We use an obscure Beatles song to think about how to practice. And use a nifty trick to get a new sound.
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There you go. Good morning, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Good morning and welcome to Ukulele Practice Time with Danno.
I say good morning. That’s just because it feels like morning to me, although it is exactly one minute past Noon o’clock. I can always hear the bell tower ringing outside my window. I live in a little New England town and I still have a quaint village bell that rings every hour on the hour. And who do I live close to that bell tower. You can imagine how annoying that gets every hour on the hour.
Beatles Live at the BBC
So this is one of my favorite Beatles albums. And it didn’t come out till decades after the Beatles had split up. It’s called Live at the BBC.
And so the Beatles, I’m sure you know, had these multiple phases to their very short public career. Lots of yeses, lots of Beatles fans. That’s good. So, you know, there were the crazy hippies from the late 60s, Sgt. Pepper and the White Album and all that stuff. And there were the lovable mop tops in the early 60s. She loves you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And all that stuff.
But look at these look at these Beatle boys in their overcoats. Walking along a street in London in front of the offices of the BBC. So this is the Beatles that most people, until this came out, didn’t know very much about. So for, let’s say, five years before the Beatles became international sensations, they were working hard. They were the hardest working band in show business before James Brown came along. And they were doing these eight hour nights at little clubs in Liverpool where they were born and lived, and then across on the continent in Hamburg, Germany. So they were playing all night long hours and hours and hours, putting in the time to become the excellent musicians, fantastic showmen, and a little bit the great songwriters that we knew them to be later on.
Can you see where my philosophy is going to come in a little bit? Think of the time that they put in to get good eight hours a night for months and months and months, and then back home to Liverpool. They didn’t play as long hours back in Liverpool, but then they went to Germany and they did it again hours and hours, night after night after night. They got really, really good.
All right. I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit, but when they were starting to get well-known, they popped into the BBC to do these radio shows. And a lot of the songs that are on this album called Live at the BBC are those songs that they were doing night after night after night in the little clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool. These were rock and roll songs that they loved, you know, when they were 15 and 16 and 17 years old. Think about when you were that age. Those were probably kind of your formative music growing years, wouldn’t you say? I know it is for me.
all right, so I’ll bet this is a song that unless you own this album by the Beatles, you don’t know, I’m going to play a little bit of it for you. I’m going to show you a couple of technical aspects that you can apply to your playing that I think will be easy and fun, even if you don’t like the song. These are some ideas that you can apply to any song in any style.
All right. So this is a song that George Harrison sang on the Beatles album, Beatles Live at the BBC. It’s interesting on that album, too, to see and hear how many songs George Harrison does do. If you’re a Beatles fan like me, you are aware that he sort of gets the short end of the stick a lot of the time, but in these early days, he’s sure feels like an equal partner when it comes to performance.
SONG: “So How Come (No One Loves Me)”
All right. So gI’m going to play this song called Everyone loves someone, I think, and I’m not going to try to make it fancy at all, but then I’m going to show you some fancy things and show you why I’m not making it fancy now.
What do you think about that? Now, that’s my version, that’s not going to be anywhere near as great as the Beatles. I’m not sure. Who did the original that they got it from?
I think it might have been written by Carole King. Carole King, superstar of the 70s, was writing songs way back in the 50s, and the Beatles loved her stuff. She wrote for a lot of the girl groups in the 1950s. Thanks, Maureen, you say nice things.
How many chords?
So a sweet little song, did you notice how many chords? Two chords.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that the Beatles made a great song out of a two chord song. What’s the underlying premise there? You don’t need a lot of chords to make a great song. You heard. Yeah, lots of people saying never heard it. I had never heard it till I got that album.
So I want to show you a couple of little things that I was doing already to try to make it sound a little more interesting, a little off being a completely typical ukulele song. And then I want to show you a couple of ideas that are things that I’m working on that go along with this whole idea of ukulele practice time.
Performance mode vs practice mode
What I just gave for you was performance mode. Do you understand the difference between performance mode and practice mode? There’s lots of things that I’m practicing. When I was working on the song earlier that I don’t have ready to put into the performance. If I slowed the song way down, I could start throwing in some of these ideas. But that’s the way I think we can benefit from thinking about conscious practice, right. Deliberate practice is what they call it.
The Beatles, Mike, do not do the little Triplette I was doing, and that’s one of the things I’m going to mention there. But they have Ringo, they have Ringo filling in the blanks.
So here are a couple of things that I was throwing in now that I’m going to show you a couple of things that I’m working on that I’d like to throw in later.
Making the ukulele not always sound like the ukulele
I’ll bet you didn’t even notice one of the things that I believe is a ukulele teacher. That we as ukulele students all need to be working on as part of the ukulele movement is what are the things that we can do to stretch the boundaries of the ukulele a little bit? And what are the things that will make it sound a little less like a spot on ukulele every single time? Don’t get me wrong, we play the ukulele because we love the sound of the ukulele. Right?
The sound of the ukulele is ideal for ukulele songs.
Once in a while, though, when you come across a song, you want to try to change the sound a little bit for a rock and roll song, even for a bouncy, bubblegum song like that, I’m thinking to myself, I don’t want that open, cheerful sound of the Hawaiian ukulele necessarily.
Danno’s ARM MUTE
Your choice may be different than my choice, but this is what you heard me doing. I’m going to exaggerate it a lot right now.
