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Are ukuleles a real instrument?

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GUEST,Dazbo 01 Sep 05 - 11:16 AM
GUEST 01 Sep 05 - 11:17 AM
Splott Man 01 Sep 05 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,Russ 01 Sep 05 - 11:44 AM
Sttaw Legend 01 Sep 05 - 11:52 AM
Paul Burke 01 Sep 05 - 11:57 AM
Leadfingers 01 Sep 05 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Dazbo 01 Sep 05 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Lighter at work 01 Sep 05 - 12:12 PM
Le Scaramouche 01 Sep 05 - 01:18 PM
Cluin 01 Sep 05 - 01:21 PM
GUEST,Sooz 01 Sep 05 - 01:36 PM
Houston_Diamond 01 Sep 05 - 02:01 PM
Le Scaramouche 01 Sep 05 - 02:20 PM
Cluin 01 Sep 05 - 03:15 PM
Uke 01 Sep 05 - 05:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Sep 05 - 10:50 PM
Mark Cohen 02 Sep 05 - 12:40 AM
Gurney 02 Sep 05 - 01:11 AM
JennyO 02 Sep 05 - 01:29 AM
Bob Bolton 02 Sep 05 - 02:38 AM
Kaleea 02 Sep 05 - 02:42 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 02 Sep 05 - 04:43 AM
Geoff the Duck 02 Sep 05 - 05:57 AM
GUEST,Julian 02 Sep 05 - 06:28 AM
Terry Allan Hall 02 Sep 05 - 10:40 AM
M.Ted 02 Sep 05 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,DB 03 Sep 05 - 11:45 AM
Don Firth 03 Sep 05 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Barrie Roberts 03 Sep 05 - 10:21 PM
Little Robyn 04 Sep 05 - 01:07 AM
GUEST,Barry Finn, keeping company at wife's office 04 Sep 05 - 05:05 PM
M.Ted 04 Sep 05 - 11:36 PM
Wilfried Schaum 05 Sep 05 - 02:54 AM
Peace 05 Sep 05 - 03:00 AM
GUEST,Dazbo 05 Sep 05 - 06:03 AM
GUEST,Fogie 05 Sep 05 - 10:34 AM
Wilfried Schaum 05 Sep 05 - 10:37 AM
harpmolly 05 Sep 05 - 11:19 PM
GUEST,Melissa 03 Jul 12 - 12:43 PM
Leadfingers 03 Jul 12 - 01:27 PM
Don Firth 03 Jul 12 - 02:29 PM
Ebbie 03 Jul 12 - 03:41 PM
Leadfingers 03 Jul 12 - 07:23 PM
PHJim 04 Apr 13 - 07:07 PM
Don Firth 04 Apr 13 - 08:13 PM
Mark Ross 04 Apr 13 - 08:37 PM
Johnny J 05 Apr 13 - 05:16 AM
Johnny J 05 Apr 13 - 05:18 AM
Stringsinger 05 Apr 13 - 11:22 AM
GUEST,Lavengro 05 Apr 13 - 02:53 PM
PHJim 05 Apr 13 - 08:52 PM
wysiwyg 12 Aug 14 - 10:10 PM
GUEST 12 Aug 14 - 10:58 PM
Don Firth 13 Aug 14 - 12:10 AM
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Bill D 15 Aug 14 - 07:41 PM
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PHJim 16 Aug 14 - 01:30 PM
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PHJim 17 Aug 14 - 11:20 AM
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PHJim 18 Aug 14 - 12:03 AM
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irishenglish 18 Aug 14 - 09:46 AM
Don Firth 18 Aug 14 - 04:23 PM
PHJim 18 Aug 14 - 05:19 PM
JennieG 18 Aug 14 - 06:13 PM
Don Firth 18 Aug 14 - 06:25 PM
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Felipa 19 Aug 14 - 05:23 AM
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GUEST,Desi C 19 Aug 14 - 02:20 PM
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PHJim 19 Aug 14 - 07:11 PM
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Subject: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:16 AM

Well are they?

Do you play one?

What's it like?

Why is the top string (vertically speaking) tuned to a higher pitch than the two below it?

Should I get one?


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:17 AM

Where the £@#! did that apostrophe come from?


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Splott Man
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:27 AM

Yes

Yes

Fun

Don't know

Yes

Try www.ukuleleorchestra.com/ to see just how well they can be played

Have fun...

Splott Man


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:44 AM

What do you mean by instrument?
What do you mean by real?

If you plan to play it in solitude, no problem. Go for it.

If you plan to play with other musicians, there might be issues.
Then the important question is "What do THEY mean by real instrument?"


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Sttaw Legend
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:52 AM

Have a listen to this UKE
link in the first post and your questions will be answered


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Paul Burke
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 11:57 AM

Yes, my mate Steve Williams plays it brilliantly. Rock, though, so less likely to interest the denizens of this place.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Leadfingers
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 12:00 PM

Like so many instruments , the uke is very simple to play easy stuff on , but is capable of all sorts of GREAT music - I second the advice in Sttaw's post above - That is some FRIGHTENING uke playing !


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 12:06 PM

I can feel the urge returning!!

I almost bought one at Towersey festival this week end (they didn't have a tutor book :-( ).


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Lighter at work
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 12:12 PM

They're Hawaiian adaptations of Portuguese-style guitars. So that alone makes them musical instruments. I saw some 18th century originals in a museum once.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 01:18 PM

Ukes can be so twee when played badly, but in the hands of someone who knows how they are marvellous.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Cluin
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 01:21 PM

The ukelele is poised for a comeback boom. Expect to see one in Clapton's hands at some major concert soon.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Sooz
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 01:36 PM

Apparently George Harrison used to carry a few spare ukes in case any of his friends forgot theirs!


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Houston_Diamond
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 02:01 PM

As the GUEST said:-
RE: Are ukeleles a real instrument?

Anything can be an instrument if it makes a suitable sound i.e. one that is inkeeping with the melody or tune (even suitably shaped bones. lol).

But, metaphysically speaking is any instument "real" or does it mearly exist because the id depicts it's physical state?

I quite liked hearing George Formby's Uke playing.

As you may already have guessed I'm a bit strange and my advise should probably be ignored.

Daft as a T Chest Bass Houston.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 02:20 PM

Reminds me, in the Concert for George, several songs were done on uke. Really nice stuff.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Cluin
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 03:15 PM

Paul McCartney, for one. I think he did "Something" on uke.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Uke
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 05:58 PM

I felt I had to place at least one message on this thread, if only to say... viva la ukelele!

The uke is great for singsongs, not so loud as a guitar and more portable. It is also more forgiving of unskilled playing.

