Category Archives: Ukulele Technique

The Beauties of a Lyric Sheet w/Chords : Ex. What a Wonderful World

As someone that grew up in a very ‘classical’ family (meaning my dad was a band director and we had lots of traditional sheet music available to us all the time, piano lessons from an early age and the expectation that we would choose an additional instrument well before entering high school), winning me over to the beauties of a simple lyric sheet with chords took quite a long time. I still believe traditional notation is important and it would be great if everyone learned how to ‘read’ music, as it is such a big part of our lives, but a lyric sheet with chords also has some distinct advantages:

  • If you already know a melody, there’s really no point of having it notated if it is already in your brain.
  • Lyric/chord sheets are easy to create/edit in a simple word processor or even on a sheet of paper, allowing you to make quick changes to reflect your interpretation of the song.
  • May eliminate page turns.
  • Simplifying the bare bones ‘lead sheet’ (that has a melody notated in addition to lyrics and chords) may help facilitate memorization for singers who are accompanying themselves (like myself).

What a Wonderful WorldOn this last point, take a moment to look at a traditional lead sheet of What a Wonderful World from Sheet Music Plus. There are THREE lines of information here:

  1. The lyrics
  2. The melody above the lyrics
  3. The chords above the melody

This is awesome if you don’t know the song, because you can learn a basic sketch of it from this information. However, it is lousy at forming a mental picture of the song in your mind because you’re trying to deal with 3 separate lines of info (trying to read left/right and up/down at the same time). By getting rid of the melody (which hopefully, we already know) and condensing the chords and lyrics of the song to a single line, we make it easier to memorize the chord patterns in the song. For example, as you look at the first lines of each of the verses of this song, the chord pattern and the one place it deviates (an A7* before the third verse) become really obvious and easy to commit to memory:

What A Wonderful World
By George David Weiss and Bob Thiele

I see [D]trees of [F#m]green, [G]red roses [F#m]too
[Em7] I see them [D]bloom for [F#7]me and for [Bm7]you
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [Bm7] [Gmaj7] [A7]

I see [D]skies of [F#m]blue and [G]clouds of [F#m]white
[Em7] The bright blessed [D]day, and the [F#7]dark sacred [Bm7]night
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [G] [G] [D]

The [A7]colors of the rainbow so [D]pretty in the sky
Are [A7]also on the faces of [D]people going by
I see [Bm7]friends shaking [F#m]hands saying [Bm7]how do you [F#m]do
[Em7]They’re really [F#dim7]saying [Em7]I [F#dim7]love [Em7]you

[A7]I hear [D]babies [F#m]cry, [G] I watch them [F#m]grow
[Em7] They’ll learn much [D]more than [F#7]I’ll ever [Bm7]know
And I [Bb]think to myself [Em7] what a [A7]wonderful [D]world [Fdim 2020] [B7]
Yes I [Em7]think to myself [A7] what a [C#dim7]wonderful [D]world [G6] [Gm6] [D]

In this version, I was also able to quickly fix errors the original transcriber made in both lyrics and chords, change the key, substitute some jazzier chords, and note that an Fdim (without a 7) is fingered 2020 on the ukulele fretboard.

That said, traditional lead sheets and full scores still play an important role in musical learning, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. :-)

*Of course, another way of looking at the A7 is that it really belongs to the end of the bridge section, in which case it should be moved to the end of ‘I love you’ in the previous line. If you think of it this way, all three first lines of the verses have an identical pattern.

First Melodies for Ukulele : Free eBook

March 24th 1927 - Actresses Joan Crawford & Dorothy SebastianNew FREE eBook:

  • First Melodies for Ukulele : 18 familiar tunes to help folk get started with tablature. Includes tablature and staff notation so you can get to know the notes on your fretboard better at the same time.

I put this together for my beginning ukulele students, but thought others might benefit as well. Enjoy!

Christmas is Coming!

Get more ukulele books for your friends and loved ones this holiday season . . .

