My name is Dave. started Ukulele Go back in November 2014 after my wife bought me a ukulele. I struggled with it so I started this site to log everything that I was learning and provide a bit of an outlet for me to scribble down my thoughts. Over time Ukulele Go has grown, as has my ukulele collection.
It’s time for a little more music theory, don’t worry though, we’ll take it nice and steady. Today we’re looking at major chord construction, which is really useful to understand for a number of reasons.
All major chords comprise of just 3 notes. This may seem illogical as for the most part you’re used to strumming all 4 strings when playing chords. 4 strings mean 4 notes right? Sort of.
When you’re playing a major chord on ukulele and you’re strumming every string, you’re actually playing just 3 notes, it’s just that two of them are the same note. You’re essentially doubling up one of the notes and playing it twice.
For those that came to ukulele from another instrument such as guitar, the same principle applies, you just happen to double up more notes on a guitar as it has more strings in the first place.
Let’s take a chord as an example and we’ll use the A major chord. Second finger, second fret of the G string (top) and first finger, first fret of the C string (next string down). Take a look at the chord box to help you out.
Pluck each note once and listen. Did you hear the two notes which are the same? Hopefully you did. The two notes which are the same in this version of an A chord are the notes on the top and bottom string (both of which are the note A).
Technically, as a major chord only comprises 3 notes, you don’t need to play both A notes to play an A major chord. You could just strum the top 3 strings, or equally you could strum just the bottom 3 strings. Whichever you choose, you’ll find all the notes you need for an A chord are contained within. That’s the notes A, C#/Db and E. Have a look at the diagram below which should help illustrate this.
But why is this useful to know?
Firstly, this is really useful to know because it can help you if you find a particular chord difficult to play. Most ukulele players struggle with the E chord, at least to begin with. But you can make it a whole lot easier by not playing and subsequently, not having to fret one of the strings. In fact, I wrote a whole other blog post just for the E chord (and it has a video too) that talks about this very approach.
That’s not the only reason that it’s good to get to know the notes that make up a chord though.
How about some more examples?
This time we’re going to look at the C major chord. Everyone knows the C major chord right? If you don’t yet, have a look at the chord box opposite. The top 3 strings are all open and the bottom string (the A string) is held at fret 3.
In terms of the notes you’re playing here. You have G, C, E and another C on the bottom string. As I mentioned in the example of the A chord, you should be able to hear that 2 notes are the same. In this example, it’s the C on the second string and the C on the bottom string. There is a slight difference when it comes to this version of the C chord though, the 2 C notes you can here are actually an octave apart.
How do I work out the notes in the chord?
So the next thing you need to know is how to work out which notes you need to play. For this, you need to get to grips with the notes in the scale.
Let’s start by laying all of the possible musical notes down. You can see there are 12 available, after which the pitches repeat in a higher octave.
Each note in western music is considered to be a semitone (or a half step), two semitones makes a whole tone. If we translate that onto the ukulele fretboard, each fret is a semitone/half step and 2 frets is the equivalent of a whole tone/step.
To construct a major scale, there is a formula, and that formula is whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.
So lets build a C major scale. Starting on the notes of the scale we move up a whole step which gives us a D, we then move up again a whole step which gives us an E. We continue this pattern until we have built all of the notes in the scale which will eventually give us: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
Now we have the C major scale built we’re ready to construct our major chord.
Major chords are built from the root note (the note that is the same as the name of the chord), the major third and the fifth. This would give us C, E and G, exactly the notes we need.
C – Root
E – Third
G – Fifth
Let’s try it again with our A chord.
We start by building the scale. Using A as our root note, we move up using the scale formula from above. This will give us A, B, C#/Db, D, E, F#, G#
Again using the root, third and fifth formula for major chord construction. This gives us…
A – Root
C#/Db – Third
E – Fifth
It does take a little bit of working out but this all comes in very useful as you become a more accomplished player. You’ll find new possibilities and become a much more competent player.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve found this useful!
It’s been a while since I reviewed a ukulele so here I am taking a look at the Flight TUS50 Salamander Travel Soprano ukulele (yep, it’s a long name).
