Ralph Shaw Portrait

Weekend Getaway

Long before prime-minister Boris Johnson stepped down this morning, the UK has felt like it is slowly falling apart. And this little tale of a ukulele player with a broken car touches on the growing sense that our transport and other public systems are not what they...

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Whistle While You Twerk – Whistling in performance  

During the first corona lockdown, when those of us fortunate enough to have a garden were enjoying the idyllic spring weather, Jane expressed her delight at hearing me communicate back and forth with a song-thrush. I’d imitate its calls and after a while it started to...

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The Art of the Squeal

Many ukulele players are attracted to outsider instruments that on the surface seem easy to play but which turn out to be deceptively difficult. (The kazoo is a good example of an instrument that is easy to play – badly.)   I wish hereby to make a case for the...

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Musical Transformation

Today I describe how I use musical performance to shake off the feelings caused by the doom and gloom in the news. If I don’t have a gig then I go out and hit the street. Here is a recent and true tale about the reality of making music on the street and the benefits,...

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Love Me Tenor Love Me Sweet

Regular readers will have noticed that The Ukulele Entertainer has been a bit thin on the ground in recent weeks. After waiting two years to get back to some kind of “normal” it seems we’ve landed with everything but. The invasion of Ukraine is both a present and a...

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Focus, Follow-Spots & Fun

Penistone Paramount Cinema (built 1915) is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK. Having gone there from early childhood it has been my temple of delights and a mecca of mirth to the point where, in my mind's eye, it seems much larger than it actually is. While others...

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Oh Where Did It All Go Wrong?!

For most people the start of a new year is a time to think about new directions. But it can also be a time of reflection, as we ponder past choices and wonder how things might have been different… Oh, and by the way: McSwing is here! Watch the new music video by...

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It Sounds Like a Wonderful Life

Last night my partner Jane and I attended our local Paramount Cinema to watch a seasonal screening of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. Many filmmakers, when interviewed, cite this film as being one of the best ever made. And now that I myself...

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A Faff-free Guide to Being Exotic 

Finding my stage-look was actually a natural transition from the clown costume I had when booking myself out as: Ralph the Clown Entertainer of Repute Music Included (No batteries required)   The chequered jacket and red trousers were replaced by a navy suit. And...

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Going Loopy

Anyone who has heard me wax scornfully on the subject of loopers will wonder at the news that Ralph Shaw has bought himself a loop pedal.   While researching loopers (aka. loop pedals or loop-stations) I kept hearing the phrase, “It’s a miniature studio right at...

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A Matter of Respect

Galileo, the new song and youtube video by McShane & Shaw, arrives on Thursday October 21. It’s quite different to our first video: Your Car’s Too Big and we hope you enjoy it.   Please subscribe to our youtube channel so that you don't miss this - plus many...

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Pedal Power

In 2005 one of my friends in the Vancouver Ukulele Circle spread the word that U.S. ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro would be giving a free concert that evening in a local furniture store. It seemed a very unlikely concept but a few of us showed up to see if it was...

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What’s So Hard About Happy Birthday?

In today's column I have solved a problem that I bet you didn't even know was a problem. Namely, the singing of the Happy Birthday song...   My sister asked me, “Why is it that every time I sing Happy Birthday at a party it nearly always ends badly?”   So, I...

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Faster, Higher, Stronger

With Japan’s Olympic games in full-swing I think about how differently sporting and musical achievements are rewarded. Athletes end up with shelves full of cups and medals from countless tournaments while musicians get… well what exactly? Today is my birthday and I...

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The Big Day

On Sunday, July 11, 2021, McShane & Shaw were booked to perform two forty-five-minute sets at a small wedding (all weddings at this time were small as restrictions limited them to thirty guests.)   As the day came closer, we realised our second set, scheduled...

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Beginner Class

While teaching a three-day residential beginner ukulele course recently I found myself wondering what we might achieve in such a short space of time. I mean, I could show my eleven retirement-age students the basics, but to properly play takes time for brain and body...

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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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