Once parents and kids have learned to tune and hold their ukuleles properly, and are able to keep a steady rhythm while singing and strumming a C chord, they’re ready to throw in a chord change. In the key of C, that chord change is likely to be a G7.
- 1 What’s A Ukulele Player Need to Know about Keys?
- 2 The History of the Ukulele
What’s A Ukulele Player Need to Know about Keys?
The third part of this article introduced a song in the key of C. Most often, the key of a song is the note where the tune finds resolution, or the last note of the song. Once a song’s key is identified, accompanists have a good idea of the set of chords commonly used in that key.
So far, parents and children have played “Frere Jacques” in the key of C using only a C chord. In this article, they’ll learn two more songs in the key of C, but add a G7 chord to spice things up.
Play the G7 Chord on the Ukulele
To play a G7, only one finger is needed. Parents can help children press their left pointer finger on the E string before the first fret.
Changing Chords on the Ukulele
These two songs will change fingering from the C chord learned in part 3, to G7. It’ll feel awkward at first, but the more parents and kids practice, the smoother they’ll get.
An entertaining way to introduce chord changing with children is by playing a duet. Parents and kids sing together, but parents let their kids strum all the C chords until it’s their turn to take over with G7 or vice-versa. This method will end up in a few hilarious train wrecks, but it’s a lot of fun.
Two New Songs to Play on the Ukulele
There’s only one chord change in the songs “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat,” and “The Farmer In The Dell.” In both songs, the switch to G7 doesn’t happen until the very last line. Just like in Lesson 3, Parents should direct their kids to strum only on the downbeats. These syllables are shown in all caps.
Row, Row, Row, Your Boat
(To find the first note, parents and kids can make a C chord and pluck the B string their pressing with their pointer finger.)
(C) ROW, Row, ROW, your BOAT.
GENT-ly DOWN the STREAM.
MERR-ily, MERR-ily, MERR-ily, MERR-ily,
(G7) LIFE is BUT a (C) DREAM.
The Farmer In The Dell
(To find the first note, parents and kids can pluck the open G string.)
The (C) FARM-er in the DELL,
The FARM-er in the DELL,
HI-ho the DAR-io,
The (G7) FARM-er IN the (C) DELL.
Parents should congratulate themselves and their kids. They’ve learned to change chords and have three great songs for the ukulele under their belts. Once their able to keep a steady rhythm during chord changes, they’ll be ready for parts five and six of this article introducing a few more challenging songs in the key of C and a jazzy new strum pattern.
The History of the Ukulele
Immediate connotations that spring to mind for most folk when the ukulele is dropped into a conversation include Tiny Tim, George Formby and hula dancing. All these are valid but how many know of the uke’s interesting past or are aware of the explosion in popularity of this most portable of instruments?
The early history of the ukulele
It’s possible to be reasonably precise about the birth of the uke. According to Brudda Bu’s Ukulele Heaven A ship called the Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu on August 23rd, 1879. The ship carried almost 500 Portuguese workers from the island of Madeira to begin their back breaking work in the cane fields. Glad to have finally made land, one of them by the name of Joao Fernandes played some folk songs on a borrowed braguinha (a small four stringed guitar shaped instrument aka the cavaquinho). It seemed to someone watching that his fingers moved like jumping fleas and this strange image is a rough translation of the word Hawaiian word ukulele. Local craftsmen set to work to build the tiny instruments and their modifications along with various tuning experiments by local musicians have resulted in the ukulele that we know today. OK – the bit about how the name was derived is open for conjecture but, basically, the ukulele is a Hawaiian adaptation of a small guitar-like Portuguese instrument, a fine example of cultural cross pollination.
The ukulele quickly became the most popular instrument in the islands. It was small, portable, cheap, easy to make and easy to play. It suited the music of the islands and the lifestyle of the people. Besides Joao Fernandes walked around all day playing his uke as a living advertisement to its enticements. No one is sure how much cane he cut but he introduced the uke to King David Kalakaua, who became a fine practitioner of the instrument and introduced it to other royals. Hawaii is not known for its snowballs but this was a big one.
The ukulele arrives in mainland USA
In 1915 Hawaii had a pavilion at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the jumping flea was a star attraction. Hawaiian music has such a distinctive sound and it conjures up such attractive pictures of an enviable setting and lifestyle that it became very popular on the mainland. The ukulele, being portable, reasonably cheap and simple to learn became a huge fad at the time. This led to a boom in the manufacture of ukuleles and the inevitable entry into the market of mainland based instrument manufacturers such as C F Martin and Co. The Hawaiian uke makers weren’t happy about this but there was really nothing they could do apart from continuing to proved fine instruments of their own.
The ukulele today
Since then the ukulele has had its highs and lows, including a boom on the fifties and early sixties which may, ironically enough, have been brought to an end by one of the most famous practitioners ever ie Tiny Tim. We are currently experiencing a boom with ukulele orchestras springing up around the world, but boom or no boom, the uke will always have a place in the world. It represents so many things that are good – enjoyment of music for its own sake, music that’s accessible to all, friendship in music. A fine example is that of one of the most famous musicians to have ever lived – George Harrison. When the ex-Beatle had friends around for dinner, as an accompaniment to the after dinner mints, George always brought out a clutch of ukes and everyone sat around playing and singing for the pure enjoyment of music. It’s a lovely image and one that was made a lingering one by Paul McCartney who sang George’s beautiful song Something at the memorial service for his fellow Beatle to the accompaniment of a single ukulele.