View Full Version : Ukulele as Mandolin-style Accompaniment

12-08-2008, 05:25 AM
Hi all,

In looking to play with a guitarist, I find myself gravitating towards songs with mandolin, e.g., a lot of REM and/or bluegrass. In the case of REM, the mandolin is often background to a harpsichord, in which case I try to listen to/play that part instead. In doing this, I seem to be getting away from the traditional playing... especially in using a pick to get a cleaner, more "lead" sound.

I assume many have been down this path, so I wanted to see if anyone has recommendation on transcribing alt rock and/or bluegrass for the uke, especially playing what would be considered lead and/or solos.

Thanks in advance,


12-08-2008, 06:40 AM
If you've ever read about the history of the guitar, you know about the sort of identity crisis that it went through. Andrés Segovia was the first to really give it credibility. I'm assuming we have our folks who are bringing the uke into the mainstream, although if you Google lists of uke tabs, it seems to be somewhat limited to:

- Oldies (5 ft. 2, Eyes of Blue)
- Oxymorons- The Clash/Punk/Metal
- Hawaiian/Surf
- Campy/Theme Songs

What might Ukulele 2.0 tab list look like. For that matter, what might a ukulele 2.0 look look (to allow for this), e.g., steel strings?

12-08-2008, 12:01 PM
Recently I was playing some Coldplay on my ukulele and my sister was complaining to me that "You can't play sad songs on a ukulele!" which made me laugh. The ukulele is so wonderfully versatile. So do whatever you want, man; Put steel strings on your uke, use a pick, plug it into an effects pedal, whatever.

Don't feel you have to play the out-there instruments. When I play with my friend who plays guitar we alternate the parts we play. Sometimes I play rhythm and he plays bass, sometimes I play lead and he plays rhythm, and it always sounds pretty good. Although the people that hear us may disagree :P. I've never played bluegrass but I play the mandolin part in Losing my Religion with my ukulele group in school.

Really the ukulele is what you make of it. It's cool if you play those classics, or the hawaiian folk songs, but you can also pull up some new songs and get well stuck into them as well. Don't feel restricted to what Google tells you!

12-08-2008, 01:13 PM
And you have to wear matching socks....

And you can't play Rock Ballads on the Flute...

Play what ever you want how ever you want....

Play Beethoven on the Bongo's and if someone doesn't like it tell them to pizzoff.

12-14-2008, 03:44 AM
i hate to sound like a old-fogey, but i actually sort disagree.
it seems like a lot of this "do what you want" attitude involves just playing the uke like a guitar.
to me, and i may be the odd man out here, that just makes the uke a novelty. why does 'playing different' mean playing like a guitar?
i would think that uke 2.0 would involve playing awesome interesting songs in whatever style you like where the ukulele is used like a ukulele.

why do you have to string it in steel, plug in effects and use a pick to shred like eddie v?

why not do what guitars players can't do?
tear it up in nylgut, with fan strokes and re-entrant tuning?

anyway. it's probably an unpopular point of view. but i play the uke because i love the uke not because i wish i played guitar better.

12-14-2008, 08:06 AM
I'm sort of in the middle. While I firmly believe uke can (and should) be used in any type of music, from experimental to traditional (I myself love it as an american folk instrument, and it rips up disco, country, jazz, just about anything), I do think I personally draw the line at steel strings.

Effects are fine (love them in fact), but once it's amplified, steel strings take away far more than they offer. At least for me. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone should play any way they want. It's just that the uke has plenty of character no matter the tuning and effects - and really shines with fingers and nylon.

In my opinion, I think we'll see a resurgence of nylon stringed guitars as well as a direct result of new players learning on ukes. The tricks and tone I can get without a pick, and on nylon are miles beyond anything I could get in 22 years of flatpicking steel strings. I was astonished and surprised.

I'm on my way right now to price out a couple of nylon string guitars today...

It's not so much about "playing like a uke" (which is limiting) - to me it's about playing to the ukes strengths no matter the style or effect (liberating).

12-14-2008, 12:30 PM
i agree with you for the most part.
it's not that i don't ukes should be used for any style of music... in fact i think they should be.
it's just that when playing other styles, why just imitate another instrument in sound or the way you play?
it seems for more creative and liberating to play different styles and relish in what a uke can do.
i agree totally that, for me at least, nylon string are so much a part of the ukes that i couldn't have any other way.
but to me playing it like a uke and playing to ukes strengths are the same thing.

anyway, i certainly don't want to start any flame war, everyone play how they like, i'm just expressing my person bias.

12-20-2008, 03:46 PM
Put steel strings on your uke,

I think that would be pretty hard on the instrument actually.