Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Was Good!

So we had a good Christmas, spent time at the 'rents place in the morning with my brothers and nieces and nephew. My dad who is 73, is becoming a causality of the economy, has been working for the last 8 years since he retired as contractor is being laid off on December 31st. So he is going to have some free time on his hand, so I got him the boxed set of Band Of Brothers, the excellent HBO mini-series about the 101st airborne during WWII. My brother is also a victim of the economy being laid off from EDS as a result of working as a Computer Operator at a GM plant which is cutting back. I worry from time to time about my job as well, since a lot of Navteq's business comes from the Auto Industry, so I keep my fingers crossed.

I got my daughter the Boxed Set of the Twilight Vampire Series of Books, She is finishing up the 2nd book in paperback and now has numbers 3 and 4 to read.

I also got my wife a Mountain Dulcimer, I had never really seen a Mountain Dulcimer before, I had seen hammer dulcimers but never the mountain dulcimer.

It is an interesting and somewhat primitive instrument.

Basically there is a pair of Melody Strings which fret with a wooden stick called a noter. Also you tune your Dulcimer in different modes. The basic one is DAA, so the First two strings are tuned to A, then the third string is tuned to A and finally the fourth string is tuned to D.

You can learn more about the Dulcimer here

You can here a Dulcimer here

So last night my wife was working on playing a song on the Dulcimer and I had finally set up the amp to check out the pickup on my Pono Tenor, and I was playing the traditional mandolin back beat and it sounded pretty good. So I think we will have to put together some songs in the future. It should be fun.

It definitely has been a musical Christmas, now by next decision is to use the money my folks gave me toward a new Ukulele or a new amp for the Pono. Not sure what I want to do, I would like a Fluke Concert, and would like to get one with a rosewood fingerboard, but not sure what is next on the Ukulele front.

I also had to by this:

I should get it next week or so. I don't expect it to sound good, just to be a conversation piece in my collection. Besides I needed a soprano to play as well.

So all in all a good Christmas, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well and have a Happy New Year too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O Little Town Of Bethlehem

This is nothing more than me singing and attempting to play O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Saturday, December 20, 2008

He Is Born

I seem to be on a creative streak. I wrote a song for my Praise Team on Thursday night and recorded it for YouTube and here tonight, it took me 21 takes to get it right, which is pretty bad, considering I should be able to sing and play it since I wrote it.

I originally wrote it in the key of F which is not the easiest key for the Guitar, or in my case the Ukulele, to play in certain chords. I have a Bb2 chord in the piece and to play that on a C tuned Ukulele you would do it would be 3123. Anyway, my hands just did not want to go there, so I transposed it up to G but it was a little hard for me to sing, so I moved it down to D. Which is what I recorded it in. Anyway, I am putting all three pdfs on line, F, G and D. Just click the links above.

Let me know what you think.

Also if you want the song in another key let me know. I will be writing a piano accompaniment so if you are interested in that let me know as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Song for Christmas

I wrote a song the other day called One Star, I have posted a video of me performing it, and I have a pdf of the file which you can download from here.

I am playing my new Pono Tenor, I had to replace the strings that came with it, the A string broke, so I put a set of Aquilla's with a High G String, I think this uke sounds better with the Low G, and I have a Low G Set, but I am going to keep it this way for now.

Anyway, let me know what you think about the song, it is a simple thing, not supposed to be difficult I have a pretty bad 4 part arrangement of it if anyone is interested. I have to work on it some more, I really don't like the arrangement yet, hopefully I can improve it in the near future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ScribeFire and other things

Getting started with ScribeFire - ScribeFire: Fire up your blogging

So I just added ScribeFire to my Firefox browser, and I am trying it out for the first time. This is pretty cool. Maybe it will encourage me to do more blogging during the day and the evening as I sit in front of the computer, practicing my Ukulele.

This has been a busy week and I have a concert tomorrow during the day at the West Chester Rotary Club, which will be at the West Chester Country Club. It will be short program that the 49ers are doing.

