We all love the intimacy and ease of playing our acoustic instrument but sooner or later if you want to gig or play with a group of people you are going to need to plug that Instrument in.
Most of us start off by plugging straight into the P.A. System. This is a great option but there are 2 things to consider. Is my signal hot enough for the board and how do I go from the high impedance out of my Instrument to the low impedance input that most P.A. systems require? A direct box will get us from the Instrument to the P/A. but there are many options and my favorite is an Acoustic Preamp pedal:
Here are some advantages of using an Acoustic Preamp Pedal:
Using an Acoustic preamp really is a great way to get your Instrument into a P.A. and most will fit in your guitar case.
In Polynesian folklore Tiki carvings are said to represent gods. Maori mythology refers to Tiki as the first man. Hawaiian Tiki legends refer to 4 main Gods which are the God of War, the God of Fertility and Peace, the God of Light and Life, and the God of the Sea. Ancient peoples prayed to these gods and celebrated them in various ways. Some people still believe in the power of the Tiki and still pay homage in ritual ceremonies. This fact still stirs controversy. Tiki carvings are more often enjoyed for their artistic tropical appeal and remain popular in modern art culture.
Eddy Finn celebrates the Tiki Art concept in three new Ukulele models pictured below.
If you are interested in raising your Uke appeal without spending a lot of time learning new techniques, you can add a lot of vibrancy by stepping up to an 8 string Ukulele! These Ukes feature four sets of strings which are tuned in pairs. Each set of 2 are meant to be plucked as one string and their close proximity to each other makes it almost impossible to do otherwise guaranteeing ease of play. They have an unmistakable chime that shares similar characteristics with the 12 string guitar. This variation gives the Uke an almost Chorus type affect and results in a more volume and a fuller sound.
While these Ukes have 8 strings, the tuning is the same as a regular 4 string Ukulele with these differences. The top two are both tuned to “G” an octave apart giving you a Low G and high G note. The next set is tuned to ‘C” also an octave apart, the next is tuned to “E” in unison and the bottom strings are tuned to “C” also in unison.
So there you are nothing new to learn! Play the same chords and notes that you already know and sound cool doing it. (Check out the Eddy Finn EF-98T pictured above.)
Anyone who fancies themselves a moderate to good singer at sometime will think about an accompaniment instrument to play while they sing the melodies that they have learned and love.
Some musicians choose piano, some choose guitar or others like to play them all. However, in recent years more and more people are choosing the ukulele or “uke”. The Uke is arguably one of the easiest of the stringed instruments to learn with some chords using only 1 note at a time fingering! This renders the uke a great choice for even the most musically challenged!
Scholars agree that learning a musical instrument can ward off life threatening stress and induce a state of ‘well being’ which is often missing from our fast paced world.
Here are 3 ways that the Ukulule can literally change your life!
#1 Reduce stress and induce a sense of well being. Playing music will lower your heart rate and release endorphins in your brain that will bring you to a relaxed state.
#2 Provides a measure of accomplishment. Mastering any musical instrument will elevate and increase your self confidence and self worth.
#3 Enables you to add dimension to your social activities. Just start playing and watch your friends and family jump in and sing along!
If you are playing a Ukulele as an accompaniment instrument to your voice, I strongly suggest that you purchase a Capo. Capos are specific to the instrument used and while a guitar capo might work on a Uke, I would still suggest a capo made for the uke.
Quick tip; always keep the capo in your accessory pocket of your gig bag or case so you always have it with you.
Back in my days as a novice player, I would simply learn songs in the keys that the recordings were in, and if that key wasn’t in my vocal range, which often was the case, I just resigned that I could not sing that song. Undoubtedly, you also have learned the chords of a favorite song only to find your voice does not match the key in which you learned the song.
At this point your choices are; keep practicing until you can sing the song (the hard way) , learn the song over again in a different key (the long way) , or simply use a capo to change the key (no re-tuning required) to match your voice while utilizing the chords you already know (the easy way).
For Example: The standard tuning for a ukulele (GCEA) is also called “C”-tuning. Placing a capo up on the fourth fret will change your ukulele’s tuning to an “E”-tuning and you will play the same chords you already learned. You should practice moving the capo around until you find” ‘Your Key”
Remember there will always be a key that will match your voice, enjoy the journey.
An often asked question from novice Ukulele players is “should I use a strap and what kind works best”
Some players use straps while others do not. While there are many who are opinionated about this topic, your decision will depend largely on your Ukulele, your playing style and your personal preferences. For example, many people who play the soprano size ukulele may not use a strap because of the small size of the instrument, while they might use one on a Concert or Tenor. It is important to remember there are no hold fast rules, it is about what you like!
There are many strap choices on the market be I will talk about the two most common styles, one which requires your Ukulele to have a strap button and one that does not .
#1 Neck strap. If your Ukulele does not have a strap button necessary for a conventional strap, you can consider a strap that hooks in the sound hole (pictured below). This strap does not actually attach to your uke but goes under the instrument then over the top and “hooks on” in the sound hole. This strap supports the instrument while you play but does not give you “Hands Free” movement. Players often complain of straps of this type scratching their instrument if the hook is not properly padded.
#2 Conventional Straps are 1 ½” Uke straps that resemble their guitar strap cousins (pictured below) but they require your Uke to have at least 1 strap button. If your ukulele does not have at least one strap button, you can usually have your local music store add one for a nominal fee, however you should check with the Uke manufacturer to determine if this affects your warranty in any way, it usually doesn’t.