Flight have done a good job of establishing themselves a name at the entry-level point of the market. You see a lot of Flight ukuleles been played on Instagram and Youtube which suggest that whoever is looking after the marketing is doing a good job on the social media side of things.
The TUS50 is a largely plastic ukulele: the back, bridge, nut, neck and fretboard are all made from ABS plastic. It isn’t completely plastic though like the Waterman or Outdoor ukulele I’ve reviewed here previously. The TUS50 has a laminate Walnut top with an engraved Salamander design around the sound hole. Who doesn’t love a Salamander?
It has 15 frets on the ABS fretboard, 12 up to the body and has a set of standard open-backed geared tuners on the headstock. It’s strung with Aquila (what else?) and comes with a decent padded gig bag. All of this will cost you €55 (Euros as Flight are based in Slovenia).
At this price, I think it makes plenty of sense to have a slotted bridge and that’s exactly what Flight have done here. String changes are going to be that little bit easier which is ideal for the beginner.
Look & Feel
It’s quite a pleasant looking ukulele. I think the combination of the walnut top alongside the ABS fretboard works well and I like the styling of the headstock too. As with pretty much all plastic ukuleles I’ve looked at, the build quality is good (hard to get these things wrong) and it feels pretty good quality in the hand.
A few years back I took a look at the Mahilele Soprano which is a very similar instrument to this one, the only real difference being the wooden neck that the Mahilele has. I was a big fan of the Mahilele and this instrument feels and plays very similarly.
I like the curved back on this ukulele, it’s comfortable against the body and it’s a well balanced instrument. I have to say that I do find it quite difficult to stand up and play this one without a strap, despite the plastic back having a little grain it still slips away a touch (maybe I should stop wearing silk pyjamas all of the time).
One of the reasons this ukulele gets classed as a travel ukulele is the durability of the plastic. It’s going to stand up a little more solidly to bumps and dings and obviously the plastic is going to be better when it comes to water splashes for those that are playing at the beach/pool/lake.
What Does It Sound Like?
Almost all of the plastic ukuleles I’ve played have a booming quality that I really like (not everyone likes this though) and that was certainly true of the very similar Mahilele. That said, this one sounds a little more mellow but maybe this is just time playing tricks on my ears. The sound is pleasant enough and it’s way better than that of the fully plastic Makala Waterman. It certainly stands up against any similarly priced laminate ukuleles that I’ve played over the years.
I can try and talk about the sound all day but I’ll never really be able to convey it accurately. The best thing that you can do is listen to the sound clips that I’ve included below and let your own ears decide.
There are ukuleles I’ve played which seem to favour either picking or strumming but I’d say the TUS50 performs equally whether strummed or picked, so if you’re player does a little bit of everything you should be happy enough here.
When it comes to playing, as I think all plastic ukuleles should have, it’s got a great action which makes it relatively easy to play.
At €55 the TUS50 is going up against other plastic ukuleles and entry-level laminates and it holds up on it’s own merit. It’s plenty playable, looks pretty good and has that durability that make it an instrument that you can be a little less worried about.
I’d say it’s more appropriate than the Waterman is for younger children as it doesn’t suffer from the same super-high action. Definitely worth a look if you don’t mind the idea of owning a semi-plastic ukulele. All in all, a good ukulele for the money.
Salt Del Grill is a campanella study by Choan Galvez. Choan has very kindly allowed me to publish the tab here for you all to learn from…
Choan is currently working his way through a project which will see him publishing 50 short pieces for solo ukulele. Each piece is less than a minute and they’re intended to help you learn.
Study No. 3 – Salt del Grill - YouTube
For the project Choan will be releasing two videos a week. The videos will be going out on Wednesday and Friday each week and can be found on his Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channels. For those that want the tab, performance notes and more, you can get all this through Choan’s Patreon page.
Listen to Choan play through the piece a few times to get a feel for the timing. Your ears will really help you here (and hear).
