Sunday, 8 February 2015

Just Missed Ukulele Day

Last week I heard that there was a "World Day" called "Play your Ukulele Day". Check it out.

And with the revelation was an added fact that 250,000 ukuleles were sold last year in the UK. It wasn't all me, I promise. I have been looking for a second Uke for what may become a collection however. Do I want a smaller soprano uke (my first is a concert), or should I try out a tenor and see if there is more room for my fingers on the fretboard. Watch this space!

I am still adding tracks of songs I am practising; mainly to get an objective view of what (hopefully) progress I am making.

My latest two are songs I learnt from Joe Brown  records and concerts. The first was hugely popular when Joe played it to close the Concert For George at The Albert Hall. I loved this song and it is possibly the one song which made me acquire a ukulele for myself.

The second here, is a simple song which Joe co-wrote with a well established UK writer when they met up in Nashville, he just happened to have a uke with him. You just have to admire the simplicity of the song, at least I do!

Hope you like them.

BTW, the club I have joined now has a couple of further gigs lined up. Both are at retirement homes and we are looking forward to bringing a little music into the residents lives. The only issue is that our second songbook (courtesy of our founder) is now containing songs like "Living On A Prayer" - Bon Jovi and "The Summer Of 69" - Bryan Adams. We might have to leave them out of the running order for those gigs. LOL.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Improving My Ukulele Skills

Whilst I hope I do not seem to be in any way self-satisfied, I do think my uke playing has improved greatly since joining the group which I mentioned a couple of posts ago.

 Can you see the concentration on my face in this shot?

Playing with a large group has definitely many things to recommend it. Of course it is all about enjoying an evening strumming and singing (and partaking of a little refreshment), but keeping up with the group really helps to concentrate the mind on getting your fingers to those chords. And it doesn't matter if you flunk a chord change anyway ... simply carry on regardless.

The christmas concert I mentioned (also designed to be a night of fun) went down very well with both the group and our audience. The event was enjoyed by all. Practising for this also gave an impetus to improving general playing skills.

Another still from one of my video recordings. These 
are really helpful to see where and what needs improving.

Now to the real reason for this post, I have made a few sound recordings and placed them on a site called YourListen dot com. Thus allowing me to embed the recordings in this blog and other sites. 
I have selected three for the first batch. I am quite pleased with these and would like to to share them with you.

Upload Music Files - Audio Hosting - All I Have To Do Is Dream, E...
Embed Music - Upload Audio - You're Beautiful And You're ...
Upload Music Files - Share Audio - peggy sue - cover on ukulele

Can you see the change in facial attitude in this still? 
A smile of all things ...

Well that's all for now folks. Hope to be back soon with those promised Elvis videos from You Tube.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

My Very First LP Album, Elvis' Golden Records

In everyone's life there is at least one record which signifies something important to the person concerned. This record was the first LP I bought as a young teenager. I am not sure if I bought it on its release in 1958 but it must have been very soon afterwards. I remember I had my very own Dansette automatic record player as a birthday present by mom's sister and it was soon found a place in my bedroom where I could play my (then) meagre record collection. Up until then I had had to play my records on a large radiogram in the living room of my parents house. The cabinet of that monster must have been four foot long and it stood in a corner of that room as if it owned the place.

But on that day, I remember taking my birthday money down to the local record shop and rifling through the albums (or should I call them LP's?) which I had never really thought were within my reach financially. That purchase had to be a special buy. Something I really wanted!

I took out a copy of Elvis's Golden Records (who would have thought there would ultimately be five volumes?) and it opened like a book. Of course now I know that it was what is called a gatefold album cover, but the photographs were amazing. I had heard of Elvis, who hadn't but he wasn't the name which he became. I had heard of one or two of the tracks however and thought this could be the record that I spent my money on. I acted on impulse and took the record to the counter and asked tentatively to hear it. I was directed to a booth where I put on the earphones and wow, that was it. Hound Dog assailed my ears, I did not need to hear any more although of course I did. I wanted to seem to be adult and listen for a while as if to make my mind up.

I have never regretted buying that record. Elvis quickly became my favourite singer and over fifty years later still is although I am more drawn to those early days than to either the movie or the latter years. The simple rock and roll music, great songs and meaningful (usually) lyrics have as far as I am concerned stood the test of time. I love singing and know all the songs on this (and other Elvis recordings) backwards.

I don't belive that these songs need anything to be said of them, they were the start of the teenage revolution and changed the world for ever. In 1999 this album was reported as having 6X platinum sales in the states. A real piece of history. Of course there are other media if you just want to listen to the songs but this gatefold album will always have a special place in my memory.

Maybe I will post a few You Tube Vids to celebrate some of these songs. Amazing that I have not mentioned Elvis before now on this blog.

Monday, 1 December 2014

My Frst Public Performance Playing The Uke.

Did I mention in the last post that the ukulele group I have just joined is giving a christmas concert in a couple of weeks time - and we only practice every other week. So after 4 meetings the whole group will be performing in public. It is a very mixed ability group, so the better players will hopefully carry the rest of us through the ordeal.

I have been busy, of course, practising the songs on our playlist. I find that one way of quickly identifying where the major problems are is to record and listen to my own playing. However some of the videos, etc, are worth sharing. At least I hope that some of my friends will think so. So in the name of friendship I am doing just that.

