Seasons Greetings from Bayside Ukes

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Bayside Ukes has had a great year. We finished the last term with Performance Night playing some great group songs that we had been working on for a while. Well done everyone.

Thanks to everyone who did solos for our entertainment. It was wonderful to hear the contributions of songwriters and some new covers.

The performances were followed by drinks, snacks and lively conversation.

We look forward to more fun times in 2018, whether you are an old hand or fairly new to the ukulele.

Wishing our members and readers a very Happy Festive Season and New Year.

Kat, Bayside Ukes Member

Here’s the wonderful Taimane Gardner and Jazzy Jazz with a festive tune to get you in the mood

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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

Bayside Ukes Sessions 2017

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Bayside Ukes returns to the Hampton Community Centre on Tuesday, January 31 at 7 pm.

We hope everyone had a great holiday break and that you are all raring to play at our group sessions.  Looking forward to seeing you all there.  New members are always welcome.

Kat  and Zilla,  Bayside Ukes Members

There’s More than One Way to do a Ukulele Song

In a ukulele group there is always a lot of debate about how to do a particular song.  Some people think that imitating the original version is the only way to go, while others have their favourite cover version that they like better.  Personally, I think that there is no right or wrong way to do a song, but as so many ukulele groups use identical song books and perform the same songs, I believe that a group should do it’s own arrangements.  If everyone did things the same way it would be a very boring world.

Coming from a visual art background, I have learnt that it is more creative to develop your own individual form of self-expression.  If you painted like Picasso or Monet it would hardly be your own take on the world.  The same goes for performing songs.  Unless you are a very good impersonator, nobody sounds the same vocally or has the same playing style as the original artist, so why try to replicate that version.  Here is where a group needs to forget about the original and play around to find a way that enhances their own sound and gives some room for creativity.

A good example of this is The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s version of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush.  As a man, George Hinchcliffe has hardly the singing style of Kate Bush, yet he does a wonderful jazzy version of her song that suits his voice, uses the unique sound of the ukulele to full advantage and injects it with the personalities of the group’s members.  It just shows that a great song allows so many possibilities for interpretation.

A song with a solo vocalist is also going to sound completely different when done by a large number of singers.  If everyone sings the same melody together it could sound very monotonous and possibly messy, which will not add anything to the performance.  This is where it pays to rearrange the vocals for a group.  For instance, when The Langley Ukulele Ensemble did a ukulele take on Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, the male ukulele players sang the main vocal together then combined in harmony with the female players.  One member did a ukulele solo, while the others strummed and picked the rhythm.  Their performance has great clarity and is very appealing.  The arrangement makes the most of the large number of performers and enhances their particular sound.

So experiment with a song.  Change it to suit the particular voices in the group, whether male of female.  This can include altering the key and tempo, as well as introducing various harmonies.  With the ukuleles you can change the rhythm patterns or do combinations of compatible strums, and create fingerpicking parts.  The ukulele is never going to sound the same as a guitar so work with its particular feel good tone.  Don’t be afraid to leave out solos meant for guitar, or if there is a member who feels confident with these, they can do a ukulele solo.  The possibilities are endless.

Of course as you gain experience it becomes easier to do your own arrangements.  You can start with something simple, like tempo, whether slowing a song down or speeding it up. The main thing is to have an open mind and a willingness to give it a go.  If you have trouble, get together with someone else in the group.  Two heads are better than one.

Don’t be stuck in a rut or a slave to convention.  Try to be as innovative as you can and stamp a song with your group’s unique personality.  It will be that much more enjoyable to play and your audience will thank you.

Kat

Singing in Ukulele Groups

Singing with a group is different from singing on your own. You must try to harmonise with the other voices, as not everyone can easily sing in the particular key of a song.  It helps if you have had some singing lessons.  Before taking up the Ukulele I learnt to sing a cappella, that is, unaccompanied by an instrument, in a small group class. We learnt how to find our vocal range and to sing different parts in three or four-part harmonies.  It was great experience for singing in a Ukulele group, but anyone can learn to sing in harmony.

It takes practice to hold your part with other singers, but it helps if you sit or stand next to someone with the same vocal range.  Over time and by listening to the other members of the group, you should be able to do this with ease and without damaging your voice by singing out of your range.  It is well worth the effort to persevere with harmony singing and it will give your ukulele group a more integrated sound.

A good way to develop the harmonies for a song is to sing them unaccompanied before bringing in the ukuleles.  You can then tell if they are working and that everyone is in sync before adding the instruments.  This makes for tighter vocals and allows everyone to learn their parts.

I have also noticed that in some larger ukulele groups not everyone plays their instrument when they are singing.  This tones down the volume of multiple ukuleles and makes it easier for the singers to hear their harmonies.  When you are doing tight harmony singing it takes a lot of concentration and it is probably better if you do not have to think about what you are playing at the same time.  Also soloist singers in a group often do not play their ukuleles because they are putting all their effort into the vocals.

A good example of the above technique can be seen in the performances of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble from British Columbia.  They perform beautiful vocal harmonies and vary the numbers of those playing their ukuleles. Below is a video of a performance that they did this year in Hawaii.

So don’t worry if you find it difficult to play the ukulele and sing harmonies simultaneously.  If there are enough ukulele players in the group, it is not detrimental that you do not play your instrument while you are singing  and this can improve the overall sound.

Kat

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