Tag Archives: guitar

Six songs, three chords, how hard can it be?

Occasionally you will need to add some new songs to your jam. Now this doesn’t always have to be difficult. As we like to say: keep it simple so nothing can go wrong. That’s why we’ve selected six songs that are built up from a maximum of three chords per track. This way you can keep it simple.

Evergreens always do well around the campfire. And a lot of golden songs are not too difficult to play either. Below you will find six tracks, all of them can be played with only three chords. Not all the chords of the songs below are the same of course, we don’t want you to get bored.

Satisfaction – Rolling Stones

Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones is the classic example of a three-chord song. It follows the traditional blues progression in which the verse consists of two chords, and the chorus uses a third one. In this case it is the pure basis of E, D, and A. And yes, there is a B7 in the song. So technically speaking there are four chords in this track. But the role of the B7 is so insignificant that you can neglect it and play an E instead.

All Apologies – Nirvana

All Apologies of the nineties heroes Nirvana is written in a drop D tuning. That means you’ll have to tune the lower E string of your guitar one tone down to a D. That’s why the chords you see are a bit strange. Fortunately, there is wonderful tool called the capo. When you put a capo on the fourth fret, the chord progression changes into the familiar basic triads A, D, and E.

Wicked Games – Chris Isaak

When it comes to powerful songs, Wicked Games by Chris Isaak is definitely such a track. The ambiguous text, the ever-increasing tension and the sultry desire that the track radiates fits into any jam. The chords are also super basic, namely Bm, A, and E. Okay, Bm might indeed be a bar chord, but it really isn’t that much different from the B major.

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke ft. T.I, Pharrell

It doesn’t get easier than Robin Thicke’s hit with Pharrell. The song consists mainly of the chords D and G. The most important is the strumming pattern, which is essentially that you play the chord on the first beat of the bar only. In the transition to the chorus you hear a bass lick that starts on the C note and works its way up to the D. Here you can just play a C. That’s all you need to know for playing Blurred Lines.

Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is a must in a campfire jam. Just because the guy is classical rock hero. Like All Apologies, his song Nebraska has a somewhat challenging chord scheme, that is, until you put the capo on fourth fret. Try it for yourself and watch how suddenly everything changes to the basic E, A, and D.

Walk of Life – Dire Straits

For the grand finale we have a really timeless song. Even if you don’t know the Dire Straits, you know this tune. Walk of Life is one of the most famous songs the band ever made. Again, this track consists of only three chords. The E, B, and A are again combined in a success formula. Now all you have to do is practice the vocal line. Check our Campfire Essentials channel for more songs to spice up your setlist. Happy jamming!

Historic album of the month – Live Killers by Queen

One of the world’s most influential bands release their first live album at the apex of their musical abilities. This, we think, describes a more than suitable candidate for a glance into rock history’s rearview mirror. That’s why this month we shine a light on the celebrated Live Killers by Queen. This record has, since its release in 1979, changed the definition of a rock show.

Thirty nine years ago in June, one of the world’s most extravagant acts released their first live album. At that time they had already recorded seven studio albums over a span of nine years. Live Killers is a compilation of a multitude of shows that the band played during their tour in Europe at the beginning of 1979.

Queen

Before we zoom in on this historical record, let’s travel back in time to the year 1970. The year that the band Smile falls apart and its young guitarist Brian May, then midway through his doctorate in astrology at London’s Imperial College, wants to be a full time musician. May and Roger Taylor, drummer and dentistry student, decide to find a singer to accompany them. A good friend and fan of Smile catches their eye, Farrokh Bulsara, born between the palm trees of Zanzibar. Bulsara’s itching to start his career as the frontman of a rock band.

As an art student he conceptualizes the band’s image from the get go as full of grandeur, provocation, art and a thick guitar sound. The name of the band should catch this in one stroke. In this starting period Bulsara and May are separately working on tracks, one called March of the Black Queen, the other White Queen. All three artists agree that the word ‘queen’ has the powerful feel that they’re looking for.

Freddie Mercury

After joining the band Bulsara immediately changes his name. He was looking for something more in line with a band that’s called Queen. Chris Smith, keyboard player for  Smile remembers it well. In the documentary Days of Our Lives (2011) he recollects how, one night, his buddy Farrokh sits in a bar with his hands covering his face.

‘I asked him if something was the matter’, says Smith. ‘He looks at me and tragically announces that he can’t be a popstar anymore.’ Upon asking ‘why’ Farrokh stands up and shouts out: ‘Because I, Freddie Mercury, will be a legend!’ The keyboard player grins. ‘No one took Freddie serious back then.’

Bombastic glam rock

The rock ‘n roll guitar riffs by Brian May, the stringent drumming by Roger Taylor and the exceptional vocal reach of Freddie Mercury, all fall right into place from start. When the group is complemented by bass guitarist John Deacon in 1971, who also appears to have a voice of gold, Queen is ready for liftoff.

