Mark 'Spanky' Gutierrez's Blog

It's Me.. Honest Its Me!!

It was an important day for Dad…

Gracie and I were playing on the couch the other day. She is only 11 months old but she is no stranger to music. I sang to her and her mama during the pregnancy and now almost everyday we sit at the piano and play on the keys. We also pull a uke down and she does what ever she wants with it. Sometimes she plucks the strings sometimes she slaps the back or chews on the head stock.

Gracie!

Gracie!

You never know how she is going to express herself on any given day. On this given day she pointed to a ukulele and I pulled it down for her to play with. I started to tell her about how important it is to express ourselves artistically everyday. That it lets us demonstrate how we feel in ways that words may fail us. Immediately I knew that these words were not just meant for her but me as well. I haven’t had time to practice or play nearly as much as I would normally. I started to play whatever came to mind and a wonderful song about a little train on the track that whistles Cho Cho as it goes singing by came out. I little ditty for my little sweetie. It made us both so very happy.

Express yourself through your art. Play, play, play, let it all out! Good and bad, let it out in your art. Maybe a strangers interpretation will put in words, that which you could not describe, releasing your heart to continue on.

Peace

Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Homemade Music….

Is there anything sweeter than having somebody sing you a song? Did you ever have a child sing you a song, a song especially for you? What about a sweetheart? Did you ever have a sweet heart sing you a special song? Has anyone ever crafted a song with you in mind?

Being the recipient of a special song is one of the most wonderful experiences ever. I know many people find it awkward to be sung to, to be the focal point of somebody else’s full attention but if you can put the blush and awkwardness aside and see that somebody else on this planet is trying to reach you on a whole different level… well it’s just pretty amazing.

So, with this in mind my ukulele friends, learn or write a song for your sweetheart, family, or best friend and sing it to them. Let

He looks so smart when he writes music!

He looks so smart when he writes music!

them know you hold them is such high esteem that you would dedicate some hard work, thought and time to only that one person. That you are willing to be totally focused on them.

Give the gift of music …

Peace

Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Why all the Frets???

There are at least twelve frets on your ukulele but most people only use the first three or four! My good friend Byron Yasui says “you paid for all those frets you might as well use them!”, and who could disagree with logic like that.

This topic quickly gets us into the discussion of chord inversions or different chord shapes. Let’s take the C chord for example you could play it:

In the first position as 0003C-At-0

or the second position as 3345 C-At-3

or the third position as 9787C-At-7

But why, why would I play those chords up the neck? Well… If I was trying to match the melody the other chords might give me the melody note as the highest note in the chord. Any time that you bring out the melody line in your chord playing the song starts to peek through the chords. People will say your playing “Silent Night” not just a set of chords.

Lets examine the notes of the C major chord. The notes for the C chord are C E G.

In the first position as 0003 = G C E C

or the second position as 3345 = C E G C

or the third position as 9787 = E G C E

So there would be to opportunities to play the C chord with either a C as the highest note or the C chord with the E has the highest note in the chord. I am sure that we if worked at it hard enough we could even come up with a C chord with G as the highest note.

If the melody of the song calls for then notes C and then E but the chord doesn’t change, you could follow the melody by choosing either the first position C or second position and then when the melody gets to E play the C chord  in the third position.

The only trick here is we are following the melody with chord shapes that have the melody note as the highest note.

But there are times when you just can’t… Say a song has a range that just won’t fit. Well then transposing the song to another key is a good idea but there are songs that have more than an octave range. In which case it’s time for you to make some creative decisions. Maybe move in the direction of the melody. Meaning that if the melody goes down in pitch then we can go pick a lower pitched C chord.

This is the basis to creating chord melody transcriptions. I hope that this helps you to understand why all those shapes for the same chord are important and I really encourage you to try making your own arrangements.

Now let’s just make one technical music theory correction. I called these inversions and technically that is not right, just ask Dr, Bales. C E G is the first inversion, the second would be E G C, and the third G C E. Notice on the ukulele we are just taking the next set of C E G notes and calling it the next inversion. It’s actually just the next position in which C E G pops up as a playable form. It’s Just That Easy!

Good luck my friends!!

Peace

Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Re-Connecting

It’s been awhile since I was in Dallas. It was great to return with my wife and new daughter. We were only there for a short two days but were able to reconnect with some ukulele folks from the area. Mark and Kathy Levine, Noel Tardy, and in spirit Gina Volpe.

It was so nice to sit down in a relaxed atmosphere and just share what was going on in our lives. Normally there is some ukulele event that is going on and while that is always fun it usually puts us in a situation where we have to provide service or perform for others. We don’t normally just get to sit down and see how the other is doing. That made this visit special in that it was just us getting together to reconnect. What a great time.Dallas Crew

I had brought a little pineapple Kamaka and I think at one time or another we all grabbed it and gave it a strum. At one point a group walked up to the table and asked us to play a song on that thing. So we obliged and the guy was surprised that it sounded so nice and that it was an “American” instrument. Noel and Mark where quick to invite the guy to the Dallas Ukulele Headquarters. It was so interesting how it all came about and this is the part that keeps me so involved with the Ukulele community. We share, what ever knowledge we have, and what ever skills we have accumulated are all out there to share. We love it when a new person joins our ranks.

Heather Hooton, my dear friend once put it this way: “Ukulele players are so excited for the guy that just finished playing a Bach piece, but they are equally excited for the guy that just learned how to play his first chord!”

I love this community of music makers. Last night we had a Ukulele Christmas party in Papillion Nebraska. We have all heard Christmas music on the radio and in the stores but it is so different when your making the music yourself playing and singing your heart out. We had such a great time.

I know I am rambling here but I just wanted you to know that you too are invited. If you are interested in playing the ukulele or you already play and you want to join a group. Just go out to Google and do a search for groups in your area. I am sure you will find one and if you don’t then make one!