For the most part, the piece is played in second position. This means that your index finger is positioned over the second fret, your second finger over the third fret, ring finger over the fourth and pinkie takes the fifth.
Choan has included suggested finger positions (shown on top of the musical notes) which should really help you out.
When it comes to pieces like this that have a level of complexity to them, I think it’s really beneficial to try and memorise them as much as possible. This can seem difficult as there’s so much to take in but I have quite a simple method that works well. Take things a bar at a time and as soon as you feel like you know it, remove the tab. Play from memory unless you forget, then have another look at the tab to jog your memory and remove it again.
I’ve found this method, although simple does a great job of getting songs into your memory.
One final note from Choan on this one:
Practice this tune using a metronome as slow as needed to make the piece sound musical. Then increase the tempo until you find your sweet spot
I would fully echo Choan’s sentiment here, this goes for every song that you’re learning. It can be so tempting to go faster but it will actually hinder your progress.
My youngest son Max is now 7 years old which I think is a great age to start learning to play ukulele. There are challenges that come with learning to play ukulele at such a young age, here are some of the ways that I’ve found to work when teaching him. hopefully they can work for your children too…
One String Riffs
Learning riffs is a great starting point, especially if you stick to a single string, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. When it comes to learning, I think it’s always good to leave a practice session having achieved something – this is even more important for newcomers. Having a positive experience goes a long way toward wanting to do it again.
Here are some really good one string riffs that are great for kids to learn. I find it really useful to play the song for them on Youtube so they know what they’re learning.
All of the riffs below can be played on any string. It will mean that you might not be playing in the correct key but that isn’t important in this stage.
I tend to let Max play them on the A string initially as he finds it easier to fret notes here, then when he gets more comfortable we slowly move up the strings. All the riffs below have been tabbed on the A string.
Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Yes it’s a classic and it’s hugely overplayed but there is a reason for that. It’s a catchy riff that is super accessible. Here’s the tab…
The thing I like about all of the tunes above is that although they’re relatively simple to play, you really need to get the timing right. The way I help my son get the timing is by getting him to sing the notes as he plays – I think anything beyond this at a young age when it comes to timing can be a little off-putting.
You can grab my sheet with all of these on for your kids to learn by hitting the button below (I’ve laminated the one that Max uses to make sure it will survive a little longer).
It’s really important that you make practice sessions with younger children really fun and engaging. If they’re not really into it, I’d recommend trying again at another time.
Max is a little too young to be able to fret chords that require a lot of finger dexterity so I came up with a way to let him strum along and make his own songs without having to fret full chords.
What we do is fret a single note on the A string (the bottom string) and he then strums all of the strings. I tell him which frets will sound good and which ones won’t work too well and let him just play around with that. It really helps him to get to grips with the idea of strumming and fretting at the same time.
In the audio clip above I’m strumming down and simply fretting at the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th frets of the A string (the bottom string) oh and I also threw in a strum without fretting any notes.
Guess The Note
This is a great little game that is geared towards ear training. I will play a note on my ukulele without letting him see what I’m fretting. To help him out I’ll tell him which string I was using and I then ask him to find the note on his ukulele. Max really enjoys this game and it will really help him understand how the fretboard works at the same time as developing his ear.
You can make this a little more challenging by firstly not giving away exactly which string you’re playing on. You could even ask them to find the same note on another string. You also have the option of moving beyond a single note.
For those that don’t have a second ukulele, I’ve created an MP3 below which will help you to play this game.
Just hit the play button, then pause after the note has played let your child try and find the note (I used the A string).
The notes in the above MP3 are found on the following frets 2, 7, 4 , 10, 4.
This is a good one, and perhaps it’s something that I should practice myself a little more. I get Max to play with his eyes closed. I’ve noticed in his practice sessions that Max really focuses on looking at his hands as he’s playing. Because he really focuses his eyes on either his strumming hand or his fretting hand, he struggles to do both at the same time. I get him to play either with his eyes closed or staring at a distant object instead.
This is a great exercise which helps you to really get a feel for the fretboard but also helps with ear training too as you have to hear your mistakes rather than see them.