It has been a week and a half since we last performed these songs, so hopefully it will go smoothly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Home Life Update

My home life sorta interfered with my Ukulele Life this last week. My wife had to have surgery and they ended up removing an ovary. She is home now, and starting to recuperate, but it is scary to see a loved one sick and in pain. I only hope that this was the source of her pain and she doesn't have to go through this again.

Anyway, I will be back posting about Ukulele's soon.

I was practicing with my new Pono last week, and the A string broke, so I never got to record the Uke, I have put some High G Aquilla's on the Pono, and it is just about settled in, so soon there will be a sound sample, I promise.

Keep my wife in your thoughts and prayers, thanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My New Pono Came Today

I am now the proud owner of a Pono PKTE. It came with a case built for the Ukulele by the Manufacturer. It has a low G tuning, this is my first ukulele with a Low G tuning, and it is taking some getting used to. First because of the wound strings it is harder to play than my Concert. Also it is larger, so the neck is wider, and the frets are farther apart. All this means I have to adjust to playing it.

It is more mellow than my concert OU-2, but it is loud and has a beautiful tone, it comes with Koolau Gold Strings, Pono is made by Koolau. I will record it tomorrow night and post the sound file.

It is already settling in nicely, and staying relatively in tune. I have noticed that the intrument is pretty much in tune all up and down the neck. With my OU-2, playing a G chord on 0232 is not always in tune, or is very sensitive to going out of tune, the Pono is much more forgiving, this may be also because of the Tenor scale.

Luckily I have some time before the next time I have to play in Church, so I can take some time to get used to playing this Ukulele. I think I am going to like playing this Ukulele, you can definitely tell that it is a more expensive instrument. It is beautifully made with a beautiful finish. I will post pictures tomorrow.

So I will be spending the next few nights creating new callouses and learning new chording techniques that seem to work better with this instrument.

I sort of know I will never be as good as some of the folks I listen to on YouTube, or on some of the Ukulele blogs I read, but I do know how much fun and enjoyment I am getting out of the journey.

I just spent the last two hours working from home doing load testing on one of our new apps and I am a bit tired.

But I wanted to post this, now I am going to bed now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Well we closed our show tonight, 5 shows in 5 days. Of course we had some snow on Saturday, which may have hurt the attendance, but we had a good crowd today, so hopefully revenues will be up from last year.

I think this year's show went very well. The chorus did a great job and we did some difficult numbers. They should be proud of what they accomplished. I am a bit tired, but it was worth it.

I was especially proud of the Chorus' Singing in Deck The Halls in 7/8, which is a tricky a cappella number that I think they did very well, if I do say so myself.

We have one more Christmas Performance, we are singing for the West Chester Rotary on the 18th, then we have a break until our first Spring Show Rehearsal, on January 25th. So my Sunday nights are free for a few weeks.

Next up, my Church Choir sings with the Lukens Band next Sunday Evening, looking forward to that, just hope we can get a good turnout for an evening performance.

More on that in a separate post.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Public Speaking

I was working on my remarks for the 49er's Shows which are every night the rest of this week.

It is interesting, I can sing in front of a thousand people no problem, but I have problems speaking in front of more than 20 people, without turning into mush. I get nervous and everything that I have planned goes out the window. I have tried writing an outline, then I forget things on the outline. So hopefully I will be able to get through it without completely messing it up.

To combat all this nervousness, I wrote director's notes on the music we will be performing, then I wrote out all the points that I plan to speak about. Now the trick will be to cover the points and read what is on the paper without actually making sound like I am reading what is on the paper.

I also want to keep it moving, because the chorus has to stand there while I welcome everyone, and every year, they want me to keep it short. So hopefully I can.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Marathon Rehearsal Done

Well, we got through the 2PM - 7PM Marathon rehearsal, worked through most of the problems and got the instrumentalist's squared away.