With songs like Seven Seas of Rhye, Now I’m Here, Love My Life and of course Bohemian Rhapsody of their first three albums the band is creating a whole new sound. It’s rock, but with some new flavors, a special sauce of opera, theater and ballet. The different layers in the vocals sound like Brian Wilson’s wall of sound on steroids. In the instrumental pieces the piano and guitar are on a par with each other, which in most rock music is unheard-of at that time.

Punk era

At the end of the seventies the band’s popularity is receding, because they cannot connect with the younger audiences. The media also doesn’t hold the band in high regard anymore, on the contrary they print (extremely) critical articles and reviews. For example when Freddie Mercury muses about a combination of rock ‘n roll and ballet, this becomes the pinnacle for a negative article with the telling title: “Is This Man a Prat?”

It’s a period that’s characterized by a growing popularity for punk rock in the United Kingdom. Bands like the Sex Pistols and black Flag are slowly moving into the mainstream. Queen’s bombastic rock is not the pleasure trove it once was for the big audience. Nevertheless there is a big faithful group of fans that keep supporting the band.

In a reaction to these developments Freddie Mercury and Brian May are each working on a song that will immortalize them and make them into legends. We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You are going to be Queen’s answer to the changing musical landscape of the western world. Both songs have gathered a larger than life status over the years, and they have intrinsically altered rock music.

Stadium rockers

At the end of the seventies the act has grown so popular that they standardly perform for a sold-out stadium. This is when the usage of the term stadium rock comes into full swing. Their whole show and performance are adapted to the grandeur of the stadium. Everything is bigger, more bombastic, and has more extravagance. From the lighting to the outfits and the way Freddie addresses the public.

Along the way Mercury learns not be fazed by the huge audiences that move like waves in front of him. On the contrary, he starts to play games with them. One his favorite activities in between the songs is to engage the public in a play of call and answer. A skill that would later be adopted by bands like Guns ‘n Roses, Pantera, Nirvana and Faith No More.

Live Killers

This is the period that Queen records the album Live Killers. It’s a snapshot of a group that is full of passion and growing towards the top. They’re at the height of their potential and their eagerness, spirit and will to proof themselves is noticeable in every tone, riff and vocal punch. They have the raw energy, musical hunger and theatrical complacency of a band that’s at the top of their game.  

The album is put together from of a mixture of different performances taken from their European tour from January until March in 1979. The band mixed the tracks themselves in their then recently bought Mountain Studio in Montreux, Switzerland. In an interview Brian May and Roger Taylor later proclaimed the adrenaline rush to be so intense during those shows that they had trouble recollecting which song belonged to which show.

Remarkable

While the album went double platinum in America and shined at the top of the British charts, the band was not at all pleased with the sound and the mix. Nonetheless it’s a record full of remarkable compositions and melodies.

The opening for instance is a faster version of We Will Rock You. The songs Killer Queen, Death on Two Legs and Bicycle Race have been put into one medley seamlessly melts them together. Mercury’s voice is clear and deep, like we’re used to from their  studio albums. The band plays rigidly and doesn’t defer from using different kinds of effects that we also hear on the record, like heavy echoes and delays.

End of an era

Over the course of the eighties Queen matured into one of the biggest and most renowned bands of the world. But, after a gig in Sun City, South Africa they were accused of supporting apartheid, which made for a undeserved blot on their image. Their big revival for the public eye came with their appearance at the immense charity drive Live Aid in Wembley Stadium in 1985.

The show that Freddie Mercury puts on here is of such a high caliber that all the performing artists, from Phil Collins to David Bowie and Elton John bow their heads for the kings of arena rock. It comes as no surprise that this show was chosen by the BBC as the best live performance of all time. But we shouldn’t forget that the band made their first steps on the path to true stardom with the Live Killers record. A historical moment to be cherished. happy jamming! 

How to choose an electric guitar for beginners

Choosing a new guitar is a beginner’s first important step. After all, you’re at the advent of an infinite adventure. So, choose wisely, efficiently and make sure you ‘inform yourself before you wreck yourself.’ Just like in part one and two of this series we’ll focus on choosing your first guitar. In this case an electric six string.

An instrument is like a tool, so it’s important that you know what you want to use it for. It’s counterproductive, at the least, to use a sledge hammer to straighten out thin nails in a spongy wooden board. Just as demolishing a brick wall with a screwdriver is quite a challenge. As we’ll see learning to play guitar adheres to comparable rules. So, think carefully about what you want to learn and choose the instrument that best suits your needs.

Why an electric guitar?

Why choose an electric guitar at all? You can also tinker with and sing along to an acoustic specimen. Right? No. Well, to follow the ‘what suits your needs’ dictum; if you want this, then an acoustic instrument is for you. But that’s a story for another article.

So, what’s your incentive? Maybe you aspire to be the next Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Dimebag Darrell. Then this post is for you. We briefly explain how an electric guitar works, we’ll get you acquainted with the basic models and which brands are preferred by which genre. See this article as a convenient starting point for your search.

