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View Full Version : Is finger style uke a distraction from real uk'ing?



GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 06:51 AM
I wanted to share with the community a realization I've had lately that may be unpleasant to some.

I started off really interested in playing fingerstyle uke. And I actually became somewhat accomplished at a number of songs - especially the simple tabs by Rob for Baroque Uke and Ken for Bluegrass Uke and the Jaime's stuff for Lute music on Uke. Some great songs that are a joy to play.

Now this stuff is great - but whenever I played it I was always left with the sensation that I was trying to mimic another instrument on the uke. And while this was admitedly part of the charm, it is also engaging in an activity that is in the artistic shadow of something else. (A real classical guitar, or a real banjo, or a real lute...)

But with strumming and singing - something I just fell into recently but now with a vengance - I feel like I at last stumbled upon the uke's real calling. As a strumming instrument the uke brings its own truly unique sound that no other instrument has. Yes, it's a string instrument, but there is a certain up beat jump and skip that is classically ukulele and only ukulele. And I feel like just now am I really breathing in this small instrument's real charm.

In short, I am raising the possibility that perhaps the growing fashion of finger style uke is actually just a distraction from the uke's true calling - as a back up strummer for simple down to earth folk singing.

Am I onto something or am I creating division where none need be?

(Also, wanted to re-share something that probably has been posted 1,000 + times here: Robert G's Ukulele songbook is real genius and a great fit for early strummers like me. I think, but am not sure, that he has shamelessly opted for the easier chord to hold whenver possible... In any case, I had a lot of fun with it this past week.) (Link below)

http://www.scorpex.net/uke.htm

deach
11-30-2009, 07:00 AM
Imagine if no one ever thought out of the box. Evolve.

baumer
11-30-2009, 07:00 AM
hmm, interesting but i wouldn't feel like finger style playing is any less appropriate on a uke as on any other instrument.

some might say that strumming and singing is playing the uke like an acoustic guitar. i say just play what makes you feel good. that's what i would call the uke's true calling.

ukantor
11-30-2009, 07:06 AM
The uke is particularly suitable for singers to provide their own accompaniment. I think it is what the uke does best, but as with all musical instruments, there are no hard and fast rules. Express yourself - have fun - do yore thang.

John Colter.

retrozombi
11-30-2009, 07:28 AM
If you're having fun, you're doing it right.

Now I'll be off over there doing it right in a different way. :D

thejumpingflea
11-30-2009, 07:30 AM
Why limit yourself?

Maybe the uke is for strumming primarily, but that isn't where the fun is for me.

The fun for me is trying out all these different styles, techniques and songs that you wouldn't normally try on a uke.

I think you aren't really onto anything, but if it is strumming you enjoy than continue that. To each their own.

pulelehua
11-30-2009, 08:35 AM
I'm new to this forum, so apologies if I'm telling you what you probably already know.

Herb Ohta spends plenty of time playing melodic lines. I would hate to tell Herb Ohta that he's not playing it "the way it's meant to be played." If Herb Ohta wanted to use his ukulele to dig ditches, I would assume that the function of a ukulele was to dig ditches.

:)

That being said, Jake Simabukuro spends a lot of time strumming the ukulele, but in a fairly un-ukulele-like fashion, with all his rasqueados and flamenco flourishes.

Horses for courses, I think.

I understand what you mean, and I actually didn't buy a tenor because it seemed less "ukulele"-like. But I'm starting to think that my initial snobbery will run its course. It's just a fantastic instrument, and what makes it fantastic is a combination of all sorts of things (tuning, size, wood, string tension, to name a few).

It's a bit like saying why you fancy a particular girl... God forbid we ever all liked the same girl for the same reason. That would surely spell the end of the human race.

JT_Ukes
11-30-2009, 08:43 AM
It's all good!!!

nohandles
11-30-2009, 09:02 AM
When playing out I've found most identify with just strumming- Ho Hum but they do respond to finger style too. Just play what you like and enjoy.:agree:

Doug

buddhuu
11-30-2009, 09:18 AM
It's all good!!!

:agree:

Says it all.

bbycrts
11-30-2009, 09:19 AM
There may be "traditional" style...strumming along to fun songs and Hawaiian tunes...but I don't think there's such a thing as "real" uking!

The ukulele is showing itself to be so much more versatile than I think people even 20 years ago would have believed. Don't put it in a box by labeling styles as "real".

(and I'm a strummer only...so far...but I get lost in the beauty of any great uke performances - no matter the style!)

leftovermagic84
11-30-2009, 09:19 AM
I thought the whole point of UU was to grow the next generation of ukulele players, who, while embracing the roots of the ukulele, take it into new territory. I've seen amazing finger picking that, while done in classical guitar style, sounds unique on the uke, and I've seen claw hammer done with tone a banjo can't produce. Also, I just realized I use overly-complex sentences. :o

Link
11-30-2009, 09:24 AM
There may be "traditional" style...strumming along to fun songs and Hawaiian tunes...but I don't think there's such a thing as "real" uking!

