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1940's period sound (uke)

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Barbara 28 Jan 03 - 05:03 PM
Amos 28 Jan 03 - 05:18 PM
katlaughing 28 Jan 03 - 07:52 PM
Barbara 29 Jan 03 - 02:15 AM
katlaughing 29 Jan 03 - 02:38 AM
Allan C. 29 Jan 03 - 07:34 AM
Mark Cohen 30 Jan 03 - 05:54 AM
katlaughing 30 Jan 03 - 09:44 AM
Dave Swan 30 Jan 03 - 01:08 PM
M.Ted 30 Jan 03 - 01:59 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 30 Jan 03 - 03:06 PM
M.Ted 30 Jan 03 - 04:13 PM
Mark Cohen 31 Jan 03 - 03:56 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 31 Jan 03 - 12:38 PM
M.Ted 31 Jan 03 - 03:38 PM
Barbara 31 Jan 03 - 06:02 PM
Frankham 31 Jan 03 - 06:09 PM
M.Ted 31 Jan 03 - 10:13 PM
Dave Swan 01 Feb 03 - 12:52 PM
Mark Cohen 01 Feb 03 - 04:15 PM
Frankham 01 Feb 03 - 04:46 PM
M.Ted 02 Feb 03 - 11:51 AM
GUEST 02 Feb 03 - 12:32 PM
Bullfrog Jones 02 Feb 03 - 12:50 PM
Mark Cohen 03 Feb 03 - 01:59 AM
Dave Swan 03 Feb 03 - 11:17 AM
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Subject: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Barbara
Date: 28 Jan 03 - 05:03 PM

Hi friends,
I'm in a play set in 1944 where I have to perform a number of old songs on a musical instrument. I am one of eight RC siblings, all girls, age 50 - 70. The script calls for piano, but I am not good enough on that. I suggested to the director that maybe I could use a ukelele, since my hazy memory tells me they were quite popular in that period.
So, is that right? If so, who played them, and what style? Was a flatpick used, or did they have special picks? Did people hang them on a cord around the neck, or were they just held?
If they weren't that popular, what was?
The songs I have to do are:
For Me and My Gal
Sheik of Araby
God Bless America
How Could Little Red Riding Hood(Have Been So Very Good)
South of the Border.

Thanks for whatever help you can give me.
We open Mar 15th.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Amos
Date: 28 Jan 03 - 05:18 PM

Sure they were -- part of the hep college scene!! Usually, because they were small and light, they just got tucked in with one arm. My impression is they were strummed with the the fingers, unadorned by picks. That's how Ma did, anyway! :>) Just a straight 4/4 strum, or 3/4.

Enjoy!!


A


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Jan 03 - 07:52 PM

My dad used to listen to Arthur Godfrey play one. If you put "1940's ukulele music" in google there are quite a few sites that come up with some relation to it.

You might also take a look at the Lester Levy Sheet Music site and see what some of the original music says on the front cover as far as what instruments the arrangements are for. Not sure if 1940's stuff would be available there, though, might be too recent.

Sounds like fun!

kat


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Barbara
Date: 29 Jan 03 - 02:15 AM

thanks gang.
I did hit Lester Levy for some of the older tunes, Kat. They have a cool Sheik of Araby.
Curiously enough, the one I can't find is God Bless America, and while I can fake the chords, I'm just a tad fuzzy on the words, since it ain't on my top ten, or hundred or... oh never mind.
My character-- Lil -- likes it tho.

Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Jan 03 - 02:38 AM

:-) It's not in my top anything, either, Barbara, but I did find it for you. There's a midi, a wav, links to retail sheet music, but best of all a link to a pdf of the chords with lyrics at this site. Don't know if those chords hold for uke as well, but at least it'll catch the fuzzy parts of the words.:-) Ya gonna post pics of you in costume? Still sounds like fun!


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Allan C.
Date: 29 Jan 03 - 07:34 AM

I believe that for the sake of convenience people usually strummed their ukes with just their fingers. My uke, a gift during the late 40's*, came with a felt pick. I would say that if you are able to find a felt pick, it would be worthwhile having it to use; but not at all required.

*Suddenly I feel quite old!


