Bayside Ukes is Back for 2018!

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Bayside Ukes is raring to go in 2018. Hope all our members have had a great summer break and are looking forward to some more ukulele fun.

Tomorrow evening (Tuesday, January 30) our sessions will recommence at the Hampton Community Centre from 7.00 pm. New members are very welcome or if you are visiting our town just pop in.

Hope to see you all there.

Kat, Bayside Ukes Member.

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UKULELE STRAPS: One Size does not fit all

Sometimes when you buy a product it does not always fulfill your expectations or ends up creating unforeseen problems. I have found this to be the case with the Ukulele Straps that I have purchased. Luckily I was able to come up with some creative solutions.

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My first Ukulele was concert sized and did not come with a strap button at the base so I bought a common lasso type that hung around my neck with a hook to support the ukulele at the sound hole. I thought that this was the best option, as the ukulele did not have the internal support needed to drill a hole for a strap button. After playing with the lasso strap for I while I found that the neck of my ukulele would wobble around as I played and always felt unstable which did not help my left hand fingering. I thought that if the strap anchored the neck in some way that this would resolve the problem. I had seen the type of straps designed for classical guitars where one end of the strap was tied to the neck and the other end came from behind the guitarists back to hook into the sound hole. I decided to change the lasso strap so that it supported my ukulele in this manner.

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First I undid the strap from its buckle, removed the hook and turned it to face the opposite direction. Next I reinserted the strap into the buckle and adjusted it so that it was long enough to go diagonally over my back and under the ukulele to connect to the bottom of the sound hole at the front. Then I sewed the free end of the strap back on itself to form a loop and ran a strong shoelace through this and tied it to the head under the strings. (a word of caution: don’t let go of the neck or the ukulele will flop forward, come adrift from the strap hook and fall to the floor). Now with the ukulele supported in this way the neck no longer wobbled when I played and I did not need to buy a new strap.

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My second ukulele does have a strap button and I first bought a thin leather Mandolin strap, but this always slipped around on my back and drove me crazy. Fortuitously I received a colourful brocade strap as a birthday present that was wider and less likely to slip. It had leather fittings to attach to the neck and strap button. When I went to attach it I found that the leather was very stiff and thick and it was really hard to fix it around the button, which is also the output jack of the electric pick-up. Eventually I managed to get it on. It was quite a tight fit because the jack button was not very deep. Over time the tightness of the strap started to unscrew the jack and that was not very desirable, so I took off the strap. As I really liked it, I decided to shave off some of the leather on the back of the strap with a scalpel blade to reduce the thickness by about half around the jack button. Now the end moves freely without undoing the jack and I can still use my favourite strap.

You don’t need to put up with these irritating problems. There is always a solution and a bit of simple DIY can customize a strap or you could even make your own. So get creative!

Kat, Bayside Ukes Member

Bayside Ukes Resumes 12 July

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Hi Everyone,

Bayside Ukes will return to the Hampton Community Centre next week on Tuesday 12 July at 7pm.

New members are welcome to join our friendly group of ukulele players.  Please be on time to register for the evening.  The session will begin at 7:15 sharp and remember to bring your copy of The Ukulele Club Songbook and a music stand.

We hope everyone had a fabulous holiday break.  If you have not picked up your ukulele because of too much holiday cheer, now is the time to start practising.

We would also like to thank those members of the group who gave up two days of their holiday to perform for two local groups of senior citizens.  We all had a great time.

This term we plan to be doing more performances so get ready to learn some new songs.

The two ten week term dates for the second half of the year are:

TERM 3:  12th July – 13th September

TERM 4 : 4th October – 13th December

My Second Ukulele

Someone once told me “you can never have too many ukuleles”. I heartily agree.

For a long time I have been considering the purchase of a second ukulele.  The first ukulele I bought was a concert, and I still find it enjoyable to play, however sometimes I have thought it would be nice to buy a second ukulele with a different sound.

The trouble with buying another ukulele is there are so many styles and makes available that it became difficult to make a decision.  It is not just about the size of ukulele to buy, whether soprano, concert, tenor, baritone or bass.  Or whether it is an acoustic or acoustic/electric.  You must also consider whether you want a commercially manufactured ukulele from Australia or overseas, or do you want your ukulele custom made by a luthier to your own specifications.  Maybe you would like to build your own ukulele just for fun?  In any case you must choose how your ukulele is constructed.  This is where buying a ukulele has became more complicated and I referred to several buying guides.

http://coustii.com/types-of-ukuleles/

http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/folk-instrument-buying-guides/ukuleles-how-to-choose

http://www.get-tuned.com/types-of-ukuleles.php#baritone

http://liveukulele.com/gear/buying-tips/

I found this information very helpful but it not make my decision any easier.

My next line of enquiry was to look at ukulele players to see how they have built their collections.  For a start, does the collection show the progression in quality from a cheap ukulele to an expensive ukulele as the collector’s playing ability improved?  Or does the collection seem a random mix of ukuleles with different body shapes, woods, finishes and construction methods?  Ultimately does the collector continue to play each ukulele?  On the Internet you can find many ukulele collections, but I find the most interesting sites are of collectors talking or writing about their ukuleles.

http://www.nutthouse.com.au/ukulele/mystory.html

Both of these collectors seem very passionate about their ukuleles, and I think it is inevitable for players to develop an emotional attachment to their instruments.

As I already owned a concert size ukulele I did not really want to buy another one.  I could have looked at a resonator, but another member of our group has one and I thought that two could be too loud at the one time.  I ruled out buying a soprano ukulele, as my two arthritic fingers would have trouble negotiating the shorter fret-board and I ruled out a baritone ukulele because it uses guitar tuning.  So this narrowed it down to buying a tenor ukulele.

After my research I finally decided it was the moment to buy my second ukulele.  I knew I did not have the patience or skill with tools to make my own and I did not want a custom made ukulele from a luthier as my skill as a player is not good enough justify the cost.  Also I did not want to buy an instrument online because I wanted try a variety of ukuleles to find the one that was comfortable to play, had a good tone, was visually appealing and was an acoustic/electric.  Sometimes it is nice to be loud.

After checking out several music sites online to see what was in stock, I went to a local music store to look for a ukulele.  The selection was between three good quality tenor acoustic/electric ukuleles.  I did not want to be indecisive and go from store to store so I knew it was between these three ukuleles.  There was an eight-string ukulele that sounded rather impressive.  In the past I had considered an eight-string ukulele for the different sound it would bring to the group.  It was not for me.  Unfortunately I found it difficult to play, as I could not always evenly press both strings with my arthritic fingers.  Also there was the annoying thought of restringing the eight strings.  The other two ukuleles had the usual four strings.  Both were beautifully made with a good tone, with fingerboards of the same dimensions and they were the same price.  The difference came down to one having slightly deeper sides on the body than the other.  This was the one I chose.  It has a good tone, is easy to play, it produces a good volume of sound and is pleasant to hold and to look at.

I will not reveal the manufacturer’s name because that is not the point of this article.  When you choose a ukulele it is a totally subjective decision that should not be based on advertising and brand recognition.  When choosing a ukulele you need to use both your head and your heart and buy the instrument of the best quality you can afford.  After all, you will be spending a lot of time together.  Happy hunting!

Zilla

Bayside Ukes Member

The Benefits of Standing when Playing the Ukulele

Many players always sit when they are playing their ukuleles.  While this is fine when doing this for your own pleasure or at ukulele group sessions, it is not ideal in a performance situation and it is better for you physically to stand.

We are repeatedly being told by health care professionals that sitting around for long periods is bad for our health and that it is important to keep moving.  Sitting for a long time can make you feel more tired than when doing some physical activity.  Playing the ukulele standing up allows your body to move easily in time to the music and is a fun way to lessen sedentary behavior.  In addition, it is more difficult to sing strongly in a sitting position because this can constrict the diaphragm.  When standing up you can take deeper breaths and it is easier to sing and maintain breath control, something that is also good for the health.

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In a performance situation it is usually necessary to stand, especially when playing with a large group that takes up the whole stage or where there are several players on a small stage.  Often there is not enough room for everyone to sit, or a supply of chairs to make this possible.  If there is no stage at all or one that is low, standing puts the players above the audience and makes it possible to connect with those beyond the front row.  It is easier when standing to share music stands amongst several people if needed.  This also allows  different song leaders on a set list to change positions on stage without any fuss.

Some people find it difficult to play standing up, often because they find it hard to hold their ukulele without resting it on their seated body.  It can be tricky balancing your uke without any support, especially the larger sizes, so the obvious solution is to buy a strap.  If you have a strap button at the base of the uke, you can use the kind that is a smaller version of a guitar strap and tie the top end under the strings above the neck.  Also smaller Mandolin straps are sometimes suitable.

If there is no button on your ukulele it is not recommended that you have one attached, as there might by no internal support into which you can drill the hole.  Doing so might cause damage to the body of the ukulele and rather than taking this risk it is better to use the kind of strap that hangs around your neck with an end that hooks into the sound hole to hold the uke.  Various types of ukulele straps can be purchased from the same music stores that sell ukuleles, or you can choose from the vast assortment to be found online.  Having a strap will allow you to learn to play the ukulele in the standing position and contribute to your enjoyment and performances.