The ukulele is showing itself to be so much more versatile than I think people even 20 years ago would have believed. Don't put it in a box by labeling styles as "real".

(and I'm a strummer only...so far...but I get lost in the beauty of any great uke performances - no matter the style!)
Testify! Amen brotha!!!

sukie
11-30-2009, 09:27 AM
Imagine if no one ever thought out of the box. Evolve.

+1 to you, deach!

GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 09:28 AM
Yeah, of course, if you're having a good time please proceed. I didn't mean to imply the creation of a Ukulele Purity Patrol that would snap the ukes out of the hands of degenerate finger style pickers out there. And I don't mean to look down my nose on those picking away... by all mean if it feels good do it...

BUT I do argue now that the unique sound of the uke really comes across in strumming - and there is special value in using a tool for its unique purpose.

And, yes, you can name many great players who pick out melodies, but that is really ornamentation on the cake. Traditional uke playing is, as far as I can tell, 90% strummimg. And it might be real fancy strumming at times, but it's still strumming.

Deach, interesting that you bring up the word 'evolve.' For me the finger style seems less of an advancement than an odd distraction. Evolution creates changes that advances a species which gets transformed into something new. But sometimes there is a genetic change that looks really good for a generation and then later proves useless - leading to branches on evolutionary trees that die out. I suspect finger style for the uke is an awfull lot like one of these dead-end mutations.

Here is the crux of the issue: when I hear strumming on a uke I say to myself: "What an awesome, charming, precious sound!" And when I hear finger style I say "Wow! What a cool toy guitar / lute / banjo!"

HoldinCoffee
11-30-2009, 09:30 AM
I don't see it as an "either-or" kinda thing. Certainly ukulele is great when strummed, no doubt. When someone throws down a righteous picking solo, SWEET! Put the two together, magic! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJLDF6qZUX0)

sukie
11-30-2009, 09:33 AM
Well, GreyPoupon, I guess it's strumming for you then.

I fingerpick mainly. I don't sing. Why torture people with my shi**y singing and less than Aldrine-type playing? I personally think that just strumming is B-O-R-I-N-G. See? It's whatever you want it to be.

And, deach is right!:D

seeso
11-30-2009, 09:38 AM
For some examples of finger-style ukulele that sounds like an ukulele, check out John King. His classical arrangements make extensive use of the re-entrant tuning that is unique to the ukulele. It allowed Mr. King to sustain adjacent notes. Refer to Carol of the Bells (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7eCz8SC86U).

Who knows what the ukulele was meant to do? Some of Jake Shimabukuro's best stuff comes from when he is trying to mimic other instruments. In his amazing interpretation of Sakura, Sakura (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuqdeFqtxCg), he actually makes his 4 string ukulele sound like a 13 string Japanese koto.

GX9901
11-30-2009, 09:44 AM
I can see the argument that the uke's true calling is to be strummed. It's probably true. But I have more fun playing it fingerstyle. Maybe because I can't really sing.

I do enjoy the sound of the ukulele strummed or picked equally when it's in the hands of a skilled player. Maybe the strummed sound is more traditional and more true to the instrument, but I think it sounds great played fingerstyle as well.

GX9901
11-30-2009, 09:46 AM
BTW, I think it would be fun to hear someone play a guitar and think "wow, what a great sounding giant ukulele!" I wonder if it can be pulled off. I'd pay to watch that.

ukeshale
11-30-2009, 09:46 AM
There is no right and wrong.

James Hill is exploring new sounds all the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO7spLjad3k

What about pieces that include both strumming and finger picking? It's a musical instrument that we all enjoy playing. Let's not get bogged down with what each of us may or may not consider it's superior qualities to be. Do what you love and avoid what you don't.

dannyman
11-30-2009, 09:48 AM
look guys, i have to admit i can clearly see both aspects of the argument.
yes, finger-picking may not be what the instrument was originally intended to sound like, but why not try new things.

personally i primarily am a strummer and, like you, enjoy in the simplicity and beauty of the ukuleles unique sound when strummed. however, to break up the feel every now and then i think picking is a great solution. there is nothing wrong with changing an instrument to fit your taste, and i think everyone has a unique style. maybe in your discovery of the uke you now truly feel the beauty in a simple strum, but in time i think you will find the virtues of throwing in classical picking. its all about finding yourself and your style through the ukulele.

in the meantime, i think that maybe let your discovery and exploration of the uke be YOUR discovery and exploration. there is really no need to try to cast a certain style in a negative light. we are all blessed to be able to make beautiful music using a wonderful instrument, regardless of what specific style we use. so do your thing, and let everyone else do theirs.

