It's time to celebrate our love of the ukulele in all it's forms! And with the weather much of the US is experiencing right now,the petite but powerful uke can help us journey thru our day when going outside is not a good idea. The rain is back in California,and I'm staying put today,appreciating that my yard is being watered,and hoping those in mudslide or flood zones will be safe. This actually brings back memories of being a kid on a rainy day when my tomboyish self had to keep myself occupied with reading,hobbies,and whatnot instead of playing outside. So- if you're wondering what to do today,here's a few ideas:
1. learn that song you've been wanting to get to know.
2. video yourself playing and share it online,or with friends and family.
3. If you just got a looper pedal,and have an acoustic/electric uke,try working with that and see what happens.
4. If you have neighbors who play,and going outside isn't too bad,consider having a uke get together with them.
5. Use the day to put that new set of strings on,write in your ukulele blog,or start one if you don't have one.
6. Put some of your musical creations on TAB or post some of your recordings for the world to hear.
Above all,stay dry,stay warm,stay safe,and enjoy the day!
As far as guitalele books go,this is a real classic. And as a music teacher,I gotta take my hat off to the author,Benjamin M. Taylor. A ton of work went into this volume! I've been a lover of guitalele for a few years now,(much to the dismay of some 4 string purists) and see it as an extension of the uke,much like you see 5 and 6 string bass guitars,5 string violins,and so forth. However there isn't a lot of books out there about them. This book is a goldmine. Personally speaking,I never really understood the importance of scales till I taught myself fiddle. Then it became crystal clear: to know where all the notes are going to be in a given key,to make learning a song a whole lot easier. Why? because it gives you the neighborhood map of where each note is going to be,and prevents you having to wander parts of town you really don't need to explore for any given scale. In this sense Benjamin has mapped the world. Not only do we have the most common,such as major,but the book covers exotic flavors like Hindu,Spanish Gypsy,Egyptian,Enigmatic,Bebop,pentatonic and much much more. There are 8 scale diagrams given per page,showing the full fretboard and,and if that weren't enough,the back of this tome has 7 pages of numerous moveable patterns.The author thought of everything! For both the 4 and 6 string ukulele player,get this and you'll never,ever need another uke scale book. The only improvements I would make would be to have this be spiral bound for ease of use (which can be done inexpensively at places like Staples) and perhaps bigger diagrams for more mature eyes. He does include the scale in standard notation above each fretboard diagram but they are dinky. This book opens up galaxies of new sounds and melodies to be explored,and belongs in every ukulele player's library! Order your copy below thru my Amazon link:
The past few instrument purchases I've made weren't intentional-in fact,this ukulele I seriously tried to say no to. But then the Universe said I must buy it. (Yes,you can use that one next time UAS strikes!) I was bored,home alone,so I was on eBay,,,,,,just looking,mind you,at ukuleles. Then- a music store had a Luna pineapple uke with tribal face up for a $32 buy it now and free shipping. I stayed strong and said no,until the Universe popped in by having a $5 off coupon pop up for eBay at the top of my screen. So......I went and got that baby,with tags,brand new,for $27!!!! With the price discounted heavily to begin with,I wondered if there would be a hidden blemish,a flaw,perhaps not set up right? I had nothing to worry about. This baby was not only brand new,but the mahogany wood was flawless,the intonation spot on,and the action absolutely delightful. The sound is very sweet,full,and it packs volume for a soprano size! And let's not forget-it has dots on the side of the neck as well. This is a true beach/surfer ukulele. And the tribal face is a real attention getter! The body,sides,and neck are mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. The neck is set with a 13" scale. Any soprano gigbag should work with this uke- I got an Hola! brand for mine. Only suggestion I would make to the Luna company would be if they could start using the lunar phase dots on the fret board as that would look really cool. Want one? you can check out the link below,which helps cover the expenses of running this blog when you buy one.
Since I got my Stella banjo uke refurbished,I'd been wanting to get a case or gigbag for it. Imagine my surprise when I spotted the Hola! gigbag for a mere $14.95 on Amazon. In fact,I liked the first one so well I got another one for my Luna tribal pineapple soprano- in a different color,of course! I was amazed at the plush padding-15 mm. Stiff enough to have the bag retain it's shape when a uke isn't inside it. On the inside of the gigbag,where the headstock and string ends hit,there is an additional layer of material there so that part of the bag won't get snagged by the string ends. The outside is made of what looks and feels to be a water resistant material- Oxford nylon fabric. And you can get this in plain black or different designs and colors. A blast from the past is this sports metal zippers instead of plastic. Hearing th zipper brings back a lot of childhood memories of wearing different jackets I had! And this has a decent sized accessory pocket for a tuner,capo,small book,etc. The handle is well padded and there is a slender adjustable strap for carrying it over your shoulder. While I would ideally have a slightly heavier duty strap,I had to remind myself soprano ukuleles don't hardly weigh anything,and a light strap is all that's needed. I don't know how long Amazon will have them at this price- so if you're needing a decent gigbag for your uke,or just want to see what it looks like,I've included a link below!
