Archive | June, 2017

Bex and Freda

Bex writes quirky random songs about (amongst other things) life, love, cider and idiots, and plays them on some ukuleles (one named Freda) and sometimes a piano, accompanied by Jim on cajon and other percussion.
www.bexandfreda.co.uk

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Marc Gallagher

Marc gallagher is a student from manchester who funds takeaways with playing humorous ukulele covers.

A player with nantwich origins from jamming with the N’ukes back in the day, Marc has been in the ukulele scene properly for only a year. As well as murdering songs, he also writes them, and his second album ‘Songs From A Shit Summer’ is a deeply personal sonic autobiography of pain, sorrow and hope.

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Gravity Circus

Band Biography:

Formed in the Netherlands during the summer of 2016, “Gravity Circus” has been the new project of multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Nagaura and drummer/percussionist Ken Luske. They decided that it was time to follow their shared interest in a high variety of music genres after being part in multiple other bands together, resulting in them writing and playing as a duo ever since.

Due to the many musical influences, every song stands out to be an unique and innovative concept.
If you really had to compare them to anything existing, bands such as “Twenty One Pilots”, “Foals”, “Milky Chance” and “Alt-J” come to mind.

As for right now, “Gravity Circus” is working on recording their first EP and album, while playing gigs left and right to keep improving on their live performance.

Within a few months of work, the band “Milky Chance” had already taken notice of “Gravity Circus” and retweeted their post after they released a cover of Milky Chance’s “Cocoon” on YouTube and Soundcloud.

“Gravity Circus” then proceeded to release their first single “Skyline” on April 20th, 2017, followed up with a well received and reviewed (an example being; “ItsAllIndie”) cover of the “Glass Animals” song “Gooey”, granting them a Top 10 spot in the SoundCloud “Indie Top 50” and the #1 spot on the “Indie Hot & New” list.

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UnTethered

Old Man Sitting By The Fire
Collaboration between Paul Cameron and Sean Hunt on OUS

UnTethered is a band of 7 players in the Lakes district of England. The members all live in Windermere or Kendal.
We started off as a trio and ‘three’ in the Cumbrian dialect is ‘tethera’ so we originally called ourselves Cumbrian Tethera.
We decided to change the name to UnTethered when we grew to seven. We are all retired and some are late-starters.
A few have been playing for around four years, others for many more years.
Instrumentally we are quite diverse: tenor ukuleles 8-string ukuleles, baritone ukuleles, banjolele, cajon, washboard, spoons, slide ukulele, harmonica.
The repertoire is also diverse, from Skiffle to Blues to British folk/pop, American country, from Georger Formby Chas n Dave, to John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
Original songs written by band members account for nearly 20% of our repertoire.
Tony Hill – 8 string uke, tenor uke, banjolele, vocals, (occasional percussion as Tony used to be a drummer)
Andy Gillham – 8 string uke, tenor uke, vocals
Philip Hull – baritone uke, harmonica, vocals
Robin Andrews – slide blues uke, cajon, spoons, harmonica, vocals
Mick Brookes – Bass, vocals
Emily Reed – tenor uke, tambourine, shaker, vocals
Sean Hunt – baritone uke, vocals

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Simplicity in Songwriting, or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Song’. Simon Fernand

Songwriting can be the most rewarding thing in the world. It can also be the most frustrating. As a songwriter, I often find myself trying desperately to force myself to write a song. Or just a verse. Just something. ANYTHING. And it rarely results in much.

There are plenty of theories on this – many people say that you should keep writing, regardless of quality – that way you’ll exercise your songwriting muscles. Throw the rubbish stuff away – but learn from it. You’ll keep improving. Seems like a reasonable approach to me, but it can still feel rather dispiriting at the time.

One of the things that used to really trip me up was that I believed that writing a song meant coming up with something innovative and new with every song. I’d scoff at the idea of following a G Major with a C Major because…well… that’s been *done*, hasn’t it? It’s so *predictable*. And I’m in the business of writing NEW music. I should be pushing boundaries or I needn’t bother at all.

Right?

Well…yes and no.

The ‘yes’ is simply that original songs should obviously strive to be original (duh!). If you set out to write a song and find that you’ve just written Hotel California – the entire chord progression, melody and all, then you’ve not exactly nailed what it means to write an original song*, have you?

