BY SAMANTHA MUIR | FROM THE SPRING 2021 ISSUE OF UKULELE MAGAZINE
Here’s a simple but effective piece by the 19th-century guitarist/composer Ferdinando Carulli (1770–1841), which translates nicely to the ukulele in reentrant or low-G tuning. There are three sections; the first two (bars 1–8 and 9–16) are in the key of C major and the third (17–24) modulates to the relative key of A minor.
The time signature is 2/4, or two quarter notes per bar, with the rhythmic movement flowing mostly in quarter or eighth notes. Note the Da Capo al Fine at the end of the third section, which directs the player to go back to the beginning and continue until the word Fine (finish). The main technical challenge is picking dyads (two-note chords) simultaneously with the index (i) and middle (m) fingers. Throughout the first two sections, the repeated open G, picked with the thumb (p), acts as a pedal, or constant repeated note.
The first section toggles between the I (C) and V7 (G7) chords, with the index and middle fingers mainly picking dyads on the downbeats and the thumb providing the pedal on the offbeats. This texture is disrupted with a little melodic figure at the end of bar 3. The note F falls to E, which in turn leads to D on the first beat of bar 4. Make sure you bring out these melodic notes. Measure 7 is very similar to bar 3, except the final note falls to a D, rather than an E, leading back to the tonic note of C in bar 8.
The second section begins with a G7 chord, but this time using the third (B) and fifth (F), followed by the root (G). Bar 10 returns to the home chord of C major, but the voicing is now brighter, with the high C on string 1. An idea from the first section reappears in bar 11, with the F–D dyad followed by the open-G pedal. The final two notes form a new melodic figure, with A, then G, leading to E in bar 12.
With the modulation to A minor, the mood in the third section feels darker and more unsettled. The melodic interest has now shifted to the thumb, so all these notes should be played with a little more weight. Bars 17 and 18 use an A minor arpeggio moving across the strings, with a picking pattern of p–i–m–a. In bar 19, I took the liberty of using an E7 chord, rather than E, as it captures the idea of the fourth-string notes moving from A (bar 18) to G# (bar 19) and back to A (bar 20). An E major triad would lose this bass movement. Fret the G# with your first finger and the B with your third; these fingers can then slide up one fret to play the A and C in bar 20.
In bars 21 and 22, the index finger picks repeated open Es on the offbeats. Play these notes gently and make the thumb-picked notes sing. Note that on beat two the bass note A is placed on the fourth string. In high-G tuning the notation gives a false impression of what is happening in the music. The A is the highest note in the bar and looks like a melodic note, but it should sound as a bass note an octave lower, and that is why I placed it on string 4.
The tab is an excellent guide here, as it shows the placement of the notes and their relationship as either bass or melody.