Easy Ukulele Methods

For ukulele aficionados out there, I have discovered a very old uke music book.  I was going through my late mother’s music collection and found this:

” The E easy Z

METHOD FOR UKULELE AND UKULELE-BANJO

A very easy and practical system

containing just the necessary material for

SELF-INSTRUCTION.”

 Mum was a classical and Jazz pianist in the 1930s and played professionally.   I am not sure why she had a uke book.  It was probably for someone in the band.  It cost four shillings and sixpence or eleven pence posted.  This edition was published in Australia by J. Albert & Son Pty Ltd, Sydney, circa. 1935.  While the manual has the original copyright for W. J. Smith Music Co. Inc., New York for 1924, it also has two illustrations with the copyright for 1934 and 1935.  It must have been an effective teaching method because it is still in print and new editions of this book can be found online.

Interestingly, the tuning of the strings was different: ADF#B.  Apparently this was popular in the 1920s and 1930s and considered to make the uke sound brighter and more compatible with guitar chords if you were playing in a band.  This would be like playing from the third fret of the soprano ukulele tuned to GCEA.

The book contains a mixture of traditional and old popular songs, including Play It On Your Little Uke.

The EZ method was also considered suitable for other instruments such as the Tiple, Uke-I-Tar, Guitar-Uke, Taropatch.   In the book it says that the Guitar-Uke and Uke-I-Tar are other names for the Tenor Guitar that is played like a ukulele.  The Taropatch has 4 pairs of strings, each pair tuned to the same note.  The Tiple (Tee-plee) is a ten stringed instrument played in pairs or triplets.

EZ Ukulele Method cover

A story aside… On the same day I discovered the uke book, I was looking at an old book of Mendelssohn Concertos that my Mum played and three fifty-dollar notes fell out.  Paper notes in fact and probably from the 1980s.  Imagine?  A voice from the grave I reckoned.

Now I am a pretty average uke player, so my tips are not really for the experts, but I play ‘easy’ as they say.  My sorry old fingers don’t always reach with appropriate pressure to give a good sound.  So I cheat a little.  I frequently only play the bottom 2 or 3 strings of a chord, making sure to only strum those strings accordingly.  It works very well for say an F Minor or B Flat, or B and many others.  This depends on your own fingering capabilities really.  Really handy for quick changes and not really noticed in group playing!

Another tip I’m working on is Substitute Chords.  Playing at home some of the chords I read are seemingly impossible, or infrequently used and easily forgotten.  You can play around and get ‘close’.  Once again I’m cheating.  For instance G Minor instead of B Flat 7, or C9 instead of EM7 Flat 5.  I’m sure many folk know many more.  But have a play and see how you go!

Cheers, Helen.

Bayside Ukes member.

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