Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ask Ukulala Vol. 3: Bosnia to the Moustache Empire

Yeeeeeeehaw, time for another round of Ask Ukulala Anything!

It's been a little while, but I have noticed I get enough questions about once a month, so I think from now on I'll try to make these approximately a monthly event.

We've got some excellent questions again this round, so I'll do my best to answer, starting with Piennoich from across the ocean in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Hello my friends :)
Piennoich, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hi Piennoich! (mangles pronunciation as "pie"-"noych", smiles inquisitively, wonders which sex the name applies to)

I guess you have no question in particular, but, believe me, I read that wink loud and clear.


Do you play World of Warcraft? Would you consider doing so if I sent you one?
Kelly, Circus clown (seriously!)

Well, the thing about Worl---wait a minute.... Are you reaaaally a circus clown?!?!

I feel like these questions are suddenly going the wrong direction. If you're really a circus clown, I want to know MORE. Like, what kind of clown tricks do you do? And are all your friends carnies and how do those flexy people carry heavy things without their bodies bending and how does that guy know how heavy everyone is and what do you feed the bears and is your whole family in the circus and---I'm trying to write down all my questions for you... but ..... head.... exploding..... with questions......... YEARGGGGH! *pop*


Ok, wait, I'm fine. Must have just been a blood clot.

Anyway, I don't play World of Warcraft. The last Warcraft I played was Warcraft II, and it was awesome (my favorite quote, from the two-headed ogre with the British accent: "We're ready master. No we're not!").

It's probably too late for me to get into Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) at this point if I haven't yet, so I probably wouldn't sta----wait, are you really a circus clown though?

Do you have videos of yourself online? And where do you access the internet?

*more delicious flattery* Also, teaching helps to learn, so i bet that your answering all these questions advances you even further.
A Fan, Everywhere

You, Mr. or Ms. Fan, are correct. Part of why I started making the tutorial videos and answering questions was so that I would be forced to figure it all out myself before I opened my big yapper. The questions aren't quite as rigorous as the videos, since I like to have a bit of fun with them, but I do try to address the substantial questions with real answers as best I can.

In fact, I might go out on a limb here and say teaching is the best the way to learn. So... everyone should go teach someone else how to play their favorite uke song, and let me know how it goes!

a lot of kids at my school have been pressuring me to try ukulele, but I've heard from adults it's a gateway silly instrument and can lead to the playing of yet sillier instruments. Could you possiably skip straight to the siller instruments? i'm a busy kid, and i can't aford to waste time on the uke when i know there are more hard-core silly instruments out there. Maybe you can post soungs on the jew's harp, or a series of wine glasses filled to different levels. OH! hows about an accordian song?! that big, ol' squeezy box is the bees knees.

Marduk, Mustachioed child upon a beardo's lap

Ooooh, this questioner also included a link to what appears to be a photo of himself:

I like how their coats match, but I'd be concerned if I were that guy that the kid is not actually his. I mean, look at that blond hair and relatively tiny moustache....

Anyway, back to the meat of this question: silly instrument!? SILLY!?!? DAMN YOU TINY TIM!

Nobody thought the ukulele was silly back before that moron started playing it. It's an amazingly versatile, portable, and yet simple instrument. It has a long proud history as a fusion of Portuguese culture and Hawaiian craftsmanship, and it was the instrument of choice here in the US during the 1920s jazz--the "icon of the Jazz Age" according to wikipedia.

And then that idiot picked it up and starting dancing around like a buffoon and squawking like a bird so people could laugh at him and his stupid little novelty instrument. Har har. RIP, no disrespect, but come on. I'm not even sure he knows how to tune or play his uke.

Anyway, those other ideas for instruments all sound awesome. Accordion, wine glasses, jew's harp--wait, is that a racial slur? Bringing up google... ok, no, you're in the clear--would all be fantastic to learn how to play. Lord knows there are ten billion people out there right now playing fucking electric guitar and nothing but. And I got nothing against the electric guitar, I just love to see more variety in music.