You can build up your stamina by standing for short periods, then increasing the length of time as you get used to this position.  Once you can play the ukulele while standing, you will find it is much more fun to be able to move around with the uke, and you will feel more energetic and healthier as a result.

Note: If you need to sit for health reasons make sure that you have frequent breaks from playing and move around.

Kat & Zilla

Bayside Ukes members

I Took my Uke to a Party…

After several years of singing and playing the guitar I decided to buy a ukulele so that I would have a smaller, more portable instrument to carry around.  As seems to be the case for anyone who takes up this instrument, I became obsessed with the uke and had some lessons.  Then the fun really started.

Unlike in that old Gracie Fields song I Took My Harp to a Party but Nobody Asked Me to Play, you don’t need to hide your uke under your coat.  The little ukulele actually attracts an audience, as I discovered when I took my ukulele to play a few songs at a picnic with some friends.  After this great day, where we all had a lot of fun together, these friends began to ask me to bring the uke along to parties and other social events.  The happy nature of the ukulele sound seems to break down barriers and encourages people to participate and we would have sing-alongs with lots of laughter and conversation.  This also gave me the opportunity to perform some of my own songs, which I have been writing for years, in front of a non-threatening audience.

Playing the ukulele has opened up my life to new people and experiences, especially after becoming one of the founding members of Bayside Ukes, where I have met a great bunch of friendly ukulele obsessives like myself.  In belonging to this group, I have learnt so much from playing with others and have become more confident when performing before complete strangers.  Helping to organize a ukulele group has also allowed me to make a small contribution to my local community.

Now I have joined with a fellow ukulele devotee.  We sing harmonies and play pop songs together.  Recently we were asked to entertain around 60 people at a birthday party. After overcoming some pre-performance nerves we really enjoyed ourselves.  Afterwards another ukulele player, who we did not know, came up and said how much he liked our singing and playing and we had a wonderful chat about the joys and techniques of learning to play the uke.  We also inspired one guest to get their ukulele out of the cupboard.  The ukulele is a fantastic icebreaker, as so many people are just taking it up themselves or know someone who plays the uke.

Who would have thought that this small instrument could have such a big impact on one’s life?  So don’t sit at home with your ukulele.  Get out there and share your enjoyment of playing with others.  You never know where this will lead.

Kat

Bayside Ukes member

 

Beware Uke Sizings

Being a self-taught uke player (ukist?), I found there hasn’t been any shortage of help on the web for learning techniques of playing.  Ukists around the world are generous beings, sharing their skills and knowledge to help their fellow humans join the fraternity of world ukists.

There is, however, a shortage of information on one matter: uke sizes.  I’m not talking about the difference in size between soprano, concert and tenor ukes.  That info is widely available.  I’m talking about the variation in size between ukes of different brands and how this can impact on the player.

The first uke I ever bought was a tenor Lanikai.  I bought it online (from a local store) and was very happy with it.  In fact, this is the uke I use mostly today.  After having this instrument sit in a green Woolworths shopping bag for months, I decided to buy it a proper home.  So I ordered a tenor uke gig bag from the same shop.  When it arrived in the post, I was quite cross when I discovered it was the wrong size for my uke – it was way too small.  When I rang the shop, they told me that it was definitely a bag for a tenor uke, however, I was told that it was common knowledge (!) that Lanikai ukes are larger than the standard uke.  Luckily enough, the music store was kind enough to swap it over with a case (a better quality one, at that) which fitted my slightly over-sized uke.  Moral of the story, always take your uke along when buying it a new case.

There is yet another sizing matter people need to know about.  After fitting my Lanikai with a low G string (my preference for playing strummed chords), I bought a different brand uke so that I could keep the high G on it to play tabs that need a high G.  I tested out ukes during a local uke festival.  Price right, tone good, so I bought the uke (it also came with a bag!).  I’ve been taking this uke out from time to time when I have the urge to play something more complex.  Trouble is, I wasn’t really getting much better at the harder tabs.  Then I realised that part of the issue wasn’t me – my newer uke actually has a much wider neck and fingerboard than my Lanikai.  I measured the fingerboard of the new uke at the nut and it was 3.8cm, compare to 3.4cm on my trusted Lanikai.  For someone with short fingers like me, this makes a real difference.

So why, you may ask, does a short-fingered person like me play tenor ukes?  I was totally inspired by the sound made by Jake Shimabukuro on his tenor uke.  Here’s one of my favourite performances of him playing his uke:

It’s not very likely that I’d ever play anything that complex – especially with the minimal amount of practice that I do – but hey, one can dream about it.

Mirrie

Bayside Ukes Member