Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's December 25th again, the time of year when suddenly traffic to uke websites starts to skyrocket for no apparent reason.

On an unrelated note, if you've just received a uke on Christmas day and found your way here, then you are exactly why this site exists. My goal is to help make good music easy to play for beginners.

When I got a uke for Christmas 3 years ago, it was one of the best gifts I have ever got in my life. It was a motivator to learn music, a skill I had ruled out for myself years before. It has been great fun, difficult at times, but always rewarding.

So thank whoever got it for you (again), and play often. You might be surprised at what you can learn.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Win a free Electric Ukulele from and Thoughts on Cooperative Blogging

UPDATE 4/7/10: Woodshed over at Ukehunt, blogger and content-creator extraordinaire, just put up a post about 10 common misconceptions (things that might be "bollocks"-- he is British after all) of ukuleles that included a mention of my point below about the win-win-win scenario.

Added my additional thoughts on it at the bottom of this post.

Just got an email from Tim over at Ukeeku, a new site billing itself as "A place to reflect on ukuleles" that said something like:

I think your readers would love this uke giveaway (Eleuke concert)

I am just getting started and would love for you to post this on your site. All the people have to do is comment on any post of my blog to be entered.
if you have any questions feel free to contact me

And I think he is right, readers here will probably appreciate the heads up on a shot at a free uke. All you have to do to enter to win the ukulele is click the link up top and then comment on the post.

The free uke up for grabs, an Eleuke Concert CCK100BL-MP3

Basically, Tim received a free ukulele in exchange for reviewing it. He then decided to pass this along to one of his commenters as a lottery prize for checking out and participating on his blog.

This is a win-win-win, and something I have considered doing with my blog for a while now.

Winner 1: The ukulele company (in this case the makers of the Eleuke Concert CCK100BL-MP3). Even if the review isn't great, it is easily worth the cost of one ukulele for the potential of thousands of hits worth of free advertising from the review post. And honestly, if a blogger received a free ukulele from a company, they will at least be nice in their review.

Winner 2: The Lucky Commenter. Right now (April 6th) there are 127 comments on the page. By the time the contest closes there could be many thousands, but still, you won't find much better odds to get something worth $200 for the price of 1 minute of your commenting time.

Winner 3: Tim of the Ukeeku site. By getting other bloggers (like yours truly) to promote his site, he will increase his traffic and profile. When companies decided whether they want to give someone a free ukulele, the first thing they care about is the site's traffic. It's cyclical, which means there could be more of these freebies to come!

So yeah, this is a win-win-win strategy to increase his traffic, keep his readers happy, and give a uke company some press. I hope he keeps at it.

oh what the heck, there's also Winner 4: Bloggers like Ukulala, whose mundane existence is broken up only by an odd interest in successful cooperative survival strategies.


Re: Woodshed at Ukulelehunt's post and comment below.

From the post:

Last Minute Addition: There aren’t enough ukulele competitions around.

This one was inspired by Ukulala’s post today about the benefits of ukulele competitions.

As a reader, I’m am very bored of ukulele competitions. There’s no real value to them in the long term. I’m never much interested in entering a competition where there’s a prize I could just buy if I wanted.

From the blogging perspective, competitions might provide a nice boost in traffic for a few days but they aren’t a substitute for putting in the hard work and building a site worth visiting.

I'm going to agree with Woodshed -- to a point. I think free giveaways are boring but serve the purpose of driving traffic temporarily to a newcomer's site (see Ukeeku).

HOWEVER, If Woodshed is including other types of contests, then I patently disagree. Contests that inspire people to 1) write their own songs 2) create tutorials, or 3) use any portion of their creativity are really a beautiful thing. Sometimes it takes a little push for people to get their own creative visions off and running, and a well-designed contest can inspire them to bring out something in themselves that they never knew was there.

Looking at the rest of the list he compiled, I think I am seeing a pattern: Woodshed (Al), doesn't like anything that pushes a storyline of the ukulele being a gimmick or a fad. He sees the ukulele as a serious instrument for a diverse repertoire of styles.

Included (and called bollocks) on the list are a) the myth that it's easy, b) ukuleles in schools, c) ukulele festivals, d) the uke is a primer for the guitar, e) that uke-themed contests are boring, and then some obscure stuff I hadn't actually ever heard (koa is a the best wood? Tenors are supposedly loud? Record labels have been trying or not trying to stop uke covers? Who knew?).