uke on!
:)

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 10:12 AM
Imagine if no one ever thought out of the box. Evolve.Deach speaks the truth! I'm a huge "rule" breaker by nature, so anytime I read a post about, "Is it OK to do this or that?" with an instrument, be it uke, guitar, piano, drums, didgeridoo, didgeridon't... I always say, sure, learn the traditional methods, but not to the exclusion of alternatives. For example; Why deny yourself tonal variations, just because some book says to strum over the twelfth fret and hold it away from your body? If the material you are playing demands fingerstyle, then let it roll! If you get bogged down in rules, then you're not going to be able to play blues on a uke. What? I can't bend a note on a uke? Silly, silly, silly. People say to me all the time that I play the uke like a guitar, not like that's a bad thing, they just like to point it out. They're right, too. I do play it like a guitar on some level, because I've been playing blues & rock guitar for 40 yrs, and it would be impossible for me not to do that. It's part of my DNA at this point. That doesn't mean it sounds like a guitar. No matter what I do with it, it's still a uke.

Evidence:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxYii9lVwEQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vVl08nIkm0

What's the old line? If it feels good, do it - if it don't, do it till it does!:nana:

haole
11-30-2009, 10:26 AM
If fingerstyle is a distraction and a dead-end mutation rather than an advancement, what would you consider evolutionary on the ukulele that doesn't, as you say, pretend that the ukulele is another instrument? Are fingerstyle guitarists who incorporate bass lines simply trying to mimic the bass rather than really playing the guitar, so fingerstyle ukulele players are aping fingerstyle guitar players who are really just frustrated, multitasking bass players who want a piece of the melody, who are in turn just trying to mimic the sound of a group of musicians? I'm confused. :eek:

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 10:46 AM
If fingerstyle is a distraction and a dead-end mutation rather than an advancement, what would you consider evolutionary on the ukulele that doesn't, as you say, pretend that the ukulele is another instrument? Are fingerstyle guitarists who incorporate bass lines simply trying to mimic the bass rather than really playing the guitar, so fingerstyle ukulele players are aping fingerstyle guitar players who are really just frustrated, multitasking bass players who want a piece of the melody, who are in turn just trying to mimic the sound of a group of musicians? I'm confused. :eek:Oh... E-zackley. Let's not forget that the instrument is of Portuguese decent, and is related to the guitar. It could well be that guitarist are imitating ukers! It ain't called a "jumping flea" because of a strum. It got that name because of the lively up & down dance the fingers naturally perform on this blessed instrument.

Having said that, let me say that trad strumming is The Final Frontier for me. I suck at it. Suck. Little by little, patterns are creeping in, but I'm impatient, so I'll play it my way in the meantime. I will also say this to those who poo-poo my style:

NO BLUES FOR YOU!!! (Just kidding...;))

RevWill
11-30-2009, 10:58 AM
I would like to play the uke in its original intended form, but I don't know any Portugese folk songs.




That being said, I love the musician's challenge of getting as much music as possible out of those four strings and two octaves. I love strumming and singing sweet tunes like "I'll See You In My Dreams" and fingerpicking "Something" instrumentally. I love hearing Jake play very non-traditional songs, and I love hearing Gerald Ross play very traditional uke and steel music. I love IZ. I love Tin-Pan Alley stuff strummed skillfully, and I love hearing Gus and Fin strum like hell and sing punk rock.

mokai
11-30-2009, 11:17 AM
Imagine if no one ever thought out of the box. Evolve.
Deach is right

The Braguinha was brought to the Hawaiian islands by portuguese immigrants and eventually evolved into the ukulele. If no one thought outside of the box, we would all be playing the Braguinha and this thread would not exist.

Something to think about.

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 11:18 AM
Yeah, of course, if you're having a good time please proceed. I didn't mean to imply the creation of a Ukulele Purity Patrol that would snap the ukes out of the hands of degenerate finger style pickers out there. And I don't mean to look down my nose on those picking away... by all mean if it feels good do it...

BUT I do argue now that the unique sound of the uke really comes across in strumming - and there is special value in using a tool for its unique purpose.

And, yes, you can name many great players who pick out melodies, but that is really ornamentation on the cake. Traditional uke playing is, as far as I can tell, 90% strummimg. And it might be real fancy strumming at times, but it's still strumming.

Deach, interesting that you bring up the word 'evolve.' For me the finger style seems less of an advancement than an odd distraction. Evolution creates changes that advances a species which gets transformed into something new. But sometimes there is a genetic change that looks really good for a generation and then later proves useless - leading to branches on evolutionary trees that die out. I suspect finger style for the uke is an awfull lot like one of these dead-end mutations.