And I’m not here to discourage anyone from pushing boundaries. I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for artists who don’t ‘play by the rules’. I listen to a lot of Aphex Twin, Frank Zappa, Phillip Glass, Autechre, Radiohead, Brian Eno, and more. All of whom are well known for toying with ‘the norm’. And I love it. But you should bear in mind that it’s unlikely that many of them were writing songs to play down at the local Open Mic night.

The ‘no’ took me many years to realise. My insistence on using ‘clever’ chords, or notes that jarred with one another was what made it so bleedin’ difficult to write a song that sounded good. And you know what DOES sound good? A good old G Major followed by a C Major.

I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you should write music to a formula. Simply that you should accept that there are reasons why people follow a D minor with an F Major – it feels right.

On this topic – the other thing that took me years to realise is that the casual listener won’t actually be *that* impressed that you used a F#7sus4/Eb when a ‘boring’ F# would have done**. Sure, it’s a cool, edgy, kooky chord and you’re *super* innovative to have used it but…well…your audience won’t give two hoots. They’ll just hear something that doesn’t sound quite right to them.

Ultimately, the question is: Are you writing songs to prove how Avant Garde you are and to start a new musical movement, or to entertain an audience? (I’m working on the principle that, if you’re reading this, you’re more likely to be in the latter category – but if you’re in the former, that’s just great too – you little rebel, you!).

Realising that I’m writing songs for an audience to enjoy has been something of a epiphany for me. Being freed from the shackles of that mindset that told me that everything I did had to be based on hitherto undiscovered principles has allowed me to concentrate on the stuff that really mattered – writing lyrics that people might want to hear and writing a catchy melody; all underpinned by a solid, memorable chord progression. From experience, I can tell you this: it’s far, FAR easier to write a memorable song with ‘predictable’ chords than it is without. And there no shame in it. Think of the catchiest song you can. Something really memorable. Go on…

Now, do you think it was written with complex ‘clever’ chords and progressions or
simple majors, minors and sevenths? I’ll let you answer that one.
Not everyone is trying to write the next Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. I understand that. But there’s a reason that that song is so memorable. It’s almost childlike in its simplicity. And that’s the genius of it. And that applies to the vast majority of our favourite songs.

Now pick up your uke, put down the Big Book of Unusable Jazz Chords, and embrace the joy of simplicity in songwriting! It’s liberating!

*The obvious exception is when you consciously seek to reference someone else’s song for one reason or another. I like to do this from time to time. And it can really effective – especially with a cheeky little lyrical twist.

**That’s a random chord name plucked from the depths of my imagination – I have no idea if a F# would be a suitable substitute. Please don’t bother correcting me.

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Ludwig.

I had been playing the guitar for quite a while before I discovered the ukulele. Today, I exclusively play four strings. I write original songs in German (and sometimes English) language. Since I find it very hard to get my older stuff to work on ukulele, I started all over again and now write original songs for ukulele only For more songs, find me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ukulelezeit

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Sherry Steiner

 

Lives in Housatonic Massachusetts, originally from New York City.

I play a Kala 8 string tenor which I turned into a 6 string with a high and low G and I also play a standard 6 string tenor: both are acoustic/electric ukuleles.

‘Coyote Poetry In Song’ is a 15 song album which can be found at

https://soundcloud.com/search/sounds?q=sherry%20steiner%20housatonic%20ma.

I am active as a street musician (The Buskeroos) as well as a member of the Berkshire Ukulele Band and the Sunday Strummers and more…

Published writer of off-beat poetry, monologues, flash fiction and musical performance pieces, an arts educator, exhibiting visual artist plus.

For detailed background information: www.sherrysteiner.com

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Why writing original music and why the hell on a ukulele – Bernd Holzhausen

As I started as a musician I picked up the bass guitar. Not because it was easy, because I felt that bass is an essential part of the band. I was 18 years and had my listening experience like most of us: Beatles, Iron Maiden, David Lee Roth, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Peter Gabriel.  Then one day a friend dropped in and gave me a recording of Dollar Brand. So I put it on the player and listened. A total different experience showed up. He was telling stories based on simple melodies and somehow the bass took the whole thing to a grooving experience. I was bouncing between the piano, the bass and what happened in the silent parts. Wow. More jazz came up. More piano, more bass and I practiced bass. Then this Jaco Pastorious showed up and I put the bass in the corner because I started to study design.

