Creep, on the ukulele (for altos)

You know, that Radiohead song, that ukulele players can’t get enough of (thanks, Ingrid). I just learned how to chunk today, and I just got down the strumming and chord progression, and if I try to even hum along at this point, the whole thing falls apart. But the chords are fun!

But first, here’s my great orange beast of a cat, Cal, purring. He has a nice purr. And he wouldn’t leave me alone to practice until I pet him for ten solid minutes:

And here’s me playing the chord progression for Creep, without words, because a) see below and b) if you think I’m going to sing on the internet, you are so wrong. I did that once, and only bad things happened. Also I should note that Greg came in halfway through and started dancing in the doorway to my office, which made me laugh, and screw up. I said, “I’m recording this,” and he just kept dancing. That’s my man.

Also useful to note: I changed the chords on this. I’m an alto (ALL HAIL THE ALTOS) and music that we can sing easily isn’t always well represented in the world of this sweet high-pitched instrument. So for all of you who have tried Creep with the progression: G / B / Cm / C, and it feels like something is trying to claw its way out of your throat, try this instead:

C / E / F / Fm

And if you see that E chord and hives break out, do a painless E7. I think E7 sounds better here than E, anyway.

But you should still learn your E, because that chord shape is really useful. And not just for molding your hand and wrist into the permanent shape of a claw.

Singichunking_pageng and strumming seems like it should be easy, but it’s actually tricky when your strumming is anything other than perfectly in time with the lyrics. I have this go-to strum that works for anything, it’s super basic but with just a little kick. I can play and sing anything with it, it’s so ingrained.

So I was shocked the day I tried to learn an entirely new strumming pattern – for Vance Joy’s Riptide, and just sucked. I got the strumming going, and then I tried to sing. The second my voice started to come out, my hands lost all coordination and the entire song just collapsed in front of me. I was so confused. What the hell was happening? Did I have a silent stroke a month ago, and the only long term brain damage was the inability to sing and play the ukulele?

Thankfully I looked this phenomena up online before I gave up the uke. It wasn’t a stroke (although if you heard me try to practice my Norwegian you might wonder about my brain health), it turns out everyone goes through this. I am not a special brain-damaged ukulele snowflake after all, just a very normal one. Sure enough, after a few days of practicing what seemed the motor equivalent of trying to solve a Rubik’s cube with my eyes blindfolded and my hands covered in Vaseline, suddenly it all just came together, and I was able to both play and sing the song, together, just like Vance. Well, not just like Vance. A reasonable semi-blurred facsimile. Campfire Vance. Vance at a campfire, after a lot of s’mores and booze. That’s about what I can do.


My beautiful Luna Maruna! She’s a brass tenor resonator made by John Morton. She’s in desperate need of a shining. And what I’m playing for Creep.

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