Folk Uke: California Stars

The duo Folk Uke:  Arlo Guthrie’s daughter, Cathy on ukulele and Willie Nelson’s Daughter, Amy on folk guitar perform California Stars, a song with the lyrics of Woody Guthrie and the music of Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy (members of Wilco).  This beautiful version was from a live performance in 2016.  Folk Uke were recently in Victoria for The Port Fairy Folk Festival and a Melbourne concert.

Ukulele Accessories

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There are a great many accessories available to go with the ukulele and enhance your playing.  The Ukulele Hunt website has reviews of many of the types available, so I thought I would just write about what I found to be useful and why.  This may give others some idea of what accessories would suit them.

In a previous post I talked about the types of straps that I prefer so I won’t go into these accessories.  Probably the main accessory that is essential is a tuner.  My two ukuleles have built-in tuners that are really good, but I do keep a Snark clip-on tuner on hand in case of battery failure.  The Snark is easy to use and is not affected by any surrounding noise because it works by detecting vibrations.  These are small tuners and don’t take up much room in your bag or uke case.  There is only one problem.  As I have mentioned before puppies and young dogs will eat them if given half the chance, so beware.  A Snark is not a dog snack.

When playing on your own it is good to have a capo to change the key without changing your fingering.  Although I like to be able to play a song is several keys, sometimes I can’t find exactly the right key to suit my voice without using one that is just too hard for me to play and sing at the same time.  This is when a capo is really useful.  I have one of the Jim Dunlop clip on ones for ukulele and it is quick and easy to fit to the fret board.

Sometimes I like to use a pick.  There are various types of these available for the ukulele.  I have some felt and leather ones.  I know that you should not use hard plastic picks because these can gouge in the ukulele body and the strings.  They also make an irritating clicking sound.  The felt ones for ukulele make the least noise but they are rather thick and large, so I used a guitar pick and traced around this on a felt pick with a ballpoint pen and then cut it down to size.  I found this easier to control when playing and it is less likely to catch between the strings.  The leather ones, while quite large, are thinner and more like a guitar pick so are easy to use and are good if you want a crisper sound.

Ukulele stands are useful, especially if you have more than one ukulele.  I have a small folding one.  If I have only one ukulele with me, I usually rest it in a chair when I’m not playing.  With this type of stand you do need to be careful that the uke is balanced correctly or it can topple over, which defeats its purpose.  My ukes are concert sized and if you have a larger sized uke you would definitely need a bigger stand.

A non-essential accessory that is great fun is a finger shaker.  You slide it on one of the fingers on your strumming hand and it shakes to the rhythm as you play.  This works really well on fast songs.

Another great thing to have is a kazoo.  When there is a brass section in a song this makes a fun substitute.  And if your kazoo goes soggy and won’t work, replace the insert with a piece of tissue paper or use the transparent window material of an old envelope.  It is also a good idea to hang the kazoo from a cord around your neck then you can spit it out when playing and it’s time to sing again without hitting someone.

I have found all of the above accessories to be worthwhile purchases, but do check out what is available.  You might find something that you like better.

Happy strumming.

Kat,     Bayside Ukes member

Ukulele Songs About Ukuleles

Ukulele songs about ukuleles.  This is a great genre for groups so I thought I’d have a look on the net to see how many I could find.  There are a number of songs from the 1920’s and 30s but not so many from later periods, unless they are just unrecorded, unavailable on the net or only found in ukulele music books.

From the early days of the uke, some of the songs mentioned on the Ukulele Hunt website (Ukulele Songs) are Ukulele Moon and Ukulele Island, but I could not find them in cyberspace.  Pity, they sounded interesting.

One of the most famous songs from the early period that is still madly popular is of course Ukulele Lady.  A great live version by Bette Midler (not the distorted video version) has disappeared from YouTube but here is a fun one by the Muppets.

Amusing songs about the ukulele were performed by those stalwarts of the 30s and 40s, George Formby and Cliff Edwards.

Here’s  George doing With My Little Ukulele In My Hand from the movie Off The Dole (1935)

Another funny song is I Did It With My Little Ukulele sung be Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards in the 1933 movie Take A Chance.  It contains a typical flash back sequence of the period with stereotypical cannibals and hula dancers.

Other songs that I found on YouTube are I Love A Ukulele performed by Annette Hanshaw (1930) and I Love To Play My Ukulele  by Max Bygraves (1958).

Recent songs about the ukulele are harder to find.  There are plenty of new songs written for the ukulele, like Charlie Roe’s Ukulele Song and Vance Joy’s Riptide, but these do not refer to the ukulele in the lyrics.

A good one I did find is Ukulele Central written and performed by Fairport Convention in 2010.  It gives a short hilarious history of the ukulele.

Most ukulele players by now would have heard the fabulous Amanda Palmer’s Ukulele Anthem, but here is a great version of her performing the song in 2014 while battling the winds around the Sydney Opera house.  (For those with delicate sensibilities, the song contains strong language).

Another fairly recent song is A Ukulele and You by Jim Berloff (2005), one of the compilers of The Daily Ukulele and other song books.  Here is a version performed by Ukester Brown:

A Ukulele and You

Some ukulele groups adapt existing popular songs so that they are about ukuleles and can be played on the uke.  Here is an example:

Blame It On The Ukulele 

If you wanted, it would be relatively easy to adapt a song yourself or you could write an original song about ukuleles.

I am sure that there must be more ukulele songs about the ukulele out there so have a look around.  It really does take you on a small journey into the history of the uke.

Kat

Bayside Ukes Member