OPEN TUNING ON THE UKULELE (page 2)

  Here goes on a few other sources for Open Tuning sheet music you can use on an Ukulele.  As Gary Readore mentioned in his first video, any 5 string Banjo music can be used on the Ukulele for this tuning, but as also was mentioned, the Portuguese and Brazilian Cavaquinhos have always maintained their original Open tuning.  Both instruments have changed over the years.  The Portuguese version has gone to steel strings, while the Brazilian version also has steel, and is now larger as well.  While Portuguese Cavaquinho music is a bit difficult to come by, it’s not at all difficult to find a mountain of music for the Brazilian Cavaquinho.  Most of it, as would be expected, is in Portuguese, but those who love Brazilian music will not be deterred by that. Here is a truly excellent instructional video by TV Cifras in Brazil.  It is so good, in fact, that the small bit of Portuguese dialogue, really nothing more than background, is not necessary at all to learn the song.  Chords are well illustrated, there is a wonderful method of showing the melody, and the rhythm strum is shown in perfect detail - a strum that should likely be used much more often on the Ukulele. TV Cifras has a lot of similar videos on YouTube.  For those with an affinity for Latin compositions, these, along with easily available sheet music, yield a wealth of material. The structure of this song gives it an advanced set of chord changes, especially compared to what you can usually do with Open tuning.  Still, if you were to learn only one Brazilian song, it would be difficult to come up with a more beautiful choice than this one.  Carinhoso was written by the seminal figure of Brazilian Jazz, the band leader and saxophone player Pixinguinha in 1917, only a year or two after Santos and Nunes published their Original Method.   While Antonio Carlos Jobim and others have written stunningly beautiful music in later years, Carinhoso probably remains the most beloved piece in the Brazilian songbook. Joao and Joazinho are excellent cavaco players, but on this video, it is obvious that they aren’t playing to perform the song at it’s best, but to simply illustrate how to play it.  Any Brazilian knows how it should sound, after all.  As a bit of inspiration for those not familiar with this piece, below is a true performance. Marisa Monte is probably the Brazilians favourite songbird.  At the London Olympics you may have seen her singing on the lead float as the Brazilian parade came into Wembley to take the torch for Rio de Janeiro at the closing ceremonies. Her version here of Carinhoso is taken from a wonderful documentary about her accompanist, Paulinho da Viola.  He is also a beloved figure for years of beautiful playing on what appears to be a giant 6-string Ukulele.  In Brazil, they call this a violao.   There are clearer versions on YouTube, but it’s always good to understand the lyrics to play a song well, even if you don’t sing it.  This version has Portuguese subtitles along with Spanish ..... and English is thrown in as a bonus!   *************************************** But let’s now go back to Hawaii for more of this music.  A few decades before the Portuguese brought the Machete to Hawaii, another group of Latins, this time Latin Americans, arrived with another fretted instrument.  The commonly told story is that in 1832 King Kamehameha hired a group of Mexican vacqueros to help manage an abundance of cattle on the islands.  They brought their Spanish guitars, and while they returned to their homeland after several years, in the interim, they had taught Hawaiian cowboys how to play, and even left some of their instruments in the hands of their fellow “paniolos.  That Hawaiian word for cowboy is actually just the island pronunciation of “espanoles”, or Spaniards. Almost immediately, the Hawaiians began to experiment with different tunings, often loosening or “slacking” some of the standard guitar notes.  That was the beginning of what became the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar tradition.  It was a very private, almost secretive practice.  The story was often told that when many of the early masters would tune their instruments, they would turn their backs to hide what they were doing.  As a result, many of the Slack Key tunings have been lost forever. Certain of the main tunings have survived, however.  What may have been the first, and is without doubt the most common, is the Taropatch tuning.  In that set-up, the bottom 4 strings are the same as the Open tuning form we have been discussing here.  Now, just as we saw there are multiple meanings for the word “Open”, we now find there are two meanings for the word Taropatch.  In this case, however, the meanings don’t just imply something different, but directly conflict. We saw how the Portuguese used the word Taropatch in relation to the Ukulele.  It was the common reentrant tuning used on the Ukulele today.  Open tuning was the “Original” or Machete tuning.  I’m not sure when the “Taropatch” term began to be applied to the same notes used on the Original Ukuleles, but since Slack Key Guitar, even Slack Key Ukulele, are now better known than the Machete style, the word Taropatch today now usually means the Open tuning we are discussing, so from this point, we’ll use the term with that meaning. A Taropatch Slack Key Guitar will have the same four notes on it’s bottom strings as the Machete, they are simply an octave lower.  In other words, the Guitar’s bottom 4 strings in Taropatch are  d - g - b - d’ , as with the standard Banjo, while on the Machete they are  d’ - g’ - b’ - d”, as with the Cavaquinho. There is a difference in the playing styles, however, one that comes in large part from the difference in the size of the instruments themselves.  Machete style, as we saw in the video above with the Danca  by Vitor Filipe tends to be a fast paced picking style, as is Clawhammer.  In contrast, Slack Key style is often more languid, and features slides, hammers, harmonic playing and other techniques that work better on a big instrument with a longer scale.  It is also more often used for solo work, while the Machete style is often used as the lead in ensemble playing. Here is a video showing the Taropatch sound on the guitar.  