Difference between acoustic and electric guitars

There’s an obvious, yet essential difference between an acoustic six string and an electric six string. The first amplifies the strings’ vibrations through the hollow body of the guitar, that functions as a sound box. The latter’s functioning is a little more complicated.

An electric guitar has magnets attached to the body that pick up mechanical vibrations, which is why these parts are called pickups. They transmit the vibrations as an electrical signal through the guitar’s jack output, and via a cable into your amplifier. This whole process depends on electric power and signals. That’s why it’s called an electric guitar, and of course the sound is electrifying.

Sound

The sound of the electric guitar does not solely rely on power. Below we will discuss the other important factors that make up the sound. This will give you a good idea of what an electric guitar does and what you need to pay attention to when you choose one.

We’ll discuss the impact of the type of wood that is used to produce the body and neck. This is not as decisive as with an acoustic instrument, but it still plays an important role. Another factor to be aware of are the guitar’s pickups, which can alter the sound in different ways. And last but not least, of course, there are the different brands and models that match the sound of particular genres.

Body

Let’s start with the body. Different electric guitar models have different types of sound boxes. These are almost always made of wood. The type of wood is important when it comes to the weight of the instrument and the tone and color of the sound. For example, mahogany has a full and thick sound, but it’s fairly heavy in terms of weight. Essen wood is light and the sound is clear and higher than other woods. This way every type of wood has its own characteristics, as you can see here.

In addition to the material, it’s also important to note that there are three types of body shapes. The solid-body means that the sound box consists of a solid piece of wood. In contrast, a semi hollow-body has a small hollow space between the front and the back of the sound box, similar but slightly smaller than that of an acoustic guitar. In the case of the hollow-body this space is even larger. Both often have a carved-out F-shaped figure in order to enhance the resonation of the sound.

Single coils

The body of the guitar houses most of its electronics, i.e. the pickups, switches and wires. These are essentially copper-wound magnets that absorb vibrations of the strings, making it possible to amplify the sound. There’s many different pickup brands. But in the end, you can divide them all into two groups: single coils and humbuckers.

The single coils produce a clear and thin sound. They are often used in funk, blues and grunge. If you’re looking for that Jimi Hendrix sound, keep in mind that he mainly played on guitars with single coils. Also remember that the advantage of a thinner sound is that you can always make it thicker with effect pedals. The other way around is much more cumbersome.

Humbuckers

At first glance humbuckers look like two single coils that are glued together. That’s true to a certain extent, but because of the way they are wired, a humbucker is really one independent element and not two.

You can test the different sounds by using the switch, also on the body, to alternate between the different pickups. Depending on the guitar, you can switch both single coils on at the same time or one at a time. Compare the sound with that of a humbucker.

The humbucker sound is thicker and fuller than a single coils’. This makes it ideal for heavier genres like rock, hard rock and metal. From Slash to Dimebag Darrell, humbuckers all the way. Do you like John Mayer? Than you shouldn’t pick a guitar with humbuckers.

Stratocaster

John Mayer plays – just like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix – on a Fender Stratocaster. This is one of the most iconic models. It’s probably the first model you think of when you try to picture an electric guitar.

The instrument is classically equipped with a solid-body and three single coils, although some deviant versions are equipped with humbuckers. It has twenty-one frets, two tone controls, one master volume and a pickup switch. Want a bluesy, funky sound? Then this is your guitar. It has a typical screeching sound that’s still recognizable when you thicken it with effects.

Les Paul

Just like the Stratocaster, Gibson’s Les Paul model is a classic. It’s a solid-body equipped with two humbuckers, two tone controls, two volume buttons and a three-way pickup switch. You can send the signal through the upper, lower or both humbuckers.

You could say that the Les Paul is exactly on the other side of the spectrum, opposite the Stratocaster. A Les Paul model has a heavy, full and deep sound and is also heavier in terms of physical weight. Not that fitting when you want to play crystal clear tunes, because they sound a bit woolly. But, it’s perfect for heavy riffs, full chords and thick solos. Slash, Zakk Wylde, Lenny Kravitz and Jimmy Page use this monster for good reasons.

Streamliner

To reproduce that ol’ growling rock ‘n roll sound of Chuck Berry, or the fine sound of Chet Atkins, you need a hollow-body. Gretsch’s Streamliner is one of the best-known guitars in this category. The humbuckers give a specific heavy sound, but the high tones are a bit slenderer.

This guitar model also lends itself to blues. It’s for good reasons that Bo Diddley usually played on a Gretsch Streamline. The ‘king of rock ‘n roll’, Mr. Presley, was also fond of it. So, if you love that nice vintage sound, check out the hollow-body models.

Artcore

Ibanez is known for its heavy solid-body guitars, which are often used in the metal genre. But the guitar manufacturer also made the semi-hollow Artcore in the seventies. Together with Gibson’s ES-335 this is one of the most famous semi hollow-body guitars.

These guitars are perfect for country, blues and fusion. You can use it in any direction you want. The sound is full of crisp and clear mid-tones. This allows you to combine the warm and full characteristic of the hollow body with the tight sounds of the solid-body. These guitars are often equipped with humbuckers.