And ukulele competitions, especially ones that are just lotteries, are a gimmick. They are a gimmick for traffic, advertising, and free stuff. I actually agree with Woodshed that they are generally boring blog content, which is probably the main reason I haven't done one, but they can be a good tool for a website to get their name out in the beginning.

Sometimes I do like the chance to win a free uke, but it's the sweat and blood content that keeps me going back.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to play Sea Of Love by Phil Phillips (or Cat Power)

I finally got around to learning one of my favorite songs, Sea of Love by Phil Phillips. This is a classic song that has been covered recently and famously by Cat Power off the Juno soundtrack, but has survived through covers for over 5 decades now.

Among the most famous covers:
* The Honeydrippers where it was a #3 hit song,
* Tom Waits for the movie Sea of Love
* Most mullet-y version ever by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
* On the uke by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (ok so that one's not famous)
* By several youtubers on the uke, including this nice one
* Here's the full list of cover versions

So yeah, it's an awesome song and everyone knows it. Here's my video tutorial for it, with more detail below.

Video Breakdown:

00:00 Intro
00:26 Tuning (GCEA standard tuning)
00:31 Chords (Bb, D7, Eb, C7)
02:14 Strumming pattern - 8 beat loop: down, miss, down, up, miss, miss, down (harder), up (soft)
03:34 Slow strumming and chord changes
04:53 Full speed demo with words (slight mistake in lyrics... oops!)

Sea of Love Tuning

The ukulele should be in the key of C, which is standard GCEA tuning. I am playing with a concert ukulele, and the GCEA tuning is standard for most soprano and tenor ukes as well. If you are playing with a baritone uke, it may be tuned in G (DGBE) in which case your chords would look different.

Sea of Love Chords

This song has just 4 chords: B flat (Bb), D7, E flat (Eb), and C7. One thing that adds challenge to this as a ukulele song is that each of these are bar chords, which are difficult for the beginner. This is a great song to play to practice your bar chords.

The four chords are played in a loop in that order, each for the same amount of time.

*If you arent ready for bar chords, you can play the song in a different key using the chords G, B7, C, and A7 which are much easier for the beginner uke player.

Sea of Love Strumming Pattern

Strumming patterns are always a bit difficult to nail down, especially on a song that has had so many covers and versions and wasn't originally played on a ukulele or even a guitar. The real key to this song is the lyrics and the melody, so the strumming takes a bit of a backseat. In the original Phil Phillips version, they use a classic 1950s arpeggio, whereas in the Cat Power version they do a much more simple instrumental version with basic strumming.

Having said that, I will offer my own strumming pattern but I encourage you to experiment and see what sounds best to you. The song loops on 8 beats, where each beat is an up or a down strum:

1) strum down with emphasis
2) miss up
3) strum down
4) strum up
5) miss down
6) miss up (or strum very lightly)
7) strum down (harder)
8) strum up lightly
Switch chords and repeat.

Sea of Love full chords with lyrics:

Intro: Bb D7 Eb C7

Come with me
My love
To the sea
The sea of love

Bb D7
I want to tell you
how much
I love you

Bb D7 Eb C7

Do you remember
When we met
That's the day
I knew you were my pet

Bb D7
I wanna tell you
how much
I love you

Bb D7 Eb C7

Come with me
My love
To the sea
The sea of love

Bb D7
I wanna tell you
How much
I love you

Bb D7 Eb C7 x2

End on Bb


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ask Ukulala Vol. 4: Gaullimafry and KING DONKEY

what happened your blog? why haven't you been posting? Amandine

my... blog? blog.... blog... hmmm i don't... oh crap, my ukulele blog!!! i totally forgot about my blog this eleven-and-a-half months. i hope nobody else noticed....

Well, back to answering your uke and other questions! (how come nobody ever asks me relationship or stock trading questions on here?)

Hey man,
I played your version of Postcards on a Baritone Uke and it sounded pretty good. However, due to the tuning differences from that of a Soprano, it didn't sound completely right. Would this be played differently on a Baritone? Thanks, -Harry

Interesting. I haven't done much with baritone ukes, but my understanding is that they are generally tuned very differently than the standard GCEA concert and soprano ukes. Instead, they are usually tuned in G, which is DGBE.

This means you have two options:

  1. find out the proper chords for the baritone and play those instead. You may have some difficulty with the hammerons, and it will likely sound quite a bit different but be in the right key. (click on baritone on the middle right side)
  2. (BEST OPTION) Get a capo and put it on the 5th fret of your baritone. It will now have the exact same tuning as a concert or soprano uke in C, and the chords as shown in the video will work exactly the same.

