Friday, June 2, 2017

Ukulele Renaissance

Grace Vanderwaal on
America's Got Talent
The ukulele, a small strummed string instrument associated with Hawaiian music, has experienced a renaissance in recent years.  It was a popular instrument in the 1920s and 1950s, and is popular once again.  Small, inexpensive and easy to learn, the instrument is a great way to learn the basics of music performance.  In fact, it has been adopted as the instrument of choice for public school general music instruction, overtaking guitar and piano.  Tenor ukuleles are also popular because they are tuned to the same notes as guitars, making it easy to learn guitar chords on a budget.

On television and radio, the ukulele provides the soundtrack for advertisements for wholesome products.    The most frequently used song in popular culture has been "Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World," sung by the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, a.k.a. "Iz."  Other famous performers of the past include Hawaiian songster Don Ho and 1960s icon Tiny Tim.  More recently, the 2016 winner of America's Got Talent was 12-year-old singer Grace Vanderwaal, who accompanied herself on ukulele.

The Music Collection has sheet music (scores) of traditional Hawaiian music and popular music arranged for ukulele:

Absolute Beginners: Ukulele teaches tablature (TAB), a visual representation of the frets and strings, and offers backing tracks to help you get started:
MT 756.8 .S67 A2 2010

The 4-Chord Ukulele Book
M1630.18 .A13 2013
It's amazing how many songs you can play with just four chords!  After you've gotten your start with chord playing you can play classics such as "Don't be Cruel" (Elvis Presley),  "If I had a Hammer" (traditional), "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan), "Man of Constant Sorrow" (traditional), "My Generation" (The Who), "The Sound of Silence" (Simon & Garfunkel), and "Just the Way You Are "(Bruno Mars).

Hawaiian Favorites
M1630.18 .H39 2011
This song book with a CD of backing tracks includes songs associated with the ukulele, such as "Blue Hawaii," made famous by Elvis Presley, and "Tiny Bubbles," the 1966 hit that became Don Ho's theme song.

Iz: The Songbook Collection
M1629.7 .H4 I9 2005
Songs in both English and Hawaiian (with translations) as performed by the most famous ukulele player of the recent past.  Iz's four albums are represented, including "Alone in Iz World," his top-selling album. The album and songbook include his famous version of "Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World."

The Beatles for Ukulele
M1630.18 .B375 2008
Twenty songs by the Fab Four, arranged for ukulele with chord symbols and staff notation.   The songs come from all periods of the group's hit songs, and include "All you Need is Love," "Good Day Sunshine," "Hey Jude," "Let it Be," and "Yellow Submarine.

Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Country: 36 Classic Country & Western Songs Arranged for Ukulele
M1630.18 .J86 2005
Old-time country music traditionally featured acoustic guitar, a sound that translates well to ukulele.  This song book includes such classics as "Back in the Saddle Again" (Gene Autry), "Crazy" (composed by Willie Nelson and sung by Patsy Cline),  "Happy Trails" (Roy Rogers), and "King of the Road (Roger Miller).

The Ultimate Ukulele Songbook: The Complete Resource for Every Ukulele Player! 59 Songs!
This songbook includes popular songs from the 1910s to the 2000s.  Though the songs were not originally composed for ukulele, you will enjoy playing such hits as "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars, "Under the Sea" from the Disney film The Little Mermaid, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2, "September Ends" by Green Day, "American Pie" by Don McLean, and "Happy Birthday."
M1630.18 .U485 2014

You can try your hand at the ukulele without investing in an instrument because Educational Technology and Resources Collection (ETRC) owns three ukes for check-out.  The ETRC circulation desk is on the Lower Level of Bracken Library, near the Music Collection desk.

For more inspiration, check out these compact discs that feature or include the ukulele:

Jake Shimabukuro.  Travels
Compact Disc 22876
Shimabukuro is the top virtuoso of the ukulele today.

A Great Big World.  Is There Anybody Out There?
Compact Disc 22132

Elvis Costello & The Imposters.  The Delivery Man
Compact Disc 16240

Elvis Presley.  Blue Hawaii
Compact Disc 20864

Squirrel Nut Zippers.  Hot
Compact Disc 13240

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.  Facing Future
Compact Disc 16238

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