Here is the crux of the issue: when I hear strumming on a uke I say to myself: "What an awesome, charming, precious sound!" And when I hear finger style I say "Wow! What a cool toy guitar / lute / banjo!"This is all very valid, especially if you are drawn to tradition, forgetting for a moment that fingerstyle is and always has been part of the instrument's charm, and you can't say that it's de-evolutionary to finger pick (or plectrum pick for that matter). Hey, new song to learn "We Are Devo" (I'll just bet there's a youtuber doing it...). Don't forget, too, that this is "ukuleleunderground.com." I don't think there's an "ukulelestatusquo.com." Different strums for different chums, I s'pose!

GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 11:28 AM
Once again, let me repeat: all's good. I'm all for everyone doing what they want to do.

I am also all for not just the feel good experience of the performer but also of producing sublime music for listeners with the tools at our disposal. And some tools are meant for certain tasks. You can hammer a nail in with a screw driver if you want - no one is going to stop you - but you know what, a hammer does an awfully good job at hammering.

The classical guitar is an awesome finger style instrument and that is why it produced a breath taking library of music written with that instrument in mind. The music and the tool go hand in hand.

Yes, John King was a master of finger style playing and his videos makes me slacked jaw in total awe - but when I hear him play Bach it's still just an echo of the original version that was written for cello or haprisichord. King's Bach Cello sonata is never going to come to the knees of the same music played on an actual cello. And actuallty the real power of John King is not the ukulele - it's that John was such an amazing musician that he could produce those sounds from a ukulele.

So, again, if it feels good do it, and I am all for outlier experimentations and magic performers who work miracles, but still, the UNIQUE musical contribution of the uke will be, for me, in the special sound of its strum.

GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 11:29 AM
Don't forget, too, that this is "ukuleleunderground.com." I don't think there's an "ukulelestatusquo.com." Different strums for different chums, I s'pose!

I acknowledge this as an especially insightful and inspired comment. :)

sukie
11-30-2009, 11:33 AM
but still, the UNIQUE musical contribution of the uke will be, for me, in the special sound of its strum.

Just remember to capitalize the FOR ME part also.:)

mokai
11-30-2009, 11:37 AM
Deach is right

The Braguinha was brought to the Hawaiian islands by portuguese immigrants and eventually evolved into the ukulele. If no one thought outside of the box, we would all be playing the Braguinha and this thread would not exist.

Something to think about.

and I thought this would end the thread
self-quoting FTL

pulelehua
11-30-2009, 11:46 AM
Continuing on the slightly historic, intellectual thread...

First there was the vihuela, a small guitar like instrument. It went to Portugal and turned into the machete, then the ukulele, and/or the cavaquinho (depending on which branch you follow). Some players back in Spain started bowing it, and the vihuela became the viola became the entire viol family, became the cello, violin, bass, viol da gamba, et al. It also stayed in its home and became the guitar, guitarron, bass, et al.

And of course, the vihuela still exists, and uses a tuning similar to re-entrant. I used to play one in a mariachi band, and it uses a wonderful slightly out of tune sort of tuning. Great stuff.

So really, we're all one big happy family. Playing a cello work on the ukulele, from an evolution point of view, is just as authentic or heretical as playing a guitar tune on the ukulele.

So, who's going to start bowing their ukulele???

:p

GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 11:50 AM
and I thought this would end the thread
self-quoting FTL

Not at all. I never argued against thinking outside the box. Love to think outside of the box. But note that in this example when musicians began to think outside of the box it led them to create an entirely new instrument. That's true evolution and creativity!

Sukie- yes, this is of course all my own hyperbole posted on the web for relief from a really boring day of pushing papers. It's very possible that next month I will make a very passionate plea that all strumming lacks the artistic finesse and depth of a finger stylist. Nvertheless I do trust that this community can tolerate some spirited dissent and debate on occassion.

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 12:05 PM
So, who's going to start bowing their ukulele???

:p
Jimmy Page!


Historically speaking, I wonder if the cuatro (Puerto Rico's national instrument - part puke - part lute - all cool!) faces these big issues... "Excuse me, amigo, do you pluck or estrum?" :confused:

sukie
11-30-2009, 12:06 PM
Ohhh, I'd hate to have to push papers.

I look forward to next month's thinking. Debate is good.

freedive135
11-30-2009, 12:07 PM
You know GP I have your back on this one...

There is something lost of the Uke when it is picked instead of strummed also when it's played Low G too...

Now before I get flamed on for this statement.... TO ME the uke is a re-enterant tuned Soprano being strummed... and as I type this I have 3 Tenors one which is strung Low G.

Most of the time when I play it is strumming a Soprano with a little melody line picking filler but mostly it's strumming and I go out of my way to pick up vintage "Hawaii Calls" vinyl so I can try to recreate that sound of the Uke being strummed on a far away island......

