Ralph Shaw Portrait

Charity – Sweet or Unsweet?

I want to thank Marian in British Columbia, Canada who asks, “How do you choose which charity (i.e., unpaid) gigs you do? I think it can be a tricky line to walk, because unpaid gigs can be a great way for musicians, who are just starting out, to get experience and...

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First Gig After a Year of Lockdown

It finally happened, Saturday June 5, 8pm – the first indoor gig for McShane and Shaw in well over a year. It's been a year of not exercising the muscle of live performance and while some have used this time to learn musical instruments many in the performing...

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10 Tips to Help You Choose a Ukulele

If you are a fairly novice player and don’t know about stringed instruments it’s nice to have an experienced player with you to help you choose your instrument. But that may not be possible and, ultimately, it is you who will live with the choice. So if you can do the...

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Wings are Handy Things

Getting three chickens, at the start of last year's lockdown, prompted my friends to ask if I knew what I was letting myself in for. Clarifying, they followed up with the question, “In about four years, when they stop laying, how are you going to feel about killing...

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The Perfect Musical Partnership

First of all, thanks for your messages and for subscribing to my new youtube music-video: Your Car’s Too Big If you haven't seen it go now! Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fzx7kbfSkAU Apparently, some of you found it so catchy you were forced to...

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A Little Corner of Parodies 3 (6 writing tips)

Most parody writers freely admit that they do them because it’s simply too difficult to write good original songs. And yes, while parodies are far easier to write than originals, a great parody still takes thought and care. Below I offer you 6 song-writing tips to...

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Trouble in Parodies 2

Although it can be a legal grey area (with multiple shades of grey), for the most part it’s actually perfectly legal to parody an artistic work under “fair use” laws. This is because of two landmark court cases that clarified the once murky situation for parody...

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A Taste of Parodies 1

Parody is a fun way to get into song-writing. But what is it exactly? And are there pitfalls when making a mockery of someone else’s work? My friend Ruth said she’d heard a busker making a decent job of Brand New Key (The Rollerskate Song) by Melanie. I had to google...

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Ralph Goes Dutch (Part 4)

Here is your final instalment of the ukulele-bike-boat tour I did in 2019. So far, our much photographed 3-masted barquentine has been motoring under engine power close to land. But now it's time, under the guidance of Captain Eelke, to unfurl the sails and let the...

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Ralph Goes Dutch (Part 3)

We're off again on our uke-bike-boat tour of the Netherlands. Today, I learn about the world-conquering ingenuity of the Dutch - and Susanna tries her new e-bike - but it's Becky who comes out looking the worse for wear...   Years ago, while listening to a group of...

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Ralph Goes Dutch (Part 2)

Saturday, late afternoon The sleet subsided and the crew unloaded bikes onto the quay. Hugo, our bicycle tour guide, adjusted each vehicle for its rider. Everyone was chatty and friendly. We had a few Brits and Australians along but I'd say the majority were Americans...

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Ralph Goes Dutch (Part 1)

I want to take you back to a simpler, happier time. Back when the world was idyllic and orderly and every moment spent on this green and pleasant earth was a joy and delight. Basically, any time before 2020 will do but I’m specifically talking about one week in April...

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Entertaining in a Speeded-Up World

Welcome to 2021! The UK has just entered its third nationwide lockdown, the garden is covered with snow, and I'm viewing quite a bit more telly than I usually do. One thing I watched was a new film called Zappa which sparked some memories and caused me to ponder on...

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We Three Queens of Yorkshire Are

The end of the year, that will be forever known as 2020, is almost over and Christmas time is upon us. So I've chosen as this week's topic: world peace! Poor Boris Johnson has had to cancel Christmas. With the UK already suffering one of the highest per capita covid...

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The Greatest Country on Earth

Many thanks for your many positive responses to last week’s email announcing the return of this newsletter. It was exactly what I needed to give me a powerful starting boost. Some of you told me a bit about yourselves and many more simply wrote, “Yaaay Ralph!!” Which...

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The Ukulele Entertainer Rides Again!

The Ukulele Entertainer e-Newsletter is back. Everybody say, "Yaaaay Ralph" The story so far: I've spent my adult life making a living playing the ukulele, first as children's entertainer Ralph the Clown (back when clowns were more funny than scary) and from 1997...

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Pass on the Passion

In 1996 while walking through the Skytrain overpass in Vancouver's Waterfront Station I drew level with a street musician who said, "There was someone looking for you. He wants to give you his ukulele." Part 1 Yusuke Kawakami is a third generation luthier. That's...

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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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