I was recently in a meeting with a consultant,and of course music came up,and I mentioned I play a few instruments. After a few more moments in this meeting,the woman mentioned how she and a friend had taken a ukulele class last year,and now she has no time to play it. She was not happy with the false belief that she had no time for it. So,as I usually do,I made a suggestion.
"Why not take your ukulele to work with you?"
She was delighted with the idea,and towards the end of our meeting,she told me how excited she was to start taking her uke with her. I mentioned she could play on break or during lunchtime. I know this because it's what I did at the last day job I had. I was just starting my uke journey, and I would sit outside and strum chords or pluck out tunes. Back then my phone wasn't saavy enough to have a uke tuning app on it- the phone I have now has one so I never have to worry about taking my clip on tuner. I also mentioned she could "steal" 15 min or so at home to play as well. during commercials on TV,while relaxing with a hot cocoa,anytime you have those inbetween moments. Waiting for a friend to stop by? Play your uke while waiting. Doing holiday baking? Play your uke while the goodies are baking in the oven. Start looking at finding time to play like a treasure hunt.....it's usually those "inbetween times".
I'm going off the beaten track of what I usually write about here,and I want to preface that this entry isn't for those who recently lost a loved one,or just received a not so great diagnosis,or just experienced an accident. Having my Dad pass in April of 2017 and then breaking my knee in October of the same year,last Christmas day was an extremely challenging time on all levels......especially spending it entirely alone. (everyone I knew had commitments to be other places on the 25th) However,what inspired me to create the above quote was how to handle this Christmas/Yule Season without any family,and friends who "aren't into it?" It was my Mom who instilled the love of the Holidays in me- she loved a flocked well lit and decorated tree,streamers on the ceiling,carols,and a lot of cooking. As this year progressed,I wondered how I would handle this Yuletide season,knowing that those near and dear are either "wounded emotionally" and cocoon at home on the 25th,or are at gatherings they don't really want to be at,but haven't learned to put up boundries and just say no to the invites. And of course some are out of state staying with family that they do want to see. So.......while pondering how I was gonna handle this month,I most certainly didn't want to wall off my heart or go into a funk. That was how I spent last year.....in deep grief and feeling miserable. ( I know that grief is natural and necessary,but I really didn't want it to be a new tradition in December)
I'm a member of "The Shine Tribe",run by Brit and Chris Carmichael. One of Brit's great quotes is "buy your own damn flowers" meaning get them for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to do it as a gift to yourself cause you deserve to be treated special! So taking that as an inspiration,I suddenly realized my holiday joy must come from within,not from outside myself. Not from someone bending to my agenda or living up to my expectations. No one I know has the love of decorating,feeling the joy of Yule.like I do. Rather than be disappointed when those others aren't excited about decorating the tree,playing carols,or getting a thrill out of seeing other yards being decorated.I can simply do so myself this year. And this year won't be like future years. Who knows? Next Christmas I may find myself with those who love this time of year every bit as much as I do. Most disappointments in others comes when they don't meet our expectations- when we expect them to be different from how they truly are. Those who don't care for December joy were more than likely deeply hurt at some point during this time- maybe once,maybe multiple times,and they don't realize that they can let go of the past at any time they choose,and start anew. Most the time these folks instead put all the worst past Christmases on auto replay for the present year,and make it a miserable time for themselves. It's like super imposing a crummy photo on top of a nice new one. For those souls I have much compassion.
Part of my realizing my joy is up to me was when I asked myself how would I be feeling if this were March? Or June? That's when I understood my starting to "dread" this Christmas was in my head and the mental/emotional tapes I decided to play from last year because of it. Altho I loved my Dad dearly,his Christmases were horrible in childhood thanks to his stingy and heartless Father. No matter how much I tried,my Dad tolerated Christmas and never felt the magic of the season. Which is a shame.
To remedy any "Holiday blues",make a "joy list" fr yourself. What lights you up this month?Seeing lights? Going and seeing other yards made all festive? Playing carols? Having a candle all aglow on the dining room table? Ice skating? The smell of a tree lot? Whatever sparks holiday joy in your heart,make the time for it- even if you're the only one doing it. Give yourself the Yuletide you've been wanting!