Ukulele playing has reached a high level of mastery in Pacific Island string-band music, which often have several ukes, keeping a high-pitched rhythmic pulse going. In the last few years a new style of uke has a started to appear in New Zealand, probably from the islands. It has a solid body and is strung like a mandolin. Sounds different and very nice.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Sep 05 - 10:50 PM

Listen to Eddie Kamae on "Granada" or "Aloha Oe" or "Tropical," etc. (cuts on "Heart of the 'Ukulele," re-released as a cd), available from mele.com. He taught many of the more recent players.
Heart


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 12:40 AM

But please, spell it right! Two U's, followed by two E's. Uku in Hawaiian means flea or other small insect (when I had my pediatric practice on the Big Island I treated lots of kids for ukus, a/k/a head lice), and lele means leaping or jumping. Hence, the name of the instrument means "jumping flea." There are two competing explanations for that: (1) it refers to the player's fingers, (2) it was the nickname of the diminutive British naval officer who played his small vihuela at the royal Hawaiian court and led to its popularity throughout the islands.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Gurney
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 01:11 AM

I'll second Uke at 5.58. There is a Polynesian guy at the local outdoor market who makes, plays, and sells them. Very impressive.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: JennyO
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 01:29 AM

the name of the instrument means "jumping flea."

Aha! Is that why people always sing My Dog Has Fleas when tuning them?


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Subject: RE: Are ukeleles a real instrument
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 02:38 AM

G'day Dazbo,

"Why is the top string (vertically speaking) tuned to a higher pitch than the two below it?"

That's a "re-entrant" tuning ... if you think of the standard "C" chord on a 'C'-tuned Ukulele (dGBe) the chord (due to the octave higher string) is sounded eGce ... so the 'e' at each end is the same note. This means that quick up-&-down strumming techniques sound more 'even' as they don't particularly run Up then Down ... only the middle notes show a different order.

This type of tuning is used on a lot of South American stringed instruments - for the same reason. The way we are accustomed to tune a 6-string guitar ... for our particular style of music does not create an absolute rule. Enjoy the Ukulele for what it is and what it does ... not what some preconception says it should do.

Regards,

Bob


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Kaleea
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 02:42 AM

are you real? well, are you? do you play any musical instrument? do you know what one is? did you know that there are four strings on a ukulele? did you know that if you count the strings under the top (vertically) string, there are three underneath (vertically) it? should any alleged personage who does not know the answer to these or any of the above questions be allowed by society to obtain or accost any musical instrument?


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 04:43 AM

Thanks Bob, that makes sense and shows how brain-washed you can get my western instruments and tunings.

Kaleea - if you took the time read my original post properly you would see that at no point did I suggest that the ukulele has only 3 strings. And I play the melodeon, which many people do not consider a musical instrument (with the emphasis on musical!)


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 05:57 AM

There is a lot of Uke information on the web. You can print off chord charts for diferent common tunings and arrangements for anything from George Formby to Jimi Hendrix.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Julian
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 06:28 AM

I've always felt that when it comes to a music session in a pub or whereever, you are either in (with an instrument) or out (just a bystander who may listen to the music if they wish). I don't want to lug a big guitar around with me and have to find space for the case, so I've got myself a uke. I can sit in on a session if I want; I can be as quiet or as noisy as I feel fits; I don't take up too much space or get in other people's way; and if the other "musicians" don't like it, tough, 'cause they should be more accommodating and less elitist.

Did that end as a bit of a rant, sorry didn't mean to. But at the end of the day if you want to make music with other like minded people, I say, go for it.

Cheers

Julian


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Terry Allan Hall
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 10:40 AM

Love 'em....between my daughter and myself, we have a soprano, a tenor, a baritone, a (soprano) banjo-uke and a "taro-patch" (an 8-stringed tenor uke)....looking for a tiple, next (same tuning as a soprano, but 10 strings - double-triple-triple-double, with the triple courses, the middle string is tuned an octave lower.)


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: M.Ted
Date: 02 Sep 05 - 12:57 PM

FYI, Kaleea, there are five strings on my uke--/and a word of Warning to Terry Allan Hall--with ten steel strings on that short little neck, there is a lot of tension on the Tiple's neck. The bridge and top tend to give out on them at some point--I've been there, I've seen it, and I'm lucky I lived to tell about it:-)


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 11:45 AM

I was in my local bookshop, yesterday, and some youth shambled in, holding a very tiny guitar-shaped case, and asked if they had "any uke books". The lady behind the counter said that she didn't have any in stock but she could check on the computer and order one for him. He muttered something and shambled out again. This encounter then initiated a conversation, in the shop, in which I learned that ukeleles are back in fashion again - well I never!!!


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 02:11 PM

Yeah, I can see why. They're small and easy to pack around, they're handy, they're easy to play simply, and they can also offer a challenge to someone who sees the serious music that is potentially in that little box if they can develop the skill to get at it.

I've been thinking about getting one. Keep it within arm's reach.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Barrie Roberts
Date: 03 Sep 05 - 10:21 PM

Of course the ukulele's a real instrument! Our beloved Prime Minister plays it -- it must be!! More to the point, anyone who's heard George Formby Jnr in one of his astonishing breaks must know that it's real.
Steve Parkes and I once dreamed up the idea of creating an enormous orchestra of the 'little' instruments --- ukeleles, banjoleles, ukelele-banjos, mandolins, kazoos, mouth harps, thumb pianos etc --- and recording the '1812 Overture' with them. I think what ended the idea was a failure to decide whether to use pop-guns or cap pistols for the cannon in the finale. Still --- if anyone wants the idea, I'd love to hear the result!


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Little Robyn
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 01:07 AM

In answer to your question:
Why is the top string (vertically speaking) tuned to a higher pitch than the two below it?
One answer could be that if you tried to tune the first string an octave lower, you'd have to use a thicker string that would be too heavy for the little instrument.
I used to have a tenor uke 40 years ago, about the size of a children's guitar, and it was strung and tuned like the top 4 strings of a guitar - ie, the first string was a deeper one and it had a lovely sound. You could just use guitar chords but it was easier to play than a guitar. I wish I still had it but I think it was left at a school I was teaching at.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Barry Finn, keeping company at wife's office
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 05:05 PM

I'm told by an old cape horner(George Herbet, known as the "Rigger from W. Geelong", RIP)that it's also an instrument well worth taking to sea for long voyages. He sang & played a uke (alto,?) & a concertina. He never mentioned having problems with the uke but the concertine he'd have to dry out when nearing the tropics. He started out in the Baltic trades around 1913/14 at the age of 12 or 13. So I don't know when he I don't know when he became a cape or when he strarted playing any instruments. He played pretty nice music on both.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Sep 05 - 11:36 PM

Your Rigger friend passed a major truth about the uke-is derived from a similar Portuguese instrument called the braguinha, a favored instrument of Portuguese mariners, who carried this instrument with them, versions of it are found where ever they went--


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 02:54 AM

The question should be: Are ukuleles real instruments? or is the ukulele a real instrument?