The Chorus did a bang up job, the 49er's memorize their music so this rehearsal can be very trying, but they did a great job, I was really pleased.

This can be a very trying week, I have dress rehearsal tomorrow night then I have Tuesday Night off, then we have Performances on Wednesday through Saturday evening at 7:30PM then at 2PM on Sunday we have a matinee. Then they have to tear down the set, it is a very exhausting week for the entire Chorus. But it is what we have been looking forward to and working toward since rehearsals started the First Sunday after Labor Day.

So dress rehearsal tomorrow night, here we come.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Busy Week Coming Up!

Starting Sunday the chorus which I direct, the 49ers, starts rehearsals, then performances of our Annual Christmas Show. The tickets are free and you can just show up any night, we have plenty of seats still available. Think about spending Christmas with the 49ers, it is a great way to start the Christmas Season.

Here is a little bit about the first half of the show:

I am excited about this year's first half music! When I heard West Chester University’s Concert Choir perform Deck the Halls in 7/8 twenty-nine years ago, I knew I must conduct it one day. It turned out that my wife, Leah, was a member of that year’s WCU Concert Choir. Chalk it all up to fate! Continuing in the tradition of performing from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, the chorus will present two beautiful songs from his cantata: That Yonge Child and Balulalow, featuring the Forty Niners women. Randall Thompson’s Alleluia is a transcendent a cappella piece, which leaves the listener holding his breath. For fun and frolic, I’ve included two P.D.Q. Bach Christmas tunes, guaranteed to tickle the funny bone: Throw the Yule Log on Uncle John and Good King Kong Looked Down. Rounding out the first half, the chorus will present Variations on Jingle Bells, a rousing piece that will keep the audience humming and tapping a beat all the way home! -Greg Givler, Director

Here is more about the show, itself:

Second Half

Your Friendly 49 Air Flight Crew

Imagine being grounded in an Alaskan commuter airport on Christmas Eve! This is what the passengers of international airline 49 Air face this year as they hope to make it home in time for Christmas. Not to worry though, they find plenty of ways to pass the time. Through song and dance, these weary travelers share their own unique ways of celebrating Christmas Everywhere. But, no one is quite prepared for the exciting surprise that comes their way!

-Martha Kline
2008 Christmas
Show Chair/Director

Here is our latest press release.

Since mid‐September, The Forty Niners Chorus has been rehearsing for its annual
Christmas Show to be held nightly, December 3rd through December 6th at 7:30PM and Sunday, December 7th at 2:00PM at the Henderson High School Auditorium in West Chester. Entitled Christmas Everywhere, this year’s show features a mix of classical, standard and contemporary holiday tunes performed in two parts: A traditional choral performance followed by an original musical theater performance.

The Forty Niners Chorus Christmas Show is a family‐friendly holiday tradition. Tickets are free and may be ordered through the chorus’s website at or by sending a self‐addressed stamped envelope to:

Forty Niners Chorus‐Tickets
PO Box 402
West Chester, PA 19381‐0402

The Forty Niners Chorus is an all‐volunteer community group made up of approximately 50 men and women from Chester County and surrounding areas. In existence since 1952, their performances raise money every year to provide cash awards for three local high school graduates planning to major in music in college. Its mission is to keep community music alive by encouraging young musicians to develop their talents and give back to their communities through groups like The Forty Niners Chorus.

More On the Banjo Uke Front

After working on the Banjo Uke for a while today and yesterday, I think I may need to replace the tuners, they just aren't really holding. Should have the bridge cut down to the right size today. Next is to rebuild the Baritone that I bought. After that I should have a nice variety. Although I think I might be getting one of these maybe two, from ebay, I think I need to wait until pay day though. I spent enough on Ukulele's this pay :-)

I did it!