And in doing so,you shine your light brightly. Shine,and let others be lit by your glow. You shining with Joy and magic ignites others to do the same.
This banjo uke was given to me in pieces by a friend of my Dad's. The head was lopsided on the pot,and it was missing the most important part: the bracket that attached the neck to the pot. So,it went into a box labeled "banjo uke" where it sat for about 5 years. In going thru a storage shed of Dad's this year,the box and uke resurfaced. So I decided to look into getting it fixed.
It went to McCabes in Santa Monica- the repair job was very well done,and the store is one of my favorites. However-the luthier who worked on it seems to have a habit in saying one thing,and then does another when it comes to prices,etc.
So I'm presenting this blog entry to try to help you learn how not to have this happen to you,not as an attack on the store.
When the uke was dropped off at the store for me,(McCabes is not close to my home and was close to where my friend lives) I called the luthier and discussed prices. I was clear that I didn't want the repair to go to $150 or beyond. If it did,I told him,I'd just buy a brand new banjo uke and sell this one as a repair project. He said he understood and would let me know.
Another call from this guy stated the repair shouldn't be expensive,and I was given the impression is would be below the price limit I set with him. To be fair, the uke was missing tuners,tailpiece,and bridge and I was to pay for replacement parts,which I totally expected...which would also include buying a string set. I had no problem with this.
A few months went by,and I got the call from the repair guy. They found the needed bracket,it was fixed,and labor was $125,he didn't have the bill in front of him,(I wanted to know the cost of the parts) and,he told me,they had found a used gig bag for it,which they were throwing in for free. I was happy.
But,as my Dad often told me, "get it in writing",which I didn't. So when the guy who dropped it off went to pick it up,he called from the store. He told me the cost was........ $191.00. And the free gig bag? That was now $25.00. I about fell over. That was way more than I wanted to put in for having this uke fixed,and like I said,I would've picked up a new banjo uke which usually comes with a free gig bag.
I felt like the horse had left the barn at this point and paid the $191,and told my friend to forget the gigbag and remind the repairman that the bag was supposed to be free. The repairman didn't remember ever saying that or the price limit I had set,allegedly.
Needless to say this initially kinda soured getting the ukulele back. I did call McCabes and asked to speak with a manager,who wasn't there.
An employee wanted to understand my story,so I calmly explained my side of it,and stated the reason for this call is I felt that the manager should know what's going on with this particular luthier. (my friend who dropped an instrument off at the same store to be repaired by the same guy had the same experience) The employee took my phone #,promising the manager would call back to discuss how to make this right.
I've never received a phone call,and it's been about 2 weeks.
Please understand this is not a slam against McCabes. I took a lot of music lessons there as a teen,and the store has a special place in my heart.
However- there seemed to be some integrity missing when it comes to prices with this particular repair guy. And I imagine this happens at other stores,too.
So-when you take an instrument-any instrument- in for repair or adjustment anywhere,get the cost in writing. If the job is going to go over the amount limit you have set,be sure the repairman or woman understands and lets you know before the work is done. Get your price limit in writing as well,so you have proof. And date the estimate you get,and have you and the repair person sign it.
To end on an up note,the repair was a top notch job. There were some parts replaced that IMO didn't need to be,like the J hooks and nut. They were replaced to make the uke look better,and it's been really nicely cleaned and polished up. The action is superb,intonation is spot on and the volume and ring is so strong I had to wrap a thick sock around the coordinator rod! I am enjoying playing it,and I am pleased that a 1920's uke was saved from going into the trash or left to rot in a box. I'm now using it in western swing,swing jazz,blues,and ragtime music.
This entry is going to be a little of this and a little of that....I'm awaiting my latest issue of Ukulele mag,and a Stella banjo uke that was given to me in need of restoration. I had it restored by Doug at McCabes guitar shop in Santa Monica,and will post photos of it when it gets here. (This will be my first playable banjo uke ever!) The ramp that I needed after I broke my knee last year has been taken down,and I'm in the getting used to stairs again mode....and that's no complaint. To other ukulele news: in case you haven't heard,Fender.com has very reasonable online uke lessons now,and last wed ukulele was featured in the Facebook live weekly session! Abby and Nikki were on ukulele and bass guitar respectively,and what they did was great. I can't recommend the Fender classes enough- whether you play guitar,ukulele,or bass. (or all three!) Halloween (my fave holiday!) is quickly approaching. This year I'll be handing out candies to the trick or treaters for the first time in nearly 20 years. Living with Dad was great,however he forbid me to decorate the porch or hand out candy as he had a somewhat jolting experience some years before I moved back in with him. Now that he is on the other side of the veil.I'll be doing what I've missed terribly- greeting kids in costume and helping in spreading the air of mystery that is so thick on that particular night. I plan on having uke in hand while in costume on my porch. How many of you plan on having your ukes in hand while handing out candy or trick or treating? Send in a family friendly photo of yourself in costume with your uke and you could wind up being in a future entry of Flea Plucker! (be sure to tell your friends and share this blog with them) Be sure to put "Halloween" in the subject title when sending your pic in!
