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Ukulele & All That Jazz - 

Emerald City Jug Band in the park

ECJB at Hamlin Park on 6-27-2010As I've mentioned before, I've done some gigs this year with the Emerald City Jug Band. This is the re-formed trio version of ECJB. We played a gig on the 27th of July up in Hamlin Park, part of the Shoreline Lunchtime Music series. The nice park lady just got back to us with a couple photos from our performance as well as a kind thank you note. I think these might be the first photos I've seen since we re-formed. (As usual with the photos in my blog, you can click on these to biggify 'em.)

In any event, they had laid out some tatami mats in a nice little clearing for our stage. Had to run this long extension cord to get power out to us. Even with that, we were stuck with a rather sparse sound system, but the audience was close enough to us that we made do.

We had an audience of maybe 40 - 50 or so (I'm terrible about those sort of estimations). Lots of kids who happily came right up to the stage and danced with our music. I particularly like that kind of thing.

another shot of ECJB at Hamlin Park on 7-27-2010The park itself was beautiful. And who can argue with a backstage curtain that's made out of big old trees?

The first photo show us in one of our main line-ups, instrumentally speaking. I'm on washboard, Jim "The Emergency Folksinger" Nason is on guitar and Stanislove is playing jug. A lot of time it's me on washboard, Jim on tub bass (as you can see in the second picture) and Stan on guitar. I think we must be doing "Wine" in the second shot as I don't recall any other tunes that I play just harmonica on.

Sometimes I play harp from the rack on my washboard. That's fun. It's like the old thing about patting your stomach and rubbing your head and then smoothly switching hands (and actions). I'd probably get a little more comfortable with it if I did those sort of tunes more often.

It was a good gig, we all had fun and even made some money. Can't beat that.


The 7th songsheet and a new video

This is a little song called Purr More, Hiss Less and it's rounding up several threads in my life into one tidy little knot.

  1. It's an original song, written and performed on the Ohana sopranino ukulele. I've been wanting to learn and/or write more material for the sopranino, simply because it's not always worth carrying around — tiny and dear as it is — for just a few tunes.
  2. I'm simply wanting to write more original tunes. Both for future recordings and to keep the so-called "music industry" off my back re: any videos I put up. And, of course, so that I have more original tunes. Duh!
  3. It's the first time I've entered a video contest, with the exception of some sort of drawing that Ukulele Underground did some time back. In any event, this is the first music video I've entered into a contest. It's for the 2010 BringtheSong.org Original Song Video Contest. Prizes include a brand spanky new tenor ukulele from Mainland Ukes and a Blue "Snowball" USB microphone.
  4. It's a "proof-of-concept" video in that it's only the second time I've tried a two-camera shoot and edited them together. And the first was a beyotch! The results on this one are, at best, adequate or slightly above. Camera 2 was in a more shadowy location and its video came out really dark and grainy. The worst part is, I'm sure it would have been less of an issue if I'd thought to pull the drapes open. I'm no expert with these sort of things but I lightened it in iMovie enough to make it acceptable. I'm just counting it as part of my learning curve. The real effort was to get comfortable cutting things back and forth and having them all sync with the audio. More on this in a bit but the upshot is, it worked!
  5. This is also the first HD video I've been able to get together of one of my solo efforts. Never did get around to doing anything solo with the Flip Mino HD before the bus viciously killed it.
  6. It's another of my original tunes to add to the free songsheets collection. Lucky number 7!

That's a tidy number. I could probably add one or two sub-clauses there but I've got one more thing to say and then I'll shut up and get on to the tune.

I mentioned in #4 up there that I was working on being able to cut between two cameras and keep 'em synced. After my experience with including the still photos in He Might Be A Vampire, I got to thinking about how to do that with two live footage clips. I know that iMovie will give you where you are in a clip by HH:MM:SS:FF (Hour:Minute:Second:Frame) so, when I got both cameras rolling I made sure I was clearly visible in both of them and clapped my hands once.