Physically:
1. You can see them, you can touch them, you can play them: They are real and not virtual.

Technically:
2. Instrument is a foreign word for tool. You can use it for batting back tomatoes, eggs, and foul vegetables - even cricket balls (but only once in most cases). And you can produce more or less harmonic sounds. Yes, as a tool it is also an instrument.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Peace
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 03:00 AM

I think this fellow would say yes to the thread title.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Dazbo
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 06:03 AM

Right, that's it I'm off to get one!


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: GUEST,Fogie
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 10:34 AM

It's a well hidden fact that Corelli, Beethoven, Degas,and Picasso all used to play ukuleles and in fact they all gigged together in Prague but it was just before recording came about and NOTHING remains of their efforts.They used to strum till the landlord threw them out -then they would trash the beer-garden. They refused to let Freud join in because of his theory about negative compensatory psychology- he couldnt decide whether to play a micro-uke or a contrabass !I'm sure this is only the tip of the supressed history of this all-encompassing instrument, development of which led to the four string harp, the foot-organ, and Rolf Harris' electric therumin thing. I'm thinking of writing a thesis on it. Any contributions would be most welcome.


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Subject: RE: Are ukelele's a real instrument
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 10:37 AM

But P.D.Q. Bach NEVER played the uke, alas!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: harpmolly
Date: 05 Sep 05 - 11:19 PM

Having heard my brother play some kickass riffs on the ukulele, I'd have to say yes.

Also, a few weeks ago I witnessed Eddie Vedder purchasing one. Which he said he was buying for Bruce Springsteen. I kid you not. Now that's something you only see once in a lifetime. *big grin*

Molly


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Melissa
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 12:43 PM

Ukuleles are definitely a 'real' instrument. I hate it when people say that they are just a toy...
I do play one, and have for five years.
I do not know why the uke is tuned so strangely, but it just makes it even cooler!
And last but not least, yes, you should get one. Ukuleles are the most amazing instruments I have come across so far, and the sound in so unique. I am from Hawaii, so ukuleles are part of our culture in a way.
-Melissa


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 01:27 PM

I have recently been reminded that I saw Jerry Jeff Walker (Of Mr Bojangles fame) on Beeb TV playing Bottle Neck blues on a Uke !!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 02:29 PM

On the question of the 4th string being tuned an octave higher than one would normally expect:

This is what is called "re-entrant tuning." Some Renaissance and Baroque guitars were tuned this way (the young lady playing the Baroque guitar is a Seattle girl, by the way).

The Renaissance guitar was the first instrument to be called a "guitar." Not a "kithara," "gittern," or other variation of the word. Both instruments are strung in what they called "courses." Doubled strings, like a 12-string guitar, but with the top string (i.e., the highest in pitch) was single, and called the "Chantarelle." The lower pairs of strings were sometimes tuned in unison, sometimes in octaves. And sometimes they were tuned an octave up, like the fourth string of a ukulele.

The Renaissance guitar has four courses and is tuned like the top four strings of a modern guitar (with the possible octave variations as mentioned), and the Baroque guitar has five courses, like the top five strings of a modern guitar (also with octave variations).

As I said, this is called "re-entrant tuning."

I'd love to get my sweaty little hands on a Baroque guitar, but a well-made replica is pretty pricey.

Whether a ukulele is a toy or a musical instrument depends on who happens to be playing it. It has the potential of being a serious musical instrument.

After all, a violin has only four strings.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Ebbie
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 03:41 PM

A friend of mine came back recently from a Hawaii vacation with an 'ookie'. He now has a second one and has fallen in love with them. He is a talented mandolin player but he now divides his time between them.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Jul 12 - 07:23 PM

I know people who think a 'Penny Whistle' is not a 'Real' instrument -
Doesnt stop me playing a whistle in three or four keys , playing light classics and jazz as well as folk , and having fun jamming with other very good musicians . AND Confusing Vin Garbutt by playing Scot Joplin's 'The Entertainer' in C and F all the way through .


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Apr 13 - 07:07 PM

There is some good info, but also some misleading info in this thread. The most common tuning for soprano, concert and tenor ukes is gCEA. I like this re-entrant tuning for chording. Often players will employ a "low G" tuning which is GCEA, like the top four strings of a guitar, capoed at the fifth fret. If you play a lot of single string melody, this might be a good tuning for you.
Some folks like to tune their ukes, especially sopranos, a full step higher to aDF#B and some instruction books are written for this tuning.
An 1950s entertainer named Arthur Godfrey popularised the baritone ukulele, which is a larger uke, tuned like the top four strings of a guitar DGBE, sometimes called "Chicago tuning".

I notice that this thread was started 12 years ago, right near the beginning of the current Ukulele revival, so much of this information might be old hat to most Mudcatters.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Apr 13 - 08:13 PM

There's an instrument out there that bears a serious look. It's the size of a tenor ukulele, but it has six strings, like a guitar. It's tuned up a fourth from a guitar (like a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret), and it goes by the name of "guitalele" (preferred) or "guitarlele." It's sort of a hybrid.

As to whether one can play serious music on one, give these a listen:

Lute piece by John Dowland .

Lagrima, by Tarrega (I play this one on the classic guitar).

O'Carolan's Receipt. Sounds almost like a lap harp.

The Yamaha GL-1 guitalele is a very nice instrument, well made, and they sell for about $100.00. I have a friend who owns one and she gets a lot of music out of it. I would have one myself, except that my bratwurst-sized fingers find the fingerboard a bit cramped. My fault, not the instrument's. Nancy has no problem with hers.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 04 Apr 13 - 08:37 PM

" It's hard to tell when you see someone with a ukelele, whether they're really playing it, of just fooling around.' Will Rogers

I'll drink to that.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Johnny J
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 05:16 AM

Yes, it's a real instrument but there aren't many *real players*.

However, the instrument does have a lot of scope and possibilities and is much more challenging than it first appears if you want to get beyond the "three chord" tricks.

Even for accompaniment, some of the rhythms can be quite complicated... more so than I would normally do on guitar.... but, while occasionally effective, don't always suit the songs or tunes IMHO. That's a matter of taste though.

I've also been learning "melodies" and "tunes" (Call them the same thing if you wish but I would differentiate. If you are used to playing guitar, this isn't too difficult but if you are a fidler or mandolin player you have to take into account the interval differences. However, even then, you are half way there.

