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Bohemian Rhapsody on Ukulele
January 28, 2011 3:13 AM   Subscribe

Bohemian Rhapsody on Ukulele by Jake Shimabukuro [via NPR | 3QD]
posted by peacay (33 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent.
posted by three blind mice at 3:48 AM on January 28, 2011


Tell you what, that Jake Shimabukuro, he can play that damn uke. Uh-huh. He sure can.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:51 AM on January 28, 2011


Humans are awesome sometimes. Thanks for reminding me.
posted by vapidave at 4:04 AM on January 28, 2011


While my head gently bangs....
posted by chavenet at 4:05 AM on January 28, 2011


Man, that was incredible. I always forget how rad ukuleles are until I hear them played again.
posted by Kaatridge at 4:06 AM on January 28, 2011


Wow.

Just wow.

Not sure if this is a compliment or not, but when I closed my eyes, I could forget it was a ukulele and instead a more glorious instrument.

Thanks for the link!
posted by Samizdata at 4:08 AM on January 28, 2011


I could forget it was a ukulele and instead a more glorious instrument.

In the right hands, a tin can can be a glorious instrument.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:11 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone feeling like more Ukulele covers after this? Check out PocketFox
Also any good piece will sound good even on a tin can (cf. Bach, Gameboy, Tetris).
posted by yoHighness at 4:17 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"More glorious instrument"?

The ukulele is a plenty glorious instrument already.
posted by kyrademon at 4:27 AM on January 28, 2011


I really liked his arrangement of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" when I saw that a few years ago. Good to know this guy's still working and being awesome and stuff. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Maaik at 4:47 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What an amazing performance. I hope I'm not a bad person for finding it goofy and goofless at the same time. So musical and lovely and overwrought and humble and clever and beautiful. 
posted by ~ at 4:52 AM on January 28, 2011


Here he is playing "Thriller."

And how about a link to his new album, Peace Love Ukulele (which has "Bohemian Rhapsody")? Some people might actually want to support the artist as long as we're watching his video.
posted by John Cohen at 4:59 AM on January 28, 2011


That was great.
Another favorite of mine is Brittni Paiva's Take Five.
posted by MtDewd at 5:00 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hard to tell what's a harmonic and what's a note picked with the fleshy part of the thumb. That's a well set up uke. A little too much reverb, but the man can play. Great audience, too.
posted by hawthorne at 5:22 AM on January 28, 2011


Mark my words: Ukulele Hero

And of course uogb
posted by vapidave at 5:29 AM on January 28, 2011


I love, love, love Jake Shimabukuro, and the quality on this vid is fantastic! Thank you for posting it, peacay. This is him doing BR at Anthology in SF in 2009.
posted by zarq at 5:31 AM on January 28, 2011


Jake talking about uke and Bach.
posted by plinth at 5:38 AM on January 28, 2011


In the right hands, a tin can can be a glorious instrument.

Says the virtuoso tin can player...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:06 AM on January 28, 2011


Wow, that was just... sweet. What a lovely way to start my Friday. Thanks, peacay.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2011


What a nice coincidence, he was on the local morning show this morning while I was watching for the weather. He's playing in Louisville tonight at the KCA if you're in the area.
posted by Mcable at 6:21 AM on January 28, 2011


I really liked his arrangement of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" when I saw that a few years ago.

Once again, for those who missed it.
posted by The Bellman at 6:54 AM on January 28, 2011


I really dislike the uke, but this guy is terrific. He makes the damned thing sing, and I never thought I'd hear myself say that about a bloody uke.

Here is the aforementioned While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
posted by Decani at 6:55 AM on January 28, 2011


D'oh! Beat me to it, The Bellman!
posted by Decani at 6:55 AM on January 28, 2011


Oh god, not again...
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:20 AM on January 28, 2011


Amazing.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:46 AM on January 28, 2011


That was a great arrangement/performance.

If you like the sound of a uke "elevated" by its player to a "more glorious instrument" you have to see the late, great John King perform Bach on his uke.
posted by JBennett at 8:29 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


WOW. Just.... WOW.
posted by Quiplash at 8:59 AM on January 28, 2011


Thanks for linking John King, JBennett. I got to see him perform at the Ukulele Expo in Montclair, NJ nine years ago and I'm very glad I was there.
posted by Songdog at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2011


Is he using traditional uke tuning? It's hard for me to tell.. if not, it's more like a little guitar, but yeah, still doesn't quite sound like a uke to me.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:33 AM on January 28, 2011


I've seen Jake a couple of times in Portland. He gets up on stage all alone and rocks for a couple hours. He's just amazing, and chatting with him afterwards, he seems like he's exactly as nice a guy as you'd guess from the music. A lot of his pieces make me giggle: "no, he can't possibly be playing Thriller!" But he is, and he's doing a playful, thought-provoking and competent version of it. On an instrument that you tune "My Dog Has Fleas."
posted by spacewrench at 10:00 AM on January 28, 2011


That's lovely. Yeah, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is beloved for its Wayne'sworldy silliness and excess and sheer over-the-topness -- and of course, its awesome Freddietude. But it's also such a pretty song.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2011


ReeMonster: "Is he using traditional uke tuning? It's hard for me to tell.. if not, it's more like a little guitar, but yeah, still doesn't quite sound like a uke to me."

Ukuleles can be tuned any way you like, of course, but the "my dog has fleas" tuning (often G-C-E-A) is the same set of scale degrees (5-1-3-6 in C major) that you get from the top four strings of a guitar in its most common tuning (D-G-B-E is 5-1-3-6 in G major). With smaller ukes it's common for the 4th string (G, in this case) to be tuned up an octave, so that the 3rd string (C) is the lowest voice. But many players tune the 4th string below the 3rd: this is the norm with tenor and baritone ukuleles, and not uncommon with concert ukes. Because of this the potential chord fingerings on a ukulele are essentially identical to those on the top four strings of a guitar, and guitar teachers sometimes start younger children on the ukulele as a way to accommodate smaller hands without changing too many other things.

I suspect that what you're really hearing is his right hand fingerpicking technique, which differs greatly from the brisk chord strumming that's familiar from ukulele playing in popular music. Personally I think this is analogous to the difference between classical guitar and jazz or popular rhythm guitar. I wouldn't say it doesn't "sound like a uke". There's a surprisingly broad range of sounds possible from that little instrument.
posted by Songdog at 7:28 AM on January 29, 2011


John King adopted classical guitar style too, but King specifically arranged pieces to be played with a campanella picking style which avoids playing consecutive notes on the same string, allowing each note to ring for a longer time. Jake S. may be incorporating this technique as well--I haven't tried to tell (and this kind of detail is way out of my league anyway).
posted by Songdog at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2011


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