Learning Chords: Song by Song Vs. Step by Step

A new post on my Power Up Ukulele site that talks about the benefits of Song by Song and Step by Step learning: http://powerup.ukuleleplay.com/chords-step-by-step-vs-song-by-song-approach/

Analysing a Jawaiian Strum

A student asked me to help with the strum in the body of this cover of Earth Angel:

I’ll admit I used a little known YouTube feature to help me figure out what he was doing; I slowed the video down to half speed and discovered . . . He’s combining left hand muting with chnking in a Jawaiian-style (a mixture of Hawaiian and reggae). It is really advanced, but you can conquer most anything if you break it down, go slowly and have the patience to go over it a thousand times. Here is what he is doing most of the time (with small variations throughout):

ϴ– X– ϴ– –– | ϴ– Xx ΠΦ –– (notice NOTHING is happening on beat four)

where . . .

ϴ = staccato downstroke muted quickly by lifting the left hand or with a ‘pinky mute’
X = chnk (percussive downstroke muted with rh)
x = left hand dead strum or pinky mute
Π = downstroke with index, middle or both
Φ = staccato upstroke muted quickly with right hand (or by lifting the left in case of a barre chord or by ‘pinky mute’) – in this case, either of the latter two options is used

You can simplify this by using Θ (Θ = staccato downstroke muted quickly with rh) in place of ϴ and using the right hand mute option with Φ, but it will sound subtly (or not so subtly) different, depending on many factors.

Find out more about strumming shorthand at <a href=”http://powerup.ukuleleplay.com/strumming/key-strum-shorthand/” target=”_blank”>http://powerup.ukuleleplay.com/strumming/key-strum-shorthand/</a>

256 Basic Strum Patterns!

256 Strum PatternsAs I was working on the Level 1 Strumming section of the Power Up Ukulele site/syllabus, I got curious as to how many combinations of basic ‘down up’ strums are possible in a measure of 4/4. How useful some of these strums may or may not be is up to you to decide, but I’ve already seen a couple that might warrant a closer look.

To get my number of 256, I limited the possibilities by removing thumb strums and assuming that upstrums will happen only on the ‘and’ or second half of a beat. That leaves us with Π V, Π –, – V & – – as possible beats (dashes represent periods where there’s silence or we’re letting the ukulele ring). I entered these into a ‘permutation calculator’ and had it generate the results. Enjoy!