See, I'd found out earlier (with a Snake Suspenderz video) that when you do that your hands are usually only together for one frame. That's a mere 1/30th of a second. So I would frame-by-frame the two clips and count whatever HH:MM:SS:FF position that one frame was at as the "zero point" of the particular clip. From there on out, it's just be a little math to figure out what chunk of the other clip needed to be cut out to replace the first one. Turns out I'd started camera 2 one-and-two-thirds of a second before camera one. So once I'd ascertained where the start and end cuts for a given clip would be on camera one, I simply added 00:00:01:20 to it and cut the resultant bit out of camera 2's footage and then plopped it into place in the timeline, dragging away the replaced piece from camera 1's footage.

I love it when a plan comes together!

I also like to make sense whenever possible. I'd hoped the previous couple paragraphs would save someone the hassle of figuring out this trick for their own videos but I'm not sure I succeeded in conveying it clearly. Feel free to question things in the comments.

But enough blather! Here's the tune.

Purr More, Hiss Less (Just click the title if the embedded video isn't working for you.)

If you'd like to perform the tune yourself, you can download a pdf of the arrangement. As I mentioned, it's the seventh (so far!) If you haven't checked out the rest, simply click on the "songsheets" tag for this post and you'll get a list.

Like all of the series, it's released under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Click the link for full details of the license but, in short, unless you're selling a recording (audio or video) of this, you're pretty much free to use it as you see fit, as long as you credit me when you do.

Note that this is done for ukuleles in F tuning because it's on my sopranino and that's the tuning I use for the little guy. To learn it on your C tuned uke (or any other chordal instrument) just pay attention to the chord names and ignore the fingering diagrams.

If you put it up on YouTube or record an mp3, let me know the link. I'd love to hear someone else's take on one of my tunes. While you can feel free to print out copies for your uke club or such, if you're going to share the pdf itself with folks I would appreciate you linking back to this blog post rather than hosting the pdf on your site or linking directly to the file.

If you have any questions about the song, arrangement, etc., or just want to give your reaction, leave a comment. If you decide you'd like to put it on your next CD or some such thing, get in touch! We'll work out a fair deal.


Gettin' some MoZo on

Mozo @ Pike Place Market - 8/17/2010 I was at Pike Place Market last Tuesday and came upon these two ladies rocking the iron stairs busking spot.I was knocked out by the washboard player's style. I snapped a couple pics with my phone cam (both of them can be clicked on to see a larger version). I noted their name was MoZo and went home to do a little googling.

I found out that they are local and their names are Moe Provencher on vocals mandolin and harmonica and Aimee Zoe Tubbs on vocals, washboard & other percussion. They have a MySpace and a Facebook page.

Besides really enjoying Zoe's stripped down washboard (and how she plays it) I like their tight vocal harmonies and the mix of mando, harmonica and percussion. Also it's obvious that they've paid attention to arrangements for their tunes and have practiced them hard enough that they feel spontaneous.

A hard row to hoe, I can assure you!

another shot of MoZo @ Pike Place Market - 8/17/2010Moe plays some fine rack harp while still keeping the mando rhythms tight. Zoe not only keeps the percussion lively, she also manages to get some good volume going even though the great majority of the time she's just playing with standard drum brushes.

The "trick" that impressed me most was how, instead of wearing thimbles or other such stuff, Zoe flips the brush(es) around and uses the handle end to tap on the cans and the little chiming cymbal that are attached to her board.

Here they are in action (though Moe is playing guitar instead of mando) during their recent European busking tour at the Waterford Spraoi Festival in Ireland - August 2009

Watch the video on YouTube if the embed isn't working for you.

They seem to play a lot in the area, in fact, on the 31st of this month they'll be at the Can Can in the Pike Place Market. I'd go check 'em out if I were you, and buy one -- of each! -- of their two CDs as well.


How about "Life With Dignity" too?

Gay marriages are on! No... wait! They're off. OK, it's cool again. Oh hold on...

"Along with the legal right to marry must come the social dignity to celebrate this amazing rite with whomever you choose, whenever you choose."

Yep. That says it pretty well.