But thats just me.... and sometimes I feel like the only Hapa-Haole strummer here at UU :D

GreyPoupon
11-30-2009, 12:11 PM
Now before I get flamed on for this statement.... TO ME the uke is a re-enterant tuned Soprano being strummed... and as I type this I have 3 Tenors one which is strung Low G.




Oh! You are sooo on the money with that comment. Personally I would never even allow a Low G in my house. That's just an abomination.

Ukulele JJ
11-30-2009, 12:12 PM
Strumming is fingerstyle, if you think about it.

The difference between plucking one or two strings with a somewhat varied rhythm and plucking all four strings with a steady and/or patterned rhythm is really just one of semantics.

JJ

Lanark
11-30-2009, 12:16 PM
....And I don't mean to look down my nose on those picking away... by all mean if it feels good do it...



First off, I just think that sentence just needed to be highlighted out of context...


Secondly, my own personal style has been evolving into a little bit of picking and bit of strumming and some plucking and generally whatever seems right to convey the properties I'm looking to emphasize with what I'm playing.

The ukulele is an instrument. It has notes and millions of undiscovered (by me) sounds that it is capable of and thousands of different techniques available to wrest them from the wood and strings. I will use them and find them and I will make the instrument sound like me. I wouldn't think of that as a distraction as much as an expedition. If the instrument can make the sound, it's fair game.

While strumming is one technique and it sounds nice, limiting yourself to that as the best that the instrument can do is like limiting your artwork to only primary colors. It could certainly work for you and you could do some nice things within that framework. But I think a lot of us are looking for a larger palette to work with to build our sonic artwork with (and chances are as you progress, you will too).

I suspect a year from now, you might feel a bit differently about this.

Lanark
11-30-2009, 12:22 PM
Jimmy Page!



And just to completely show my Music Geekdom, I'll let you know that Jimmy Page copped that bit from the Creation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_(band)) who used in their 1966 recording of "Making Time" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oig8z4HvBL8)

Big_e
11-30-2009, 12:24 PM
I agree with what was stated above. Play the ukulele as it fits you. But if you wanna get to the original use of the ukulele. According to wikipidia, "ukulele" means jumping flea, which was to describe the way a uke players fingers jumped all over the fretboard, as when you fingerpick individual notes. Of course it makes a good strumming instrument too.
Ernest

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 12:31 PM
Oh! You are sooo on the money with that comment. Personally I would never even allow a Low G in my house. That's just an abomination.Oh, I get it now! The joke's on me!!! I thought you were serious, but the "abomination" thing put me right! Nicely done... :D

I don't have a low-stringer, myself, but now, for some reason, I... must... have... one. I think I'm going to make my upcoming cigar box uke a loagie. Are cigar box ukes OK, or is that the epitome of an abomination? Just asking.

ukulelegal
11-30-2009, 12:44 PM
I'm new to this forum, so apologies if I'm telling you what you probably already know.

Herb Ohta spends plenty of time playing melodic lines. I would hate to tell Herb Ohta that he's not playing it "the way it's meant to be played." If Herb Ohta wanted to use his ukulele to dig ditches, I would assume that the function of a ukulele was to dig ditches.

:)

That being said, Jake Simabukuro spends a lot of time strumming the ukulele, but in a fairly un-ukulele-like fashion, with all his rasqueados and flamenco flourishes.

Horses for courses, I think.

I understand what you mean, and I actually didn't buy a tenor because it seemed less "ukulele"-like. But I'm starting to think that my initial snobbery will run its course. It's just a fantastic instrument, and what makes it fantastic is a combination of all sorts of things (tuning, size, wood, string tension, to name a few).

It's a bit like saying why you fancy a particular girl... God forbid we ever all liked the same girl for the same reason. That would surely spell the end of the human race.

lol your funny. :) and I agree couldn't have said it better.

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 01:01 PM
In short, I am raising the possibility that perhaps the growing fashion of finger style uke is actually just a distraction from the uke's true calling - as a back up strummer for simple down to earth folk singing.

Am I onto something or am I creating division where none need be?
[/url]I can't decide if I should be bothered by this out-of-context quote. Is it the "growing fashion" part? Let's see... is there a growing fashion? No. It's always been there (remember? "jumping" flea...?). Is it "distraction?" Maybe. Distraction from what ought to be... Hmmm... Nah. He's probably right! Or is it "the uke's true calling - as a back up strummer for simple down to earth folk singing." Ding ding ding! I am primarily an instrumentalist, rarely sing, and even rarer still anything "down-to-earth." Oh wait. I take that back. I play a TON of blues and reggae - doesn't get much more down to earth than that, does it? Now I see what bothered me, and I'm not taking it seriously, because I don't think was wholly serious, just hyperbole to make a good point, I think, that trad strumming faces certain extinction in the shuffling madness of progressive ukery. Oh great. Another song to learn... "Locomotive Breath." I'm guessing Ian Anderson taught himself how to play that flute...

