Notes from “Miniatures for Ukulele Duet”

Notes on the Arrangements

For best performance, these types of ukuleles are recommended:

  • Ukulele 1 – soprano, concert or tenor ukulele with linear tuning as G-C-E-A (i.e. using a low G for the fourth string)
  • Ukulele 2 – baritone ukulele with standard tuning as D-G-B-E

Note that music for Ukulele 2 has been written up an octave (indicated by the small number 8 under the treble clef sign) for convenience.  This is similar to the way music is notated for classical guitar.

Alternatively, Ukulele part 1 can be played using a Renaissance guitar or classical guitar with capo on the 5th fret and Ukulele part 2 can be played on a classical guitar.

The pieces are not arranged in any particular order, however, the selections at the start of the book tend to be easier and shorter and get longer and more challenging towards the end of the book.

Modern musical notation is used in this book, including suggested tempo markings. Players in the Renaissance and Baroque would have been expended to know how to play these pieces “properly”, including where to insert ornaments such as trills, grace notes or strums.  Only some phrasing and dynamic markings are included with these pieces as few, if any, were included in the original scores.  Music written for the Classical period has much more direction, especially dynamics.

The keys signatures used are for the ease of the modern ukulele player and have been changed to better fit the musical range of the ukulele.  Also, some passages have been simplified, including using different bass lines or notes, especially since the ukulele only has four strings and the pieces were either written for guitars with 5th and 6th strings or transcribed from other instruments, such as piano.  In some cases, tuning the 4th string on the baritone ukulele down to C is indicted.  This is a book about enjoying the music for amateur players rather than a rigorous adherence to the music at a professional level.

Playing as a Duet

Preparing your part in advance of playing as a duet is essential.  Get to know your part well so as not to be led astray by the other performer.  Practicing with a metronome is highly recommended.

The duet should be seated so that the players can hear and interact with each other.  Usually, the first part is on the left and second part is on the right when looking at the players from the audience.  The chairs/stands should be such that the people can see each other but also allows the audience to see the players.  Fronts of the ukuleles should face the audience and stands should be low so that the music can flow over them.  Memorizing the music and playing without stands is not essential.

One of the players may act as the “conductor” to set the tempo (they do so after making eye contact with the other player which indicates their readiness to start) and to signal the end of the piece (i.e. when to stop playing and finally mute your strings).

When performing as a duet, the other player will continue to play their part even if you make a mistake or lose your place in the music.  Stopping and re-joining the music in progress is a good skill to develop.  Knowing what the other part is playing will help.

The duet may “reset” after a section or phrase is completed. The players need to communicate with each other (besides listening and counting) by periodically looking at each other for signals.  One member may indicate the start of the next section or phrase with a head nod or an audible inhaled sniff of air.

The duet needs to sound well together.  The parts should be balanced in volume and style.  If you have a key part or scale passage, then standing out makes the music more interesting.  However, if you are playing a supporting passage, then you have to be quieter and let the other part have their moment in the spotlight.

Notes on the Composers

All sources are Wikipedia.

Anonymous compositions are found in various notebooks and collections of the period, for example Jane Pickering’s Notebook or The Dowland Lute Book.

Johann Anton André (1775 – 1842) was a German composer and music publisher of the Classical period. André wrote operas, symphonies and masses. In 1799, André purchased a large volume of Mozart’s musical papers and the André publishing house (still owned by the family today) issued some highly respected editions of Mozart’s works, bringing many compositions into print for the first time.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad. Bach’s compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios, and motets. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra. Many of his works employ the genres of canon and fugue. Throughout the 18th century Bach was mostly renowned as an organist, while his keyboard music, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, was appreciated for its didactic qualities.

William Byrd (1542 – 1623) was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard (the so-called Virginalist school), and consort music. The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a primary source of keyboard music from the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in England. The word virginal was used to denote virtually any keyboard instrument including the organ. Byrd’s first known professional employment was his appointment in 1563 as organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral.  Although he produced sacred music for Anglican services, sometime during the 1570s he became a Roman Catholic and wrote Catholic sacred music later in his life.

Mauro Giuliani (1781 – 1839 was an Italian guitarist, cellist, singer, and composer. His first instrumental training was on the cello but he was a leading guitar virtuoso of the early 19th century. His concert tours took him all over Europe. Everywhere he went he was acclaimed for his virtuosity and musical taste. He achieved great success and became a musical celebrity. Giuliani defined a new role for the guitar in the context of European music. He was acquainted with the highest figures of Austrian society and with notable composers such as Rossini and Beethoven, and cooperated with the best active concert musicians.

Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706) was a German composer, organist, and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era. Pachelbel’s music enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany. Today, Pachelbel is best known for the Canon in D.

Christian Petzold (1677 – 1733) was a German composer and organist. He was active primarily in Dresden, and achieved a high reputation during his lifetime, but his surviving works are few. He is best remembered for a pair of minuets that were copied into the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. One of these minuets, the Minuet in G major, achieved wide recognition, but for centuries was attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. Petzold’s authorship was only established in the 1970s.

Jean Philippe-Rameau (1683 – 1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the 18th century. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François Couperin. It was not until the 1720s that he won fame as a major theorist of music with his Treatise on Harmony (1722) and also in the following years as a composer of masterpieces for the harpsichord, which circulated throughout Europe. He was almost 50 before he embarked on the operatic career on which his reputation chiefly rests today.

Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839) was a Spanish classical guitarist and composer. While he is best known for his guitar compositions, he also composed music for a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestra, string quartet, piano, voice, and ballet. Sor’s works for guitar range from pieces for beginning players to advanced players such as Variations on a Theme of Mozart. Sor’s contemporaries considered him to be the best guitarist in the world, and his works for guitar have been widely played and reprinted since his death. Although modern classical guitar players usually do, Sor rarely used his ring finger and refused the usage of nails when playing.