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 05:54 AM

The ukulele is generally played using one finger to strum, and is held against your body with the right arm. No straps, no picks, no props. At least, that's the way we do it here. I don't know if they used picks in the 40's. I have a fake book in which many of the songs, especially from the 20's and 30's, have ukulele chords rather than guitar chords, with a notation at the top, "Tune uke: GCEA" or ADF#B, or whatever.   Standard tuning, by the way, is GCEA from "bottom" to "top" (that's actually top to bottom in terms of physical position when you're holding the instrument!) But the G string is tuned an octave up, so its actual pitch is just one step below the top A string. (Hence the classic "My dog has fleas" tuning tune.) That holds true for all but the baritone uke, which is tuned DGBE, like the top four strings on the guitar. Got it?

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 09:44 AM

Hey Dr. Mark! I remember that "U" lesson and got it right this time!**BG**


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Dave Swan
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 01:08 PM

Here's a good jumping off point for all things uke, it's Flea Market Music.

Her music is a bit earlier than what you're after, but it's still worth a visit to Janet Klein.

Felt picks are still easily available, but by no means necessary.

Mark's primer just about says it all.

Best,

Davewhoseukesecretisnowunleashed


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: M.Ted
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 01:59 PM

As a ukulele player myself, I recommend it as the solution to many problems, both great and small--and it is perfect to use in this situation--it will have a much better effect on the audience than a piano, and even a minimum playing effort will please the audience--

With the uke, the strumming is really the most important thing, so find the simplest chord to each song--

For the "minimum", just brush your thumb down over the strings(an arpeggio, if you really need a name for it) once for each measure or for each new chord, whichever comes first--make sure you do it confidently and loudly, and remember that Will Rogers said(approximately,"When you play the ukulele, it sounds like you're just fooling around with it"--

If you feel inspired to do more, try using a basic strum, performed as Mark described above, with the index finger, the pattern is
"Down DownUp DownUp DownUp", and sound like "Boom walla walla walla"--

Find some recordings of George Formby to get a feel for it--Cliff Edwards(Ukulele Ike) was one of the best, and worth listening to, but
Formby was a much more basic sort of player--

As for who played them, nearly every one--in their time(the were introduced to the world at large at the San Francisco Exposition in 1915) they were a much favored instrument to accompany informal singing--

From 20's on, they were popular with variety and stage performers, particularly for humorous and novelty tunes, and they were often used by college men to serenade--for a group of adult women in 1944, particularly those who had enjoyed singing together since youth, the ukulele could be very evocative of times gone by--

For a great moment in Ukulele Cinema, check out the 1952 film "Belles on Their Toes"(sequel to "Cheaper By the Dozen") Hoagy Carmichael plays and sings "The Japanese Sandman" while strolling at the beach--


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 03:06 PM

Barbara,

All good suggestions. Steve Martin is a good uke player. He was recently in a bad movie but played and sang very well.

There are different voices of ukes. The tenor uke is less made but it serves the best for accompaniment by itself in my opinion. The baritone uke is tuned like the tenor guitar (in one tuning) D,G,B,E.
The little ukes do best when supported by other instruments I think.

The kind of music from the 20s,30s and 40s is easilly available.

Check the repitiore also for the tenor banjo. The instruments overlapped in terms of popularity in the 20's and 30's.

Any guitar chord dictionary will be useful for the chords on the first four strings. "Inside" chords on the guitar are not particularly useful.

Arthur Godfrey played a baritone uke. Not sure what Cliff Edwards played but I do know that he had a metal uke made much like a Dobro-style guitar. Cliff Edwards was fabulous.

Two ukes really sound good together, particularly in different "voices" such as a soprano and tenor or tenor and baritone. It would be great to see a singing trio or quartet accompanied by ukes in various "voices". It would be right for the period as well. It's an instrument that seems made for the beach.

George Formsby played the banjo uke. It's not quite as adaptable for a uke band, I think because the sound is different. It probably won't work well with banjos either. It would be overpowered by tenor or plectrum banjos.

Usually played with the fingers and strums used are similar to those employed in Flamenco guitar. A nice roll gives it a good flavor.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: M.Ted
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 04:13 PM

Frank, Cliff Edwards tended to play a tenor uke. In line with your comments about Steve Martin, a surprising number of rock guitarists started as ukulele players, George Harrison and Don Henley come to mind--

By the way, did you see my very belated reply to you at Music
Question/Improvisors?
Sorry it took me so long.