BTW... I find this all very interesting, though, and healthy to sort out. Silly. But healthy...;)

Oh, and here's a guy who makes your point and mine at the same time!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcQYt7xvA8M

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 01:10 PM
And just to completely show my Music Geekdom, I'll let you know that Jimmy Page copped that bit from the Creation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_(band)) who used in their 1966 recording of "Making Time" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oig8z4HvBL8)See? I'm learning something here! I did not know of the Zep charlatan's purloining of the bow trick! Thanks. I'll add that bit to my own geekdom file...

sukie
11-30-2009, 01:14 PM
And just to completely show my Music Geekdom, I'll let you know that Jimmy Page copped that bit from the Creation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_(band)) who used in their 1966 recording of "Making Time" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oig8z4HvBL8)

That's my Orchestra leader!:D

Take a bow, Lanark.

GrumpyCoyote
11-30-2009, 01:27 PM
OK, I'll bite the bait as it were.

The premise here is that that the uke is "for" a specific style. To that I say shenanigans. Shenanigans.

The uke was certainly invented to play a specific style of music. I can also assure you that particular style is no longer in existence. Not even “traditional” Hawaiian music fits that bill any more.

I do concur that it makes a spectacular strumming accompaniment to folk singing (my whole shtick really), but it makes an equally amazing solo melodic voice. To deny one part of the uke’s capabilities because you prefer to do another is… shenanigans.

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 01:46 PM
OK, I'll bite the bait as it were.

[COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]The premise here is that that the uke is "for" a specific style. To that I say shenanigans. Shenanigans.Thanks, that's the word I was looking for! I shall name my next band "The New Shenanigans" (there's undoubtedly already a "The Shenanigans" proper...) One rule: We shall only strum (with no Low G's, of course!). Could be a novel gimmick. No really, I kid GP. There is validity to what he says, it's just not the way I roll.:rotfl:

Amy
11-30-2009, 02:38 PM
I'm self-taught and have concentrated on strumming, mostly because it's achievable for me. When in Honolulu recently, a friend who takes weekly lessons at Roy Sakuma's ukulele studios invited me to join in on her beginner lesson. What was it? 90% finger picking. The teacher had me strum background while the other two picked. They both know WAY more about the fingerboard than I do, and I think we all picked up the uke around the same time.

The next song we did was mostly strumming, but clearly finger picking is a skill to be mastered early on, according to this studio, anyway.

I didn't pick up the uke to make myself crazy. Strumming makes me happy, so that's what I mostly do. I have no idea what the uke is meant for, I'm just glad to have one in my hands.

nohandles
11-30-2009, 02:51 PM
Claw hammer anyone? I've been playing claw hammer on the uke and banjolele for a while now. There are a multitude of things to do on any instrument. My son wrote a tapping string song for the classical guitar. So go for it Ukulele can do anything any other instrument can do. Can't It? Doug

KenjiBeast
11-30-2009, 04:04 PM
I think the real question here is this- does the nature of an instrument lend itself to a particular style of musical expression? I'd have to say yes, if only due to the vast range of musical genres.. One would be hard pressed to play a traditional Indian raga on a piano, complete with all the myriad ornaments and glissandos, and it would be absolutely impossible to properly render a polyphonic baroque organ piece on a shenai.

The ukulele, as well, lends itself particularly well to certain styles of playing.. Strumming, obviously, but I've also found that the ukulele, with it's reentrant tuning* and comparatively simple barre chords, lends itself well to clawhammer, flamenco, and even funk music.. To restrict oneself to the "traditional" style of ukulele music, however, I think would be unwise. While the ukulele might not be as musically versatile as some of the more "Serious" instruments, it has a very unique character and timbre all it's own, and there are certain contexts in which I cannot envision an instrument being more appropriate than a ukulele. (Example: Gypsy jazz jam with bongos and ukulele.. A classical guitar would overpower the bongos, IMHO)

The ukulele, perhaps above most other instruments, is a study in minimalism. It doesn't have the longest scale or the widest dynamic range. Even from a cultural standpoint, the ukulele is often piegonholed into the traditional styles of performance, IMHO moreso than most other "Western" instruments. That said, I have found it a consistently rewarding experience to filter disparate genres and musical theories through the modest instrument.. There might not be much there, but what is there is absolutely beautiful, dig?

ukecantdothat
11-30-2009, 05:14 PM
...There might not be much there, but what is there is absolutely beautiful, dig?Dig, bruddah. BTW, I know a bongo player who can blow a hole in the roof when he has to!:nana:

DeG
11-30-2009, 06:29 PM
I don't think about picking or strumming, I just play it.:)

thejumpingflea
11-30-2009, 06:36 PM
I don't think about picking or strumming, I just play it.:)

Quote of the week.

haolejohn
11-30-2009, 07:30 PM
Play it? I make noise with mine:)

joehempel
11-30-2009, 07:35 PM
I think I'm drawn to the fingerpicking side, but the strumming and singing is really cool too, of course, I've got the voice of a suffocating donkey, but hey, whatever.