Free mp3! (playing with new toys)

I've had a bit of good fortune lately and, instead of frittering it away on gambling, liquor and riotous living, I decided to upgrade some of my "infrastructure" instead.

OK... so I have done a bit of partying. So sue me.

In any event... I got some new microphones & other audio goodies including a Zoom H2.The H2 is the unit that the greater majority of the Snake Suspenderz "rehearsal tapes" series was recorded on. I've long lusted after one.

I wanted to both test the H2 and play with Ardour, the Ubuntu Studio DAW. I haven't messed with it — Ardour, that is — much for quite some time (nearly a year) and in that time I've had to re-install it because of my old drive crashing.

In any event, I have been playing with the two things for a couple days now and came up with an mp3 of the latest cover I learned. Can't sell it, eh? Might as well give it away.

So go ahead and download the 192kbps mp3 of the tune. If you like it, let me know (and do please spread it around via blogs, twitter, facebook... hell, you know the drill). If you don't like it, please let me know and why. I'd much rather have honest feedback than any of the other options in that department.

And btw... the name I gave to the mp3 file is an old science fiction geek acronym. You'll figure it out.

This was played on my Glyph soprano. Playing and singing was all of a take — IIRC, the 7th or so — into my H2 (i.e. direct to stereo). I then opened it in Ardour for a little post-production. Mainly trying to make the sound a bit "fatter" via some tricks I picked up on the intartoobs. It's actually the 4th or 5th test mix I've made of it.

Hope you enjoy, and again, let me know one way or the other!


When buildings come alive

A whole collection of "facade projection" videos here.

"Urban Projection Mapping, as it is loosely known, is the art of creating video displays that make buildings come alive in light, color and motion.  Armed with powerful technology, a handful of enterprising video artists create vivid, visually arresting video displays that are projected on urban architecture."

These things are teh awesome! My favorite is the one that the Agitator featured.

(Hat tip to The Agitator)


Shiny new bike - phase 2

pic of my new bike with its additions Since I last reported on my new bicycle I've put a lot more miles on it and have also changed/added a few things. The picture to the left (click for a larger version) shows it sitting in my driveway this afternoon after returning from a smallish ride. I've added the handlebar bag and the back rack. I've changed the saddle to one that a) doesn't chafe me in assorted places best left unchafed and b) doesn't rub against the braces for the new back rack. It was squeaking something fierce for a day or so after getting the back rack installed. I think the brass bell is new since the last picture as well. Bells are very good things if you ride on the bike paths (which are also pedestrian paths) or on the sidewalks.

Today's ride was another "proof of concept" ride. The paper sack you see lashed to the rack (via the spif elastic cargo net) contains a six-pack of good IPA. I had no trouble at all with it shifting or any such nonsense as I rode up the hill from the store to my house. Win!

Still to go
I want to get a set of large pannier bags for the rack. Also lights for nighttime visibility. Fenders will become necessary in a month or so and, for the same reason, rain gear will probably tempt me. I'm still considering a trailer, especially if I want to do that bicycle tour idea. But that can be put off for a bit and also can probably be found used (Craigslist?) for a lot less than any I've seen in the bike stores.

bicycle pedal with toe-clip and strapStill on the subject of longish tours/rides, I like toe-clips, but I'm not sure that I can find any to fit the pedals I have and I don't know if I really want to put new pedals on. But they're nice because you can use both leg motions to drive the chain (pressing down on the pedal and pulling up via the toe-clip) and because they keep your feet placed in the most efficient pedalling position.

Sure, I could go for the clipless pedals with the special cleated shoes and such, but who wants to change their shoes just to go down to the grocery store? Plus, I already know how to quickly get out of the toe-clips, even when they're strapped down well. And I've seen more people fall down when they had an unplanned stop with the cleated pedals than I have with the toe-clips. Since I'm not going to be racing I think I'll opt for less falling down.

Meanwhile, there hasn't been a day since I got it that I haven't at least ridden a few miles (for errands and such). Still loving it!



Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister fame) pulls no punches.

Been meaning to blog this for several days and rewatching it still gives me a giggle. Check it out on YouTube if the embedded version doesn't work for you.


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