Many others

To keep it simple we will not go into too much detail, lest we deliver you a headache. The models discussed in this article constitute the basic designs for the various other electric guitars that came after. Still, we can’t ignore a number of other varieties of the electric six string.

If you’re a real metal head it pays to immerse yourself in brands like B.C. Rich and Dean, besides Ibanez and Gibson of course. As a rocker you should also check the Jaguar and Telecaster models from Fender. Gibson’s SG series are also a must to try out in a music store, it’s the favorite guitar of both Angus Young and Tony Iommi.

Choices, choices, choices

We understand, you read all this and think, “What is it all about? I just want to play on a good and not too expensive guitar. Just give me some concrete brands! It would be really nice to be able to do that, but as you might suspect it will not happen.

You have to work out for yourself what guitar fits your needs. For a cheaper alternative you can also look at what brands offer good copies of the more expensive ones that were mentioned above. Don’t buy a far too expensive Fender right away and never play on it!

Walk into a music store and start trying one guitar after another with this basic knowledge. Take your time with it, because the better your choice, the longer you’ll enjoy it. As with everything else in life, the following applies: ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’. Happy jamming!

From Justin Bieber to Metallica anything goes in E major – chord of the week

This week we’re placing the toughest major chord in the spotlight. The E has a powerful, full sound, so you can use it in every genre. From heavy metal to hip-hop, from hip-hop to pop, nothing’s too crazy for the E. 

As you may have seen on Instagram, this week’s chord is the E major. This is a versatile key that plays an important role in both classical and contemporary pop music. It’s actually not very surprising since your guitar is tuned by default in an open E. The diversity of the chord can be found in the list of tracks we have compiled for you.

Love Yourself – Justin Bieber

Pop idol Justin Bieber has always been a hit machine. The song Love Yourself is no exception. The characteristic guitar carries the track from beginning to end. Although this song sounds very simple, it has some nice challenges. It quickly changes chords and there are a few chords that you won’t find in every song. I am talking about the F-sharp minor and the C-sharp minor. Check it out for yourself.

Berlin – Thomas Azier

Speaking of pop idols, Dutchman Thomas Azier, who lives in Paris, is well on his way to conquer the world. The song Berlin of the album Rouge is an ode to his previous base where he wrote his debut album Hellas. In this track he describes the German capital through the eyes of a young artist. The song is written in E and in the chord scheme we see a number of challenging chords, such as the C-sharp, the C-sharp minor and the B.

Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

The men of the Red Hot Chili Peppers now look like an older version of Justin Bieber. It’s hard to imagine that they were ever young, tough and anything but poppy. The raw sound of Under the Bridge from the album Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik from 1992 kind of reminds us of the good old days. The song has a Hendrix like vibe and chords like E major7, F-sharp minor and G-sharp minor show how diverse the key of E is. This track is a challenge for the advanced guitarist. Try playing along.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium) – Metallica

As already mentioned, the E chord fits into any musical style. It doesn’t sound too cheerful, but it doesn’t sound too sad either. It is melancholic, serious and powerful. Since this is the lowest sounding chord on the guitar, the E lends itself perfectly to dark genres such as metal. Try something new and play along with Metallica’s Welcome Home (Sanitarium). The song is a fun challenge for its divers rhythms and the usage of chords like the B, the B minor and the F-sharp.

Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

Yes, we already know, you can’t get enough of the E. The Rolling Stones know that feeling all too well. They even wrote a song about it. Satisfaction is one of the most famous songs of the British rock band. If we look at the chord scheme, we quickly see that it consists of the three basic chords E, D and A. In addition, The Rolling Stones use the B7 jazz chord to add a little more color to the track. Try to play along. Happy jamming!

Five songs written in the key of A major – chord of the week

We have something new! We’ll be posting a chord on Instagram every week, starting today. This is going to be our chord of the week. Follow our account and check it out for yourself. This week we zoom in on A major. Jam along with a number of tracks that are written in this key.

How cool to select a chord of the week, but what does this mean for you? Well, enjoy playing along with some cool songs that are written with this chord as the keynote. We listed a few classics below, that are in A major. Just some inspiration for those moments around the campfire, on the beach or in the park.

Blitzkrieg Bob – Ramones

A classic punk song in A major is Blitzkrieg Bop by the British band Ramones. This song consists of four chords, and it’s perfect for practicing your basic finger placements. For the advanced beginner, this is an obvious opportunity to try out a slightly more difficult grip like the barré B minor. Just jam along here and check it out.

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley

With spring in your heart and summer approaching, you shouldn’t miss a Bob Marley song in your setlist. It’s a good thing that the reggae legend has written Three Little Birds in A major. More good news? Oh yes, this song consists of only three chords. Perfect for beginners and a lot of fun for advanced guitar players. So play along.