Please let me know how this goes! Getting a capo if you don't have one is a good idea anyway. Allows for some interesting sounds and easy key changes.

okay, so i got my ukulele today and i got it tuned up right and all, but while playing it goes out of tune, and im only playing for like 5-10 minutes tops. what can i do

Editor's note: Artist's rendition


if you look on the tuning pegs, there should be little screws on the top of each one. Tighten those a bit to keep the peg from slipping out of tune. You may need a smaller-than-normal screwdriver.

Also, the more you paly the more the uke will settle in and require less tuning. In the beginning the strings will need to stretch and settle a bit and the screws will need tightening, etc.

Also, even though the uke wood is sweet sweet delicious good, your pegs will stay tighter if you can keep your gums and maw off them.

Good luck!

I have a question...

I'm wondering if you know what chord this is. (if it is a chord)

I put in a picture of it but if for some reason you can't see it, the layout thing for it is this:
1st 3rd A |___|___|_x_| G C E A E |_x_|___|___| |__|__X__| first fret C |___|___|___| |__|__|__ | G |___|___|___| |__|__|__ X third fret
Editor's Note: formatting worked over email, got destroyed in cut-and-paste to this blog.
I hope this is clear! Thank you!!


Hi Taylor!
This is an easy one thanks to a great ukulele tool out there:

Step one is to click on the tuning you are using over on the right, so either of the C options (soprano C or tenor C). Then click the picture of the ukulele so the yellow dots are where you put your fingers for the chord. Underneath it will say which chords it is, and it isn't necessarily just one. There are so many different kinds of chords out there, a lot of times with only four notes to work with on a uke there will be a lot of overlap.

So your configuration (and you should enter it to test) shows that your chord is both a Csus4 and an Fsus2.

The sus (stands for suspended) chords are beautiful if you are playing them with the right other chords. They work well in place of the standard chord to add a bit of extra emotion and variety without sounding too out of place or changing the key. It may be worth looking into some of the theory if you are interested to learn more about it. Here are a few places with some more info, although some of it is annoyingly technical:

Congratulations for discovering it on your own, it's cool when what you think sounds interesting turns out to be backed up by music theory (or at least I think it's cool, which might not mean that much actually).

hey man i know you probably get this a million times especially since some dude apparently played this song on a ukulele on american idol or something but Beirut does a great cover of the song Hallelujah and i love it. ukehunt gave me the chords but the strumming is throwing me for a loop. im new to the ukulele had mine less than a month it was a birthday gift from my lady. im loving the hell out of it. and cant stop playing. ukehunt is a great sight but this site excited the hell out of be honest. but the version as im sure you know is

i mean im sure you busy so im not asking for like a video really
(unless you had the time ha!) but just some pointers on ow he plays/strums this bad boy. im sure he uses hammer ons oo but i can figure that out im sure once im strumming it even remotely lose to correct.

let me know. thanks a lot
keep up the great work. love this all.

carry the fire,


I HAVE been getting a lot of requests for this song. I really should learn it I suppose.... but I haven't yet. When I do, I will definitely do a video for it and let you know.... it really is a beautiful song. Maybe too beautiful, I dont want to butcher it too bad.

btw, your lady sounds like a real find!


First of all..thanks for making such great tutorials. You are the best I've found in my many searches. I've learned a lot from you! I was wondering if you have or will you have a tutorial for Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (Or Jeff Buckley) either the strumming or picking version.. Great song easy chords just the strumming and picking I have trouble with. Any tips on how to become better at strumming??


I don't know if I will be doing Hallelujah, but I have had it requested a few times (see above!) and if I can figure out how to play it I will put up a video...

My advice for strumming: just play every time you get a chance sitting around the house, and keep your left hand on one or two chords and just try to get as many different kinds of sound as you can with your right hand. Strum with one finger, or all your fingers... try to play it like a drum almost. The idea is to condition your hand to hit the strings without it feeling awkward. To remember what strumming was like when you first started, try switching sides and strumming with your left hand. This should feel extremely awkward, and it will serve to remind you how far you've come....

Also: I forgot to tell Rebecca when I emailed her back, but thank you for the kind words! I'm so glad to hear the tutorials have been useful for people... what it really means is that there are lots of people who share some love for good songs and good uking.

Hello there! I'm a Spanish boy, from Madrid, and I've just got to know Beirut's music thanks to a friend like 2 months ago. I like it so so much. As i was lookin for videos on outube i found yours and then thought bout buyin' an ukelele. My doubt, if you could please answer it, is this: which kind of ukelele does he play? is it a sopran, bariton... Thank you so much for it!