Peace and Happy Holidays!

Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Christmas time is here!!

Time’s fun when you’re having flies! Wow, I am amazed at how quickly time seems to pass. Life has been great for me and my family. We have a beautiful little addition this year and it makes Christmas feel so special. I love the fall, Thanks Giving and Christmas it seems to bring out the best in everybody.

In celebration of Christmas and the Holiday season, I decided to put up two new Christmas Ukulele Transcriptions. White Christmas and Christmas Island, are two great songs for the season. White Christmas is such a classic Christmas song and Christmas Island is just perfect on the ukulele. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

White Christmas – White Christmas
Christmas Island – Christmas Island

Peace to all and to all a good night!
Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Sign up now for an Advanced Ukulele Class 3/2 – Or Sister Heather will bust your knuckles!!

ImageSister Heather says – There is still time to sign up! Give me a quick call if you want to join us on 3/2 in Bellevue Ne for an advanced ukulele class. See post below for more details.

Advanced Ukulele Clinic!

ImageAdvanced Clinic:
I have also been asked to put on an advanced clinic. This will be held Sunday 3/2 from 10am to 2pm at our house in Bellevue Nebraska.
 
There will be 3 hours of instruction and 1 hour for a lunch break that will be provided. The cost is 75.00 which includes lunch. There are only 10 slots available, this will ensure that more individual instruction / help can be given.
The main focus wi…ll be on tips and tricks to improve on the daily uke book songs. So, come with a song or two that you want to work on and we will work through them together. I will also explain why the tip or trick works and the music theory behind it. We will also work through some fundamental playing exercises to improve on: barre chords, positional playing and general fret board freedom.
Some topics that I want to be sure to cover are: the circle of fifths and how to play them EASILY on the ukulele – both major and minor the two five one chord progression – its relationship to the Hawaiian turnaround triplet insertion – when to use it when not to use it chord substitution and decoration – when and where to use it Lead playing – I want to touch on this if we have time.
How do you know if your qualified for this clinic? Can you play a barre chord? Can you pretty much keep up with the group? Do you feel a little bored with your current playing? Are you ready to start playing beyond fret 4, do you already play beyond fret 4? If you have said “yes” to two of these questions then I think you are ready for this clinic.
If you have questions please call me or email me. If you want to register, email me right away as we only have 10 slots available.
Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez Email Gutierrez_mark@yahoo.com

Music Meditation Session

I had a new experience yesterday, for the first time I led meditation. My instructor had asked that I play some ukulele for the class, which I agreed to do but something in the back of my mind told me it should be more than that. Over the last two years I have been meditating with my ukulele. I have used it as an expression of what ever is on my heart. Something guides me to a short melody then the chords come to harmonize with it and I just keep repeating it until something else comes. I was introduced to Amma last year and one of her Swami’s (lovingly called BIG Swamigi) Conducts a meditation based on MA and OM. I used his meditation to start with and after a five minutes the group had descended into a nice meditation. It was at this point that I started playing the ukulele. The melodies were simple and the first was based on the melodic minor scale the last song that I played was an old meditation that became the song Molokai Morning. Its a great melody that was given to me as the sun rose over the island of Molokai. This seems to have the effect of a sunrise slowly waking us up. It was a great experience and it seems that my friends enjoyed it too.

Happy Buddha

Happy Buddha!

Spanky Does the Harlem Shake !?!?!?

It’s always crazy at my house. We just shot a silly video of us doing the Harlem Shake.

No, I am not kidding! and NO I it won’t ever get posted!!

But this leads into a great point, its important to let it all hang out!!

So, apply this to your playing. You know let the HAM out!! It needs to see the light of day from time to time. This kind of activity can release the performer in you in such a way that it not only is fun for you but its also entertaining for your audience.

Let a little ham out at home, by yourself and either record or better yet film yourself. This will allow you to temper the performance or it will give you the okay to let MORE OUT. When you are mostly comfortable with what you have come up with, then spring it on a live audience. I would suggest that it NOT be family. It might be way too much for people that are that close to you to make that leap with you. If you break it out at the next open mic then you are going to get responses from folks that are not biased. Chances are that if you like the performance many many others will too!

BE BOLD, PLAY BOLD, and BE FREE!!

Peace

Mark Spanky Gutierrez

Do it all!!

Do you ever lay down at the end of the day and feel completely exhausted? If so congratulations! The last half a year has been that way for me about every day. Life is so full and I want to do it all so… you just keep going. I have been trying to practice every day, spend quality time with the family, workout, and make great food AT HOME. It’s like getting out a giant shoe horn and getting everything you can into every day. I think if there is one thing thing that can make this all happen is love. Love that is shared, respects and supports each others desires.

I have often thought that if there were only more hours in the day, that it would all be better. Guess What? I found more hours in the day! NO TV!! Yeah, no TV, we stopped cable years ago and then moved to HULU and slowly I just moved away from TV all together. I am not saying that TV is bad I am just saying that it represents a choice that many of us don’t realize is there. Drop the TV go work out, practice, cook great food, love, or go do that thing that you would do if you had more time.

It feels so good to lie down at the end of the day and thank God for a fully lived day. Don’t spend another day waiting, go do that thing that you always wanted to do, go reconnect with people in your life tha

Mark -n- Sudhha

t may have drifted away, spend the time to keep your family connections clear and pure.

This is opening my mind to all the possibilities that God has to offer. Make room for your dreams to be exercised and more dreams will come. Bigger and greater dreams.

Like the song says

“So dream when the day is through

Dream, and they might come true

Things never are as bad as they seem

So dream, dream, dream”.

So, to you and your’s sweet dreams

Peace

Mark Spanky Gutierrez

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