I DO find interpreting other musicians' arrangements a little more challenging at times especially when it comes to the use of tablature versus written music or a combination of both.
It is possible, as you will know, to play the same notes at various different positions on a guitar, ukelele, and even to a certain extent on fiddle although most trad tunes tend to be played in the first position.
So, how I would play a tune myself by ear or from the standard dots is not necessarily the same as the arranger has shown on the tablature. There are many possibilities and the high "G" string is often used to produce a "Campanale" effect. So, there's a lot of string crossing involved when it would often be easier or more natural just to remain on the "E" string but play the "G" on the third fret.

However, no doubt I'll get used to it if I want to become a "real" player.
:-)


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Johnny J
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 05:18 AM

Oops, please note I meant to say *campanella*. Too early in the morning!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 11:22 AM

Here's one thing that ukes can do. They can play almost every chord that a guitarist uses.
They are capable of sophisticated harmonies. You can play jazz chords on them.

In the hands of a great artist, almost any instrument can be "real" and effective.

They are wonderful as voice accompaniment. They were very popular in the States in the Twenties because they could reproduce the popular music of the day as did the tenor banjo.
They were portable........and they sound great on the beach.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Lavengro
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 02:53 PM

This is as real as it gets! Love these guys. A little drunk, and a little brilliant.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kBPHeJiMXo


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 08:52 PM

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have done a great deal for the ukulele's resurgence.

Snowdrop on clawhammer uke   Dark Eyes Hot Club style uke


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Subject: Kala CE Ukulele
From: wysiwyg
Date: 12 Aug 14 - 10:10 PM

I'm with Uke and Julian's upthread remarks.

I saw a midsized uke pkayed at a song circle and its owner answered a lot of folks' questions while I drooled at the size and portability my dear tabletop autoharp cannot provide. I am very short and my arms are disproportionately very short. With an ample bazoom no way can I have fun with geetar and my fingertips have never been able to stand steel strings.... so today I fell for a nylon stringed, mahogany beauty: Kala CE Concert-Sized with pickup and onboard tuner. Thanks Hardi! No autoharp stand!!!

~S~



Kala KA-CE Concert Ukulele w/ Pickup


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Aug 14 - 10:58 PM

A curse on ukelele players! They are trying to take ove4 the world.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Aug 14 - 12:10 AM

With the exception of the Spanish vihuela, which has a waisted body like a guitar, but otherwise was not much different from a six-course lute (tuning and technique of playing), the first instrument to bear the name "guitar" was the Renaissance guitar. Not much bigger that a baritone ukulele, it had four courses (double strings, except for the top string, which was single). The serious musicians of the day played the lute, any of a number of different viols, or the virginal, which was a precursor to the harpsichord, and they looked down on the Renaissance guitar as "an instrument for young ladies and servant girls to strum on."

Not unlike the way the ukulele is generally regarded today.

Back in the Fifties, at the University of Washington, while loafing in the student union building lounge between classes, I heard a young guy who said he was from Hawaii entertaining a small group of friends by playing a uke. He didn't strum, he played it "finger-style," like classic guitar, and he was getting some real music out of that little thing.

A real eye—or ear—opener!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 13 Aug 14 - 03:53 PM

The salesman who demo'd what I bought tossed off a little Stairway to Heaven when his fingers got bored noodling the girlygirl, prettypretty tones for me. It might have been my temporary deafness-- weeklong ear buggers.....

I'd asked him to crank the onboard vol and bass amp he'd plugged into, so I could HEAR.... and the sparkling clarity apparently sent him over the edge, if there is one, between folk and rock.

;-) What is folk music, again?

~S~


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Aug 14 - 10:31 PM

...Uh....

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,#
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 01:39 AM

"Are ukelele's a real instrument"

Yes and noooo. It sounds fucking awful except to the poor of ear, but then it sounds terrible to the aforementioned.

I understand it's spelled ukulele, no offence meant.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 01:48 AM

Hula-hoops, deeley-boppers and cabbage-patch dolls spring to mind.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 02:08 AM

The Yamaha GL-1 guitalele that I mention in an above post sounds very much like a small Celtic lap-harp, if played with the fingers like a classic guitar, rather than strummed like a uke is usually played.

I posted some links to the Yamaha GL-1 guitalele being played on YouTube. You can hear it for yourself.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 02:29 AM

Sometimes a "musical instrument" designed for non-musicians and for idiots falls into the hands of someone who IS a musician and is a bit inventive as far as playing technique is concerned.

What could be simpler than an autoharp? Press a button for the chord you want and strum the strings.

Then along comes the Stoneman family or the Carters and it becomes a virtuoso instrument.

The music one can get out of ANY instrument depends on the musician.

I once knew a guy who turned a bunch of kitchen-ware (pots, pans, colanders, and such) and a couple of lengths of PCV pipe--into a small orchestra. Or take a good look at the odds and ends that make up a jug band (jugs, washtub bass, washboard....).

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 05:21 AM

Yes definitely a 'real' instrument. One that snobbish musicians look down on but maybe that's even more reason to get one ;)


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 07:13 AM

Ukuleles must be real instruments because you have to 'tune' them - a deeply mysterious process which completely baffles me - I haven't got the faintest I idea of even how to start 'tuning' something. Then you have to play 'chords' on them - another deeply mysterious area which I know absolutely nothing about - when people start going on about 'CBG' or something, I haven't got the faintest clue what they're talking about.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 07:50 AM

Ton Van Bergeyk would probably call it a real instrument.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Aug 14 - 09:55 AM

Thanks for the link, gillymor. That's impressive playing.

If you've been on the Mudcat a while, you know that certain instruments elicit snotty remarks: banjo, spoons, ukulele, bodhran come to mind.

So what's wrong with these instruments? Two things: they were originally the instruments of poor people, and often the poor people were non-white. That's all there is to it. Meanwhile, it's possible to make really awful sounds on a violin, harp or flute, but those instruments are not ridiculed because they represent $$$.

I agree with Don. The value of an instrument depends on the skill of the musician.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 04:20 AM

You should go further, leeneia: it's a worked example that a good musician can probably get something out of a rubber band stretched across a tea-tray, and that ukes as they stand have a technical problem, deficient tone because they're not designed for tight stringing. On occasion he got something halfway approaching a decent tone from it, but he could not mask the tendency to buzz - if that's the name for something so slack - and sound like a bee in porridge.
The thread suggested earlier that they have things in common with the baroque guitar. Only size: the guitar has bracing to take better strings and that gives tone.
You might argue that it's what it is: I'd argue that if so, then it should be left where it is and not find its way into performance. Fun, perhaps, but nothing more.
The same might be said of many early instruments, but as we now know how to do it, there's really no excuse not to. And now, permit me to get back to my bowed psaltery...


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 01:34 PM

The kind of people who decry Uke's Banjo's etc in Folk clubs are usually the same type wo spend 5-10 minutes tuning up between every song, playing way over long boring songs on their oh so expensive branded guitars (they always mention the make) and generally bore the audience to death. So play your Uke with pride


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 02:01 PM

Compare the tone of the Renaissance guitar CLICKY #1 and the tone of the Yamaha guitalele CLICK #2.

