Mandolin Babe's Has Ukulele Stuff!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Inspires You? You'd be Amazed...

      It's Spring,equinox has come,the wheel of the seasons has turned once more,and everything is coming alive. I thought this a grand time for contemplating what gives us musical inspiration? Think outside the box here. All of our senses come into play on this one.  I'll share here seeing as I can't hear what you're all thinking out there. 
       Getting outside because it's warmer,and I didn't realise how much I've missed the smell of the grass,hearing the birds singing,(including the woodpecker that rat-a-tat-tats on the power poles) and seeing flowers in bloom till I got out of the house & into the yard. That includes hearing bees buzz & seeing ladybugs. Being in the sun,I'm also getting my vitamin D for the day. And yes,I do notice a difference in my energy levels after-which means I'm more likely to stay up later playing ukulele,working on an arrangement of a tune,etc. 
       For those of you who don't have a yard to work in,one can take a trip to a nursery for an hour,go to a park,or make arrangements to stop in at a relatives or friends yard and either sit outside or do some yardwork. Cultivating a garden often cultivates our own creative musical flowerbeds. 
       Bike riding,surfing,walking,whatever it is that gets you out & about,will add to your energy levels and playing ability-just give it a try and see how it works for you!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan Needs Our Help

  More time has went by than I wanted when it comes to updating this blog-mainly because my mind & heart has been with Japan ever since the quake. Living in Southern California,having a nuclear reactor to the south of me and coastline about a half hour away,& our fishing industry, the obvious similarities really brought this one home. On one hand I'm thankful something like this didn't happen where I am,and at the same time I ache for those in Japan where it did and continues to happen. I wonder how those people are going to rebuild their lives anew,how they're coping with all the loss of family,friends,pets,job,home,city-it's just an overwhelming amount of stuff to deal with.
   I thought the worst disaster I would ever witness in my lifetime was 9-11. I'm sad to say I was wrong. Yet, as I watch the news,I'm seeing the people come together,aiding each other in getting to safety,even a pair of dogs stood firmly together as witnessed on the news. (and are now each receiving veterinary care) So the next question I have is "How can I help?" How can we as ukulele players,help? If you're on Twitter,pass on links for donations to established organizations like the Red Cross,Salvation Army,etc. Keep abreast of the info-what are these people needing,and what are they getting so far? I can't help but wonder how many of the kids & adults would appreciate a ukulele to pass the time away-to provide a healthy,healing diversion.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Martha Campbell Arranged for Baritone Uke

I worked on this late yesterday afternoon after getting inspired by a bluegrass solo book for soprano ukes. Have fun with it-it's in the key of D.

Martha Campbell Bari arr -

Martha Campbell Bari arr p2 -

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Irish Tune TIme! "Kerry Polka"

       Happy March,fellow Bari ukers! With St Patricks Day coming up,I figured it was time for an Irish ditty or two,starting with an easy tune to flatpick called "The Kerry Polka". 
       I'm still recovering from whatever bug I caught,and am hoping to be over this thing completely by next week. Be sure to visit the UkeStar Straps store-the straps for baritones are amazing-(all the straps are!) 

Kerry Polka 4 Bariuke

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chinatown,My Chinatown Arranged for Baritone Uke

     My apologies to my readers for the absence-I've caught whatever wierd sinus/cold bug has been going around and it comes with a cough-which has been waking me up at night. 
      Now that I'm starting to shake this bug,I finally arranged a tune for you-one that I learned on soprano & fell in love with-"Chinatown,My Chinatown" written in 1916. A very catchy timeless tune-I'm learning how to do PDFs,so please bear with me while I learn the ropes on this one. You'll find the tablature arrangement at the bottom of this post and do feel free to print for personal use. If you're wondering why I did this in TAB,I wanted to be sure everyone could enjoy it-the arrangement I originally learned was in standard notation-just so you can see what pleasures sight reading music can bring you. 
       The lowest note in this piece is a middle C note at the end of the first line. Since our baritones only go down to a D (4th string open) I pluck the 2nd string 1st fret while at the same time hitting an E note by fretting the D string at the 2nd fret. Hitting the C and E together creates a voicing with enough C in it that it does the job beautifully. I have also provided chord grids at the bottom in case there's one you don't know. Remember there's always three positions you can play each chord in and make an effort to learn the 3 positions of each chord that you can. This will expand the tonal range you can get from your bari & makes your playing even more interesting when jamming with soprano ukulele players. Here's the link so you can print your own copy of the song. Enjoy! 