Do you have any great tips for teaching kids ukulele? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
My podcast has been running for a few weeks now and I’ve finally bitten the bullet and brought a guest onto the show. This week Alex B from Southern Ukulele Store joins me to talk all about strings.
Alex has written about strings many times and there really isn’t much he doesn’t know about them. I am a little bit of a nightmare when it comes to strings, I rarely change them. Find out if Alex can convince me to change the strings on my ukulele using his expert knowledge.
To listen to the show, hit the play button above or subscribe to the show using your favourite podcast app. Apologies for the audio quality on this one, it’s something I’m looking to improve.
It’s a few weeks from Christmas and I know it’s early but if you want to learn those yuletide songs you need to start practicing sooner rather than later. Now is a great time to work on your Christmas repertoire. Below are the best free ukulele christmas tabs I’ve found…
The list below contains tabs from a number of website. Al Wood’s Ukulele Hunt and PDF Minstrel both feature pretty prominently though.
That list should keep you busy throughout December (you might want to lay off after that though).
If you do know of any others drop me a link in the comments and I’ll get the list updated.
Finally, if you just can’t get enough of Christmas songs on ukulele then take a look at Al Wood’s Christmas Ukulele Trilogy ebook. For $14 you get 3 ebooks with a total of 32 ukulele tabs, all with supporting YouTube videos and audio files.
I don’t arrange an awful lot of songs myself but that’s something I’m looking to fix. I decided to get the ball rolling with my attempt at Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 classic, Don’t Worry Be Happy.
I remember hearing this song way back as a young whippersnapper (I would have been 9 when this was released) and it really stuck with me – it’s a catchy tune with a nice positive message. Anyway, enough rambling, let’s get on with the song.
It’s All About The Low G
For this arrangement, firstly it’s a low G arrangement which I’m playing on my Outdoor Tenor. If you do want to play it on a high G ukulele, there are only a handful of notes that won’t quite sound right, I wouldn’t let it put you off.
Second thing to say is that I’ve transposed it to the key of C which I think works really well on this song, it means you won’t be able to play it over the record but that’s not really the aim of a chord melody arrangement.
Here I am playing through the arrangement. I should point out that I don’t stick to it exactly, I played with the timings and went by feel.
Don't Worry Be Happy Solo Ukulele Arrangement - YouTube
Here’s the tab, no crazy chords, no difficult fingerings. In fact we don’t even venture past the third fret at any point.
If you want to grab the printable PDF of this tab, click the button at the bottom of the page.
In terms of playing this one, I don’t use any specific way to pick the notes. I’m mostly picking with a combination of my thumb, index finger and second finger. I let my thumb pick up the G and C strings with my index and second picking up the E and A strings.
The strums that I’m occasionally throwing in are all done with my thumb. I tend to lean on my thumb quite a lot on arrangements with sporadic strums in them.
If you do have a blast at this arrangement, let me know – I’d love to see your videos and hear your audio files.
Today I’m giving my thoughts on the ukulele membership site Rock Class 101. Before I continue let me point out that I am in no way affiliated with Rock Class 101 but I am a user. On with the review…
What Is It?
Rock Class 101 is a paid membership site which offers a range of video lessons for $9/month. Lessons range from individual songs and technique to courses that incorporate other things like music theory, writing songs and recording.
The man behind the site is Andrew Hardel. Andrew is an accomplished musician who graduated from music school back in 2011.
There are a wealth of lessons on Rock Class 101 (over 250 lessons at the time of writing) which largely tend to be broken into 2 parts, the first half being available to non members and the second half for those that sign up. Members also get access to tab downloads and the rather useful Tab Play Along tool which lets you play alongside the performance with tab. This is a great practice tool and you can even slow the speed down whilst you’re getting to grips with the piece of music in question.
One of the reasons that I like Rock Class 101 is the level of the lessons. There’s a lot of intermediate to advanced level content which is a bracket that’s hard to find on other sites (or YouTube). It goes way beyond the standard, here are 4 chords and a strumming pattern style approach that you see in a lot of places. If I could develop even to be a tenth of the player that Andrew is I’d be a happy man.