|| Π V Π V Π V Π V ||
|| Π V Π V Π V Π – ||
|| Π V Π V Π V – V ||
|| Π V Π V Π V – – ||
|| Π V Π V Π – Π V || Π V Π V Π – Π – || Π V Π V Π – – V || Π V Π V Π – – – ||
|| Π V Π V – V Π V || Π V Π V – V Π – || Π V Π V – V – V || Π V Π V – V – – ||
|| Π V Π V – – Π V || Π V Π V – – Π – || Π V Π V – – – V || Π V Π V – – – – ||
|| Π V Π – Π V Π V || Π V Π – Π V Π – || Π V Π – Π V – V || Π V Π – Π V – – ||
|| Π V Π – Π – Π V || Π V Π – Π – Π – || Π V Π – Π – – V || Π V Π – Π – – – ||
|| Π V Π – – V Π V || Π V Π – – V Π – || Π V Π – – V – V || Π V Π – – V – – ||
|| Π V Π – – – Π V || Π V Π – – – Π – || Π V Π – – – – V || Π V Π – – – – – ||
|| Π V – V Π V Π V || Π V – V Π V Π – || Π V – V Π V – V || Π V – V Π V – – ||
|| Π V – V Π – Π V || Π V – V Π – Π – || Π V – V Π – – V || Π V – V Π – – – ||
|| Π V – V – V Π V || Π V – V – V Π – || Π V – V – V – V || Π V – V – V – – ||
|| Π V – V – – Π V || Π V – V – – Π – || Π V – V – – – V || Π V – V – – – – ||
|| Π V – – Π V Π V || Π V – – Π V Π – || Π V – – Π V – V || Π V – – Π V – – ||
|| Π V – – Π – Π V || Π V – – Π – Π – || Π V – – Π – – V || Π V – – Π – – – ||
|| Π V – – – V Π V || Π V – – – V Π – || Π V – – – V – V || Π V – – – V – – ||
|| Π V – – – – Π V || Π V – – – – Π – || Π V – – – – – V || Π V – – – – – – ||
|| Π – Π V Π V Π V || Π – Π V Π V Π – || Π – Π V Π V – V || Π – Π V Π V – – ||
|| Π – Π V Π – Π V || Π – Π V Π – Π – || Π – Π V Π – – V || Π – Π V Π – – – ||
|| Π – Π V – V Π V || Π – Π V – V Π – || Π – Π V – V – V || Π – Π V – V – – ||
|| Π – Π V – – Π V || Π – Π V – – Π – || Π – Π V – – – V || Π – Π V – – – – ||
|| Π – Π – Π V Π V || Π – Π – Π V Π – || Π – Π – Π V – V || Π – Π – Π V – – ||
|| Π – Π – Π – Π V || Π – Π – Π – Π – || Π – Π – Π – – V || Π – Π – Π – – – ||
|| Π – Π – – V Π V || Π – Π – – V Π – || Π – Π – – V – V || Π – Π – – V – – ||
|| Π – Π – – – Π V || Π – Π – – – Π – || Π – Π – – – – V || Π – Π – – – – –||
|| Π – – V Π V Π V || Π – – V Π V Π – || Π – – V Π V – V || Π – – V Π V – – ||
|| Π – – V Π – Π V || Π – – V Π – Π – || Π – – V Π – – V || Π – – V Π – – – ||
|| Π – – V – V Π V || Π – – V – V Π – || Π – – V – V – V || Π – – V – V – – ||
|| Π – – V – – Π V || Π – – V – – Π – || Π – – V – – – V || Π – – V – – – – ||
|| Π – – – Π V Π V || Π – – – Π V Π – || Π – – – Π V – V || Π – – – Π V – – ||
|| Π – – – Π – Π V || Π – – – Π – Π – || Π – – – Π – – V || Π – – – Π – – – ||
|| Π – – – – V Π V || Π – – – – V Π – || Π – – – – V – V || Π – – – – V – – ||
|| Π – – – – – Π V || Π – – – – – Π – || Π – – – – – – V || Π – – – – – – – ||
|| – V Π V Π V Π V || – V Π V Π V Π – || – V Π V Π V – V || – V Π V Π V – – ||
|| – V Π V Π – Π V || – V Π V Π – Π – || – V Π V Π – – V || – V Π V Π – – – ||
|| – V Π V – V Π V || – V Π V – V Π – || – V Π V – V – V || – V Π V – V – – ||
|| – V Π V – – Π V || – V Π V – – Π – || – V Π V – – – V || – V Π V – – – – ||
|| – V Π – Π V Π V || – V Π – Π V Π – || – V Π – Π V – V || – V Π – Π V – – ||
|| – V Π – Π – Π V || – V Π – Π – Π – || – V Π – Π – – V || – V Π – Π – – – ||
|| – V Π – – V Π V || – V Π – – V Π – || – V Π – – V – V || – V Π – – V – – ||
|| – V Π – – – Π V || – V Π – – – Π – || – V Π – – – – V || – V Π – – – – – ||
|| – V – V Π V Π V || – V – V Π V Π – || – V – V Π V – V || – V – V Π V – – ||
|| – V – V Π – Π V || – V – V Π – Π – || – V – V Π – – V || – V – V Π – – – ||
|| – V – V – V Π V || – V – V – V Π – || – V – V – V – V || – V – V – V – – ||
|| – V – V – – Π V || – V – V – – Π – || – V – V – – – V || – V – V – – – – ||
|| – V – – Π V Π V || – V – – Π V Π – || – V – – Π V – V || – V – – Π V – – ||
|| – V – – Π – Π V || – V – – Π – Π – || – V – – Π – – V || – V – – Π – – – ||
|| – V – – – V Π V || – V – – – V Π – || – V – – – V – V || – V – – – V – – ||
|| – V – – – – Π V || – V – – – – Π – || – V – – – – – V || – V – – – – – – ||
|| – – Π V Π V Π V || – – Π V Π V Π – || – – Π V Π V – V || – – Π V Π V – – ||
|| – – Π V Π – Π V || – – Π V Π – Π – || – – Π V Π – – V || – – Π V Π – – – ||
|| – – Π V – V Π V || – – Π V – V Π – || – – Π V – V – V || – – Π V – V – – ||
|| – – Π V – – Π V || – – Π V – – Π – || – – Π V – – – V || – – Π V – – – – ||
|| – – Π – Π V Π V || – – Π – Π V Π – || – – Π – Π V – V || – – Π – Π V – – ||
|| – – Π – Π – Π V || – – Π – Π – Π – || – – Π – Π – – V || – – Π – Π – – – ||
|| – – Π – – V Π V || – – Π – – V Π – || – – Π – – V – V || – – Π – – V – – ||
|| – – Π – – – Π V || – – Π – – – Π – || – – Π – – – – V || – – Π – – – – – ||
|| – – – V Π V Π V || – – – V Π V Π – || – – – V Π V – V || – – – V Π V – – ||
|| – – – V Π – Π V || – – – V Π – Π – || – – – V Π – – V || – – – V Π – – – ||
|| – – – V – V Π V || – – – V – V Π – || – – – V – V – V || – – – V – V – – ||
|| – – – V – – Π V || – – – V – – Π – || – – – V – – – V || – – – V – – – – ||
|| – – – – Π V Π V || – – – – Π V Π – || – – – – Π V – V || – – – – Π V – – ||
|| – – – – Π – Π V || – – – – Π – Π – || – – – – Π – – V || – – – – Π – – – ||
|| – – – – – V Π V || – – – – – V Π – || – – – – – V – V || – – – – – V – – ||
|| – – – – – – Π V || – – – – – – Π – || – – – – – – – V || – – – – – – – – ||