Chinatown,My Chinatown Bari-uke

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bass Runs Part 3....Key of A

     I'm hoping you're all enjoying the posts this far and are applying what you've been reading here.  

And now to continue with the series of bass runs! Today I'll show them to you in the key of A:
  •      A to E7.....G# F# E 
  •     E7 to A......F# G# A
  •     A to D.......B C# D
  •     D to A.......C# B A
  •     D to E7......G# F# E
  •     A to F#m....E F F#          
      If there's anything you'd be interested in knowing about baritone uke and you haven't seen it posted here yet,please drop a comment about what you'd like to know about.          

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Movable Chord Formation & The Importance of R 5ths

   Back when I was in my late teens & into the electric guitar rock thing,I loved movable chord forms. So simple- one form,many chords as long as you knew your notes on the root string. Well guess what-the same thing exists for baritone uke. I present to you a moveable major chord form that will have it's root on the 1st string. Drum roll please....

  So as long as you know the notes on your first string,you're in business! At the first fret,that is an F major chord. Now to make it more interesting,lets talk about root & 5th patterns. When I played bass as a youngster,playing the root & 5th of a chord added an extra something to the song-a nice bit of texture,and it was usually a memorable part of the song. You can do the same thing on baritone uke to add a little something extra while the soprano players are strumming away. Take a look at the next pattern:

   Now I've added the 3rd just so you have it-and I'm showing you the movable forms if the root note is on your 4th string as well as your 3rd string. R,3,&5's make arpeggios of chords as well. So if your soprano player is playing an F chord,see the first diagram with the root note on your 4th string. Playing a G chord,move it on up to the 5th fret. Most the time root note & 5th will work with most common chords. As with all goodies in a players' "bag of tricks" just don;t overdo it-but the R 5 works wonderfully during a "dry spot" of a song,or if you're playing a chord for a longer period of time than usual. Have fun & experiment with this,and Happy Valentines' Day!                                                                                                           

Friday, February 11, 2011

Collecting Vintage Uke Sheet Music-A Treasure Hunt!

    One of the great things about being able to read music on your baritone is the absolute blast one can have by learning new tunes by shopping online for vintage uke music. All you'll need is the skill of note reading, and a baritone uke chord dictionary,a chord stamp and some spare time to relax and peruse listings online. I had no idea as to how any of the songs would sound when I got them-either the cover or the title would get my attention,and if the price was right,I'd either buy it outright or place a bid. It's so much fun to see how advertising was done back then-often there is a bit of another song included promoted as "bits of hits" or some other catchy slogan to get you to buy the sheet music for that piece as well. 
    More often than not,your vintage music is going to be somewhat fragile-so what I do with mine is I scan a copy for my own personal use,and keep the original stored in a protective magazine cover and in a special folder of my file cabinet. I can then use a chord stamp on the scanned copy for bari chords if I don't know them by heart. The chords are more complicated than what we use today,often diminished or augmented,and the lyrics are far superior to today's drivel. Nothing like knowing your sheet music was also available on talking machine,gramophone,or for player piano! 
    Amazingly enough,99% of the music I have has the uke arrangements done by May Singhi Breen,whose memorial I have sponsored and have a link to on this page should you want to leave flowers and a note to the "Ukulele Lady" 
    Now one thing I want to warn you about is shipping fees-check those before you bid or buy-I have been known to email a seller and ask if they'd mail using media mail rate if I feel the shipping is outlandish. Most of the time the seller will do this without any fuss. As you get into collecting,you'll find yourself liking certain arranging teams-I have found I like the works of Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Once you discover your favorite arrangers,that will help greatly in your shopping. 
     Remember to look for lots as well-and should you receive some music in a lot you don;t care for,you can always place it up for sale or bid to make your deal even sweeter. Just be sure to place a cardboard backing in the envelope with the sheet music you sell to prevent it getting bent up. Happy Hunting!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bass Runs Part 2...And A Right Hand Picking Pattern

