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MUSIC

This page is a collection of recordings I've made while fooling around with my ukulele. You won't find any platinum hits here, and no, I'm not selling CDs... this is just for fun. I tend to favor songs from the Twenties and Thirties, so if you enjoy these tunes, you might want to check out artists like Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards and Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys. (And if you enjoy making your own music recordings, you could do worse than to get a copy of Apple's free GarageBand software on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone. That's what I used for all these recordings.)

Note: a few visitors have reported that they can see this page, but not the music files. In most cases the problem has turned out to be a bug in FireFox. If this happens to you, either try a different browser, such as Chrome or Safari, or click the small link provided to play the song in a separate page... then use your "Back" button to return to this page.

Listening to wireless

Making Love, Ukulele Style

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This was a hit for Arthur Godfrey in 1957. If you read my "Ukulele Madness" page, you know that this was the first ukulele tune I recorded—but at the time, I had only an iPad app that simulated a uke. Once I got my hands on a real ukulele, I rerecorded the song. Here's the more natural sounding "new improved" version.

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "Making Love, Ukulele Style."

Roll Up the Carpet

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Here's a cheery little "forget your troubles" tune that was written in 1933, in the depths of the Depression. Most popular songs of this era had an introductory section, but the only recordings of this song that I was able to find lacked that touch. I felt it needed one to set the scene, so I made up some words and music—my first baby steps as a singer-songwriter.

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "Roll Up the Carpet."

Flying saucer

(When You See) Those Flying Saucers

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This tune was written in 1947 by Charles Green in the wake of the alleged alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico. It was recorded by the Buchanan Brothers (Chester and Lester) that same year. The late Forties saw a number of these "current-events gospel" recordings—"Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb" is another—but this one is my favorite. I especially like the Appalachian-style close harmonies, which bring to mind the Everly Brothers recordings of a decade later.

This was my first recording with my new Epiphone Les Paul ukulele. The Les Paul is a beautifully made instrument that's a joy to play... and because it has a built-in electric pickup, I can feed its sound directly to my iMac (via a Jam Guitar Input module), which gives me a full, clean sound with no worries about microphone placement, and no background noise.

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "Those Flying Saucers."

Blazing Swatters

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Sometimes when I've been working on one tune for a long time, I need a change of pace. This little bit of silliness came to me one night while I was trying to get to sleep, and it took me less than a day to put it together. My playing is a bit ragged—I'm not used to strumming this fast!—but this tune is strictly for giggles, so I hope you'll forgive the occasional fumble (and the fact that I'm singing below my range). My apologies to Mel Brooks, whose "Blazing Saddles" theme song (music by John Morris) I'm shamelessly parodying here.

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "Blazing Swatters."

God telling Nicodemus

God Told Nicodemus

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Here's an unfinished piece that I hope to complete someday. Nearly ten years ago when Apple first introduced its GarageBand music-creation and editing software, I was fascinated by the ability to easily do multitrack recordings. I had always loved a cappella singing, and there was one tune I especially liked: "God Told Nicodemus," an old gospel song recorded in 1941 by the Golden Gate Quartet. I decided to try my hand at duplicating it, singing all four parts myself.

I had only a cheap, somewhat hissy microphone, and I was just getting to know GarageBand, but I managed to get through the first two choruses before running out of steam. I recorded the bass vocal in the morning, when my voice is naturally lower, and the tenor parts in the afternoon. After I added three tracks of handclaps, it sounded pretty good... as far as it went. As I said, someday I hope to go back and redo the song in its entirety, but for now, here's a taste. I have to admit that I'm rather proud of having been able to figure out (and sing) all the vocal parts strictly by ear.

Shoo Fly

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For a change of pace, here's a traditional tune that I arranged for music box. Music boxes had always fascinated me, and I'd always thought how great it would be to not only own one, but be able to set those little pins myself, so I could make it play anything I wanted—not just "Edelweiss" or some pop tune. Then the free iPad app "iOrgel" came along. It lets you do exactly that: arrange your own tunes for a virtual 24-note music box!

The iOrgel music box sounds exactly like a real one, right down to the key-winding noise. (You have to wind it up before it will start to play.) I took one of the simple songs that I'd learned in beginner ukulele class, "Shoo Fly," and in an hour or so I had arranged it, using the deluxe 48-note "iOrgel HD" version of the program.