My new Pono Tenor Ukulele is on the way, thanks to the wife giving me the green light to get this instrument. I got it on ebay and it should have shipped today. Here is what the seller says about the instrument:

This is a brand new older PKTE model from Pono made with Koa Laminate body and top quality build. Solid mahogany neck and real ebony bindings. Solid EBONY fingerboard and bridge with factory installed Koolau gold strings. Beautiful high gloss finish. Clear and translucent Dean Markley undersaddle offers the option of playing thru an amp or sound system. The sound is clear and balanced...
So I now have a Tenor in my collection. One with a pickup, which I had wanted to have as well, this should keep me busy, getting used to a slightly larger instrument.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is so cool

I ready Uke Hunt's RSS Feed, and here is something you definitely don't hear every day, Classical Ukulele

The song is called, Spagnoletta, by Mario Fabritio Caroso (1535-1620)

Uke Hunt's blog posting has a link to a PDF tab version of this song, and others. I have been avoiding Tab's because I thought they were to difficult, but a few of these I can play, badly, but I can play them, so now I am learning the song from the video above. I may never play it that fast, but I think I might be able to play it someday.

Like I said, this is so cool.

Follow the Book Meme

I don't usually do this, but this one is easy and I needed to post. My nearest book was: Python Programming On Win32:

If you select this option when no breakpoints are set, PythonWin warns you that the debugger is unlikely to be invoked.

Pretty boring, but true, that it is close by means that I am at work, and I haven't opened the book in over a year, but there it is. It almost was Python & XML, or Python Phrasebook. Of course if I had been home, the closest book to my computer is: wxPython In Action, so I guess I am pretty boring both at work and home!

The rules for this meme thing are :
  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
Your turn!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Collaboration and Family

It is weird, I have not played my Uke in two days, well that is not true, I played it on Sunday Afternoon, now that I think about it.

It was sorta cool, I was copying CD's for my chorus the 49ers, we record the numbers we are working on then they memorize the music using tapes and CD's and just playing around with some Praise Music as the Praise team sings this coming Sunday. My wife came home from church, she had an after church event, she volunteers her time to the Appalachian Service Project, and they were having a luncheon.

She got out her guitar, and we jammed singing Praise Music. I should have recorded it, not that it was earth shattering stuff, just for posterity. We played for about an hour, and talked about different interpretations of the songs and stuff.

I am so fortunate to have a talented wife and daughter, we all love to sing. My daughter wants us to sing at our 9PM service on Christmas Eve, so I brought home the music that she want's to work on. Our 9PM Service on Christmas Eve, I call it the unplugged service, it is a candlelight service, with just candles illuminating the Sanctuary. Our organist plays the piano, and I have several soloists sing. My daughter wants to sing, "Go Light Your World", I think it would be cool if we can get an arrangement together with my wife on the Guitar, me on the Ukelule, and all of us singing harmony. The other nice thing about the song is although it is not thought of as a Christmas Song, its chorus is:

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world
I can't think of anything more appropriate for the setting of a Church lit by Candles.

Once we work it up I will try and post a audio version here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama

It was good to type that article title, I am happy and amazed that Obama won. Even though polling data showed differently, I was concerned that we in the US just would not vote for a black man, I was proved wrong, which is a good thing.

I am hoping that the change that was talked about during the campaign really shows up in the next 4 years.

I had the distinct honor of taking my 18 year old daughter to our polling place and she was able to vote for the first time. I can still remember her first day of school as she boarded the bus and waved goodbye to me, now to see her vote in her first Presidential Election

I caught the end of McCain's concession speech last night, if I had seen more of the man, in that speech, on the campaign trail, he might have gotten my vote. I had always respected McCain for his no nonsense approach to the issues, but his move to the right along with his pandering to the religious right and his choice for VP moved me out of his arena early. It was clear he had sold his soul to get the nomination and his campaign was run by the more undesirable elements of the Republican party, at least undesirable to me.

We have put our faith in Obama, I pray that he is up to the task and that Congress looks past the special interest groups and more toward the interests of the American People.