Champagne Supernova – Oasis

An Oasis song is essential to every jam session, whether on the beach or during a picnic in the park. Don’t ask why, just take out your guitar and start practicing the brit-pop hit Champagne Supernova. This song is a great opportunity to try out some of the more challenging chords. Like the F, the F-sharp and the F-sharp minor. If you look closely at this chord scheme, you will see that there is not much difference in finger placement between these three chords.

Help! – The Beatles

Now that we’re on the subject of brit-pop, The Beatles have also written a few very fine tracks in A major. How about the hit Help! from 1965. Just like the previous song, you can get out of your comfort zone and try out trickier chords like C-sharp minor and B minor. Just look at the diagrams of these two chords. The figure doesn’t really change, except for the fret position.

The A Team – Ed Sheeran

At first sight this Ed Sheeran song might sound simple, but it’s certainly a challenge, also for the advanced guitarist. It has fast chords changes, tight strokes and of course it’s written in A major. The A Team has it all, check it out for yourself. In this song we also encounter the chords F-sharp minor and B minor. Would they be in the standard chord structure of A major? Happy jamming!

Covert covers – part one

Have you ever been in a discussion with people who claim that Joe Cocker wrote the song With a Little Help From My Friends? Or even better: have you ever seen the expression on the face of a Marilyn Manson fan when he finds out that Tainted Love is a cover? There are actually a lot of great hits that weren’t written by the artist that you think wrote them. That’s why we uncover a few of them.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Now that we’re talking about the king of covers – Joe Cocker had his big breakthrough with The Beatles’ song With a Little Help From My Friends. The track was released in 1964 and was the singer’s second single. His debut song was I’ll Cry Instead which wasn’t a great success, but also a Beatles cover.

If I Were a Boy

Not only hippies from the sixties do covers. Nowadays it can even be found in genres like  hip-hop and R&B. For example, the song that was originally written by BC Jean has become a Beyoncé number one hit. The story goes that BC Jean offered her version of If I Were a Boy to different labels. Nobody wanted it. A year later, Beyoncé’s song was released, which was a literal cover of the song written by BC Jean.

All Along the Watchtower

Depending on which generation you’re addressing, people will have their own view on All Along the Watchtower. Where one labels John Mayer as the author of the song, someone else will overturn this fact with the knowledge that Mayer has clearly covered the track from Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland. What most people won’t tell you is that Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the track one year earlier in 1967.

Valerie

Amy Winehouse is a legend. At the age of 27, the young pop star died as a result of what can be described as a demanding lifestyle. With songs like Valerie Winehouse scored high in the 2006 pop charts. Still, against all expectations, the track is a cover. Indie-rock band The Zutons from Liverpool released the original song in the same year.

Hound Dog

It is a well known fact that Elvis Presley directly copied many of his songs from the R&B charts. This was very common in the fifties and sixties. Different groups listened to very defined musical styles. The song Hound Dog from 1969 is actually a cover of a Big Mama Thornton track from 1953.

Tainted Love

Anyone who claims that Tainted Love is a track by Marilyn Manson is right. The shock rocker released the song on his record The Golden Age of Grotesque in 2003. It is also a cover of… no, not Soft Cell. She conjured up the song in 1981, but this was also a cover. The original track is by Gloria Jones. Jones released the song in 1964.

Torn

Do you remember that video clip from the nineties by the Australian pop star Natalie Imbruglia? Natalie is standing in the center of a film set where the video is being recorded. Each time she has to adapt to the situation. Sometimes because the director wants her to, other times because something goes wrong. Torn marked Imbruglia’s breakthrough, however, it is a cover of the American grunge band Ednaswap.

Hurt

Country singer Johnny Cash scored his last big hit with Hurt in 2002 just before his death. The song goes through bone and marrow, because you hear Cash sing his life story. A life of pain, sorrow and love. It is therefore difficult to acknowledge that the track was written eight years earlier in 1994 by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails for the record The Downward Spiral. Yes we know, it hurts.

Jam along!

Did you get inspired by the fact that the songs mentioned above are actually covers? Time to jam along and create your own version. Now you can even enlighten your audience with the truth behind All Along the Watchtower, With a Little Help From My Friends and Hurt, Take a moment in between songs to feed your listeners some paradigm breaking trivia.

Pay particular attention to how people react when they find out that Torn, Tainted Love, Valerie, Hound Dog and If I Were a Boy were not written by the artists they had in mind. Happy jamming!

Always be yourself, unless you can be an ukulele player

The ukulele is one of the most famous and accessible string instruments of our time. From the moment it was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants to the present day, this cute guitar has the power to make anybody smile. Today we are celebrating this with International Play Your Ukulele Day.

When Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias moored their ship the SS Ravenscrag on the Hawaiian coast in 1879 to cut down some sugar cane, no one could have imagined that this trio would change Western pop music forever.

The Jumping Flea

The local population welcomed the three guys with open arms. In turn, to thank the locals for their warm welcome, the woodworkers from Madeira gave away one of their homemade instruments. This small guitar inspired by the Portuguese cavaquinho is what is now better known as the ukulele.

Queen Kalakaua was captivated by the instrument. The cheerful sound and easy handling of the cute guitar made the ukulele very attractive to the queen. That was why she regularly played it during meetings in her palace.

