uke and I found your how to video for Keep the Car Running. I want more Arcade Fire on the uke. Do you know any other songs? I'm thinking Wake Up or Lies or Windowsil.


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