But that didn’t mean I stopped educating myself in music. No. I turned to be a listener more than a dancer or just putting music as a background thing so I listened to all the music that was available. Frank Sinatra came along the road, Elvis Presley, Tom Waits. Wait a minute. I collected all of his LPs because he was unique. He was different. I tried Bob Dylan, but he never was grabbing my ear telling me a feeling. On the real side o flive I had to learn drawing, painting, calligraphy, writing, sketching, being an illustrator, a painter, a writer. Well aside that while I was trying to paint something or to focus on scribbling I listened to a wide variety of music. And I always played that game: What’s the next note. How he will finish this line, what chord is next. And as you listen you learn. I finished my design exam with a good note and went out to explore the world as a graphic design artist. Until the world became too digital and the pen wasn’t that important anymore.

One evening a friend said: Let´s start a cover band. So I got myself a bass again and we started playing. But something had changed. Sure I was able to play, rhythm wasn’t a big deal, remembering songs neither but I didn’t want to do it. So I focused more on jazz and bass and got a fretless bass guitar. Hell as I grabbed that thing my heart said: there you go. So I learned again. New. There is more on a bass without frets than just playing notes. There is pronunciation, you can speak, bend note play quarter notes and more. Wow. That was my world. So I practiced daily and started writing instrumentals. Mostly in a groovy matter telling stories on live.

Then I founded a duo with another bass player who played the bass more or less like a guitar and we started a show called mellow night grooves in a local pub. We played weekly. More and more. jazz players showed up and improvised with us. Over a year that was my living room. I just walked on stage and started with telling a nice story and then played instrumental bass music. Aside that my work as a designer died and I became ore or less an advisor. So I focused on music and writing instrumentals. One day I was playing an instrumental and another jazz bassist came and asked me: Do you know what you do? I mean it is a nice peace of music and nothing is wrong but I feel that you just play by ear. I was confused but as a designer you learn how to adopt being flexible in any situation and how to finish a good design so that all are happy, So I was honestly looking at him and said. No. I really do everything by ear. I don t know a lot about theory. He smiled and said. 6 weeks and you’ve learned what you need So I took his course and learned. Everything about notes, distances, scales and whatever you learn on a bass guitar. I stopped playing music for a year and started listening again. While that I wondered why everybody was copying songs and styles of other musicians. Do you know this lick? And people always tried to be the perfect studio recording version of this or that song.

I talked with a friend and he said listen to the recordings of Jaco in New York. listen to the early jazz guys 20s up to the 40s. Listen and understand what they do. So Jaco was playing shit on stage, no groove, a lot of errors, but the atmosphere was cool. The musicians in the 20s well they mostly played by ear. Others were writing down the chords. Aha. But why and when did it die. Who took the gun and shot this come lets play some music without thinking of playing Let it be by the Beatles? When that really went along the road and people stopped being creative?
The superstar thing stepped in the door. Become famous, earn a shitload if money, get all the girls you want and don’t want. Be a star. Well but a star not necessarily writes his own music. Some of them can barely sing. Well. Okay. But that changed music. A lot of the jazz players ended up broke in bad conditions. They were focused on music not money. Got that. I don’t care. There are songs to be written. Good ones, bad ones and they have to be played. They have to be tested. So back to be an authentic human being. Writing your own music. Why on the ukulele? Well that´s easy.
The ukulele is an unexpected instrument. It has no superstar aura, even if there are superstars on the ukulele. It still is a simple take it play it instrument. You can fun around with it and you can play fingerstyle Spanish things on it or Jewish traditional scales. Sounds great on a ukulele. And it is in perfect range to the voice of a singer. Singer here. Ukulele there. Stomping the foot on another place, a bass goes around. Well that is unique. That is new. And the same time it is more traditional than anything else. And it offers a door to write your own music cause there is no Add to dictionary of that song. Yeah nicely sung. It´s perfect when things happen like I wrote a German song about luck nd another day I played it on the street to test it and a person said. So bad that I don t understand German I liked his voice and the song. For me that is perfect reason to stay with the ukulele and to just play.

Sorry guys for the long road of letters I took you down the way to think of listening, supporting original music writers. For me personally it leaded back to a regular sketchbook like I had them starting being a designer. Good craftsmanship is essential but spontaneous writing down an experience to put it in form later or to change some words and then taking the uke to play a melody search for chords, interludes and soloing possibilities and then you are an authentic musician. Who cares if you are on hit list number one. As long as you sell CDs after the show as long as you meet people have good conversations and as long as you inspire other people to write original music everything is fine.

Be a gift to the ears of the world. Write original music.

 

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