Because of this love for the ukulele the instrument became a hit on Hawaii. The name ukulele refers to its cheerful sounds which, according to Kalakaua, resembles a jumping flea: a ukulele.

America under the spell of the ukulele

The “jumping flea” crosses over to America some thirty-six years after its arrival in Hawaii. The Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco marks the breakthrough of the small guitar in the United States. The first ukulele-hype lasts about five years from the exhibition in 1915.

During that period the instrument was often used by the composers of Tin Pan Alley–the place in New York where hundreds of musicians wrote pop music on a daily basis. Around 1920, the small guitar disappeared from the mainstream for a while but re-entered the scene again after the Second World War with Arthur Godfrey’s television programme.

For fifteen minutes, every week, Godfrey uses the television medium to teach his audience how to play the ukulele. As the television itself becomes more and more an accessible device after the war, the popularity of the small guitar is suddenly increasing again as well: the second ukulele-hype is a fact. The plastic version of the guitar, available through TV-pal, saw more than nine million copies of the instrument sold.

The United Kingdom jams along

The jumping flea not only jumps happily around in the United States. Certainly not.  When the British discovered the instrument, a true ukulele fever occurred in 1930. One of the most famous ukulele players of that time was the comedian George Formby.

Formby uses the instrument to accompany his songs during shows. One such song that is still seen as an ukulele classic is When I’m Cleaning Windows. It is the gateway song that encourages the general British public to buy a ukulele.

After the sixties the little guitar disappears back to the underground again and stays there until crazy hipster Tiny Tim scores the hit Tiptoe Through the Tulips. This gave the ukulele an eccentric stamp and it remained a popular instrument for artists outside the mainstream ever since.

Playing the ukulele

Playing the ukulele is not as difficult to master in comparison to a guitar. Moreover, the instrument is not as expensive as a guitar. The small size makes it easy to bring along on a trip with you, or to friends. That said, it is important to know how to tame the jumping flea, or in other words: there are two accepted tunings for the four strings.

The first one is in the key of D. The strings are tuned in A, D, Fis and B starting from the lowest and working your way up to the highest. The second tuning is in the key of C. Again we work our way from the lower strings up. This means that your strings are tuned in G, C, E and A. Keep in mind that the 4th string (the string closest to your chest when in playing position) is actually the second-highest sounding string, as opposed to a guitar’s sixth string that produces the lowest note on a guitar.

An ukulele also includes a variety of accessories that help you make playing even easier. Such as, for example, a tuning device, a sleeve, and a stand. Very similar to what you basically need for a guitar.

Play Your Ukelele Day

During the international Play Your Ukulele Day, we’ll do a shout out to everyone to pick up the little guitar and enjoy jamming along with hits as Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, or Rise by Eddie Vedder.

And there are a few more tracks that you can use to steal the show today, that’s why we’ll list them below. But not before we’ve provided you with three cool trivia about the ukulele that you can tell your audience between the songs.

Did you know that Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison had a pile of ukuleles in his trunk for years. Just to hand out and jam with random people? Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder even recorded an entire album with the jumping flea! And one of the most famous pop stars of the moment is a very talented ukulele player.. Yes, we are talking about Taylor Swift.

Three tracks to steal the show on your ukulele

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole with the medley Over The Rainbow’ & ‘What A Wonderful World may seem like a challenge, but if you don’t try it, you won’t know if it works for you. With this medley you really have a twofer! Maybe you are in a more melancholic mood? Then play along with Eddie Vedder’s Rise. This song is of the soundtrack of the motion picture Into the Wild.

If you want to honour the classics, then squeeze your throat and do your best imitation of cult hero Tiny Tim. Tiptoe through the Tulips is for the real ukulele connoisseur. For more inspiration check out our ukelele channel. Enjoy and happy jamming!

Five chords that will turn every campfire into a rockshow

The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising, and the flowers are in bloom–enough reasons to light up a campfire, grab your guitar and burst into song. To turn every campfire into a rock show, we’ve drawn up five chords with which you can play almost any pop song.

The holy grail of the pop industry has always been based on only five basic chords. “No, that can’t be true”, we hear you thinking. Yes, it can! From Lady Gaga’s Poker Face to Van Morrisons’ Brown Eyed Girl. You can play them all with five basic chords.

Intervals

The secret of the five chords is not the specific chord diagram, but the interval between the chords. Let’s take a look at Poker Face by Lady Gaga. If you click here you will see that the original track is in G-sharp Minor. But what happens when you click on the capo tool and place it on the fourth fret as shown on the picture below?

Indeed, you see that the chords suddenly changed to the very basic E/Em, C, D, and G chords. Logically, you can now just play the song at the top of the guitar neck. The only difference is that you no longer sing in the tricky G-sharp Minor, but in E Minor.

 

The secret of the five chords

When we talk about five basic chords, we’re talking about the D/Dm, the A/Am, the G/Gm, E/Em, and C/Cm chords. Now we hear you thinking again: “These are ten chords!” Well, yes and no. When you look at the construction of basic chords, you see that the minor or major is determined by only the third (interval).

