Ralph Shaw Portrait

UE #180 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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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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