Ralph Shaw Portrait

The Way You Make Me Feel

I do enjoy British telly. In North America I had little time or inclination for TV watching but there’s something about being in England that has me interested in almost anything that comes on the box. Although, having said that, much British programming actually does...

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Put an End to Stage Fright – the Hard Way

Every now and then we make a big decision that involves big change. And although change is good it is also stressful. But for me that stress of change also brought with it an interesting way to dispel stage fright. Having lived as a British expat in Canada for more...

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What Theolonius Monk Can Teach Ukulele Players

I came across a wonderful document online. It is purportedly a list of advice given by Theolonius Monk on how to play music and was written down by saxophonist Steve Lacy in 1960. It’s the condensed wisdom of Monk scribbled onto a spiral bound notepad. Makes you...

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Why Be a Ukulele Teacher?

It’s a surprising by-product of my musical life that as well as becoming an entertainer I also ended up teaching music. It’s surprising because my father was a school teacher and, like many young people who resist following their parent’s path, I set...

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The Art of Going Further and Deeper

I was once surprised to meet a ukulele player who told me he’d never learned a song all the way through. This state of affairs rendered him unable to perform in public, a condition he liked very much. But these days I find it equally strange to discover people...

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An Amazing Penguin Story by Ralph Shaw

At a very young age I knew way more about penguins than most people ever know. While other boys were busy bashing conkers and trying to strangle each other with striped school neck ties I kept myself separated from the herd mentality by being South Yorkshire’s...

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Be Musically Appropriate in the Trump Era

There’s a joke I often use in the middle of my busking act. After singing and cavorting with audience members I announce, “If you’ve just arrived and are wondering who I am and why I’m here: My name is Michael Bublé!” and then I add,...

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Are You An Original?

Rock music is a strange and unusual genre. Its sound derives from simple combinations of basic musical ideas that have remained popular for sixty years. So it’s no surprise that modern creators of rock music have a hard time coming up with something that...

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Songstoppers and What to do About Them

It’s interesting that the fear of messing up a live stage performance is a lot like the fear of heights, in that it is the fear itself which causes the unwanted thing to happen. The good news is that, unlike falling off a cliff, a major performance error is not...

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Music Hath Charms – apparently

I dreaded having to move. The fact is that I’ve never really done it. Not properly. My parents never moved (or “flitted” as we call it in my part of Yorkshire) and when I came to Canada with a suitcase, a banjo and a backpack I thought I was only coming for an...

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A Singer and a Song

My father in law, Bob, passed away last week at the age of ninety-six. It’s a ripe old age and you might say he had a good innings. Nevertheless I find it almost impossible to get used to living in a world in which Bob no longer exists. His long life has somehow made...

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Capo Feedback

The subject of Capos had many of you clamping down on your keyboards to tell me what you think of them. Most feedback was in support of the lowly capo but several of you dislike them. I think all the reasons are valid ones depending on the circumstance. Here is your...

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Handy Capo or Handicap?

My dictionary defines capo (typically pronounced Kay-po in USA and Kah-poh or Kap-oh in UK and Europe) as A device for a guitar, lute, banjo, etc., that when clamped or screwed down across the strings at a given fret will raise each string a corresponding number of...

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Anger Management for Performers

We practice to be the best we can be, and, although performance perfection is something we strive for, deep down we don’t really expect to pull it off. Most of us know that by the end of the show we’ll be able to look back with self-critical eyes and point...

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Play With Feeling

There is a way of giving someone positive feedback that can be both beautiful and devastating. I remember clearly one such moment on Montreal’s Saint Hubert Street. I was twenty-one years old and had been playing the five-string banjo for a year and a half. I...

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The Artist IS the Medium

As someone who writes books as well as entertains with music I am fascinated by how artists choose the medium in which they work. Why does one artist decide to communicate their experience in the world by carving a fifteen foot block of marble whereas another artist...

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