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21 September 2013

The Tokyo Fan Stroke

This is a continuation of a post I did quite recently on strumming at the speed of Formby. I've still got the banjolele bug. Talking of bugs... look at this fly playing a miniature ukulele!

I'm not sure who to credit for this photo. If it's yours... well done!

The picture of a fly playing a miniature ukulele reminded me a lot of the sort of thing that Frank Percy Smith would have done. Frank was a pioneer of time-lapse and "micro" photography. The animations I've stuck on this page are from a 3-minute film he made called The Acrobatic Fly. It was released in 1910 and in it, Frank sticks unlucky flies to various things (like the miniature chair above) and gives them tiny items to play with. In one scene, you can see a fly lifting a dumb-bell. Victorians loved this sort of thing.

Above is a photo of Frank stood in a puddle doing his thing (Photo courtesy of Micro-Fotografia). His story is quite a sad one. After riding on the crest of a wave, public tastes changed and Frank slipped out of the limelight. Ill-health and mental problems ensued. Finally, virtually a recluse, Frank took his own life in 1945.

Update 22-Sep: I was rifling though my photos from my holiday to Lake Tahoe and I spotted this. It belongs here. See the little fly looking for its ukulele. 

One more diversion before I get to the real reason for this post.

Check out this custom-designed ukulele I spotted on Facebook the other day (shared by Ukuleles Unanimous). I believe it is the work of Jo Wilkinson. Fantastic! 

Okay... I'm going to show you how to play the Tokyo Fan Stroke. It's a little something that I've been working on in my spare time.

First you need to make sure that you hold your ukulele/banjolele properly. The gentleman above has got it spot on...

Hold your strumming hand thus.

...and then do this...

If everything goes according to plan. You should end up with something a bit like this...

Remember that practice makes perfect!


  1. Seeing that guy above playing the uke with no hands for some reason brought Rolf Harris to mind,but then Rolf isn't someone to fiddle with ukes is he ?-)

  2. Rolf has played many instruments in his time Daz... some of which aren't even really instruments. I think you're right: He's never discovered the delights of the ukulele. If you're reading this Rolf... It's never too late. We can start easy and work our way very slowly to the Tokyo Fan Stroke ;-)