I got one of these from Austin Bazaar yesterday and I must say I'm very pleased! Never having owned an acoustic electric before,I was anxious to see how it sounded acoustically as well as amped up. The tiny but mighty electronics panel sports a built in tuner as well as a bass and treble equalizer. And in using them they do make a very noticeable difference in tone. There wasn't any buzzes or hums from the input jack. (I ran the uke thru my Fender Starcaster practice amp) The uke sports open geared tuners,a mahogany neck and body with a rose"shark teeth" inlay markers. (only thing I wish they'd done is put dots on the side of the neck) The bridge is rosewood as well. What's nice about this model is it doesn't get all plinky sounding high up the neck. A nice art deco-y engraved sunburst pattern gives this a very retro look-along with the satin finish. The wood really glows! The neck and fret edges are smooth,action is nice and low,intonation is pretty much on the money. (Bear in mind this is a B model so I don''t know if this was a demo,open box,or what.) The tone is warm and sweet- this uke packs a lot of volume when played acoustically. I actually got this to be able to run the uke thru my computer or iPod to record. The built in tuner is soooo convenient! No more worry about forgetting to take a clip on one along. On a scale of 1-10 I'd give this one a 9.5.
Before I start,I want to wish one and all a very happy and safe Independence Day! Mine will be spent at home this year.
And Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends! Party on.
I received a most wonderful question from one of my readers this morning- the question being when you buy your 1st uke, should you get soprano or concert size? (or bigger? Never limit your options) First order of business is to actually try the sizes out for yourself,because there's a couple of key things that will be important: your hand/finger size,and how well you like the volume and tone of the size uke you're trying out.
So either ask friends you know who own soprano and/or concert sized ukes if you can try it out and play each for a few moments,or go to a music shop and try these two different sizes out.
(this being the July 4th week,sales are on and it's a great time to get a uke!)
If you have small hands and slender fingers,you're more than likely to go with a soprano uke. However,if you want more volume,a richer tone,and more frets on the fingerboard,you might be happier on the slightly larger sized concert size uke. For example: I'm petite and yes,I have small hands. My fave size uke to play is a concert,even tho I do own and play soprano sized ones. Why? Well,soprano is the ultimate take along size if I'm doing a show in person selling off my Dad's belongings,for example. While I'm playing behind the table of model kits,etc I have for sale,it's not as tho I'm giving an actual performance,and my soprano uke does a wonderful job. It's also a good "ice breaker" and often initiates cool conversations. That being said,my concert size uke is slightly bigger,has more frets on the fingerboard,meaning the tone doesn't get "plinky" high up the neck. The sound is richer and I have more volume. The fretboard is just as comfy as my soprano size,and my concert uke is the one I typically use for performing,recording,and teaching. Now lets say you have big hands,and full figure fingers. More than likely the soprano will be too small and make your fingers feel cramped. Concert would be slightly better,depending on hand size,and there's a chance you might find concert size to be a wee bit too small.
In that case,I would urge you to try a tenor size uke. Bigger than a concert, the fretboard should work for most with bigger hands and full figure fingers. Remember that with size,we're mainly going for comfort. Comfort,as DavidJi says, is Queen. Don't be afraid to be a "goldilocks" and find the size that's "just right.". And just to toss this into the mix,I also have a tenor sized uke I play around the house and on the porch. More often than not tho,I'm typically playing my soprano or concert.
And while size matters,also be mindful of what wood the uke is made of- make sue you really like the sound of it. Mahogany is a tried and true standard wood for ukuleles. My concert is made of Zebra wood,and has a beautiful full tone about it. My tenor is Asian Koa and has a sweet,mellow,deeper voice to it. And,one thing I learned from my Dad: if you're torn between two,and the one you're really wanting is slightly more than you planned on spending,go for the higher quality,slightly more expensive one. Also inquire if they have any open box,or B models. Open box means somebody returned it to the store or it was the store demo,and a B model means it more than likely has a cosmetic flaw,therefore it's discounted. Personally,I usually look for these types first cause it means I get more bang for my buck.
Last but not least,be sure to get a case and/or gigbag for it.