The root and fifth remain the same, so you’re really talking about an almost identical chord with a different mood. For the sake of convenience, therefore, we have taken the root note of the basic chords as our starting point. Another secret of the five chords is that they occur more often in a combination of four than all five at the same time.

Campfire hit

Let’s see how that works for different songs. Take, for example, Rockstar ft. 21 Savage by Post Malone. As with the Lady Gaga example, the first thing you see is an impressive display of chords that you probably didn’t know existed. Press the capo tool, place it on the third fret, and voila!

These are simply basic chords again! Yes, there is indeed a strange C major seventh in there, but if you look closely it is actually a simplified C: the chord diagram resembles the “normal” C major chord, only the index finger on the B-string is missing. In other words, you can play the standard C chord and choose whether or not to fret the B-string.

Capo Tool

In short: don’t be fooled by chords that initially seem difficult. It’s not a disaster that you don’t know what an A-sharp major seventh is. Play around a little with the capo tool and you can transpose this chord to a more understandable pitch, such as C.

Caution! In theory, you don’t have to put a capo on your guitar, you can just use the tool to see if you can convert a song to the recognizable five chords that you can then just grab at the top of the guitar neck (also called ‘first position’).

Simplicity is key

If you still end up with more difficult chords, always look at the fundamentals like the root tone and at the third. Returning to the C major seventh from the Post-Malone track, you know that the root is a C and that this chord is in major. In other words, you can simplify the chord by playing a normal C major.

Simplicity is key when jamming at the campfire. Remember this and apply it to every song you want to play. This way you change every campfire you sit at into a real rock show. Try it out and if you need more inspiration check out the YouTube video above. Happy jamming!

Historical album of the month – Tokyo Tapes from Scorpions

Tokyo Tapes is the first live album of the German band Scorpions. This album, recorded in April 1978, is the official recognition of the rockers as a force to be reckoned with in the hard rock universe. Behind the recordings lies a moving story of five boys from Hanover who see their dreams come true.

Anyone who does their best can achieve anything. With this motto in mind, guitarist Rudolf Schenker founded the band Nameless in 1965. This is the very beginning of what later will become one of the most successful hard rock bands in the world. The international acceptance to the hard rock family takes place thirteen years later in Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo.

Scorpions

In 1966 Schenker dreams of conquering the world with his music. In addition to a good sound, this also requires a short, concise and catchy name. Something universal that conveys the hard rock message: Scorpions. Although the guitarist is already a rockstar in his head, Schenker must first make sure that his own city Hanover knows his band.

He works hard and manages to organize performances in venues. First in Hanover and later throughout Germany. Since Scorpions is one of the first bands on German soil to play American rock ‘n roll and hard rock, the act conquers their native club circuit in a few years’ time. After that the rockers head off to Europe.

Hardrock Made in Germany

German rock fans finally have an act they can be proud of. The sound of Scorpions doesn’t detract from the big bands of those days, like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Rainbow. It’s downright hard rock Made in Germany.

Despite the band’s success in Europe, they have to work harder and harder to gain international fame. Their record company RCA publishes their records in minimum quantities. Schenker calls the label time after time to ask if his band’s albums can appear on the record shelves in cities where Scorpions are playing.

Big in Japan

Despite the limited distribution of the band’s albums, fans in Japan are able to get their hands on the first five records. Scorpions thus acquires a fixed fan base in the land of the rising sun. The rockers from Hanover find out how big this fan club actually is when they receive the invitation to play in Tokyo.

The idea of a live album gradually emerges when the men realize that a boy’s dream might really come true. “People sometimes say ‘Big in Japan’. That’s really the dream of course,” says singer Klaus Meine in a documentary about the album.

Boy’s dream

In the spring of 1978 the dream comes true and singer Klaus Meine, guitarist Rudolf Schenker, drummer Herman Rarebell, bassist Francis Buchholz and solo player Uli Jon Roth fly to Tokyo. This is the first time that singer Meine has ever boarded a plane. For Roth, the tour to Tokyo is the last time he plays with the band – except for later reunion concerts of course.

Little do they know that this trip to Japan will result in a double album that will take the band to a whole new level. Even though the rockers taste the first hint of stardom when they land in Tokyo. In the middle of the night, the rockers are greeted by a limousine that takes them to the hotel. At the airport thousands of fans are waiting to welcome the Germans as heroes.

Tokyo Tapes

The Tokyo Tapes LP is a compilation of two of the three concerts that Scorpions play in a sold-out Nakano Sun Plaza. “It was one of the most bizarre experiences ever. Before the first performance it was all so quiet. I asked the promotor if the venue was really sold out,” recalls Schenker.

“He took me with him and let me take a look from behind the scenes. The plaza was completely full and everyone waited in silence for us to come up.” When the band rushes to the stage the show breaks loose and everyone goes completely wild.