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 03:56 AM

Here's a fun and informative site: Brudda Bu's Ukulele Heaven. Check out the photo of Brudda Bu -- a red-bearded haole -- with the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Lots of good stuff here, classic uke players, makers, etc. By the way, the word "uke" is commonly used by people in the islands--who would, however, NEVER say "Yoo-ka-laily". (It's "Oo-koo-leh-leh".)

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 12:38 PM

Hi M. Ted,

I did get your response and I thank you.

You said,
"My approach to improvisation is to begin with rhythmic phrases and cadences, then to impose the appropriate scales over them."

It's a good way. It's consciously applying theory to music. But it's an analytical way. Good for a start. But I believe that at some point, the student needs to be able to articulate his/her own idea from what comes out of his/her head. I believe that this is the process by which improvisation develops.

"teach the way that call and response works within the blues progression, and then to help them to find a rhythmic phrase that they "feel'"--

OK. Then there comes a time when they invent that phrase even if it means a modest two or three note pattern.


You say,
"I am talking about soloing here, in creating the accompaniment, it works with the same elements, though--"

Yes you're right. But there comes a time when these elements are not used ver batim. They are changed purposely and often sub-conciously.
This is true improvisation, I believe.

You make an interesting point.

" I think it is, at least from a creative point of view, easier to improvise over that Db7Aug11 chord than over a Bluegrass C triad, since there are many more things that you can play over the Db7Aug11 and still stay within the harmonic style."

I guess a lot has to do with whom you are playing and their values about what they consider aesthetically to be "right" or "in the style". I have observed that this differs wildly from one musical group to another in every form of music. There are those who approach music from a pedantic point of view and if the world doesn't conform to their idea, they consider it "wrong". There is a lot of this kind of thing in the folk music world but here again, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

You said,
"In a way, composition is really basically improvisation, and the great classical masters tended to be great improvisors, and the great jazz players have tended to be great composers, as well."


I think that there is a difference between composing and improvising.
A composer has a structural sense of a preordained idea. This doesn't mean that the composer can't improvise. But the improviser is willing to let the structure happen on the spot or go along with that structure which is being imposed. Often, improvising musicians do have a dry spell and fall back on patterns they have memorized or solos that have become lauded by officianados and critics.

I go back to Norman Granz's comments to Joe Pass on a record date, "What are you trying to do? Get it right?" Assumption here is that each improvisation is really a "snowflake". A one-of-a-kind that when realized will never come again. Sure it can be recreated, studied and played but it is no longer in a process of improvisation.
An interesting analogy was given by Sam Hinton, a folk song scholar who said that a variant of a folk song is a picture of a bird in flight. This can be said for improvisations that have been written down.

You said,

"a player has to have a handle on three elements--the rhythmic phrases that are appropriate, melodic material (such as the melody itself, and the scale that it uses), and structure of the tune that is the backdrop for improvisation--"

I like to think of it this way, the melodic line, the harmonic line and the bass line. Then the rhythm too. What is appropriate? It's what the musicians can agree upon or accept. Then I guess the audience has something to say about it. When Bird started playing, nothing was appropriate to many "traditional" swing musicians. It took some time. I doubt whether many Mudcatters would get into Cecil Taylor let along Monk. The innovators define the style such as Louis in trad jazz or Bird and Monk in be-bop. One of the problems in trying to define folk music is the issue of musical style. There is not an agreement or consensus that would define the term folk music.
But in that, every innovator or influential performer essentially helps to define that term for some people. Usually the innovator in jazz hears stuff that no one has put down before. It's synthesized from preceding elements that have been learned but it's surprising effect is because it is new and on the spot. Bird may have practiced with scale books but what came out of his head was startling and not done the same way before. It was new because it was "now" and "on the spot".


Thanks for your comments.
I guess we needed more time on the "improvisation" thread.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: M.Ted
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 03:38 PM

Thanks for your comments, Frank, or actually, thanks for your thoughtful insights--I particularly appreciated this thought:

>But it's
>an analytical way. Good for a start. But I believe that at some
>point, the student needs to be able to articulate his/her own idea
>from what comes out of his/her head.