I like the idea of the ukulele being a gateway instrument, but there's nothing silly about it. It's fun and easy to learn, so it is a gateway... to music! (nods with self-satisfaction at the turn of the phrase)

So my advice to you is like anything else: if kids at school are pressuring you to do something, go for it bruh.

so...I've been flirting with the uke for a while now. nothing serious, but I came across this and was wondering if you knew where the hell to find tab for it. it's gorgeous.

sam, austin, tx

First of all, what a fantastic contrast between that video (the link goes to "ukulele master Ohta-san performs HAWAII") and the Tiny Tim video I just watched. The perfect juxtaposition of a master and a jester.

Yes, this is a beautiful song that I have never heard before. I did a pretty intensive online search (read: 10 full minutes) and came up with no tabs for it.

If you really are serious about learning this song, I would write Woodshed at and request that he figure out tabs for it. There's nobody more qualified (or likely) to figure it out, and that song would be a great addition to the uke-iverse (not my term, but I like it).

...But, please don't ask him to figure it out unless you really would appreciate the work he does on it. It ain't easy what he does for the uke community, and if anyone out there requests tabs, I hope they would follow up and let him know it is appreciated.

I just got my ukulele yesterday so I'm a total newbie with it, but I have to say I love your videos and I just can't wait to learn them all.
But well, as you know I have to start somewhere and I just want to ask you wich song do you think is the easiest to begin with?
Thank you
(Anonymous because it was sent in a private message. If this is you and you don't care, let me know)

If you have a capo or you are comfortable tuning the ukulele up by a half-note, I'd say Elephant Gun would be a great place to start. That's where I started. You can make it sound very much like Beirut's version pretty quickly.

If you don't have a capo or don't have a tuner that does different notes (I HIGHLY recommend AP Tuner if you are tuning on a computer), then I'd say In the Aeroplane Over the Sea would be the best place to start, especially if you just do the first verse of the song to get a feel for it. It uses 4 simple repeating chords, and it's a very pretty instrumental song.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is very motivating to play your favorite songs, so if you have a favorite, I'd say start with that and just plug away!

Good luck.

"apprenez à jouer Five Years au Ukulele et emportez le avec vous samedi, on va s’amuser !" "Learn to play Five Years on the Ukulele and take it with you on Saturday. It will be fun!" Shouldn't one learn the incoherent nonsensical gibberish language?
Francophone, USA

Merci, mon ami, pour la traduction. Je regrette de ne pas pouvoir assister à ce concert-là. C'était probablement un peu trop loin ... *pop*


Wait, what the hell just happened!? What's all that gibberish up there and why does my head hurt? Where am I!?!?

This question was in response to this post, where I found that caption above my tutorial for Five Years Time on the blogoteque page. While I appreciate the magic tricks you and Quentin (in the comments from that post) can do turning nonsense into english, I don't think there's any way someone like me could do it.

We love our willful ignorance of foreign stuff where I come from.

Hey, Just wanted to send a big thanks from the WonderHowTo team for featuring us on your blog. We always love people talking about our site! Thanks! Best,
Ben Kinzel, Online Marketing Manager

Well, Ben, I think you're doing a fine job as Online Marketing Manager. In fact, since you sent me this nice little note and since your website is very useful, I'm going to add this link to my main list of Ukulinklinks (over on the right). It's the ukulele section of your "how to" videos.

I hope I can reward you guys with a few clicks. All kinds of useful information on this site, like a very candid (read: shady but true) video how to get started in internet marketing, from this guy:

Herwitz, if you're reading this, there's a thing or two in there about the benefits of maintaining online anonymity. Mr. Kinzel, if you're reading this, don't worry, I think you're one of the good kind of internet marketers based on the honest approach and friendly note. That might even be your real name, which, according to the video above, means you have a good product. Unlikely, but possible.

Anyway, I appreciate a bit of honesty and openness from marketers.

Hey Paz! I have really been enjoying your videos! I've got quite a few of them down now. But my question is this: When playing Five Years Time, is the "hit-type" strum like the "hit" strum in Nantes? I have watched your videos many times and I can't seem to get it.

Oh man, this is probably the question I've received the most at Ukulala. "How do I make that 'hit' noise you talk about?"

The problem is, I learned how to do it early on, back years ago when I tried and failed to learn guitar, so I hardly think about it anymore. I've made a few attempts to describe it (question from Molly, about halfway down), but it's always been an unexpected road block for people in the videos I've done.

Apparently it's called a "chuck" noise, and yes, it IS the same "move" I'm doing in both Nantes and Five Years Time (although it's done quicker in Five Years Time). I also use it in Boy With the Arab Strap and Plenty More.

