John King: Chopsticks

By Flip Peters:

Like all 'ukulele enthusiasts I am in awe of Jake Shimabukuro (and his brother Bruce) and their dazzling, Flamenco-like virtuosity.

At the same time there is another more delicate approach to the 'ukulele as exemplified by the late John King.

King applied the 17th century technique called Campanella to the 'uke. This technique was based on the principal of hitting successive notes on different strings, allowing the notes to keep ringing and creating a harp-like cascading sound. Campanella literally means "little bells."

The Baroque guitar had five courses of two strings each, corresponding to the first 5 string pairs of the modern 12-string guitar.

The 4th and 5th courses were tuned up and octave in what is called a re-entrant tuning. The 'ukulele's familiar My Dog Has Fleas tuning is re-entrant and is equivalent to the first 4 courses of a Baroque guitar with the capo at the 5th fret.

As such the 'ukulele is a natural for Campanella playing. Listen to the fast scale passages in the familiar Chopsticks to an example.

In addition to being a virtuoso player, King was also a scholar of the 'ukulele and all things Hawai'ian. Obit:


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