Progress in the Ukulele World

Don’t forget your nail file!

On October 17th Sandbach U3A Ukulele Players were pleased to be able to spend an evening with professional musician Ken Middleton.

Sandbach Uke players have been together for almost two years now, under the patient guidance of Bryan Roberts – who is himself an experienced banjo and ukulele player. Bryan felt that at this stage in its development the group’s playing would benefit from exposure to a professional performer, and very kindly arranged for Ken’s visit. Ken is a full time professional musician travelling around the world to such far-flung places as America and New Zealand performing at festivals and running workshops.

The workshop Ken ran for the Sandbach players was entitled ‘What to strum and when to pick’ and was structured around one particular song – Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. This was chosen for its relative simplicity i.e. comprising only four chords, and also has the advantage of being a well known number.

Ken demonstrated a number of techniques to apply to the song including (brace yourselves – getting technical here) finger roll strums, hammering-on/hammering off, dynamics, chord progression and selective picking. All of which resulted in a much richer sound than would have been achieved by utilising one strumming pattern. For anyone interested, what can be achieved can be seen on Ken Middleton’s YouTube video of himself playing this song. Have a look, and prepare to be amazed at what the humble Uke can sound like in the right hands.

By the end of an inspiring evening applying Ken’s techniques and tips, many mental light-bulbs had been switched to ‘on’ and we all felt that the session had very much enhanced the sound we were making. Not to mention the importance of the length of our finger nails!

Huge thanks are due to Ken for coming to see us but also to Bryan for making it all happen.

If you live in the Sandbach area and would like to have a go at the Uke, the U3A Ukulele group are a very informal and friendly group that meets on the first and third Thursday of the month at 7pm; Bryan caters for players at all levels of ability with beginners starting at 6.30pm. Contact Pat Howells via U3A for more information

Richard Aston

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