Well, lookie what the cat dragged in. I’ve been on a hiatus from posting because of my concentration on traditional old time fiddle while traveling the country and learning from master fiddlers in the Ozarks, Catskills and Blue Ridge mountains. I even spent a week in Port Townsend, Washington learning Finnish folk violin from Arto Järvelä. It is quite the undertaking but that is where my heart is right now.
However, I have not lost any love for playing ukulele! And this particular offering reminds me how fun it is to arrange simple tunes into the hardest way to play them… Campanella (or campanela).
Prerequisites for taking on this arrangement are determination and my campanella triad patterns tutorial and some holiday spirit. And watch the video closely to see how I incorporate barring with my index to get these patterns.
Notes: The barring I refer to occurs in measures 1, 3, 7-8, and 15-16. Also remember to let the notes ring as long as possible. There are a few places where this can sound dissonant so use your best judgement. In a few places I might not let a note ring if it clashes too hard with the next one. Measures 9 and 10 are a good example. in measure 9, let off the second string, 8th fret before you play the first note in measure 10. The last two notes should not ring (too long) at the same time, either. You’ll see why.
Also, measure 13 is probably the trickiest part. I actually stretch my index down to the fifth fret while leaving my middle finger on the eight fret.
It might take a little practice to get all this sounding smooth (I still haven’t gotten there yet) but it’s worth the effort.
Happy Holidays to you all and keep sharing the LOVE.
Dusting this one off to see if I could still play it. I tabbed Like a Bird a while back and recently received James HIll’s permission to share it. This is a slightly different arrangement than the original version AND IT IS IN C TUNING. James recorded it in D tuning or ADF#B.
Here is one of my favorite ukulele secrets. Taken from my harp ukulele original, King’s Rain, these artful and impressive arpeggios span the neck and will improve your agility and accuracy for both your left and right hands.
The ingredients for a UKULELE BADASS!
When I composed King’s Rain I heard these arpeggios in my head before I even worked them out on the ukulele. I wanted to write a song for the harp ukulele that sounded like a traditional harp being played. What I didn’t anticipate was how much fun they would be to play. I spent hours shedding on them, easily hundreds of repetitions. I liked the way they sounded and I really liked the way they felt under my fingers.
I still use them as a workout… or just to show off.
Performance Notes: Once again, three finger right hand technique. Thumb plays 4th string and index and ring fingers play the rest. See the instructional video for more explanation.
Left hand fingering should follow campanella judgement. Let the note on a string ring as long as possible before moving to the next note on the same string. This takes a bit of practice to do smoothly so go slow at first. This is important and when you get it faster it will sound like a harp.
Repetition. I don’t think you will get bored with these. Shoot for infinity.
USE THESE IDEAS TO CREATE YOUR OWN.
Please. As with any of my secrets, they are meant to inspire you to learn and expand.
The worksheet has 6 arpeggios written out in TAB with a chord diagram above each one.
Here’s the first example. Download all six examples below.
Here is a campanella (or 99% campanella) version I came up with for Chatanooga Choo Choo. Thanks to Ken Middleton and Al Woods for taking the time to look over the TAB and offer a few suggestions. Sometimes it helps to have some fresh eyes look at something when yours get tired.
I have included a 10 minute tutorial video if you have trouble getting the TAB and performance under your fingers.
In the performance video you will see/hear me use improvised chord fills between the campanella melody lines. I didn’t include this on the TAB as I play it differently every time. Mainly they are C6’s with D7 to G7 vamps. I encourage you to explore different inversions and have fun with it. I cover this a little in the tutorial video.
As with most of my campanella arrangements, look for places to use triad forms or places to have more than one finger on the neck at one time. This helps let the notes ring. It also sounds good letting the open strings ring.
Probably the biggest challenge will start at measure 36. I am playing the entire line with one chord form. To get to it quickly I grab the first two notes with the pinky and ring fingers FIRST. Then I let the other two fingers catch up. I suggest practicing the chord,
ahead of time so you will know what it looks like when you get to it. But remember to start learning the shape by putting the pinky down first and then the ring finger. This will make it easier on you.
I have been further exploring harp ukulele and becoming more intrigued all the time. It is in a class by itself, I think. At least it is in the way I am approaching it. I really try to make it sound like the harp that it is. It’s about the same size as what I picture an ancient Greek harp to be so I feel like Pythagorus, many hundreds of years ago breaking new ground and making sounds never heard before.
Taking inspiration from John King, Asian sounds, this instrument itself, and the beyond.. I offer King’s Rain. I dedicate this to John as I thought of him continuously while writing it.
In my mind I picture a king in his chamber as it begins to rain outside. I will let your mind picture what it wants. Of course there is also a little play on words with the title.
And you know.. if there is a Heaven and there are angels playing harps.. John King is playing a harp ukulele.
Well, as soon as I heard I could pre-order one, I did. Several months ago. I had all but forgotten about it when Mike from Uke Republic emailed to say my aNueNue Harp ukulele, designed by Pete Howlett, was about to ship.
I thought to myself, do I really want one anymore? It’s so expensive and I don’t feel as excited about it as I did when I ordered it.
But what the heck? It came and it is a lovely instrument. Well-built. Smells good. The tenor uke itself is a fine instrument and fun to play. (My first tenor) Also, a sweet biproduct of the harp uke is it’s resonance. When I play songs on it that don’t use the diapason strings (the upper four, non-fretted strings) they behave as sympathetic strings, vibrating and creating a rich natural reverb sound.
Out of the box (and nice hard case) it is strung with a low G and the recommended tuning for the diapason is, from the top down, C D E F, with the low G of the regular 4 uke strings being next. Well, that didn’t work for me. I knew the first thing I would do is put a high G on it so that’s what I did. Better. Now I can play my campanella riffs and prettied up chords. Otherwise it is just a 7 string guitar to me and I have plenty of guitars laying around.
I wanted this thing to sound like a harp (hmm). I didn’t want to just play chords with bass notes because I do that on the guitar all the time. Note: If you don’t have or play a guitar, try it first with the factory stringing and tuning. It will definitely be an expansion from the norm. If you want to incorporate some Ukelele Secrets on it then read on.
So.. the top strings still weren’t doing it for me. My goal was, and is, to utilize reentrant tuning with campanella style somehow integrated into the bass notes.
I fished around and came up with (top down) C E A G. The same notes as the ukulele, only rearranged. When strummed they sound reentrant as well. And when the whole thing is strummed.. it sounds like a harp.
Now to just play it. The ideas that came popping out weren’t what I expected. This instrument has a way of revealing itself to you. I forced myself on it but it said let me show YOU some things. I listened.. and then I had to learn how to repeat what it revealed. This thing is not that easy to play (just watch me rubbernecking throughout the video, so much to keep an eye on). But it is cooperative. It responds to high repetition gifting you with greater accuracy and ideas. Snuck a Secret in there, didn’t I.
So, here is my first seedling of a composition. I know the future holds more and I look forward to sharing with you my journey into Harp Ukulele.
I shared this video in a forthcoming post but will add it here to have them together.
Well, the season sort of snuck up on me and I wanted to work up some new holiday tunes for Christmas. There are so many other things in the queue now but I decided to try to get this out sooner, in case you want to practice up before Christmas.
The tunes are:
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
We Three Kings
Away in a Manger
The Ukulele Secrets I use in these arrangements are:
What I did here was make them as hard to play as possible. Ha! That’s just another way of saying I tried to put in as much campanella that I could.
The exception is We Three Kings. There is a wee bit of campanella but if you pay attention to the chord forms you will see it’s 90% ‘Pretty Up Your CFG’. It’s a great example of that secret. Coupled with the baroque feel, it makes for a fun song to play.
So, I am only offering the TABs to It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and We Three Kings for now.
My arrangement of Away in a Manger is in the key of C, like every one else’s I’ve seen. I really made it hard to play. So hard that I couldn’t really get the full campanella effect in the video. There are just too many easier ways to play it and make it sound just as beautiful. It is super easy so fish around and you’ll find it.
This Silent Night arrangement started from my friend Jim’s interest in the song a few years ago. Then I saw Al’s version the other day at Ukulele Hunt. I wanted to give it the ole campanella try so I went after it. It’s really not much different than the others except some campanella and harmonics.
It is a beautiful melody and I encourage you to play it with a friend and do harmonies. Jim and I have been having fun with it and we might post a video before long.
Well, I am finally moved back into my space, with the studio partially together.
1. Apartment repairs complete
2. Garage semi normal
3. Doctor visits complete and feeling much better
4. Business trip to Seattle over
5. Earned my CUA – Certified Usability Analyst
6. Lots of craigslist.com stuff out the door (with still more to go)
7. Received my signed copy of James Hill’s new CD A Man With A Love Song
And started a new chapter in life.. in a few different ways.
My day job is absolutely crazy right now and will be for several months to come but I am resolved to share more secrets… so here’s what’s coming up.
1. the Train rhythm (my secret weapon)
2. a duet version of Tico Tico that will make your socks go up and down
3. Elvis has left the building.. the quintessential Elvis rhythm
4. a TAB of my Danny Boy arrangement
4. and “Claw-panela” a unique (to me) way to combine claw hammer technique with campanela runs
WTH is claw-panela?
Well, I coined the term yesterday after having loosely worked up James Hill’s claw hammer medley from his new CD, of which I was a “Mover and Shaker”. The track is called Assam/Like a Bird and is a tribute to John Kavanagh and John King, respectively. An incredibly beautiful tribute. When I first heard it I was entranced. I still am.
BTW the CD is great. Lots of excellent James Hill compositions and playing and musicianship from guest artists. I highly recommend it.
Back to claw-panela. The song is played in the claw hammer style utilizing campenala style to play beautiful melody lines. I have been exploring ideas with the technique and will share what I have come up with in the future.
Meanwhile here is my toob of James HIll’s Assam/Like a Bird (minus his superb foot-stomping)
I recently read a forum post with someone inquiring about an unusual instrument (harp ukelele, but that is not important). It seemed like every other reply was something like “I would never play that!” or “What’s the point?” or “That is stupid.” I am paraphrasing but that is the general feeling I got.
On the other hand, there were some folks, like myself, that were excited and intrigued and even wanted to get one in their hands. That’s more like it! To me, at least. I am always curious to try some new kind of instrument.
Which brings me to Ukelele Secret #8: Cross Training
If you ever get the chance to pick up a new (to you) instrument, I highly recommend doing so. Whether “picking it up” means buying one or just trying it out at a friend’s house or a music store, do it!
And I am not talking about trying different ukuleles. Do that, too. But I mean different INSTRUMENTS. Like a banjo, mandolin, sitar, bass guitar, venezuelan cuatro, hammer dulcimer, violin (wince).. etc. These are all stringed instruments but don’t stop there…
Try a piano or keyboard. Learn how to do a triplet or paradiddle on percussion. Get shakin’ with a shaker. Try like heck to get a good note out of a bamboo flute. Pluck a kalimba (thumb piano). Make a sound, make music with whatever you can get your hands on.
After all, you are a musician.
It might sound less than pleasing at first (starting something new always has some learning curve) but spend some time learning a few chords or fishing for a melody.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
Gosh, why?? Well, because of the different tuning, different sound, shape and feel, new musical ideas emerge that would not have, if you stuck to just one instrument. You don’t have to master it, just noodle. Your brain gets exercised and your creativity gets a boost that you can bring back to the uke.
It will make you a better ukulele player.. maybe even a badass
I am not blowing smoke here, either. I speak from the mountain. I currently own, play, or have played all the instruments mentioned above and gained a level of proficiency with them as well.
Listening to different kinds of music fits into cross training, too. You don’t have to go buy K-Tel’s Top Hits but just be curious. Try to play something that was originally played on a different instrument. When I was 16 or 17 I transcribed Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer, a piano song, to classical guitar. I loved the melody so much I just HAD to learn it. So I taught myself.
Which brings this stream of consciousness to my next secret.
Play anything. Any type of music.
Don’t limit yourself to “ukulele music”. That’s what’s fun about being a musician. But if you haven’t tried it, there are TONS of resources, tabs (even on this site) for ‘different’ kinds of music to play on the ukulele. Al Woods, proprietor of Ukulele Hunt is one of the best examples of a musician turning the ukulele into a black hole and sucking every kind of music into it.
And if you’ve come to know me even a little, you can see I love to play a great variety of music and flavors.
So.. here is an example of the joy I get playing different kinds of instruments. It’s a bluegrass classic called Blackberry Blossom. Rhythm guitar is in the left speaker and melody features mandolin, ukulele and acoustic guitar. I am by no means a master of any of these instruments but just getting through a song like this is really fun.
And now for something totally unrelated.. well, not totally. I wrote and recorded the music, played the instruments, except the electronic drum loop, for this self shot and edited video, featuring me enjoying another hobby of mine. Hula hooping.