Hi Jonas,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you, I was hoping to hear directly from the source about what Beirut used for his recordings but I haven't heard back from them (him?) yet.

I did however find this discussion on Ukulele Hunt about the ukes he uses in his videos and on the road:

Apparently they are (relatively) cheap, including one that he plays on stage (the Lanikai Tenor uke) that goes for just $99!

According to the Uke Hunt discussion, he uses all different sizes except the soprano. Tenor, baritone, and concert are all on that list. If I were you, I would stick to Tenor or Concert, because traditionally the tuning for the baritone uke (DGBE) is different than the tuning for standard ukes (GCEA), and Beirut tends to use standard uke tuning (or a close variation of it) in his songs.

I play a Concert uke, and feel like I get a very similar sound. I hope this has helped and is not too late to help with your purchase!

I hope this email finds you well. Thought you might get a kick out of a the brand new “Swine Flu” music video featuring my trusty ukulele :)
Swine Flu can be viewed through the following link:


Not technically a question, but I'm going to allow this. Very cute song and video with high quality sound and production.

I checked out the site and she makes a lot of good songs and even has a service where she writes and records special songs for a special occasions. Very neat entrepreneurial idea. I wonder how much it costs... probably something you find out through the consultation.

Hello, I was wondering what kind of Ukulele you play in your videos. It has a beautiful sound.

This is probably the question I get asked the most over email and on my youtube channel. I should probably just post it on the main page, but I probably won't. Anyway, I have a Hamano Concert H-100C ukulele.

I will say I have been extremely happy with the purchase. I think it is a great investment to spend a bit more than usual on a solid instrument with a pretty tone. Buy something you can't wait to play!

I just started playing ukulele on my cheap, $13 instrument from a souvenir shop in Hawaii. Day 3 and your YouTube videos have taught me more than the cruddy book I bought to go with it ever did, including Beirut songs! (I've been playing trumpet for 9 years and have wanted to play Postcards from Italy since I first heard it)

Now, for the question at hand, I was wondering if you might ever do a tutorial video for "Sea of Love" by
Cat Power?

Thanks a bunch!

whoa, cool. it took me so long to learn those songs i forget some people can actually do it in three days.....

I would LOVE to play Sea of Love and do a video for it. I haven't learned it yet though, but I think it would be a pretty great one to know. It's one of my favorite songs ever. Although I should say, the song I fell in love with the original by Phil Phillips.

When I wrote back to you, I was mixing this song up with another similar song I tried to learn. Basically when i told you it was very difficult I was way wrong: Sea of Love is not hard to play a basic version of. It is just four looping chords (G, B, C, A) played at a steady rhythm.

In terms of a strumming pattern, if I do a video for this one it will likely try to follow the Phil Phillips version's rhythm. I think Cat Power did a very pretty minimalist cover, but man, I love the original.

thanks for writing, reading, uking, loving good music

Hello there!:) Thank you for your blog. I have learned so much from you, you are a wonderful teacher. Up here in the cold north, it is really delightful to play on my most beautifull ukulele from Hawaii. It is indeed a wonderful uke. Anyways. I was clicking around on your site and saw a song you really, really wanted to learn: New Slang by The Shins. This is what I found out:
Tune: G-C-E-A Chords: Am/C, F/C, C, G, Am, F Am/C F/C C G Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth. C Am G
Only, i don't know how they got out, dear.
Am/C F/C C G
Turn me back into the pet that i was when we met.
C Am G
I was happier then with no mind-set.
And if you'd 'a took to me like
A gull takes to the wind.
Well, i'd 'a jumped from my tree
And i'd a danced like the king of the eyesores
G And the rest of our lives would 'a fared well.

That's all, thank you for blogging and keep smiling.

Hugs from uke-chic, Norway


wow, this is really great, thank you for putting this together! I have been doing less on the site recently (partly so i can focus on making my own music), but i have always wanted to know how to play this song. it's such a beautiful one. big :)

Also: So I told Eir that I would try this out as soon as possible---- and now that I have had a chance..... WTF? This song is fucking impossible for me to learn for some reason. See, this is why there needs to be more tutorial videos out there. I try to play this right now and everything seems wrong, and I can't get the timing, and I don't know how to strum it right, and... and.... why doesn't someone put a video up for this one so I can learn it!?

Well, clearly there is more work to be done.

Peace! til next time.....