Because I not only really agree with it, but I think it is the most important thing. The real objective isn't to learn theory, or structure, or how to craft a particular sort of piece, it is simply to find a way for individuals to express personal feelings and personal visions--

The thing that connects Monk with Jean Ritchie isn't that they are both masters of their genre, it's that both used their medium as a channel for their own personal expressions--

A person whose plays relying only on the things that I have explained above is still an apprentice though, because the personal expression element isn't there--The analytical stuff is very seductive, though, and there are a lot of fast, facile, and theoretically sophisticated apprentices out there who don't realize that there is more to playing than that--


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Barbara
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 06:02 PM

Thanks people for the ookoolehleh information -- tho I don't imagine that these sisters would pronouce it the Havai'ian way, Mark. It does give me some idea of what I am supposed to be doing.
My mind's ear provided me with the down up pattern that M. Ted talks about in his post above, so it's nice to have the validation. Possibly I remember it from Arthur Godfrey. I do remember him from my childhood. I'll check out the links you all posted for me later today when I have time.
I'm afraid that my ear also agrees with Will Rogers, I keep feeling like I am sitting in my bedroom as a kid playing with something plastic. (Probably I did have a plastic ukulele as a kid, or my brother did.)
The one I bought is a soprano-- the only kind they had available any place within a 50 mile radius -- including Portland -- and cost $35. I asked if they had anything better and they said, no, but the one I was holding -- a Hilo -- was "a step or two above entry level." I said, "So, what is 'entry level'? Plastic?" and the guy nodded his head sheepishly.
It doesn't sound that bad, and I am getting used to having my fingers all squnched together, so the chords are coming out clearer.
Mahalo,
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Frankham
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 06:09 PM

Right M.Ted,

I think we really agree. Glad to hear that you are doing some instruction in jazz. I bet you're a good teacher.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: M.Ted
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 10:13 PM

Frank,

I never doubted it for a minute--It is hard to get everything said in the right order and perspective in internet posts, and the written word is not really the best way to convey ideas about teaching music anyway--

As to teaching, I haven't done much teaching for a few years. Partly from other committments, and partly because I haven't found a good place to do it. I miss it, though, and, one way or another, plan to get back to it in time.

As to my teaching--my students generally seemed pleased, and, , I was pleased with the progress that I was able to make with them.


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Dave Swan
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 12:52 PM

Barbara,
When it;s time to re-string, let me recommend Hilo Brand strings for your uke.


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 04:15 PM

Barbara, the Hilo brand is not bad. They even sell them in Hilo, where I used to live. Enjoy it! And if you want to have some fun, check out Jim Beloff's series of books. Good, simple instruction and a good selection of tunes. I met Jim at an Ukulele Festival in Seattle in November 01, when I was attending a conference. The highlights of that night for me were: seeing some of my old Seattle music buddies again, and watching a Hawaiian woman from Kona performing a hula wearing native Northwest costume: sweatshirt and jeans!   

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Frankham
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 04:46 PM

I have heard that koa wood is the best for ukes. Then I have also heard that many Hawaiian players really like Martins (mohogany) better. What do you think? Is koa wood the thing?

Frank


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: M.Ted
Date: 02 Feb 03 - 11:51 AM

I like koa best, it is brighter--


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Feb 03 - 12:32 PM

One of the sweetest sounding ukes I have seen was made from "Purple heart" wood, or something similar sounding. I wish that I had bought it. It was in a music store on north shore Oahu. Al


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Bullfrog Jones
Date: 02 Feb 03 - 12:50 PM

Steve Martin played the ukulele in 'The Jerk' and duetted with Bernadette Peters on 'Tonight You Belong To Me'(which the Beloved and I do acapella, not having a ukulele). Also check out John Prine's ' Let's Talk Duirty In Hawaiian' which (from memory, I think) also features the instrument.

BJ


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 01:59 AM

The cabinets in my former house were made of purple heart. It really is a gorgeous deep purple color. However, as it ages, it turns to a dark brown. There's probably some finish that will preserve the color, though. And yes, most better ukes are made from koa...but I am about as far from an expert as one can get (and still live in Hawaii).

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: 1940's period sound (uke)
From: Dave Swan
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 11:17 AM

Here's Tony Graziano's site which has a nice discussion of uke woods and some great looking instruments.


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