HI*Sessions : Learning from the Best

I often suggest to my students that they watch the great uke players as well as listen to them. You can learn a lot just by watching. One of the great places to do this is HI*Sessions, a youtube channel that occasionally features some of the greatest ukulele players of our day, all in up-close-and-personal hi-def. Here are the episodes featuring some of my favorite players (you can skip the intros with the little navigation arrows at the bottom of the player) . . .

Kalei Gamiao

James Hill

Aldrine

Herb Ohta Jr.

Brittni

Taimane

Ukulele Tuning Tip for New Strings

Tuning an ukulele for the first time, you might wonder, “What is wrong with this instrument? It just won’t stay in tune.” Some conclude that, “The tuners must be slipping,”  but if you have geared tuners, this is usually not the case. It is natural for new strings stretch out for the first few weeks of use until they ‘settle in’ and stay in tune for more than a few minutes.

However, if you’d like to break your new strings in a little faster, I suggest that the first time you tune them that you tune them to Canadian tuning: ADF#B (reference notes on ukehunt), a whole step higher than standard GCEA. What then? Walk away from your ukulele for a few hours (or a day) . . .

When you come back to your uke, it will be much easier to tune to GCEA and stay there for a longer period of time. Tuning the first time to Canadian tuning will not likely hurt your uke either, as thousands of Canadians tune it that way every day.

When you tune GCEA, the easiest way is with an electronic tuner, but here is a video reference to tune to if you need it:

Beyond D DU UDU : Favorite ‘Go-To’ Strums from 5 Ukulele Bloggers

Everyone seems to know the unofficial international ukulele strum, D DU UDU, but there is so much more you can do with the right hand. 5 ukulele bloggers weigh-in on their favorite ‘go to’ strums . . .

Modified Clawhammer Strum

One of my favorite strums goes like this:

  1. Thumb plucks “c” string.
  2. Down strum all four strings.
  3. Index finger pluck “a” string.
  4. Thumb plucks “g” string.
  5. Down strum all four strings.

A variation of this pattern (and a song tutorial) can be found here:
http://circuitsandstrings.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/lafayette-lilt-tutorial/

~Daniel Hulbert of circuitsandstrings.wordpress.com

Daniel will be teaching at this years Utah Uke Fest.

SKA Patterns

This video will (hopefully) supply you the foundation you need to start jamming with some ska tunes.

Before I had a family and a real job, I spent my days touring with a couple different ska bands. For some reason this genre of music, with it’s happy upbeats and carefree attitude has always appealed to me and the style transfers quite well to the ukulele. I guess that it makes sense…the ukulele originates from a sunny island (Hawaii) and ska music comes from a similar, albeit different island (Jamaica).

This style of music is all about timing – your strumming hand and fretting hand really have to be in sync and know what each other is doing. Like riding a bicycle, it might be frustrating and seem impossible at first, but with enough patience it will eventually click.

~Miles Ramsay of UKEonomics.com

The ‘Easy’ Split Stroke

This video demonstrates a simplified version of the split stroke with the song, The Old Ark’s a Moverin’ that I teach in my Level 2 ukulele classes:

This ‘easier’ version of Split Stroke splits 2 ‘triplet strums’ and a down-up evenly across 4 beats to create a syncopated, driving foundation for singing. Here’s two ways to look at it:

  • Dt uD tu Du
  • Dtu Dtu Du

D = accented down strum with the index finger
t = strumming down with the fleshy part of the thumb
u = up strum with the fleshy part of the index finger

If you’re just getting started with split/syncopated rhythms, take it slowly at first and work your speed up little by little.