I see the merits in both, but I agree with just about everyone else, do what makes YOU happy, that's the important thing. I didn't start learning music to make other people happy, I did it for me.

Besides playing music is cool...as Brad Paisley said...no one ever got a girl from playing guitar hero. :D

clayton56
11-30-2009, 09:51 PM
because of the high G string, the uke has great potential for smooth fingerstyle playing.

Having said that, I got into it for the strumming, I just wanted a nice, clean, non-boomy rhythm track.

Looks like the uke is the best of both worlds.

fivetide
11-30-2009, 11:56 PM
Strumming's great. Picking is clever. But I like the uke best as a raw percussion instrument - OOKA-CHAKKA! OOKA-CHAKKA! :)

Seriously though, nice debate, but as somebody said so succinctly quite early on in this thread: it's all good.

Personally I love watching rough beginner's YouTube vids of Dylan and indie covers far FAR more than watching Shimabukuro play Queen or (and is he really doing this?) performing with Bette Midler(!), but it's all valid and fun.

Listening to people closer to my level but more confident seems to help most in my uke education at this stage --- and that means chunky, fun, strumming covers, mostly.

rreffner
12-01-2009, 01:13 AM
I finger pick cause it has strings and I have fingers and I don't know any better.

8890
12-01-2009, 01:14 AM
Here is the crux of the issue: when I hear strumming on a uke I say to myself: "What an awesome, charming, precious sound!" And when I hear finger style I say "Wow! What a cool toy guitar / lute / banjo!"
When I hear finger-style uke, like a pop song or a rock riff, I say: "Cool! He can do that on a uke‽" That is a bit like "What a cool toy guitar!", but said in awe.

My brother plays the electric guitar. He finds tabs on the web, and judges their quality by how closely they match the original song. The other day, I found myself prejudiced in much the same way. I was watching bass players on Youtube. I had a hard time recognizing talent, because all I could think was "James Jamerson does that bass line way better than you..."

With the ukulele, I'm free :D I'm not playing wrong guitar tabs, or tabs simplified for amateur guitarists. I'm playing songs arranged for a different instrument, and I love it! If this is a distraction, I don't wanna be put right. ;)

Scorpex
12-01-2009, 03:17 AM
Thanks to GreyPoupon for mentioning my site in his original post....but it is Richard G, not Robert G (unless I've been hacked!)

I gotta say I'm a strummer and singer, not a big picker. The human voice gives instant character. The uke is a great instrument to accompany the voice. I love listening to good picking. However, I continually remember the old riddle....What is the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist....answer - a rock guitarist plays three chords to a thousand people, while a jazz guitarist....yep, you guessed it.

What makes an audience want to listen? A compelling rhythm? Fancy melodic licks? A combination of voice and complementary instrument? Or are we just doing it for our own benefit?

ambrose
12-01-2009, 04:33 AM
Play it however you like. Just remember to swing. (Or it don't mean a thing).

pulelehua
12-01-2009, 04:59 AM
Play it however you like. Just remember to swing. (Or it don't mean a thing).

Do I sense the next impending 7 pages of this thread? :rolleyes:

spots
12-01-2009, 05:27 AM
Doo-wat?


(the forum told me a single "Doo-wat" was too short)

uke5417
12-01-2009, 06:34 AM
I think the interesting bit has less to do with fingerstyle vs. strumming than with songs vs. instrumental pieces. Most (not all) of the picking pieces one sees on YT these days are instrumentals. Most (not all) of the strumming pieces include singing.

As GP points out, there's a great joy in discovering singing. It pairs so well with ukulele. I note, too, that several pickers/posters say they do instrumental work because they (think they) can't sing. For what it's worth, neither can I, but I never let that get in the way of trying - and having a great time doing so.

And to push things a bit, can you imagine what it would be like if Jake could sing as well as he plays? I know I, for one, would watch him a whole lot more than I do now.

No, no one NEEDS to do anything on the ukulele; it's all about sharing what one finds joyful, that others might enjoy the same pleasure.

freedive135
12-01-2009, 07:24 AM
An other slant would be sure you can play African rythms on a Conga and Latin rythm on a Djembe as they are both drums but...
Sometimes I use the back of my Tenor as a set o' Bongos but never do I use my Bongo's as Ukulele's!!!

GreyPoupon
12-01-2009, 07:34 AM
As GP points out, there's a great joy in discovering singing. It pairs so well with ukulele.