The problems in front of Obama are large and complex, he has my support on a lot of the issues, I hope he has the support of congress as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My OU2 In Action!

Ok, here is where the pedal hits the metal, I have put an audio file to together which shows off my complete inadequacies as a Ukulele Player. When I bought my Oscar Schmidt OU2 Concert, it came with Black GHS Strings, I really like these strings, but I am looking to try Aquila Low G Concert Set which I recently got, so I have created a mp3 to preserve the sound as my Uke Sounds today. I am not sure when I am going to bite the bullet and restring my Uke, something I have not done yet. When I do I plan on Video Taping so that my struggles will be preserved. Anyway, I am putting up this horrible sample of my playing for all posterity to hear, hopefully this playing will get better in the future. You can hear my OU2 here

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maxitone Bruno Banjo Ukulele

This is the instrument that I am looking forward to playing, it is just about there, has a resonator, tail piece, all it needs is strings and a bridge. I am ordering them tonight, when I get them in I will post some audio. I can't wait, I have been eye Banjo Ukes on ebay, since I found out they existed. Can't wait to play this one. I hope it ends up sounding decent.

No Name Banjo Mandolin

This next instrument is a Banjo Mandolin, I am getting strings and a bridge for this one, my wife is interested in learning to play the Mandolin, so hopefully this will be a nice starter instrument. She is a violinist and plays Electric Bass as well as Guitar, and she has my Mahalo Ukulele as well. Here are some pictures on of this instrument.

No Name Banjo Uke

Here are some pictures of the no-name Banjo Uke that my wife found in our attic, she is pretty sure that they belonged to her Grandfather. It looks like someone wrote on the Vellum. But the vellum is in good shape and very tight. If anyone out there has advice on care of these older instruments, please leave a comment. This instrument does not have a resonator, and from what I have read that is not unusual, as a lot of these Banjo Ukes were not built with resonators. It is also missing a tail piece which may be the biggest obstacle in getting this one in playable condition again.

What's In Store For Me

Here are the pictures of the Baritone that needs repair. Sorry about the color, my white balance was off when I took the pictures: The bridge is separating, and you can see the gap from the fretboard to the strings is huge. It is hard to see in the picture but the neck is separated from the Body. So I am going to remove the neck and reset it and the same with the bridge. I plan to video tape it so that others can learn from my trials. Also I figure that if it ends up ruined, I couldn't have hurt it much more than it is now.

Buried Treasure! Or Found, 2 Banjo Ukes and a Banjo Mandolin!

Well not exactly buried, my wife casually mentioned that her grandfather had told her that he had built a Banjo Ukulele! 

So Saturday night she went up in to the attic, and the next thing I know there are boxes flying down the steps. Turns out they were empty boxes that I had been stored in the attic, but a little later she came down with a box of 3 Banjo like instruments, one is a Bruno Banjo Ukulele, with a resonator, the only thing missing is a bridge and strings. 

I am ordering them online today. 

I will post pictures this evening. 

She also has another no name Banjo Ukuele, and a Banjo Manolin, so I am ordering bridges and strings for them all. 

As I said, I will post both pictures and audio, perhaps video as well. This should be cool, I had been looking for a banjo uke to play in church as a change of pace. 

I can't wait to see what they are like to play.

Got my Uke in the Mail

I guess for $25 bucks plus shipping and handling, I was asking too much.

Looks like I am going to get a crash course in Ukulele Repair.

I will post some pictures this evening, but I think I am going to have to remove and reset the neck and remove and reset the bridge, so it will be interesting to see if I can actually do it.

Anyway, as I do the repair I will try and keep a photo essay of the work so others can see all the goofs and gaffs, or if I am luck, the success as well!

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Uke On Its Way - Well, New For Me

I just won a Ebay auction for this Ukulele, got it for about $25 plus shipping and handling, I love Ebay most of the time. Anyway it is a baritone Uke, which I had been looking to add to my non-existent collection. So this will be my Third Ukulele, I now have a Soprano, Concert, (which is my everyday instrument) and a Baritone. I ordered strings for both the C tuning and the G Tuning. I am thinking of stringing it as a traditional Baritone, but I may go with a low g, C tuning, if it looks like it can handle it.