The concert will be based on Christmas songs released through the past few decades, however I am learning a few other songs to give myself the occasional break. The biggest problem in learning to play songs which are to be performed by the group is pitching the song so that everybody can join in. On many of the songs, my vocal range is such that I have issues with the keys in which I am playing those songs. For instance, in the first example, I am singing far too low to be able to do a good job of the vocal. Won't matter in the group setting (there are two dozen of us) but on my own it sounds, very strained.

This means that the other songs allow me to sing in my own key, as in the following:-

If you haven't seen any of my self-recorded videos yet, then let me explain that I make a feature of wearing different hats.

Quite honestly I am looking forward to the concert. I think I shall be enjoying it and it will be a chance to meet more of the group members, since the few meetings I have attended so far have been quite hurried things with little time to get around the large membership and chat to many of the other strummers. 

Let you know how it goes later.

BTW, if you are in the South Birmingham / Solihull area, the group meets on a wednesday twice each month. Room for more Strummers. We meet in the Rover Group social club and the only cost is membership of the club, a nominal annual charge.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My Ukulele; My New Best Friend.

I have been playing guitar, on and off, for over 50 years. Some of you may have noticed that I have a thing about Hank Marvin and The Shadows. However I have never really settled down to learning how to play it seriously. I have learnt a few tunes from The Shads repetoire and two years ago I actually played live to backing tracks, in front of an audience at a Shadows Fan Club Meeting. Since then I have hardly done anything with my guitars (yes of course I have more than one!).

I have mostly used it as an accompaniment to my voice, often singing my own songs; but never in public. A few parties, perhaps but only after imbibing a little dutch courage. I did collaborate in my middle-age with song-writers but very little ever came of  these projects.

All in all, a failure to rise to the occasion as a musician.

Then a couple of years ago, I saw Joe Brown in concert and was captivated by songs he performed with a ukulele, especially See You In my Dreams which he performed when closing the Concert For George. A memorial concert for George Harrison. It gave me an itch, and the itch festered until I saw some very cheap ukuleles advertised at Lidl, of all places. I nearly bought one but it was near Christmas and I was told not to bother (well of course, I guessed why). I was overwhelmed however when I opened a present from my son who had bought me an expensive Stagg instrument. I didn't expect it but he has never been one to hold off spending money to buy the right thing, whatever it was.

It did take me a while to feel happy with the new instrument, for a number of reasons, but this month I joined a ukulele group. Basically, the objective of the group is to have a few pints, and enjoy ourselves singing/strumming to the songs we enjoyed in our youth. I have really taken time over the past couple of weeks to get to know my uke. I have restrung it with better strings, played far more songs in more and more difficult keys, and I am getting to feel really comfortable with it. I have even considered adding another uke to give me more flexibility.

I have really enjoyed the group evenings and in talking to the guy who started it, it is possible that it could be taken quite far if things go well. I am excited at the prospects we discussed.

Finally, an example from The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain of what can be achieved with this instrument.


Hope to have more information on this new musical direction in the near future. And, well, my new best friend is happy too, I think.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hank Marvin Playing Brian May's Version of The Shadows Hit FBI

What? Is that what it seems, you betcha!

I have just found this video on You Tube by accident and the title spells it out exactly. It is performed live in Hank's UK tour of 1997. he was joined on that tour by son Ben, Mark Griffiths and Warren Bennet.

You may know of the 1996 album TWANG, which was a tribute to The Shadows by a number of the foremost axemen from the world of rock. I wrote about this album in my own tribute to Hank Marvin which is now on HubPages.  One of the tracks was Brian May playing his version of FBI which of course was made into a hit by The Shadows.

In the video,Hank explains that he is going to play FBI as played by Brian May, playing The Shadows Hit. It's not really that complicated, just take your time if you are having trouble, LOL. So here it is, and what a fantastic pair Hank and Ben make on this number.

I have been away for a while due to unavoidable circumstances but I hope that I shall be posting regularly again if infrequently for a little while until things are rally on an even keel.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

I have just discovered Gypsy Fire, have you?

Another show at Solihull library Theatre. This time to see a band, GYPSY FIRE which I had not heard of. I was intrigued by the poster and on the spot bought tickets.

A real shame that the auditorium was so empty, if you have not yet had a chance to see / hear this band do yourself a favour and make sure to go and find out what I am talking about if they are appearing close to you.

I did not really know what to expect but I could not believe my ears. A journey thru styles and time the announcement said; and wow, it kicked off like an atomic bomb.

The show was in four parts. the first was classical favourites - explosive and driving, I was stamping my feet and working hard to keep up with the beat. The second was swing jazz. Again, a stunning performance of old favourites with lots of improvisation. The speed and delivery of the pieces were astounding. Part 3 was from music the movies, this slowed the whole thing down but again stunning. Part four was original music written by the band making use of the various sources we had heard from so far.

I was so taken with their music that in the interval, rather than heading for the bar, I made for their mechandising sound and bought a double CD based on the show. And just to prove it:-

I can't give you examples of the music from this but some examples can be found on their web-site. They do have one You Tube video available and of course here it is:

I am looking forward to seeing these four wonderful musicians again soon, maybe the CD will have to do for a while but I reckon I will be looking for more.