When I first picked up the ukulele a year ago I was mortified at the thought of singing and hence focused on instrumental picking. But I would still sing a song now and then - and - to my great surprise, a year later I find that my singing voice has vastly improved. I think I was a bad singer earlier simply because I had never tried for more than a few seconds at a time. Don't get me wrong - I am still a very mediocre singer, but I no longer produce looks of utter horror and bursts of sharp laughter from family members in adjacent rooms. So for all of you non-singers out there - it may just be an issue of a little perserverance and focus.

Richard G - Sorry for messing your name up! Please know you are my ukulele hero. You've got rhythm, grit and charm! And your web site has proved very inspiring! Thank you!

Tsani
12-01-2009, 09:51 AM
I can sing. I can play. The problem comes when I sing and play.:wallbash: I find it difficult to maintain rhythm on my uke when I sing. I guess this is why I am more of a picker than a strummer. Maybe someday this will get better, but right now I am more of an instrumentalist.

I would really like to play WITH someone. That way they could play while I sing, or I could do a "bridge" or an instrumental part when I am not singing.

I keep hoping that the "someone" will be my son - but I may be waiting for awhile. :rolleyes:

scottie
12-01-2009, 04:58 PM
I think of the ukulele as a soprano guitar with a twist. The re entrant tuning together with the faster decay does give a certain sound that's attractive when strummed, but I'm always going to be a fingerpicker, been doing it now for over 30 years on the guitar.

I wrote somewhere else on this board that I got into the tenor ukulele because the limited range, 2 octaves and 2 whole steps on 3 strings with a re entrant G will get me to consider my playing in a different way than the bluesy travis picking style made possible by the linear tuning and wider range of the traditional six string. I have other things going on in my head besides the blues and this'll give me another voice as well.

Scorpex
12-01-2009, 07:48 PM
You are too kind, GreyPoupon. It just so happens that I have recently adapted Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus to discuss the tensions between finger picking and strumming the uke. There are also plaintive references to the generational divide that can plague some Uke Clubs. The first verse and chorus go like this:

Her name is Raquel She plays a Koaloha
Guess you can tell I wanna do duets with her
Oh how she sings and finger picks those four strings
I think that she knows who I am
But she doesn’t wanna jam with me

Cause I'm just a grey haired chord basher baby
Yeah I'm just a grey haired chord basher baby
Thrash out some Neil Diamond baby with me

See it all at www.scorpex.net/uke.htm

Warning....spoiler....in the end the chord basher gets the girl :)

beeejums
12-02-2009, 01:09 AM
Most of the people I end up jamming with are guitarists, and they see it as kind of a novelty that I play the uke. Then I end up wondering what I can do with my uke that they can't do on my guitar... The limitations of the uke are a lot more evident than the limitations of a guitar.

However, the voicing of a ukulele cuts through a guitar at times, and adds an interesting backup at other times, and the song ends up with an interesting texture.

People who play guitar can usually use a pick for melody lines faster than I can with my thumbnail, but I can do ringing melodies on several strings much better than they can. They can be louder than me, but I can get a sound that can only really come from strumming really hard and fast and not drown out the vocals. And I can strum way faster than they can.

I don't think it's an important debate, and the only reason I've given it any thought is out of curiosity... I have a guitar, should I be playing it more? Yes, it's good to know several instruments. No, I get really frustrated with guitar very easily. I have an electric guitar that I built, and I get it out sometimes, but I just don't have as much fun.

Honestly, I have fun trying to play my uke like an electric guitar because it's more fun to me than actually playing electric guitar. Do with that what you will... I even modified my distortion pedal so that I could get some pleasant distorted sounds out of my uke (It's possible... I think. Really light distortion that cuts natural highs without ruining the treble and increases bass response along with a preamp that doesn't boost the mids to high heaven seems to create a nice bluesy crunch that can be heard with picking but doesn't ruin chords. I modded a DS-1 to "castrate" it and I'll really like it once I figure out how to get rid of some of the low frequency hum the mod has created.)

But now I'm rambling.

Cali
12-11-2009, 08:29 AM
This topic is much more intresting than expected.
Thanks so far for sharing your opinion and knowledge.

I started with fingerpicking and strumming at the same time and what i love the most is a the combination, call it fingerstyle or chord solos.

I love to build up every single note, let it ring to a smooth melody
and then crush it down with explosive strumming (sounds much better on the computer screen than in reality ;-) )

No limits!

cpatch
12-11-2009, 09:54 AM
This isn't the "real" way to play the guitar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddn4MGaS3N4

This isn't the "real" way to play the flute:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfrKqFp0Zg

And we all know that this isn't the "real" way to play the ukulele:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puSkP3uym5k

I'm in a weird mood today so to quote some relatively obscure lyrics from the early '90s:

I used to be friends with reality
She used to be a pal real close to me
But she tried to hide from me what was in store
Tried to house me but a house has doors

So throw open the doors, run outside, and experience all your uke has to offer (at least once)!