Category Archives: Baritone Ukulele

All things baritone

Papillon, tu es volage

He’s the one who nicknamed me “le papillon” a long time ago. He said I never just entered a room but skipped, flitted or flew into it. I remember loving it when he’d greet me this way. You can tell here that I wasn’t one to sit still very long for a photo either. He also sometimes called me “la pitoune” which I never fully understood. It’s pronounced like the word “spittoon” and has nothing to do with “poutine”, the french fry dish. Now I know that pitoune actually means a 4-foot piece of log! 

La sleigh de pitoune

Many of our ancestors were loggers in the wild Northern Ontario bush for entire winter seasons. It was a safer way to load their horse-drawn sleighs crosswise with these short pieces to get them out of the forest trails. This work was called “charrier d’la pitoune”. Dad recently refurbished a little sleigh loaded with 4′ pitoune as a cottage decoration. Now that I know the story behind it, it’s that much more special when I see it.

Thanks to my dad for his love of nostalgia and music and for having this guitar in our house for my entire childhood too. He had received it as a gift from my mom, to bring to parties and strum along with family and friends. Once in a while he’d tune it up at our kitchen table and pick out a few melodies for us and I just loved that. I was given piano lessons on our brand new piano at the age of 7 and my brother was the one who got guitar lessons. It eventually went to my younger brother who taught me my first 3 chords on it in 2004. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked on strings and still love to play guitar as well as the ukulele.

Right between those two worlds lives the Baritone Ukulele and lately, I’ve been looking for more ways to bring that deep bari sound into the mix. With that, here’s an arrangement of Papillon, tu es volage, in Bm for baritone ukulele, with a harmony part played on ukulele.  You can download the pdf here.

This one’s for my dad…

LeBlancPapillon · Papillon, tu es volage


From The Canadian Encyclopedia: ‘Papillon, tu es volage’. Folksong in the form of a dialogue. It is of French origin and has been found in Canada in several variants, most often in the minor key. I’ve only included the first and last verse in the voice of the fair maiden. I left out the voice of the fickle lover but the arrangement sheet includes the lyrics for the entire dialogue between them. 

My First SoundSlice: La chanson des blés d’or

I’ve been working on a particular family project for awhile and this is a song I really wanted to include. It’s an old french classic whose lyrics were written by Frédéric Doria (1841-1900) and by Camille Soubise and L. Le Maître; the music was written by Marius Richard at la Scala (Paris) in 1882.

The song was a very special favourite that my grandfather used to sing, long ago. My aunt Brigitte told me about it when I was teaching her some ukulele via Skype, 5 years ago, and I started arranging it back then as a future project for someday…  After our Easter family Zoom session, my nephew, my brother and I decided to start working on learning the song for my grandmother’s 100th birthday, which is actually coming up this Tuesday. Bon anniversaire, Memère!

Since my brother and his family live in New Brunswick, this is how we collaborated on the song together to create a multi-track recording to play for her on her big day. I transposed the arrangement I had into the key of G and substituted the ukulele melody to a baritone ukulele. I just uploaded the .xml file into SoundSlice. It was actually pretty user-friendly for a first attempt. The most fun part is how they let you line up your sheet music to an accompanying video, all using a free account! What a great teaching tool this is! 

My nephew (Meelo, who’s a budding young artist, check out his SoundCloud) then sent me a recording of himself playing along on a guitar and his dad then sent me a vocal track. Then I added a harmony vocal and a few ukulele improvisations, and finally my daughter Stephanie added a little viola riff which I used as the intro/outro to the finished recording. We didn’t create a video but you can hear the finished song posted on my SoundCloud now. 

If you’d like to cover this arrangement yourself or just sing/play along, head over to SoundSlice or just play or sing along to my YouTube version.