I will assume for the moment if you are finding interest in this article that you are already sold on keeping your ukulele in a case or gig bag. The merits of which include avoiding structural damage to your instrument due to humidity issues as well as guarding it from dust, nicks and scratches.
The gig bag advantage. Ukulele bags come in many price ranges; from simple nylon bags with no padding like the “Stone Bag-5” which can be had under $15.00 retail, up to very expensive world touring class bags that offer as much protection as their hard-shell cousins. Most people opt for something in- between. In my opinion something like the Eddy Finn “Hippie bag or Paisley bag, fit the bill nicely. Both offer metal zippers, sewn in handle, adjustable shoulder straps and outside accessory pocket. Besides the relatively low price of gig bags, the one really big feature is the shoulder straps.
Hard-Shell cases are a pricier than gig bags with the good ones hovering between 50.00 to 100.00 retail depending on the country of origin. The big advantage of hard-shell cases is better humidity control than gig bags as well as better structural protection. I own several hard-shell cases, as well as several gig bags, and depending on circumstances, I decide which to use. My general rule is if I can keep it with me all the time it goes in a gig bag, this is for ease of carrying. If I have to pack it away somewhere like in the back of a truck I put it in a hard case for the extra protection in case something would fall on it. The cases listed below can be found at Eddy-finn.com
Regardless which you decide upon there is a bag or case in your price range and if you’re like most of us, sooner or later, you will own both!
The late Steve Jobs had a famous phrase “Content is King.” , and while no one can disagree to that, as I was putting together my gig set the other night, it dawned on me. “How useful would this content be if I didn’t have it organized at all. Now by no means am I some crazy IBM database scientist, but I do want to share with you my system, and maybe after you’ve read, I can get some tips from you about yours.
So back to Jobs, er apple…. In my ITunes app I have a Playlist called “Band”, this where I keep the music file to every song I can ever remember playing with any band. In almost all cases I have a matching Backtrack file, often in the standard key and also a ½ step down version. When I click on the song file I get a lyrics tab, and you guessed it, I have a copy of the words and chord chart to those songs which are attached to the file. Now whenever I have to brush up on songs for a particular project, there is nothing to search for because everything is organized in one place. That library is forever growing.
I also use separate sub Lists that are specific to certain tasks. For instance, I have a friend named Al that always plays with the same guys and every once in a while I will have need of them or they of me, so I keep a list called “Al Band”. This list has every song I have ever played with them, usually they are going to ask for songs from this list so I am always ready, and if they hit me with a new tune I just add it to the list. Other example lists that compartmentalize my songs are “Country Band” “Jam Tracks” and a file for my current project called “My Band”. Because I have the original song and a back track minus lead guitar (my instrument) and Vocals (if I’m singing) for every song on my bands list, I can open the folder and run down the list and rehearse with my virtual band while preparing for my real one. Whenever I need the lyrics or chord charts for myself or other members, I print them right out of my playlist. In this way I find that I spend my time practicing instead of searching, surfing, clicking etc.
Reprinted with permission from Modtone effects.
#1 Banjoleles, also called Banjo Ukuleles , have been with us since the early 1900’s. These instruments were developed for Ukulele players who simply wanted more volume than a standard Ukulele could provide. These instruments were popular early on with Vaudeville acts of the day and were most closely associated with George Formby a British comedian (1904-1961) who used them his act.
#2 The construction is the same as a banjo but with a 4 –string ukulele neck and it is commonly tuned G–C–E–A (Standard Ukulele “C Tuning") or A–D–F♯–B ("D Tuning"). Like the banjo, early models featured Calf Skin heads but present day Banjo Ukuleles have synthetic Mylar heads. They are also fitted with a banjo style bridge and use standard Ukulele strings.
#3 Banjoleles are available in both Soprano and Concert sizes and come in both open back and closed back designs. The closed back versions have more volume than their open back siblings. The Eddy Finn models pictured above shows both an open back soprano and a closed back concert Banjolele.
If you can play the standard Ukulele, you can play the Banjolele. It all a matter of personal style.
The Ukulele bass is a more recent addition to the uke family than it’s conventional brothers and sisters. While the theme of a ukulele bass may not be new, it only became main stream in the Uke community when championed by the Kala uke company a few years ago. Since then, many uke companies have developed their versions with their own specific twist. The Eddy Finn EF-bass (pictured above) can be immediately recognized by the signature Shark Finn sound hole unique to the brand.
While these instruments can be thought of as “ukulele” because of their size and the fact of being offered almost exclusively by ukulele companies, they really have more in common with an upright bass than a uke! They are tuned like a bass guitar and for those of us that have played ukes, guitars and basses in various forms, nothing quite prepares you for the initial surprise you that awaits your first pluck of this singularly unique instrument.
It’s all about the strings! The uke pictured above and it’s competitors, are equipped with large diameter Silicone strings which have an “at first” strange rubber feel unlike any bass you have ever played. The bass is immediately infectious as you navigate the fret board making it hard to put down. Not only have I experienced this but I have watched many people who pick one up for the first time reach the same conclusion, notable when their inquisitive facial expression turns to a smile. You literally watch them ‘Get it”.
The big surprise however is still waiting and isn’t evident until you plug it in. I wasn’t quite prepared for the big upright bass tone of this little instrument. I mean after all I have played acoustic bass’s before. But not like this. I immediately realized that the potential for the instrument far eclipsed the “ukulele only” applications and that this little gem could stand on its own amid the bass’s of the world. So there you have it; a great addition to any uke ensemble as well a fantastic bass guitar suited to any genre of music. Whether you buy one or not, you should check one out, you will be surprised.