It's a part of my repertoire, and I hope it will eventually be part of yours. The basic idea is just to strum quickly down, and immediately mute the strings with your palm.
Just push your palm up against them as the end of your strum.

I really need to make a video of it like this guy did. Then I can do some better show-and-tell. So... practice what you can for now, but... stay tuned?

So, I am a beginner with the ukulele, and I've been searching in Google for ukulele songs to play. I have found many songs such as, Tiny Bubbles (to play for my grandpa, haha). I can play the chords just fine, but they don't tell you how to strum them! I am really confused. Do you just have to try different patterns until it sounds right? Cause it's really hard...

Damn right it's hard! And why the HELL don't any sites tell you how to strum the songs when it's so important!?

That's exactly why I include strumming patterns into all my videos. It was a complete mystery to me why it is ignored in

1) books
2) tutorial videos
3) chord sites
4) tab sites

and that made it really difficult to learn some songs that should have been simple. It's like they all assume the strumming just kinda "happens". WRONG. It's a major--sometimes THE defining--part of a song.

Actually I do give HUGE credit to Woodshed at for including strumming patterns when it really matters. It was his written description of Elephant Gun that helped me learn the song so easily it inspired me to make my first video. And no, I'm not just kissing his ass cause he's got the #1 uke site in the world, I'm legitimately impressed with the depth and breadth of his body of work.

Very cool tutorial for "the penalty", Thanks for putting that online. As you maybe know, theres an alternative version of the song on with a different strumming pattern. Any chance you could figure out that one?
Sayyadina, Germany

I see what you're talking about. It's very similar, still in twelve beats of course, but he doesn't let it pause as long after the first strum on each chord. Basically just replace some of the misses in the version I did with soft strums, where you just barely hit the strings on your up or down strums.

With bold as a louder strum, I think it would be:

1) down
2) miss up
3) soft down (instead of miss)
4) up
5) down
6) soft up (instead of miss)
7) down
8) miss up
9) down
10) up
11) down
12) up

i hope the reason this weeks poll was so lame is cause you're too busy workin' with that song "allmike_newDIR2_2." i've been playing with the other ones to make them less monotonous. it's been slow going- everything good keeps ending up sounding sad, and when i manage to make it sound uppity it sounds too corny. i had a spot of luck this evening, but i'm too tired to work on it now, so hopefully i can iron it out this weekend. oh, and here's my question for ukulala: did you see that colbert report when he postulated the existence of santa's arch rival, Manfred Claus? comic GOLD.
the mighty gorch, earthquake island

D'oh, I missed that episode, but I did find this mention of the Manfred Claus here (at 0:37 in the video). Colbert is kind of a hero.

And yes, this week's poll is LAME. I am sorry. I meant to have it be a reference to this quote from this Simpsons episode, where
Springfield Elementary students took an aptitude test to determine ' future careers:

Ms. Hoover: First question. If I could be any animal, I would be (a) a carpenter ant, (b) a nurse shark, or (c) a lawyer bird.

Unfortunately I thought that was too obvious, so I kept only the carpenter ant. The poll ended up just... boring. Oh well, I guess the onus is on me to try and spice up the interpretion of the results. Looks like "Cat" is going to win.

In case anyone was wondering, yes, this is the same Gorch who was an honorary member of Ukulala. He helped me with this little ditty, my first bit of original uke music with drums. Someday I'll make that into a real song.

He lives in Japan now, where he is studying under the tutelage of electronic drumming masters to become a master himself, or something like that. Actually I forget why he went there. maybe just to feel tall (was that racist?).

Anyway, he recently started sending me stuff to add uke to, so we can collaborate again. I still have a hard time coming up with interesting original stuff and playing along with a beat, but I will be working on
"allmike_newDIR2_2" soon. I have a certain mistrust of electronic music, but I think mixed with an acoustic recording it has potential. And when we have something to show for it, I'll post it here.

Plus, I already know what my album name will be for the great collaboration between Ukulala and the Mighty Gorch: The Rise and Fall of the Moustache Empire.


That's it for now! Use that little box over on the left ANY TIME to ask me about ANY THING!

Peace out!


1 Comment:

Aaron said...

Who knew that Tracy Morgan's evil twin brother knew so much about internet marketing?