We always lose something when the sound goes through my microphone and out through your little speakers, but what I’m doing is — what do we call it? Guitar players call it a palm mute. I call it an arm mute. So you know what a mute is, right? A mute is any time, any way we cover the strings so instead of music coming out, we get a muted sound.
Right? So that’s the mute. Now, there are many ways to achieve that. We’ve talked about a bunch of them here. But I’m going to show you a way that I don’t think we’ve talked about here. And I’m using my my strumming in my right hand to mute the strings a little bit. I don’t want to fall mute. It’s a muffle more than a mute.
So guitar players do a thing where they’ve got this whole body of the instrument off to the side. Right. So they can place a hand all the way back behind the strings and then they can kind of touch the strings with the palm of their hand.
And you can see how that cuts off the strings. And the guitar player can move in or out and increase or decrease the pressure on the strings to make them more or less thought.
All right. Sticking with me? Give me some encouragement. Give me a thumbs up. If this is either interesting, helpful or clear thumbs down. If you don’t see what I’m saying, since, ah, ukulele is so small, you can’t really get your hand behind the strings and. Play it the way a guitar player does if you’re tucked in under your arm, the way we typically are as ukulele players, thanks. I’ve seen your comments come through. Look where your arm naturally falls your way up over the body of the ukulele. Right. So that’s what I mean when I’m saying I’m using my full arm, this arm. I’m trying to keep myself in camera. This arm is lightly touching the strings. To get a little bit of a muffled sound here, that that’s a lot of a muffled so let me see if I can get in there nice and tight so you can see what I’m doing.
So here, that’s an open strum, nothing is touching the strings until I strum it.
But I can literally lay my arm across the strings a little bit and it will be different for every person on a different size, ukulele in a different size body. But I can touch with my wrist, my forearm and strum and cut off the strings completely, almost completely. Or I can pull back the pressure a little bit. That’s a lot, obviously, and get a slightly muffled strum.
And that gives me what you were hearing in the song here.
I hope how very different that sounds when it’s cut off that way, you get this real rhythmic, choppy sound, which for any given song may or may not be the sound that you want. They say.
What do you think? Is that something you could try and some songs of yours?
The I forgot to mention the two chords are C and G7.
Let me show you one more thing before we wrap things up today. I’m checking comments real quick. Good. I’m glad a lot of people were saying that that seems useful.
So when you’re practicing a song, you have to think about performance mode versus practice mode, and I mention that the idea that with performance mode you want to you you perform at the level at which you can actually play it. That’s why I didn’t do anything too fancy when I played it, I just started messing around with this song this morning for the first time in my life.
Practice mode is where you stop and noodle, stop and experiment, stop and try something, it’s also the time, of course, where you’re just getting the basics down. What are the chord changes? What strum pattern am I going to use? That sort of thing. But let me show you a couple little ideas that I’ve been working on that I am working on. When I started experimenting with this song, especially when you’re down to a song that’s only, you know, two chords you want to start thinking about, what are some things I can do to make that interesting?
So what are some things that I was I’m experimenting with? I’m just going to toss these out in our last couple of minutes.
Now, the trick is, remember I said that wasn’t ready for performance mode. I found the notes.
But I want to try to get it in while I’m keeping the rhythm going, they say that everyone, someone and keep the singing going and I am able to keep most of the rhythm and throw in the little fill, but I’m not able to keep the singing going, too. So that’s why it’s practice, but not performance mode.
You see what I mean, I just have to stop singing because I’m focused on what I’m doing on the strings, but when we come around to the end — then I might go back…
So I get the high sound and then the low sound.
An ending with movable chords
Now, we’ve talked about movable chords many a time, so I’ll just show you real quickly what I’m talking about and then we’ll wrap things up for today. That’s a second position C, right, that your B shape moved up to fret three.
And that’s the same as an open C.
And when I finish it off, I can emphasize the low C, so there’s a little bit of more movement on the end of that verse makes me think of “hear the word of the Lord.” It goes that way. You hear the difference between the two?
It just gives a little more of a bump at the end, finishes it off in a way that sounds more finished, more final, as it were.
All right. So you guys are very brave to stick with me for 20 minutes talking about a song that everyone said they had never heard before. But do you see how you can take these ideas and apply them to any song? The big technical skill is that kind of a full arm mute idea on a song that you like You know, a lot of these techniques work across the board on any style, any genre or any type of music that you like. And then bear in mind the premise of practice versus performance. Right? Take advantage of your practice time not just to learn a song, but to mess around with the song and see what you can do to come up with.
Beatles as a girl group?
Diane mentions that’s a great song to do harmony with. And yes, it is. And that’s one of the wonderful things about the early Beatles stuff, is how much fun they have singing together. You can tell they just aren’t delighted with themselves for being able to pull out the harmonies on some of these. In fact, I read somewhere that they kind of thought of themselves as like the 1950s girl groups with all the back and forth between the background singers and the main singer and lots of oohs and laws and dues and was. So I can’t recommend that album by the Beatles highly enough. It’s just one of my all time favorites.
All right, everybody, you guys are being really nice to me and giving me a fat head. I appreciate that. But we’ll call it a day for now. Stay healthy, wealthy and wise. Do something nice for somebody who’s not here today. And we’ll be back again tomorrow at 12:01. Take care, folks.
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And just in case you’d like to hear the Beatles’ version, here you go: