Category Archives: Play Along

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. 



À la claire fontaine

If you know me, you know I like to incorporate French music into my classes as often as I can. One of my current obsessions has been collecting and recording songs from my grandmother, that she always sang to us. I hope to have a songbook and accompanying recordings ready for her 100th birthday coming up in June. Unfortunately, I’m not certain the party will actually be happening now with her residence being on lockdown at this time. Bless everyone who is looking after our elders right now and guarding them from this pandemic. I recorded this on Easter Sunday with she and Elaine and Claire on my mind as well as everyone else who is currently isolated from their loved ones in nursing and assisted living homes.

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.” means: I have loved you for so long, never will I forget you.

Play along with this traditional French folk melody that uses notes only from the C major Pentatonic scale. As an added challenge, try accompanying with C & G7 chords at the 3rd fret instead of the first position chords in the video. Download sheet music options here and sing along, en français.  Nana Mouskouri recorded a version with a different set of lyrics in 1973. 


Just when I had started teaching again…

I had just gotten into a great groove. I had a few private students coming for lessons regularly and I even got to use a perfect meeting space in our condo for my small group. I was also travelling once a week to a private home to teach a wonderful group of women. I had been really busy and inspired after starting to teach ukulele again this past winter. Until the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in North America, that is. Like all teachers, our in-person lessons and music making came to an abrupt end about a month ago.

I can’t believe almost a month has gone by. At first it was so stressful and living with 2 people who travel for a living means I will have to self-isolate indefinitely. We’re still taking extra care not to leave except for food every couple of weeks. But like everyone else, despite job insecurity and the huge changes in our daily lives, life in general keeps coming at us, and even death in our own family and others. This has awakened a heightened sense of the fragility of everything around us. But also the importance of making time for the things you love to do, every day, like an Instagram workout or a remote yoga session. But the saving grace has really been music, for me. For others around me, it’s online video games with family or diving into crafts and hobbies and that’s also great. I’m really thankful for a few people who I can continue to connect with creatively to play, arrange and share music.

By now I’ve gotten all of my students (and family!) using conference platforms like Zoom and Skype and FaceTime and even Snapchat! We’ve managed to connect somewhat and I’ve enjoyed seeing their faces and playing for them and with them, taking questions and teaching them a little. One thing that is really helping is I’ve also started creating some play-along videos for them to practice with.

Also seemed like a good time to revive the teaching blog, so here we go…

Originally intended as a play-along for my Book 3 students, this solo arrangement of Streets of Laredo is from James Hill’s The Ukulele Way, Book 3, Lesson 5, which is also the lesson of the month over at Uketropolis for April 2020.

Creating and curating pre-recorded lesson material is actually James’ advice for dealing with the new reality that we’ve been thrust into and avoiding teacher burnout so that’s exactly what I’ll try and keep doing then.

Here are two more play along videos with accompanying arrangements I created for students during the March madness of 2020. I guess this is the new teaching format for now. I’ll try and keep updating the blog too, if that helps spread the joy of music a little.

I’ve just finished putting this arrangement together for the holidays, to share with my fellow learners over at The Ukulele Way Lesson of the Month. We’re focusing on “Playing in Thirds” this month. #tuwlotm Find it in C6, D6 or Baritone G6 tuning, via Ukulele Arrangements. Includes tabs and french lyrics too! You can have a listen to my recording at SoundCloud.

It’s a Johannes Brahms tune that was covered by Céline Dion and her family members on her Christmas album, These Are Special Times, released 20 years ago already! One of my all-time favourite Christmas songs.

Celine Dion & Family...Le Cloches Du Hameau... - YouTube

Joyeux Noël à tous!
Happy Holidays to all!