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OVER THE RAINBOW “DeCoded” by UKULELE MIKE -The essential importance of “DYNAMICS” in playing the ukulele

April 30, 2012

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I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have asked me “How do you strum the Iz version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. . . I’ve done 2  YouTube videos of it . . . even did one that attempted to more thoroughly explain the strum. . . I don’t think I’ve ever done it justice. . . So here I am again to try to explain what Iz was doing as he performed this classic iconic version of this classic iconic song.

First off . . . One needs to have a good handle on what we call the “Swing Shuffle” or Syncopated 8ths strum. . . .  Down up DOWN up Down up DOWN up. . . it can be played with the nail of the index finger going down and the flesh coming up or in another way you can use the thumb going down and the flesh of the finger coming up. . . . 2 elements that you need to keep in mind:  (1) Notice that all of the “up” strums are in lower case. . . You have to make sure you pay attention to dynamics to make this strum work properly. . . Make sure the “up” strums are light. . . they are supposed to be in the background. . . . almost “ghost” strums. . . If you play them equally as heavy as any of the downs it will make the pattern seem stiff and clunky. . . You want it to be light, airy. . . lifting . . . (2) Second element is to make sure the 2nd DOWN of the strum which is in all caps is accented. . . made to be louder then the other downs. . . This is what we call the backbeat.  This gives the strum a forward kind of energy. . . Moves it along . . . . Of course in doing the swing pattern make sure it syncopates with a skipping kind of fell. . . DO NOT play each beat equally as long  . . the “ups” are a  quick beat. . . this is what we call a “dotted 8th note 16th note” rhythmic pattern. . . The swing shuffle is probably the most popular strum in all of traditional Hawaiian music. . . . Now to the KEY to get it to sound more like IZ . . . I believe he may be using a LOW G string, but even if not. . . you can achieve a more IZ like sound if you do the following. . . On the very first “Down” strum dont strum all of the strings but rather take your thumb and hit either the 4th or th 3rd string then you can follow up by strumming all of the strings. . . so the pattern would look something like this:   THUMB DOWN up down up DOWN up .  Notice again the first DOWN is accented as well as the 2nd to the last DOWN . I submit that it’s all in the “DYNAMICS” that make this strum sound so cool. . . . I’ve taught ukulele for many years now and I think dynamics is probably the hardest thing to teach or to convey to my students. . . It can be alusive and it’s really something I encourage you to pay attention to.  Listen closely to how you strum.  Are all of your strums equal in loudness or do you actually vary the dynamics. Dyamics convey soul to your music so dont overlook them. . . . Now if this is a bit hard to do at first . . . that’s entirely normal. . . it takes time and daily practice and patience to get this strum.  It means going from the single thumb stroke to using your index finger or thumb to strum all 4 strings. . . If you listen to the above video you will notice he jumps from the 4th string to the 3rd string for each of those thumb notes. . . To get that right it takes time and SLOW practice. . . . Dont get discouraged. .. If you take time every day to spend 5 or 10 mins to this technique it will pay off sooner then you think. . . The key to learning anything on the uke is DAILY DAILY practice.   . . . Ok hope this helps some . . . Many thanks to Glenda Schill who inspired me to compose this blog. . .


Oh by the way .  . if you are a beginner or interested in comfirming you technique check out my COMBO PAK. . . DVD plus companion book. . . Sells for $29.95 plus $3.50 shipping in the US. . . $7.00 outside the US. . . Payments made thru the paypal donate button on my website: Once the payment is made you will be confirmed personally through an email . . . If you purchased the companion book that will be sent to you within the day and your DVD will be shipped right away.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 12, 2016 2:54 p06

    Reblogged this on UKULELE MIKE LYNCH – All things UKULELE.

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