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

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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.

Standing uke drawing copy

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

10 Reasons Why Ukuleles and Dogs Mix

DSCN1097_2       images       DSCN2294 - Version 2     images-1

  1. Dogs do not remain puppies forever and leave your ukulele and tuner alone.
  2. Dogs want to share in the fun with you and your ukulele.
  3. Dogs love to sit with you while you are playing your ukulele.
  4. Dogs are music lovers and make a great audience.
  5. Dogs wag their tails in time with the music.
  6. Dogs sing along when you hit those high notes.
  7. Dogs never criticize your performance.
  8. Dogs do not care what genre of music you play.
  9. Dogs never tell you to be quiet and stop playing that uke.
  10. Dogs know that when you have finished your practice you will take them for a walk.

Note:  The above dog was well rewarded for taking part in this post.

Kat

Bayside Ukes Member

Flexible Chords for Inflexible Hands

Arthritis is a problem for many older players of the ukulele and other stringed instruments as it limits flexibility.  This should not be seen as an obstacle to playing the ukulele.  It does not really matter how you position your hand or form chords as long as you can play them.  You do not have to play the ukulele with a perfect technique, although it is good to strive for this even with physical limitations.

I have osteoarthritis in the first and second fingers of my left hand and I am unable to bend these fingers tightly to make a fist.  This lack of flexibility makes it difficult to form certain chords on my concert ukulele.  The arthritis has caused the joints of these fingers to become enlarged and bent, so reducing the stretch between my second and third fingers.  This makes it difficult for two or more fingers to be positioned on the same fret as in the G, D, D7 (Hawaiian) chords.

Instead of positioning my fingers across the fret-board I often hold my hand with the fingers pointing down the fret-board.  Unfortunately this does not look very elegant.  With my hand in this position I am unable to make a chord transition in the usual way but it is easier to make the transition between D, D7 and G.  The disadvantage of this position is when I move my fingers up to the first fret and my hand gets caught up with the headstock.  Some chords are also difficult to play using the correct fingering as I have limited stretch between my finger-tips when my fingers are bent.  When I play the Gm chord my third finger is unable to make the stretch to the third fret and I must substitute it with my little finger.  These are just some of the modifications I make to my technique.

In order to learn a song I must plan all my chord changes to allow for the restricted movement in my left hand.  I practice individual chord formations then the transitions between chords so they become smooth and fast.  It may take longer to learn a song but I know I shall not be placing undue strain on my finger joints.

With arthritis it is important to be flexible with my approach to chord formation and transitions because there are always exceptions to the rule.  What may work for one song, may not work for another.  If the transition between chords is really just too hard I find another chord as a substitute or just leave the difficult chord out.

If you also have arthritis do not get disheartened.  The important thing to remember is that you need to find out what works for you, persevere with practice and don’t give up.  Playing the ukulele will not only strengthen your fingers, improve flexibility and help your arthritis, but more importantly you will have fun while you are doing it.

Ukulele Mike has some exercises that may help improve your flexibility.  Dexterity Exercises

Zilla

Bayside Ukes Member