They sound pretty similar to me.

Remember that Renaissance guitars, lutes, vihuelas, and such—and the classical guitar, up until sometime in the mid-Twentieth Century were strung with gut. Sheep gut. Byproduct of the slaughter house. Nylon strings came in right after World War II (ref: article in a copy of The Guitar Review, a magazine published by the New York Classic Guitar Society back in the 1960s).

The Renaissance guitar was pretty much the ukulele of its day, and regarded as such—except by a few composers who wrote some pretty nice stuff for it. And they got flak from other composers and musicians for "wasting their time and talent on such a worthless instrument."

Like I said above, the music comes from the musician, and a good musician can get music out of some of the darnedest things. PCV pipe!?? I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't heard it!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 02:07 PM

Aw, I never criticised banjos. Nor do I play a geetah. And I'm still trying to think of a suitable use for a uke. Got it. Britain's Got Talent.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 02:37 PM

Doc Watson's first instrument was a strand of bailing wire stretched between a fence and it's post. It probably didn't sound too bad in his hands.
Here's more Ton doing Singing the Blues, the old standard that Bix made famous. He seems to represent the whole band with his little uke.

Click here


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 07:41 PM

I can't believe this thread has been revived without anyone mentioning Jake Shimabukuro (take a couple hours and follow what he does... there was even a full hour program on him and how uses the instrument to teach & reach young people.)

   Not many people don't take it that far, but there's no doubt the instrument is as real as they come.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 15 Aug 14 - 10:53 PM

You are incredibly wrong about the uke's ability to produce tone, Rahere. It is a bright, crisp, and loud instrument.

Given that, a lot of people don't have their instruments tuned properly, which can be nearly fatal, given the instrument's register. And a lot of people try to play the uke like a little guitar, which isn't, while others try to play it like a little banjo, which it also isn't.

Some people claim that the name "ukulele" means something like "jumping flea", which I can neither affirm nor deny, however, it should pretty much sound like that. (or you could say popcorn which I prefer to fleas)

The key to playing the uke is learning to make it speak properly (same as with all instruments) and the fundamental is a simple down stroke with the index finger(called a one-stroke roll). A lot of people don't get it right unless someone shows them how, and most of those people don't know they don't get it right.

After that, people get tripped up by fretting. The ukulele is essentially a rhythm instrument, and you need to work out a fret and release movement that plays off the finger role. The old Hawaiian music was all drums, and the jumping fleas are playing drum rhythms.

The thing is, until you've got the instrument in tune, and you've got the downstroke and the fretting together, you won't get the full effect of the instrument.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 01:44 AM

Every uke player I know seems to hsve a little electronic tuner on headstock and tune to 440hz so I would not hqv2 though tuning was a problem.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 01:55 AM

Ok for playing Georges Formby songs, not much else!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 01:30 PM

unnamed GUEST who posted at 01:55 AM on Aug 16, 2014: You obviously have not listened to much ukulele music; nor have you bothered to read the posts that came before yours. Have you ever listened to Gerald Ross, Stu Fuchs, Marcy Marxer, Cathy Fink, Abe Lagrimas Jr., James Hill, Jim Gritt, Az Samad, Sarah Maisel, Jake Shimabukuru, Glen Rose, Manitoba Hal, Ben Harper, Daddy Stovepipe or Del Ray? If not, go look 'em up on Youtube and see if you still think the only thing a uke is good for is playing old George Formby songs. Ukes are great for old George Formby songs, but that's sure not all they're good for.

My apologies to any of the artists whose name I mis-spelled or any of those great ukulele players whose names I forgot. I'm sure there are many super players I've never heard of as well.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 04:05 PM

You left out Cliff Edwards and Lyle Ritz, PHJim.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, but, though George Formby did play the ukulele, mostly, he played a Ludwig Banjolele, which doesn't even really look like a uke.George Formby's Ludwig Banjo Uke

At the bottom of the page is a picture of another very famous George, holding Formby's instrument. Not surprisingly, most of his music sounds pretty good when played on the uke, too.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 05:09 PM

Ah yes, Ukulele Ike.
George Harrison did own one of the Formby banjoleles, but when the Formby family offered to buy it from him he gave it back to the family.

Here's George playing Ain't She Sweet with two other guys.
Ain't She Sweet


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 17 Aug 14 - 11:20 AM

From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 14 - 01:55 AM

"Ok for playing Georges Formby songs, not much else!"

Jake's take on Over The Rainbow


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 17 Aug 14 - 10:04 PM

The Hawaiian 'ukulele was adapted from the Portuguese cavaquinho and rajão, often played together, with the cavaquinho playing melody rather than being strummed. Although we mostly hear the 'ukulele being strummed rather than fingerpicked (following it's primary use in accompanying 20's/30's songs), it has always been used as a melody instrument as well, and the reentrant tuning lends itself to more bell-like playing (one note sustained into the next, where even legato would cut it off).

What gives 'ukulele a bad rep is the fact that it's accessible to and popular with people just beginning to learn an instrument or with not much dedication. Unlike the guitar, you only have to worry about four strings, and although some chord shapes require a barre (or are easiest to play that way), most don't: you've got a finger for each string. Sadly, although playing up the neck is much easier than on guitar (unless on guitar you take the uke approach of only playing the top four strings), most players are content with their limited stable of first position chords, with which they can accompany any song--at least to their liking--and that's all they really wanted to do in the first place.

The other thing that gives 'ukulele a bad rep is that, although good ukes are way cheaper than good guitars, mandolins, banjos and the like, most folks start (and stick) with the under-$100 cheapies, which have unimpressive or even annoying tone--better fit for painting and hanging on the wall. This is false economy, since they easily spend more for the basic accessories than they did for the instrument itself. For about $200 you can get an all-solid wood uke, nice-sounding with spot-on intonation; for $250-400, you can get a sweet-sounding instrument with finer, more exotic-looking tonewood that may satisfy you for the rest of your life. (But few people are satisfied with just one uke, and why should you be?) From there on, the main cost is the labor for hand-building a more finely resonant instrument and the cachet/unique tone/bling of true koa or other select tonewood; the bang-for-the-bucks ratio declines sharply. In contrast, $300 is hardly enough to buy an entry-level banjo worth serious consideration. Can you honestly tell me you'd rather hear a tinny, stray-toned banjo than a melodious uke?


