Thursday, August 30, 2007

03 : Sloop John B

Is it only me that has trouble remembering the words to songs? It always takes an age before they sink in.

I thought the third tune I'd learn would be a simple one, it doesn't get much simpler than Sloop John B. and doesn't sound half bad on uke. I looked up the song on YouTube to get familiar with it, only 3 chords C, F and G7, and then got the sequence off of Chordie. I was suprised to find that no one had put up a version of this song played on the ukulele on YouTube, maybe now is the perfect opportunity :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chord Progressions

This is more of a reminder for myself. I know next to nothing about chord progressions, the basics are that chords can be grouped together to form a progression. A lot of songs are formed in this way. Here are two chord progressions, using the 1, 4 & 5 form :-

1. C, F, G in the key of C Major

2. G, C, D in the key of G Major

So in example 1, with it being in the key of C, then C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7, because it is a 1, 4, 5 progression 1 is C, 4 is F and 5 is G. Just remember that what ever the key is that becomes the first note.

What I know is that I should learn these, so between new songs I'm going to be slotting in a couple of progressions to pick up.

The following are sources of information that should help.

Howlin' Hobbit - The ukulele section has a couple of PDFs with a large number of progressions.

Ukulele Theory 101
- This is a YouTube tutorial, explaining it in basic terms, worth watching.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eno ET-3000 Chromatic Tuner Review

At some point you're going to get tired of tuning up your ukulele by ear, especially considering how often you're going to have to do it. It took me about a week before I was looking for chromatic tuners on ebay.

I chose a chromatic because they work for any type of instrument and not at a set note like some of the guitar tuners out there.

After a little browsing I came across the Eno ET-3000, what I liked about it was :-
1. It was cheap ;) - I spent £10.98 including postage
2. It was small.
3. It will work from either vibrations (by clipping it onto the head of your ukulele) or from its built in microphone.
4. Did I mention it was cheap :)

I found it very easy to use, clipped it onto my ukulele, set it to chromatic mode, twanged the string and it told me what note I was trying to play and whether it was flat or sharp. It has a little needle to show what side of the note you are. When you have the desired note the screen changes from red to green and obviously the needle will point straight up.

Its very easy for me to recommend this and can't think of any downsides. If I was pushed to come up with any I would say that the display is a little hard to read in sunlight being of the LCD type and secondly it uses those little lithium button batteries which I imagine are easy to find on places like ebay, saying that it did come with a spare :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

02 : When I'm Sixty-Four

I think I've bitten off a little more than I can handle with this one, buoyed by my success with "Five Foot Two" I looked for another fun song and thought that the chords in "When I'm Sixty-Four" looked simple enough. But my first stumbling block was the transition from G to G7, I had troubles moving my fingers between these two chords. To help I practiced those two chords back and forth outside of the song, which has definitely helped.

My next problem was the line "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four", there are 6 chord changes in that one line and to do it at speed caused me no end of frustration. I'm still a way off of mastering this song and if I had known the difficulty I would probably have left this one until later. The chords for this song can again be found at Doctor Uke's excellent website.

I have a few other songs that I'm planning on checking out which are around the 3 chord mark just so that I can add more songs to my repertoire, I will list them here for reference as a reminder to look into them :-
Walk of Life - Dire Straights
One Hand in My Pocket - Alanis Morissette
Johnny B Good - Chuck Berry
Louie Louie - The Kings Men
Wild Thing - The Troggs
Get Back - The Beatles
Jambalaya - Hank Williams

If you know any other easy ones please let me know :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

01 : Five Foot Two

I wonder how many others learn "Five Foot Two" as their first ukulele song. I blame a guy called Benny. While searching YouTube for ukulele tutorials I came across "learning Uke with Benny Lesson 1", he picked "Five Foot Two" as his song to learn, it sounded to me pretty good and also sounded like a fun tune. I managed it but it took me a few days to pick it up, in hindsight it might have been a little difficult as a first tune as it uses 5 chords, but I've really enjoyed learning it. I think its important that you pick songs that you're going to enjoy playing, if the song is boring to you it will be a chore to learn it.

