Everybody loves the triplet strum. This secret takes one of the more popular strums and shows you how to add a beat and change the whole feel.
I am skipping a tutorial on the triplet strum itself as there are many already out there. If I get the urge I will find one and include it here. But the basic right hand is index finger down, thumb down, index up. Repeat.
I am playing two of these triplet patterns and then adding a down up with the right hand index finger. So the new pattern count sounds like 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2, repeated. One two three one two three one two one two three on two three one two, etc.
And here are me and Jim Beasley in our big yellow kitchen tribute to John King and James Hill’s performance of Larry O’Gaff and Swallowtail medley. If there is serious interest, and I mean serious… I will TAB Jim’s part.
For me, that is what it takes to play like John King. There is no doubt in my mind he was impeccable in his practice and impeccable in his playing, if there is a difference.
First, what is campanela? And how is it spelled? Campanella? I will use the spelling John King used. There are many well informed articles, descriptions, introductions, analyses on many sites out there so I won’t go too far into it. I’ll just quote from John’s site and move on to the examples.
“In the time of J.S. Bach—some years before Capt. James Cook stumbled upon the island he called Owyhee—guitarists armed with re-entrantly tuned instruments had pioneered a style of playing they called campanela, which means little bell sounds. The bottom line is, they played each note of a melody on a different string, creating a sound like a harp—or little, pealing bells—where notes over-rang one another.”
but warning.. he goes on to say..
“The truth is it’s a crazy way to play the uke; ease of execution is all but sacrificed, subordinated to whatever it takes to get that shimmering, harplike sound. It works for me, because when I play it that way, the ‘ukulele sings.”
Accurate, to say the least. Not much more can be said, except that the effort you put into this technique is very rewarding.
While working up John’s arrangements that I found on his site and his book, Classical Ukulele, I discovered recurring patterns and forms. And as you can see in many of my song arrangements on the youtubes, I have embraced the technique.
Here are some of John’s secret hand positions and flow that I found in his campanela style. LEFT HAND FINGERING is provided on the TAB.
Examples 1 and 2 demonstrate some basic G major scale movement. When you get to the second beat of the measure, use your middle finger on the 7th fret and bar your index finger on the 5th fret. Watch the video closely. This is one of the most recurring forms I have seen so far.
Example 2 extends the G scale and adds another hand position. Note the fingering and watch the example on the video. Here is where impeccability in practice comes into use. Start slowly and aim for precision and let the notes ring as much as you can before switching hand positions. You can see I take advantage of getting the finger needed first to the new position first and let the other fingers catch up. Farewell to Whiskey is pretty much contained in this riff.
Examples 2 and 3 can be played together. Practice the position changes carefully and slowly at first.
Use the same approach in the following F scale examples. When you see the index finger on the same fret, it is barred.
Example 7 is my Ukulele Secret Weapon. I can’t pick up the instrument and not go into some variation of this. It is easy and pleasant to the ear. It can be expanded upon. You can see this demonstrated in Farewell to Whiskey and Red Haired Boy as I fill out the melody.
So how the heck is it spelled? Campanela or Campanella? I use the “John King” spelling but I think I am greatly outnumbered.
Regardless, here is the TAB to my arrangement to Farewell to Whiskey. It’s a lovely tune and I really take good advantage of the campanela style with the reentrant tuning. The TAB is the basic arrangement but expect a reentrant campanela secrets post next that demonstrates my approach to John King’s style.
Here is a snappy Irish tune that I arranged in 99.9% campanela style. Be on the lookout for an upcoming Ukulele Secret devoted to campanela and the reentrant tuning.
This would be called “melodic” style for the banjo where the melody of the song is played in the three finger banjo style. The TAB contains the main melody for the song but as you will see in the video, I play a lot more flowing notes in some sections, taking full advantage of the campanela style and reentrant tuning.
There is nothing new under the sun. This is a common fingerstyle pattern for ukulele, as well as three finger banjo or guitar (but that’s another blog or two). It is also known as Travis picking. I am just offering a different angle at showing you how to play it.
In the video I am not counting out the time or beats proper. I use words as a shortcut to playing music in a cool, badass way.
Pay particular attention as to which right hand fingers are to pluck which string. RIGHT HAND fingering explained..
T = Thumb, I = Index Finger, M = Middle Finger, A = Ring Finger
So.. what are the beats we’re playing?
Follow along with the video. I use a lot of repetition. YOU will use a LOT of repetition. Dozens or even hundreds of reps are not uncommon in learning a new technique or pattern or section or song. Don’t be intimidated by those numbers, though. When you practice this way results come within minutes. The more uninterrupted the reps, the faster the results, and the more badass you become. I promise.
Practice this as slowly as it takes and speed it up only when you are comfortable.
If you have questions just comment to this post. I will do my best to help you along.
If you know me, you know John King is my biggest ukulele influence. It pains me to say he passed a few years ago, just after I began my ukulele journey. I am sorry he is gone but so glad he was here. Much of my ukulele playing philosophy comes from John.
I have poured over his book “John King’s The Classical Ukulele” and learned so much. I have read his entire website Nalu Music. And I have worked up several of his arrangements.
This particular arrangement is a Hawaiian song I saw him perform on youtube. I am not familair with Hawaiian music (shame on the ukulele player) so I had never heard (of) this song. John’s description: “A poignant love song written by Julia Kapiolani for her dying husband David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii.”
Intrigued, I investigated the song, read about it, listened to many youtube instrumental and vocal versions and found I really love the melody as much as the story.
I never found a TAB of it so I took it upon myself to learn it from his video. This is the result..
I have been playing it for a few years now but only recently youtube’d it..
Some performance notes: There are some tricky right hand rolls beginning with measure 9. Use your thumb on the top string, index on the next string down (3rd) and middle finger on the second string from the bottom. The string roll order is 3432 (these are strings, not frets). Let me know if you need any help.
Practice it. Over and over. Practice just that roll. It is worth it.
And overall, watch his performance, my performance, and listen to vocal versions for inspiration. I wrote the TAB in straight time but I encourage you to play it with feeling and lots of breaths between sections.
Then play it for your sweetie
UPDATE: A fellow from the Ukulele Underground forum asked me for a little help.