Uillean pipes see bagpipes.
ukelele (also "ukulele"). A tiny, four-string instrument resembling a miniature guitar, often contracted to "uke" (for what it's worth, "ukelele" is said to mean "bouncing flea" in Hawaiian). The strings are nylon and the tuning is the same as the top four strings of a guitar, but up a fifth: A D F# B. The fourth string, the A, is often very thin and tuned one octave up for a brighter tone. This tuning scheme even has a mnemonic: "My Dog Has Fleas", sung by uke owners to remind them of the eleventh- third- fourth relationship.
It's not a versatile instrument and is best suited to simple rhythm accompaniments. Peter Sellers played one on a Steeleye Span recording ( New York Gals), and George Formby used one to good effect in his music hall performances. See taropatch for an unusual cousin, and tiple for a ukelele taken about as far as you can take one.
unco (Scot.) extraordinary, very, unknown, strange, awful.
union songs the labor struggles from the turn of the century to modern times have produced a wealth of songs, including the ever-popular "Solidarity Forever", "We Shall Not Be Moved", "Joe Hill", "Carry It On", "Union Maid", "Roll the Union On", "Which Side Are You On", and hundreds of others. We Shall Overcome also joined the labor movement after being something of an anthem for the civil rights movement in the US.
See also People's Songs, Hill, Joe. See also Appalachia for a brief history of "Which Side Are You On".
To quote Bruce Phillips, writing in Sing Out! 20/2: "Most of Joe Hill's songs are bad poetry. His tunes are borrowed from what today would amount to the `Top Ten'. But Joe could read a letter from a group of strikers 2,000 miles away outlining the particulars of their strike and send them by return mail a song that could immediately be used in their action. The IWW developed a pretty good team of songwriters."
unison when two people sing exactly the same melody in the same key, they're singing in unison. When two strings are tuned to the same note, they're tuned in unison. Compare with third or fourth or other intervals.
unplugged (see buzzwords) implies some sort of essential purity and back-to-the-roots. In fact, it means that the performers are using microphones and acoustic instruments instead of pickups or electric guitars. Mariposa Folk Festival's recent claim that they have been "unplugged since 1961" ignores the fact that instrumentalists are changing over to pickups instead of miked acoustic instruments, a change that is not always for the better.
In the case of rock or pop groups, however, it might result in quite a change from their original sound when they switch to acoustic instruments. The electric and acoustic guitars are worlds apart in their capabilities.
upbeat 1. The part of the beat when your tapping foot rises up. See rhythm. 2. A performance that's sprightly, cheerful and usually fast in tempo.
up-tempo describes a tune or song that's played faster than usual, but also implies that the performance is upbeat. Can also mean a loud, vigorous performance without an increase in tempo.
Usenet folk see Internet folk.
ut the first note of the scale until Renaissance times, when it became the familiar "do" of our do-re-mis. For its reputed origin and related information, see Guido d'Arezzo, gamut, hexachord.
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The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.