For reasons of safety, the public should not be standing during the performance. A few months before the Scorpions’ show, six people were crushed to death during a Rainbow concert and the authorities therefore forbid dancing and jumping during events of this kind. “During our show no one could stop the crowd.”

Kojo No Tsuki

During the soundcheck just before the first performance in the Nakano Sun Plaza, singer Meine whispers a melody in the ear of guitarist Roth. It is the Japanese song “Kojo No Tsuki”. Immediately Roth picks up the vibe and on the spot the band jams a perfect Scorpions version of the track. Later that evening the song is a hit.

“It all sounds like I’m fluent in Japanese, but I had quite a bit of trouble getting the intonation and pronunciation right,” says Meine in an interview. “I did get a tape with the song from the Japanese fan club, but we were touring and I didn’t have time to learn it by heart.”

When he confesses to his wife that he intends to read the text of a piece of paper on stage, she forces Meine to go through the song with her on a daily basis during cooking. “Through these kitchen sessions you can still wake me up in the middle of the night and I know the lyrics word for word.”

World Domination

The release of Tokyo Tapes in January 1979 on the USA market signals the international recognition of Scorpions. The double LP sounds so awesome, that America almost feels passed by the German rockers. “We were included in the international hard rock family in a heartbeat. Tokyo Tapes is the end of a chapter and the beginning of our global success,” says Rudolf Schenker.

Uli Jon Roth leaves the band after the adventure in Tokyo. No quarrels, no hard feelings, just the need to do other things. Matthias Jabs succeeds him. “Klaus had persuaded me to go to Tokyo,” says Roth. “I didn’t want to, but because we are such good friends, I did it. My only regret is that I didn’t do the USA tour before quitting the band. But you can’t have it all. Everything happens for one reason right.”

Five ways to overcome your stage fear

Have you ever performed on a stage for a group of people? If so, then you know that this can be quite exciting. It all seems very magical in advance, but when it’s time to shine the nerves play up. It is not always easy to be at the center of attention. So, prepare yourself with these five tips.

 

Tip 1 – Know your stuff inside out

You’ve probably heard the motto: proper preparation prevents poor performance. In the case of performing this is the way the cookie crumbles. It’s important that you can play your part blindfolded, especially when you have no stage experience. This can only be achieved by practicing everything to the letter.

Now that you’re training for your rockathon make sure it’s in a similar setting to the one you’re going to perform in. No, you can’t build a pub or a concert hall in your attic. What you can do is imagine how you are on that stage.

Are you sitting on a stool, are you standing in a power stance? Think about it and practice your stage presence in the way that you are going to perform it. This is the only way to get to know your stuff inside and out.

Tip 2 – Visualize the perfect performance

If you’re not playing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare your mind for the gig. Visualize your performance with the most successful outcome. Pretend that it already happened and you’re looking back at the show. The most important thing is that you actually believe for a moment that you really did the gig and that it was truly successful.

Your brain cannot distinguish the difference between real and fake as long as you are completely convinced of your reality. Therefore, try to visualize everything in detail. How did it feel to be on stage? How did the crowd respond? How did it feel to play flawless? Do it a few times and thank us later!

Tip 3 – Physical training

Nerves are tapping into your energy reserves, so it’s good to work out on the day of your performance. Drain your energy with some sports. Working out forces your body to produce endorphins which are substances that enhance self-confidence and reduce stress.

You don’t have to run a half a marathon before your gig. Some powerlifting will do the trick, but don’t wear yourself out too much. Don’t like lifting weights? A healthy walk for at least half an hour is enough to start the production of endorphins. Needless to say that you’re aim isn’t to be completely broken on stage.

Tip 4 – Play for your favorite person

An advice that is often cited when we talk about performing for a large audience is: visualize the crowd naked. Sounds weird? It is. What you can do is imagine playing for your favorite person. Is it your father, your mother, or your best friend?

Whoever it may be, pretend that everyone in the audience is that one person who wishes you all the love and happiness in the world. This psychological hack provides peace of mind and self-confidence. That’s why it’s perfect for giving away a top performance.

Tip 5 – Avoid stimulants

Avoid everything that will boost your heart rate. An enhanced heartbeat in combination with being nervous isn’t a great combination at all. Stimulants such as caffeine have this effect. An increased heart rate makes you more concentrated and self-aware. This may sound as a good thing, but when you’re tense, it actually means you get even more stressed out.

So don’t drink coffee or energy drinks before you go on stage. Take a glass of citrus juice instead. The substances in citrus lower your heart rate. This will make you calmer, more relaxed and ready to rumble.

Final thoughts

All the tips mentioned above will help you tame the worst panic attacks. Keep in mind, however, that some tension is good. You can bite your nails for a while, as long as the stress disappears the moment you go on stage.

If that’s not the case, keep in mind that the audience also consists of people just like you. All of those spectators would have been just as tense, or even worse, if standing in your shoes. Let them know that by telling your audience that you’re nervous. Drag everybody in the joint into your reality. It’s part of the game and it makes it more fun. Happy jamming!