Shchedryk (AKA "The Carol of the Bells")

Ukrainian stamp

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I generally hate Christmas music—I've heard it so many times that I'm sick of it. But there are a few pieces that I never tire of: Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite," Händel's "Messiah," and the medieval carols recorded by groups such as Anonymous Four.

This Ukrainian new year's carol is one of my favorites. Set to music in 1916 by Mykola Leontovych, "Shchedryk" ("Bountiful Evening") tells of a little swallow who flies into the house and promises health, prosperity, and "a beautiful dark-eyebrowed wife" in the year to come.

Adapted into English as "The Carol of the Bells" with completely different lyrics, it has become well known here. But I'll always remember it as sung in Ukrainian by the employees' chorus at my former company, as part of their international "Sing Along/Sign Along" every year at holiday time. (Yes, we had a group who signed along with the signers in ASL.)

This recording was put together in one evening, using GarageBand's various vibraphone instruments for a bell-like sound. I played each simple melody with a couple of fingers on my little Akai USB music keyboard—no ukuleles were used in this one!—and built up five tracks, following the very helpful guitar tutorial posted on YouTube by Les Titford. Happy holidays, everyone!

P.S.—Another spell of late-night goofiness resulted in the sci-fi version... or if you like, "Shchedryk" as Wendy Carlos might have played it. Because with MIDI, any track can be any instrument, y'know?

How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?)

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Folies Bergere poster

When the US entered World War I in 1918, a lot of farm boys went "over there." In that agrarian age, many folks never been more than a dozen miles from their rural birthplace, so the experiences the doughboys had while on leave in Paris must have been quite a culture shock. And when they came home again... well, that's what this song is about. (Lyrics by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis; music by Walter Donaldson.)

My version is really a bit of a cheat, because I'm not playing any instruments at all—just singing and whistling. The impressive "backup band" is entirely mechanical: it's a WurliTzer Model 34A "Mandolin PianOrchestra." This elaborate 2,600-pound device (think of a player piano scaled up to the size of a full dance band) was built around 1910 in Germany by Philipps, and imported into the US for use in dance-halls and the like. If you're curious, you can peruse the specs of a similar model 33A Mandolin PianOrchestra, and even see a performance of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" on YouTube.

When You Dance

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This classic doowop number was a hit for the Turbans—in fact, it was their only hit. The original 1955 recording has drums, bass and saxophone backing up the quartet, but I woke up one night with the tune running through my head and thought, "This would be a great a cappella number!" It took me a few days to get it the way I wanted it, but I had a wonderful time singing all the parts. Damn, I love GarageBand!

It's Late

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One day it occurred to me that rockabilly music was ideally suited to a ukulele player at my (beginner) level, since it has simple chords and a strong beat. So I tackled Ricky Nelson's 1957 hit "It's Late." Well, the ukulele playing was indeed simple, but I got carried away and ended up with three vocals, ukulele, bass, drums, and piano. (The last three were added as GarageBand MIDI instruments, tapped out on my little Akai keyboard.)

I really wanted to do the instrumental break as a ukulele solo, but at this point I'm still a strummer, not a picker—I simply can't play a melody that fast. So I substituted a honky-tonk piano solo using the same notes, plus a boogie-woogie left hand figure. Maybe someday I'll be good enough to play that solo on my uke!

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "It's Late."

Roll Up the Carpet (tenor ukulele)

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This was one of the first tunes I recorded, and it's still one of my favorites. But now that I have a tenor ukulele, with its deeper, richer sound, I wanted to try it again. So here's my new version. Compare it with the old one (played on my Kala soprano ukulele) and see what you think.

Scotch and Soda

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I first heard this cool, jazzy number—recorded by the Kingston Trio's Dave Guard—around 1961, and it stuck with me. It took me quite a long time to master it on the ukulele, mainly because the transition from the first (Fmaj7) chord to the second (Bb9) chord is a tricky one, at least for my fumble fingers. But I finally managed to record a version I'm satisfied with.

If you want to try this on your own ukulele, here are the chords to "Scotch and Soda."

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© 2013 by Andy Baird. For an index of my other websites, see the andybaird.com homepage.