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 12:03 AM

Good points Artful,
    The cheap, painted ukuleles that many folks start their ukulele playing on are not really instruments. Of course this is true of guitars, banjos and mandolins as well. I have tried these entry level (a poor term) instruments and anyone would have trouble getting a decent sound out of them. A poor quality instrument will discourage any beginning player and should be avoided.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 01:54 AM

I have to disagree with Artful Codger. The under $100 ukes can be suprisingly good. I have a Kala Soprano that I am very fond of- it plays well all the way up the neck, and has quite a good fretboard, and a pleasing sound. Not quite as good as an old solid mahagonny Martin, but neither are those $200-300 instruments. I have heard good reports on the Lanikai beginners models as well.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:19 AM

In some respects it comes back to the original objections to the guitar in the 1880s, as typified by WS Gilbert's opening shots in Trial By Jury, when he used it as a symbol for an effete intellectual. Tink-a-tonk was the words he used. He's pointing at would-bes rather than can-dos, and the question really comes back to whether it has a place outside of the self-referential in our music.
None of the players quoted as references have taken it anywhere with other instruments, because it has annoying features: Ross, for example, destroys Take The A-Train by insisting on the flabby downstroke strum in the middle of each bar as a form of percussion when he'd have done better playing a la table. I stopped wasting time on the list PHJim gave me 16 Aug 14 - 01:30 PM after a bit, as it was just too dispiriting: no, I don't think it has a place in anything other than it's original Hawaiian context, I see what the afficionadoes see in it, but it's a severe case of self-referential, indeed self-justificatory, monomania. Sure, the best players can get something out of it, but it's never going to be the kind of heart-breaking wail of the clarinet at the start of Rhapsody in Blue, or the throb of tympani, or Hendrix in full-flow, it goes about 30% towards a Hawaiian guitar, so I suspect it's had its day and been found wanting - worse, it's clearly not got the scope to go anywhere. Why not play the charango, a similar instrument which does far more? But no, you'll stick with it and the more chi to your karma. Me, I use a brick wall.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: irishenglish
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 09:46 AM

Check out Taimane Gardner on Youtube and ask that question again!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 04:23 PM

I have heard people get some pretty good music out of the little "standard" ukulele, but I can't say I could work up a great deal of enthusiasm for it. But the "Guitalele," the size of a tenor uke and with six strings (tuned like a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret), is capable of some pretty interesting stuff.

Actually, it could be considered a one-quarter-size guitar.

Links to YouTube in my post above.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 05:19 PM

Of course there are gonna be people who don't like the sound of the ukulele and will never appreciate it, no matter how well it is played, just as there are those with no use for the banjo, bagpipes, accordion... and I guess it all comes down to personal preference. While I once thought they were toys, I now kinda like them.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: JennieG
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 06:13 PM

They are as real as you wish to make them.

Our uke group has people who will never be of the standard of some of the 'masters', but they are having a great time just the same. Some have never held an instrument in their lives before joining, couldn't read music - still can't - but they have a lot of fun. We recently played a couple of songs at a concert and feedback was "you were all enjoying it so much"! Yes, we were! Isn't that what music is about?

I have two ukes, a $50 soprano which makes a surprisingly good sound, and a hand-made tenor which cost many noughts more than $50 and sounds much better too, made by one of Australia's best luthiers.

Perhaps it's time to put away the musical snobbery, and just enjoy the music.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Aug 14 - 06:25 PM

Amen, Jennie!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 04:19 AM

Don't think it is snobbery, it's certainly personal, but when the best even its defenders can come up with is that they kinda like them, then I think that's a mile away from "this instrument is so brilliant we've got to have one" and rest my case. I hear them and don't hear something I particularly like, because it doesn't express anything much, and that's not snobbery, it's my sense of what is music coming through.
Sure, if you're having fun with it and it leads you on to something more expressive, like that small guitar, then it's not a bad thing. I just don't think it's sufficiently good to want one around. There are many more instruments in our heritage far more deserving of the work, for one thing.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Felipa
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 05:23 AM

I'll find out at the City of Derry guitar festival, which this year includes a three-day long ukelele course for beginners
http://www.cityofderryguitarfestival.com/


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 09:27 AM

I am not sure why I need to defend an instrument I've spent the last thirty years playing to anyone, so I won't. GUEST may play the Charango to his/her hearts content, it is an interesting instrument, but I feel sorry for all those murdered armadillos.

It is worth pointing out that audiences both formal and informal have a fondness for the uke that doesn't extend to other instruments--walk into a room with a guitar and people regard you charily, a violin tends to put people off, and they pretty much ignore the others.

The uke makes people happy, no matter what you play on it, no matter how well or badly you play it. That's what makes it special.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 09:29 AM

Here is Gerald Ross's Take The A Train. Listen and tell me if this is ruined by a flabby downstroke.
A Train
You may want to forward past Gerald's description of his new ukulele.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 09:43 AM

Yes, that was the recording I was commenting on. You don't even seem to be able to see the strike, hit by the backs of his nails on a down stroke. It's like adding a burp in the middle of a song, just because it's always done that way. It's positively flatulent. OK, if you're playing Hawaiian music, it's normal, but Take The A Train isn't Hawaiian.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 10:55 AM

Guest, if you're going to denigrate the uke you've got to come up with a better example than that. It was swinging, tasteful and the instrument had a marvelous tone. I dug that rhthymic chuck as well.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 12:47 PM

Yeah.... The downstroke with the fingernail on "Take the A-Train" is superfluous and sort of a ukulele cliché. Unnecessary and a bit distracting. Most of the really nice music--with the exception of genuine Hawaiian music--is minus the "ukulele clichés."

Dunno if that makes sense, but it does to me.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 02:20 PM

To PHJIM
Just because there are more expensive better made versions and more expensive, does not invalidate cheap guitarsm banjos, Ukes etc as instruments, that's just a snobbish ignorant point if view!


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 04:38 PM

That's rather my point, Don. It's not just a cliché, it went unnoticed by the Ukelele gang: it's not as if the instrument has to be played like that (thinking here of the passing note in GHB which is related to gracing in other instruments), it's just a habit needed to make the instrument the instrument. Trouble is, the instrument's the medium, the music should rule, and it didn't. Now, that might be acceptable in an instrument which adds something enormous to the tune, but to be frank, I think I'd rather have heard it played on a barrel-organ.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 06:42 PM

Well, my point, Guest, is that the deficiencies are not in the instrument, simple though it may be, they are in the musician.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: PHJim
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 07:11 PM

DesiC, I have played some neat old instruments that are not expensive, but can make great music, but I have also had students come to take lessons on an instrument that would discourage anyone from playing. It's not the price of an instrument, but the quality and the set up, that makes it playable. I have tried playing brand new ukuleles that had such bad intonation that setting them up to be playable would cost as much as buying a good uke in the first place. I hate to see someone turned off playing because of a crummy instrument.
I have a few student grade guitars and banjos that I love and have even done some recording with an old budget Stella when there were Gibsons and Martins available to me. One of my favourite open back banjos cost me $10 (and another $100 or so to set it up).
It's not the price as much as the playability of an instrument that validates it as an instrument. I probably worded it as I did because quite often (certainly not always) the ones that are hard to play are also cheaper.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 08:45 PM

When my girlfriend back in 1952 or so, who had just become interested in folk music, was given a fine old parlor guitar by her grandmother (1898 George Washburn "Ladies' Model")—the venerable lady hadn't played it in years—Claire was having so much fun with it that I got myself a guitar. Clueless! It was a "Regal," a real cheapie, $9.95! Fortunately the intonation was close enough that it could be tuned okay (I was lucky!), but it sounded like it was made from wood normally used for making apple crates—and probably was.

