Ukulele Tips & Tricks to improve your playing.

How do I transpose a song?

And why would I want to transpose a song?

Transposition/transposing/changing the key of a song is handy if a song sits in a key that isn’t very friendly to your voice. So, if you are finding yourself either at the uppermost or the lowermost parts of your voice, like this you might find it useful and more pleasant on the ear to transpose the song. For example, Johnny Cash’s song, Hurt is in A minor (Am) which sounds amazing when it was sung by Johnny Cash and his beautifully strong low register. It’s a bit of a stretch for me to get those low notes, though, so I tried it in a few different keys to enable myself to sing all of the notes in the song. Have a listen to that here:

As you can probably hear, it’s a massive struggle in Am. It’s not much better when it’s been moved up a third to C#m or a 4th to Dm but at least the notes are achieved for the lyrics to ‘the only thing that’s real’.

If you’ve had the same trouble with any song at all, it’s well worth transposing it to suit your voice. If you print, cut out and put a pin fastener through this Key Transposing Wheel, with Instructions you’ll see that you can move a song to any key. Bear in mind that if the chord is a minor chord or a seventh chord in the original, it’ll need to stay as a minor or a seventh chord in the transposed song.

Thank you to Cathy’s Chords for the transposition wheel.

The ‘Harry Potter’ Approach to Ukulele Buying

Want to buy a ukulele? Not really sure what to buy? For the first ukulele, you don’t usually have a frame of reference. In the early days, I would recommend spending a small amount of money, until you know you enjoy playing and you want to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, don’t go too cheaply, so that the uke is un-tune-able. If you’re fending for yourself for your first ukulele, refer to these recommendations to help you with buying your first ukulele. Then, when you’ve been playing for a while you might want to upgrade. It’s at this point that people usually ask me ‘what is the next ukulele that I should buy’ or ‘what brand do you recommend’. I like lots of brands of ukuleles, and you’ll find plenty of reviews out there but I think it’s a bit like asking ‘what car should I buy’ or ‘what bike should I buy’. It really depends what you want to do with it – are you planning to play lots of melody? Might you need a low G string? Are you planning to play gigs with other instruments? Will you need a pick-up in it so you can be amplified or will a microphone do? Do you prefer a mellow or a bright sound? I don’t know – these are all subjective preferences, like everything in life.

For me, buying a new ukulele is a bit like that scene in Harry Potter… You know, the scene where he needs to buy his wand and he wanders (yes, pun intended) into the shop seemingly bewildered? Then, as magic happpens – the wand that’s meant for him flies at him. The wand chooses Harry:

That’s how I think about ukulele buying. I walk into a shop, play a few of them and and the ukuleles choose me. I’ve bought several instruments like that. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. Like when I go out for one drink, but that’s a different story. With ukuleles, I like to walk into a shop, feel it and hear the instrument I’m going to buy. That’s worked for me with my guitar (oo-er, the G word) and also with ukuleles. I’ve got a feel for them and have known they were ‘the one’ when I’ve played them. I’m sure the same will happen for you. Go in, play your favourite song. If you like the feel and sound of it, buy it and give yourself hours of fun. It helps when you know what you’re feeling for. I like ukes with low action, that sound good whether  you play melody or chords. But that’s just me.

It’s around this point where UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome, to the uninitiated) comes in. You may well also get bitten by the bug and buy a new uke for every day of the week. There are lots of people who have more ukuleles than they can play, some have entire walls filled with them. Not me, oh no. Obviously not me…

ukuleles on the wall





How to play the E chord on the Ukulele

Why reinvent the wheel? That’s what I say. There is a perfectly good post showing you how to play the E chord on the ukulele on the Ukulele Hunt Site, here. See the photos and descriptions that Al wrote back in 2009. All I wanted to add to that, were, should you wish to practice the E chord on the Ukulele, here are a list of songs in the Ukulele Wednesdays Songbook that have the E chord in so that you can practice it on a song or two that you like:

A Little Respect
Be My Baby
Crocodile Rock
Don’t Look Back In Anger
Don’t You Want Me
I Will Survive
Kids In America
Killing Me Softly
Nine To Five
Pretty Woman
Take Me Home, Country Roads
The Rainbow Connection
These Boots Are Made For Walkin
Wild World
You’re The One That I Want

How to play the Bb (B flat) chord on the ukulele.

Would you like a video to show you how? Here you go:

I find it easiest to play Bb (said B flat, not ‘bee bee’;) by twisting my index finger towards the headstock. You need the index finger to press down on both the E and the A strings in the first fret, whilst your middle finger is on its tip on the C string in the second fret and the ring finger is on the G string in the third fret. I find this tricky to do if all your fingers go straight on, as when you put the second and third fingers down, the index lifts up.

There are a lot of songs with Bb in them, in the Ukulele Wednesdays Songbook. Give some of these songs a try to help you practice:

A Little Respect
All My Loving
Is This The Way To Amarillo (in the key change)
Brimful of Asha
Build Me Up Buttercup
California Dreaming
City of New Orleans
Do You Love Me
Don’t Stop Me Now
Ever Fallen In Love
Free Bird
Happy Together
I Predict a Riot
I Think We’re Alone Now
I’m into Something Good
Karma Chameleon
Keep The Faith
King of the Road
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Little Lion Man
Maybe Tomorrow
(Lookin’ Back) Over My Shoulder
Price Tag
Somebody That I Used To Know
Summer of ’69
Sweet Child o’ Mine
Take Your Mama
Teenage Dirtbag
The Rainbow Connection
True Faith
We Are Young