The Uke is a Crestwood, which I know very little about, but I got it mainly to determine if my hands could get used to the size. Also wanted to see how I could rap my head around the different tuning.

My thought process was this, I play a lot of praise songs in G, so I thought I could have this ukulele there to play the song in G, for some reason playing G and D and D7 on my C tuned uke causes me intonation problems, it could be the Uke it is more probably my lack of technique. Either way I was hoping having a Baritone in my arsenal would a nice compromise. Wish I would have it for this weekend, we are singing to songs with Praise Team this weekend and both are in G.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My everyday Instrument.

The Oscar Schmidt, OU2, made by Washburn is my everyday instrument, it is a Concert Sized Uke with GHS string, which is how it came from the store. I bought this instrument from 8th Street Music in Philadelphia. The store is small and packed, that is good thing, they have a great website, which is how I knew they had ukuleles, which are hard to find, and from what I can tell anything on their website, they have in the store and you can play it. Which is so important to anyone trying to decide about purchasing an instrument.

I am new to stringed instruments, I am more at home with the Piano or Singing, but my wife is guitar player from way back, and she has given me valuable insight as I learn more and more about playing a stringed instrument.

If you live in the Philly area I would highly recommend stopping by 8th Street Music if for nothing else, than the experience of it all. What I liked about it is it has the feel of the music store that used to be in my hometown as I was growing up and where I took Trombone lessons more years ago than I want to remember.

New Blog! or How I learned to play the Ukulele at my advanced age!

I just had to start a blog about my Ukulele experiences.

I first learned to play the Uke about 15 maybe 20 years ago, I was had the lead in a community theater production of A Thousand Clowns. I had to learn one song, Yes Sir, That's My Baby. I learned it, then I didn't pick it up for 20 years.

About 1 year ago, we started singing Praise Music at our Church, and after just singing, which is what I am by the way, a Singer, I decided I needed to maybe learn the guitar, but I have played the guitar before, and the steel strings hurt so bad, so I thought maybe learning the Ukulele would be better, Nylon Strings, only 4 Strings, and relatively inexpensive. I did not want to spend a fortune on my first instrument.

I had told my wife that I was thinking about learning the Ukulele, she is a music teacher and was taking a class at Villanova University and one of the other classes was selling the folk instruments used in the class to recoup the cost of the instruments. So my wife bought a Mahalo Ukulele, and I started to learn.

I have to say, I had a blast, it wasn't too long that I was playing silly songs and accompanying myself.

I also found that my short and stubby fingers did not work well on a Soprano, so I learned about Concert, Tenor and Baritone Ukuleles.

About a month after I got the Mahalo, my wife and I took a day trip into Philadelphia, to Independence Hall and the Constitution Center. BTW, this is a trip I highly recommend to anyone that is going to be in the Philly area, or if you have lived here all your life and don't go into town make the effort.

Since we were going to be in town, my wife suggested that I look for a music store in Philly that might have Ukuleles that I could play. We found 8th Street Music, which by the way is not on 8th Street, it is on Arch and I think it is between 11th and 12th streets.

We stopped there, and they had some ukuleles, but they were not in tune, and I had trouble getting the Oscar Schmidt Soprano they had on display in tune. We asked someone what else they had and they had a Concert Oscar Schmidt, in the back. They brought it out, we tuned it up, and boy did it sound much nicer than what I had.

My wife bought it for me for our Anniversary, which was coming up in a few weeks. It had black GHS strings, and I just really like the sound.

I was hooked, now I am planning to add a better Soprano, a Tenor and a Baritone to my collection.

In the future, I will be posting reviews and descriptions of my Ukuleles, and talking more about my time learning to play such an unusual and fun instrument.