I'm hoping you're having fun working with the bass runs presented in the key of D. Now I'd like to give you runs made for the key of C:
  • C to G7.....E F# G or B A G
  • G7 to C....A B C or D D# E
  • C to F......D E F or A G F
  • F to C.....E D C or A B C
  • F to G7... E F# G or B A G
  • G7 to F....D E F 
  • C to Am...C B A 
      I don't know how many of you are into fingerstyle playing-there are several wonderful right hand patterns to use with chords-they'll make your music making sound more complicated than it is. one simple right hand pattern I like to use is Thumb Middle Index Ring or T M I R. Get your bari out and have the thumb of your right hand sitting on the  4th string,index on the 3rd,middle on the 2nd,and ring on the 1st. The tip of my pinky usually winds up sitting against the body of the uke as a brace to keep my right hand in place. Now form any chord you want (or none at all-you'll be playing a G6 chord then) and slowly pluck one string at a time with the right hand in the T M I R pattern mentioned earlier. Be patient with yourself and soon the entire repeating pattern will get to be like a reflex. Once you get a grasp on this pattern try it while changing chords.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bass Runs...Spice Up Those Chord Changes!

    A most thoughtful reader asked to hear more about bass runs. These simple little ditties can really add some flair when changing from one chord to the next. Just be careful not to overdo it-like using spices when cooking,sometimes a little dash here & there does more than dumping a whole bunch in the mix. You'll need to know the notes of your bari strings for these up to the 5th fret for now.  Experiment,and remember there's 3 positions for every chord on baritone,so work with combos of chord formations & bass runs & see what works best for you. I'll be presenting these runs by what key you may be playing in,and for today we will start with......the key of D. I'll start with what two chords we're working with,and then the individual notes of the run following.
  • D to A7 .....C#,B,A
  • A7 to D..... B C# D
  • D to G...... E F# G or B A G 
  • G to D......B C# D
  • A7 to G....E F# G
  • G to A7....G G# A
  • D to Bm...A A# B                             

Monday, January 31, 2011

Importance of Reading Music

   Before you flip to another blog page as you might be moaning over that title,let me assure you that songs will open up to you if you learn to read music for your uke,no matter if it's soprano or baritone. Having said that,I am a fan of TAB but it only works for the instrument & tuning it's written for. Learn to read standard notation and here's what can happen:
   Seeing as baritone uke is like the 4 upper strings of a guitar,a lot of guitar music books become applicable. Not that you'll be able to play absolutely any tune in any guitar book due to being minus two lower strings,but it opens a lot of doors. And-if you love 1920's tunes,etc,you'll be able to play most of those even tho they're arranged for soprano ukulele.   
   I'm quite amazed that beginning baritone books never seem to mention these points-they have you learn to read music with really boring tunes but never mention the true reward. (because the old ditties they use,while dull as dirt,are public domain which means no concerns over copyright infringement) In modern english,you may not be all thrilled to learn to read the notes to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but that can lead to you being able to play "Stardust" "Darktown Strutters Ball" and a host of others,including modern tunes by your favorite groups.
    In other words,you're no longer beholden to "arranged for baritone uke" sheet music & song books. 
    Don't forget right hand technique guitar books,either. Flatpicking is flatpicking even if done with a felt pick and on your bari-right hand technique is basically the same,as are bass runs from one chord to another,so on & so forth. 
    The pic of the baritone book you see to your upper left is a wonderful primer for reading music-click on the book and you'll be taken to where you can get a copy at a discount. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Using Capos on Baritone Ukuleles

Say you know the chords to a song in a certain key,then you discover a friend of yours knows the same tune,but in a different key. You could do one of two things in this case-relearn the song in their key,or use a capo-which is soo much easier!
Classical guitar capos work wonderfully well with baritone ukes-they do the job and are easy on the instrument. See the picture for the chart which you'll be using to know what fret the capo need to be on to change to the key you want.
Capos make it all effortless providing you know what fret to place it at (in which case the capo becomes the temporary nut,and you play the chords as you normally would)

Start at the far left and run down the list till you find what key the song is already in,and let you fingers do the walking across the page till you see what key you need to be playing in. Numbers at the top are fret numbers.

So,lets say you know a song in the key of A, and you friend knows the sale song in the key of C. Look at the chart & find the original key of A,then run your finger across on that line till you find C. Looking at the top of the page,you see you need to capo at the 3rd fret and play as you normally would. Tah dah!