The player is Fran Guidry, raised here in Louisiana.  He has been a long time California resident.  His website is kaleponi.com as that word is Hawaiian for California.  He’s also a frequent visitor to Hawaii, and has struck up a friendship with Guitar and Ukulele Slack Key master Ledward Kaapana.  They are often seen playing together. Watch his left hand on this video.  You’ll see that while he is indeed up and down the fretboard on this lovely piece, it is played without complicated fingerings.  There are even moments when Fran is picking without using the left hand at all. Fran also plays Ukulele by the way, but he has told me, he is the “World’s Worst Ukulele Player” (I sort of doubt that), so he’s never done any serious recording on the little guy. *************************************** Now let’s see how this Slack Key Guitar style translates to the Ukulele.  There are several instructions available for Slack Key Ukulele.  The one I have experience with is by the three fingered fellow mentioned above, “Uncle Dave” Heaukulani, who teaches the techniques for this sort of playing at the East Hawaii Cultural Center. He has written a manual for learning the style, and it was originally accompanied by either a video CD, or access to an internet download site.  The videos are now all on YouTube.  Here is one of the first lessons, one where he demonstrates some of the common techniques used in Slack Key playing.  As mentioned earlier, the techniques from this guitar derived style of playing will be most effective on the larger Ukulele sizes.   We make classical strung Tenor Guitars where they really shine. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the lessons themselves is not very good, but everything is still clearly shown, and Uncle Dave’s techniques give the large Ukuleles a uniquely Hawaiian sound.  His book can be purchased here: Machete style playing hasn’t completely disappeared from the Islands.  Another group of Latin immigrants to Hawaii are the Puerto Ricans.   Here is a video from Mike Balles and his family.  Mike is another fine multi-instrumentalist, and is also known for his playing on the Puerto Rican Cuatro (very different from the 4- string Venezuelan version). This “Slack Key Ukulele” video is played in a different form of the Taropatch Open C tuning.  Mike is the exception to the “rule” (really not a rule), that the 4th string should be the low note.  He plays with a reentrant 4th and it gives a bit of a campanella effect. Mike’s playing style is really closer to the Machete style of Vitor Filipe, with just a touch of Slack Key here and there.    His son plays a reentrant rhythm Ukulele in 4ths, as the Portuguese did.  As they are all amped up, it gives Mike a chance to throw in a few Slack Key moves, even on the smaller Concert, and the whole piece again has a very Hawaiian flavour. Mike’s left hand is moving a lot, but it is rapid “pressing”, as Led Kaapana would call it, and again, not complicated shapes.  You may also have noticed that Fran Guidry mentioned “Slack Key Rules”; one of those being that a song is never played the same way twice.  This is another characteristic of Open tuning.  Your notes are all “right there”.  It is not only easy to improvise on the fly, it becomes difficult not to change things up when all those strings are so easy to “jus’ press”.  Mike is improvising on the fly here - Clawhammer players end up doing the same thing. *************************************** And speaking again of Clawhammer, and just to do a little justice to Gary Readore, who only got to talk in his first video, let’s conclude the music with a video where he gets to play!! You’ll notice a reference to the basic “bum-diddy” stroke used in Clawhammer playing.  He demonstrates it in more detail in another of the lessons in his series, but when you see it, you will notice the similarity to the stroke shown by Joao Felipe on Carinhoso. So there you have our summation of this type of playing on the Ukulele.  When you see the breadth of styles that are played on this platform, it’s also easy to see how versatile this type of tuning is.  It makes playing songs with a straightforward structure a breeze, but as you see in the TV Cifras video, you are by no means limited to the simpler chord patterns.  As Gary mentioned, standard tuning 5-string Banjo music is a great source, providing chords and tabs both for the simpler pieces often found in Country and Folk, and the more complex structure often found in Jazz.  You won’t need to tune to Open G for the Banjo music.  Tune to Open C or anywhere else - the shapes and patterns will be the same. You may gravitate toward Clawhammer, lead style Machete playing, or Slack Key style.  You will likely find the Machete style best suited to smaller sizes, to cut over other instruments in a band setting, and Slack Key style best suited to larger sizes to take best advantage of a lot of the Slack Key techniques, but with this tuning you can play them all or amalgamate them as Mike Balles does.  It’s such an easy style for picking and improvisation, that it would be no problem to create your own personal blending.  It’s  a voice we feel should be heard more often on the Ukulele.  After all, it is the “Original” voice. *************************************** As has been mentioned and demonstrated, it is easy enough to simply tune down or “slack” your 1st string to try out this form of Open tuning.  If you find you like it, however, and have an instrument you want to dedicate to this set-up, you will likely want a true Open tuning 1st string, one that will give a better tension.  Finger picking can get to be annoying when one string is too loose. Update: Summer 2016!! Hopefully the Open strings won’t be too difficult to find, since they now function as “Add-Ons” -  on the Linear Set page.  They are available for all the Linear sets; you will simply select the “Add Open 1st” option from the drop-down menu, and you will then receive a full Linear set plus the heavier Open 1st string.  Find them here:                                                   Southcoast Linear String Sets  
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