What About Free Lessons?
There’s an argument that there’s already plenty of free ukulele lessons out there so paying for lessons isn’t necessary. While I agree with the fact that there’s a lot of material available, it isn’t always of a high enough standard and more importantly it rarely comes in a structured way to develop your playing. It’s one thing to make one off lessons, it’s another to develop a course. This is why I believe in and think that sites like Rock Class 101 are incredibly useful.
The big draw for me is the level of detail in the lessons, there’s always something to learn
Most people that are learning a musical instrument jump straight into songs and this can be a great way to learn but I’m a big believer in getting to grips with understanding how music works. This can help you out with jamming, soloing, improvisation and a lot more beyond.
A post shared by Ukulele Go (@ukulelego) on Oct 14, 2018 at 7:29am PDT
Rock Class 101 also features it’s own forum. On the forum you’ll get to ask questions and chat with other members. One thing that I really like on the forum is the monthly member challenge. Every month the challenge features a different piece of music. Members tackle the music and post videos of their performance. The great thing about the challenge is that you’ll get feedback on your performance directly from Andrew and other teachers. I recently posted a video of myself performing one of Andrew’s arrangements and Andrew spotted that I was really tensing up at a particular point. I wouldn’t have noticed this myself, it’s now something that I’m working to fix. The lessons are also great for giving yourself something to focus on.
If you do take up a membership with Rock Class 101 I’d recommend that you join the forums. Online learning has notoriously high drop-out rates across all subjects and the forums are a great way to maintain your focus.
On the whole I think Rock Class 101 is a great ukulele membership site, especially for those that maybe already consider themselves proficient with chords and strumming through songs. The focus on solo ukulele pieces will really develop you as a player.
If you’re an absolute beginner I’d recommend taking the time to get to grips with the basics before signing up. On the whole though I think Rock Class 101 is one of the best ukulele membership sites out there.
Nana para Eva (translated as lullaby for Eva) is a beautiful solo ukulele arrangement from Choan Gálvez. Choan has very kindly allowed me to publish the tab here for you to learn.
Taken from Choan’s album Lullabies for Astronauts this beautiful arrangement was the first Choan ever wrote for solo ukulele. It was an improvised piece to help his wife get to sleep.
You can listen to Nana para Eva by pressing the play button below…
I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a beautiful piece of music that would make a great addition to your repertoire. The good news is, it’s not too difficult to play and should be good for anyone that’s tinkered around with a little bit of fingerpicking before or is considering it. Essentially, if you’re fairly comfortable playing chords and changing between them, this should be a great piece for you to tackle.
Choan very kindly put together a few playing tips to help you get the best out of this one. Who better to tell you than the composer himself.
Try and let every note ring out for a long as possible. This means keeping notes fretted after you’ve plucked the string. You can also aid this by not smothering your ukulele when you hold it.
You can play the double stops on adjacent strings (bar 3 is a good example) using a short thumb strum.
Try and play it softly with a relaxed, calm feel. Remember, you’re playing a lullaby. It needs to be treated like a lullaby (you’re not trying to wake anyone up with it).
Breathe with the rhythm. This will aid the feel of the piece.
Feel free to adapt and change. Once you’ve learned the song, break the rules and add a little bit of your own magic to it.
Here’s the first part of the tab (you can grab the 2 page PDF by hitting the button at the bottom of this article).
And finally, if you like Nana para Eva and would be interested in listening (and learning) more of Choan Gálvez’s beautiful ukulele arrangements you can check out the album Lullabies for Astronauts. It features 10 arrangements all with supporting tab and is released on 15 October. You can pre-order it for just €5.
I’ve only gone and done it. I’ve created a Ukulele Go podcast. To begin with the podcast essentially takes content from the website and lets you access it as audio so you can listen to it on the go. It’s not a show in it’s own right with guests but who knows where it will go?
The Ukulele Go podcast is available on a number of platforms (so if you already listen to podcasts and have a favourite you won’t need to download a new app or anything) the following platforms…