The downside to this song, is that I've played it so much that my wife and children are completely sick of it :/

To help learn this tune I recommend that you go to the songs section of Doctor Ukes website and look for this song, he has a pdf with all words and chords which were invaluable to me.

Noob stuff and resource

Before getting onto the songs I've learnt I'm going to list the sites I've found my information from, but before even that you need to get yourself an ukulele.

I picked up a cheap coloured Mahalo, a nice bright purple one with gig bag, the cost about £15 (yes I'm from the UK :) ) which included postage. You will be tuning it GCEA, as you hold it to play , the top string is G. When mine turned up as soon as it was tuned it would go out of tune within seconds, a closer look revealed that the tuning pegs were not tight and would turn by themselves, this is easily fixed by tightening the little screw on each peg ( a quarter turn until it holds). Even with the pegs tight the ukulele will go out of tune alot until the strings are fully stretched, this could take a week or so.

I added some new strings to my Mahalo thanks to the recommendations of some very nice people at Ukulele Cosmos. The strings recommended to add are Aquila Nylgut uke strings, I put soprano size on mine but the suggestions are to use concert size. These string gave my uke a nicer tone, increased the volume and improved the intonation (the ability to stay in tune up and down the fret board).

Onto the links :-

Tuning - You will be doing this alot, especially at first, I've since bought myself a small clip on tuner, but here are some useful sites to get your uke in tune until you buy one.
MiniTuner - If you have a microphone I recommend this, its a small free program that will tell you if you're in tune.
Doctor Uke - There are loads of sites that play the sound for each string all doing pretty much the same, so I'm listing one here, just go to the song section, find the string you want to tune and match it by ear.

Forums : Great places for advice
Ukulele Cosmos - Very friendly and active community, lots of good advice here.
The 4th Peg - Looks good but not posted.
ezFolk - Also contains tutorials and other info.
Flea Market Music - not keen on the forum layout but I'm sure there is plenty of good info there.

Tunes and Chords
Doctor Uke - one word, brilliant.
Alligator Boogaloo - another excellent site.
Chordie - you will find everything here (probably)
Sheep Entertainment's Chord finder - Pick your tuning and then your song.

Thats all for now, if you know of any other good resources then please let me know :)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why pick a Ukulele?

The ukulele was a complete impulse buy for me. Other than learning the uke I also play computer games and I have a Nintendo DS. I was reading on a forum about a new game for the DS called "Jam Sessions" which basically turn the DS into a pocket virtual guitar, on one of these threads someone mentioned that he'd had problems learning to play the guitar but had come across his uncle's ukulele one day and found he could play something on it fairly quickly.

This appealed to me as I too over the years have tried to learn to play the guitar, I'd pick up a few chords and then just give up, then try again a few years later. So now inspired to learn to play the uke I did a quick search on ebay and not wanting to spend very much purchased a coloured Mahalo soprano ukulele all for the princely sum of about £15 including postage.

NOTE : I was lucky that I'd picked that Mahalo as this seems to be the recommended beginner instrument all the others in that price range are apparently garbage.

A short introduction

"There's so much beginner stuff out there, why a blog about learning to play the ukulele ?", you may ask and you'd be right, a tonne of stuff. Sometimes if you have so much information it can seem a little daunting and for a newcomer like myself make it a little tricky in deciding where to begin. With this blog I'm going to write about the tunes I've learnt as and when I learn them, problems I come across and little pearls of wisdom (if I come across any ;) ) and if this helps anyone else to learn the ukulele then I'll be a happy man.

I'm also hoping that you share with me and anyone that might be reading, let us know if you have found something that has helped you or tunes that have been particularly noob friendly, please no "row row row your boat" type recommendations :D