But I learned my first chords on that clunker, and was well on the way to developing a good repertoire of songs when I bought myself a Martin 00-18 about a year later. Since then, I've owned several guitars, and had a pretty decent career singing folk songs and ballads professionally. I also play some classical guitar, and currently own a Spanish-made guitar that I'm told is worth around $20,000 (I paid nowhere near that, but I got it in 1960 or so, and it's appreciated a lot since! Lucky again!).

But that $10 Regal got me started.

If an instrument is playable at all, you can at least get started on it.

A ukulele, particularly a baritone ukulele, is not much different from a Renaissance guitar, and although lutenists at the time looked down their noses at it, some damned fine music was written for it.

And in fact, it just occurred to me, that some of that same music could just as well be played on a ukulele.

Renaissance guitar. Whole batch of stuff on that page. (Sounds a lot like a ukulele to me!).

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Aug 14 - 10:00 PM

Tho I find GUESTs attitude a little bit annoying, I nonetheless appreciate the attempt to actually discuss the musical aspects of a musical performance. That doesn't happen here very much, and it probably should.

That said, with some apologies to the performer, who probably expected a much warmer reaction to his effort, I'll weigh in.

I don't think the arrangement is very good at all. It's a patchwork of bits that don't flow together very well. It's not very coherent, and there are a lot of trite gimmicks tossed in, which actually distract you from the melody and the basic pulse of the song, rather than building on it and moving it forward.(and that repeated plucked rhythmic phrase grated on my nerves)

Little instrumental pieces like this should be a bit like a roller coaster ride-they draw you in, build up some momentum and climb slowly to the first peak and then give you a dramatic first slide, then get into the groove and move along for a bit with a series of ripples and smaller slides and a novel twist and turn here and there, keeping the the excitement up, but keeping things spread out
enough that you get the full effect of each event, then, when you're still in completely in the moment, they draw you up the last hill for the big final plunge, then you level off, and you're out.

Funnily enough, this is the second time a performance recently that a youtubed version of "Take the A Train" has come up for discussion. This link is to an OpEd piece in the Washington Post that is highly critical of a performance by Charles Mingus group, and features a solo
by Eric Dolphy.All that Jazz isn't all that great

Unlike the writer, I was blown away by the piece, but what do I know?
I'm just a ukulele player...


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 03:02 AM

Don Firth,

Renaissance music works very well on the ukulele. The tone of a ukulele, especially the tenor, is not unlike the lute or other small renaissance string instruments. There is plenty on the internet. Just Google "Renaissance ukulele" and you'll find plenty.

I agree with guest above about the take the A-train clip posted. It's not the best example and that "tick" with the fingernails is very irritating.

As far as the anonymous critical guest is concerned I suspect that whatever you post, he will find something critical to say as he clearly does not like the ukulele and needs to rationalise his reaction to the instrument.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 12:35 PM

There's nothing wrong with rationalising something, if it allows you to explain to others your feelings about something, in this case, disappointment. You should sit in on a session and add something to it. I reviewed my feeling with the possibility I was wrong, and asking myself why I felt what I felt about what I was listening to, and that is what I felt. Oh no, not another uke.

Renaissance music also works very well on the tissue-and-comb. It doesn't mean that it should be performed on it. It also means that if the best the Uke can do is go back to a time when musical composition was simpler in many ways, chromatically above all (and yes, I am very much aware of its place in Quadrivium work, complete with mirror cannons) then it is an instrument which has its limits and which should not go into certain areas.

And yes, it is a bad workman who blames his tools, but it is a worse workman who insists on using a Chinese chisel when a Japanese one is available. And I absolutely agree with Guest 19 Aug 14 - 10:00 PM on the question of structure, although I would rather apply that to the set as a whole, than just one piece.

It might perhaps be a poor musician, if it were not that the musician in question was held out as being one of the best. In some respects, it was a Curate's Egg of a performance, there were some skills which could transfer to a better instrument and be creditable. But he didn't, and he held out his new instrument as being the epitome of its kind, which leaves me thinking that if that's the Ralph McTell of the Ukelele, I'd not like to discover the Johnny Cash of the medium - except that this is what we get, at least in the UK.

OK, we have many learners and in ten years time they might be worthwhile. But only if the instrument has it in it to allow them to: you can as easily waste ten years on paper-and-comb. And if it's a start to allow them to move onto something better (I'm thinking of the recorder here), then don't offer it to us as something fully-fledged and omnipuissant. It has a small place in Hawaiian music, and little more.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 03:49 PM

Well, the guitar isn't a real instrument, either. You can do so much more on a harp-guitar.

Well, the harp-guitar isn't a real instrument, either, because you can do so much more on a piano.

But the piano isn't a real instrument because you can do so much more on an organ.

Which isn't a real instrument, because you can do so much more on a synthesizer.

But a computer is capable of generating music a synthesizer can't touch.

But a computer isn't a real instrument, either, because the wind puts all other instruments to shame: it makes the most amazing variety of tones, effects and dynamics, using a trillion voices at the same time.

So I guess the only real instrument is the flute.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,#2
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 05:58 PM

Boy, it would male it so much easier if everyone who posted to a thread would choose a name, even something simple like #2. As it is, there are a few people not choosing names and they all show up as "GUEST". Each thread would be much easier to follow if everyone used a different name.
Just plain "GUEST" has already been taken back in 1996. Unless you are that GUEST, please use a unique screen name.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,#2
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 05:59 PM

I am normally a lurker, but I like to understand what I'm lurking.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 06:04 PM

My point, Guest, is that Renaissance music played on a good ukulele sounds like the same music played on a Renaissance guitar--the authenticity of sound that early music fans are so fond of.

Also, you can play multiple lines (counterpoint) on a ukulele / Renaissance guitar, which you can't do with tissue paper and comb, kazoo, penny whistle, or bongos.

You could possibly play Mozart's clarinet concerto (the clarinet part, but you'd need a full orchestra for the rest) with a tissue paper and comb. But you'd have to be damned good to get a booking in Carnegie Hall.