~M. Ryan Taylor of UkulelePlay.com

Bossa Nova Strumming

Chords:

Chords

Tuning: G C E A ( high G ), Beat: 4/4, Tempo: 118 bpm

Strumming Pattern:

Bossa Nova

This is one way to play Bossa Nova style on your ukulele:

  • First learn the strumming pattern ( 2 bars long ).
  • In the beginning mute the strings with the left hand as shown in the the video.
  • Mind the change from downbeat ( downstroke ) to offbeat ( upstroke ). This is called Partido Alto and brings some Latin touch in the strumming.
  • Start with one chord and then add the others.
  • Mute the strings between the strokes with your left hand.

~FriendlyFred of uke4u.com

Vaudeville and Variety-Style Strumming

I tend to play jazz and pop from the first four decades of the 20th Century, music that calls for strums that provide the ability to create syncopated rhythmic combinations, including triplets, 16th notes and 32nd notes.

The four strums I use most often are known as the “fan stroke”, the “triple”, the “double-time”, and the “split stroke” – as George Formby called it – or “syncopated stroke” – as Roy Smeck referred to it. All four are used liberally in this video of the 1931 tune “Lady of Spain”, which has forever been associated with the accordion.

I play the verse and refrain through twice using a combination of fingerpicking and various strokes and rolls, including flamenco-style finger rolls in refrain at 0:15, 1:15 and 1:24.

Then, at 1:32, I pick up the pace and run through the refrain using two strokes primarily: the triple and the double-time.

Let’s start with the simplest: the double-time. This is just a “down-up” every beat. It’s useful for creating a double-time feel if you increase speed and play it “down-up – down-up” every beat.

Now, the triple. This is often mistakenly referred to as a “triplet” stroke. It is and it isn’t. The triple stroke is actually a quarter-note triplet followed by an additional quarter note downstroke – “da-da-da – daa”. This is achieved by doing a downstroke across all four strings with the index, followed by a downstroke with the thumb, followed by an upstroke with the index and thumb together, followed by a downstroke with the index and thumb together – “down-down-up – down”.

I use the fan stroke several times in this arrangement. At 1:56 and again at 3:11, I play the classic triplet fan stroke. Its made up of three strokes – a downstroke with the nails of the pinky and ring finger, followed by a downstroke with the pad of the thumb, followed by an upstroke with the nail of the thumb. The effect is a straightforward “da-da-da”. You can see that I break my wrist when I do it, moving my hand in a circular fashion. On the downstroke with the pinky and ring fingers, the hand fans out – hence the name of the stroke. This stroke can be immediately and infinitely repeated, with the effect of an almost infinite triplet.

Finally – there’s the split stroke – I play a version of the refrain based on the split stroke starting at 2:28. It was the hardest of the above strokes to learn and – unfortunately – it’s the hardest for me to explain. The basic stroke is accomplished with the thumb and forefinger held together as for a basic downstroke strum. The stroke is “down-up-Down, down-up–Down, down-up” and the rhythm is two eighth notes followed by two syncopated triplets. The name “split” comes from the fact that on the initial downstoke, you only hit the botton two strings of the uke; then on the upstroke, you only this the op two strings of the uke. Then, on the third downstroke, you strike all four strings. This approach gives you the right accents. You hit the accents on the full four-string downstrokes of the figure, so the effect is “ba-da-DA, ba-da-DA, ba-da”. I learned how to play this stroke from watching videos made by fellow George Formby Society members Matt Richards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhjy9_3rusc Peter C. Nixon and Mike Warren http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8cnPP3SU5s . I also highly recommend their tutorials of the additional Formby strokes – the Fan, the Triple, and the Shake, which I am still struggling with.

Those four strokes are “go-to” for me, with the Triple and Double being most commonly used to drive the tempo, but the fan and split stroke are often used in the way that a tenor banjo player might use a tremolo – as a means of holding a note or injecting interest in a solo or accompaniment.

~ John Bianchi of theukaholic.blogspot.com

Thanks to all the guest bloggers for sharing some awesome info!!!