Not impossible, however, with a ukulele. After all, Larry Adler made a halfway decent career playing classical music on the harmonica.

I was once told, when I tried to register at the School of Music at the University of Washington, that the guitar was not a musical instrument. Even though John Williams had played a concert in the Meany Hall auditorium on campus a couple of months before.

I eventually did get into the department (a music prof who knew better interceded for me), but I still got a lot of crap from some other faculty members and students. "When are you going to stop messing around with that cowboy music and get serious?"

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 08:22 PM

Not a Uke course, though. And if you took such a proposal to someone like Richard York, you'd be laughed out of town.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Aug 14 - 09:46 PM

Guest, I don't get what you're saying in your post just above. And I Googled "Richard York" and came up with nothing that made sense.

I attended the U. of W. School of Music, not to learn to play the guitar or sing folk songs (I already had a good classic guitar teacher who taught privately, and I knew they wouldn't let me in on the basis of folk music--not "serious" enough for them, and that was more the province of the English Lit. Department), but because I wanted the courses in music theory.

Between two years at the U. of W. School of Music and another two years at the Cornish College of the Arts (a sort of conservatory), I got the musical education I was after.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 05:40 AM

Richard York is probably the reference on mediaeval and early renaissance music in the country: he's a very active performer and runs the Chester Minstrels, which brings the top performers from bands like Blowzabella, Lady Maisery, and most of the Bagpipe Society together on an annual street gig. The suggection you could play accurate historically-informed Renaissance music on a fuke is actually offensive to the work a lot of people have done getting it right, from the Galpin Society to Sothebys to Kings College London...and to claim academic credentials in that is hilarious, speaking from within the halls of the Warburg Institute, a specialist house in research of the period - I am a memmber of the esoteric studies reading group. We're the home of PROMS, one of the leading sources of work of the very period you're talking about, my own studies are entirely congruent with Tony Rooley's teaching at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, and I'm consulted by Stevie Wishart, the leader of Synphonie. Me, I have enough difficulty having my Hobrough Galileo doppia accepted as it's a 17th-century instrument - but at least my Germsan nakers are right. The only way I can is because people are playing hurdies of the period.

Now, for all that you're a decent folkie, don't go there in Renaissance, you obviously haven't kept up in the last 20 years with what's gone on. Unless you are working with Joel Cohen and the Boston Camerata, you probably don't rate, and I'm most certainly not a major player in the UK.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 10:35 AM

Between one 'do' on an instrument and the next, there are 12 notes. Any instrument that has the 12 notes can play any music written in the Western world. Arguments against any instrument doing that are founded in habit, personal preference or snobbery.

Most of the time you don't even need all twelve notes.

Guest, you sound like part of the Great You-Shut-Up, the movement in our society which is always telling people to stop singing, to put their instruments away and just buy the recordings of the professionals. The main tactic of the Great You-Shut-Up is humiliating people.

'fuke'? What do you think we are, twelve-year-olds?


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 12:38 PM

For Chrissake, Guest, get a grip!!

I didn't say that a ukulele could replace a Renaissance guitar in an Early Music consort, I said that one can play the same music on it that you can play on a Renaissance guitar!

I'm not stupid. I know how picky Early Music fans can be when it comes to authenticity of instruments and technique of playing.

Also, I am American, not English, and although I'm familiar with Early Music groups in this country, I am not familiar with all of those in England. I have never heard of Richard York.

E.g., are YOU familiar with the Baltimore Consort? Or Elizabeth CD Brown? I thought not.

Also—if someone new to Early Music wishes to play Renaissance guitar, but who cannot afford one (you're not liable to find one in most music stores and if you can find a luthier who makes authentic replicas, they don't come cheap), a baritone ukulele could be something to get started on.

Don't be such a snob.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Andrew Murphy
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 06:18 PM

ukuleles are extremely popular recently, they have become the instrument of choice for hipsters.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 09:12 PM

I remember when people who played early music on instruments appropriate to the period were regarded with the same sort of
amused disdain that uke players get now.

As I think of it, most of the truly interesting developments in music tended to be regarded with disdain by somebody. And a lot of developments that weren't very interesting, as well.

It seems to me that no matter what sort of music you play or listen to,
there is someone, somewhere, who is disdainful of it. The only response I can think of is to say, "We're going to play what we want,
like it or not" and to carry on.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Aug 14 - 09:40 PM

Exactly so, Stim!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Aug 14 - 09:57 AM

That's telling 'em, Stim.

I remember an early music concert I attended after a workshop in North Carolina. Everybody had early instruments, and the faculty was very learned. At the final concert, a faculty member played a tune from the 11th Century on a plastic toy, the kind that you blow into, and it has a little keyboard on the side.

It sounded right, and we all listened respectfully.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 22 Aug 14 - 11:26 AM

apologies if this point has already been made in this thread,

I'm more comfortably resigned to hearing little kids practicing the uke
than the the recorder or violin...


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 22 Aug 14 - 11:32 AM

Well I'm just listening to Del Ray on resonator uke (check out Hobieman records). If you like it, she is appearing at South St Reading UK with Adam Franklin on 18th September 2014 at 8pm and on tour around the UK.
Unfortunately I'll be out of the country so will miss it (shame!)> She also plays resonator guitar of course.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: JennieG
Date: 22 Aug 14 - 05:41 PM

Del Rey is great! I saw her perform some years ago when she was visiting Oz with Steve James.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 03 Sep 14 - 06:05 AM

We've been invited to a friend's big birthday celebration in the Autumn and music will be provided by the Shropshire Strummers ukulele band. Despite gainsayers here I'm looking forward to it. The Berkshire Small Strings group I've seen are excellent. When I was in the Cook Islands 20 years ago local guys played home made ones with the body made out of half a coconut shell- got the sound OK.
Wonder if I should take the kazoo...?


RtS


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Sep 14 - 04:18 PM

Sure, take the kazoo. That way, if they open up the act to audience participation, you have it handy.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: GUEST,Guest Vicki Kelsey
Date: 04 Sep 14 - 01:16 PM

Give a listen to the above mentioned Del Rey playing Scott Jop
lin's "The Entertainer" on uke. In her hands, there's no doubt about it being a "real" musical instrument.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: Musket
Date: 04 Sep 14 - 01:29 PM

My mate collects guitars. A few months ago, he was taking the piss out of ukeleles with the best of them.

Then he had a barbecued donkey on the road to Damascus.

He now has a custom made to his specification ukelele. Cost him over a grand.

I hope it isn't contagious.


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Subject: RE: Are ukuleles a real instrument?
From: JHW
Date: 11 Sep 14 - 06:16 PM

Didn't think so but just heard Christine Jeans play one rather like a classical guitar in duo with George Welch. Excellent.


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