Ukuleles have 4 strings, are addictive, and we plan to talk about them a lot! Anything relating in general to ukuleles will be posted here.

10 ways to improve your ukulele playing…

We often get asked for tips on how to become a better ukulele player.  Here’s a few ideas to help you along and help you to improve your ukulele playing.

absolute beginners ukulele course in London

1.  Get lessons.  Come and learn in a group with us.

We were bound to say that, right?  And yes, there are many other ways to learn to play the ukulele.  You can learn from a book, you can learn via YouTube, you can learn from your pals, or at a jam night.  The thing is, when you book lessons with a teacher, you’re getting their years of experience, with hints, tips and guidance. They’ll watch your technique, and answer your questions and go over it until you’re confident.  When you learn in a group, it’s more fun, you can socialise with your peers and it gives you the impetus to want to play along.  Ukulele is a social instrument, after all.

2.  Do your homework.  Practice playing, (and singing).

Yes, the dreaded P word.  But, all the greats practice for many, many hours to be come accomplished musicians.  You’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to spend quite that many hours practicing to strum along with your chums down the pub, but to play the songs well, you should take some time playing on your own at home.  Practice can be divided up into a few more points…

3.  Practice the things you find hardest most often.

It’s all well and good keep playing a song, but getting stuck at one point.  Practice the point that you get stuck on so that you don’t get stuck and you can play that song you love in it’s entirety, well.

4.  Strumming (and singing).

“It’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.”  Yes, it is.  It’s also like driving a car and chatting to your passenger, when you first pass your test.  These things are possible, but first you need to get comfortable with the first thing, and introduce the second as soon into it as you can.  In the case of strumming, strum in a regular even tempo, repeating the strum so you are comfortable, and then sing as soon as you are able to stop concentrating on what your hand is doing.  Keep trying to take away the focus from your hand.

5.  Chord changing.

If that’s the bit that you’re finding difficult, take the two, three, or however many chords in succession that you’re hesitant on switching between and keep looping them until you find it easy to switch between them.

6.  Timing.

If you’re struggling to keep in time, try playing along with the track you like, or grab a metronome (there are free apps available).  Play along and keep in time with the track or metronome and don’t let the previous stumbling points stop you!

7.  Play at a local ukulele jam.  

In London there are loads including Ukulele Wednesdays, every Wednesday. Playing with others is not only fun, but a good way to meet others and get better if you’re in your early playing stages.

 

Ukulele Wednesdays at the Albany, London.

Ukulele Wednesdays, London.

8.  Make audio recordings.

There are many ways to make free audio recordings of your playing.  Voice recorder apps are widely available on most smartphones, free of charge.  Record yourself singing the song, and wait for a week to listen back to it.  You’ll notice any areas for improvement and you can work on them.

9.  Make video recordings.

Very much like audio recordings, you can get a lot from watching yourself a while after you’ve recorded yourself playing and singing.  You can spot any areas for improvement and work on them.  It’s reported that Tina Turner and Usher watch their tapes immediately after every performance.  Whilst we don’t suggest you become this level of perfectionist if you are just playing for fun, it’s good to see where you’re up to by watching yourself after you’ve played.  Hell, if you love your performance, you could pop your cover version on YouTube for everyone to enjoy.

10.  Go and play at an open mic night.

There are many ukulele open mic nights or standard open mic nights where you can unleash your talents on the world.  You’ll be in a wonderful supportive environment, and you’ll know from the audience feedback how your performance is doing.

How to play the G chord, here.

See how to play Bb chord on the ukulele, here.

How to play the E chord, on the ukulele here.

Do you want 6 basic strum patterns to get you going? See more here.

If you’re in London, UK, you’ll learn this in our courses. Book your course to join us in London.

If you’re not, please support us on Patreon so you can get access to all our upcoming online tutorials and challenges.

6 things I learned about the ukulele in Hawaii

I was taken off to recover after surgery, to the land of ukuleles.  Yes, Hawaii.  It’s a surprising place, consisting of several islands, of which there are 6 main islands.  I could go on about it for ages, but I’ll keep it to 6 short lessons.  Well 5, as you probably already know about Jake Shimabukuro playing ukulele in Hawaii.

1.  OK. This is not strictly about the ukulele, but about Hawaii itself… It’s much bigger than you think, so spend longer visiting, so you can get around. Each Island is very different, and well worth a visit.

Looking on a map, Hawaii looks tiny.  The islands look close together and easy to navigate.  You’d think you could island hop the whole of it in a few weeks.  You’d be wrong.  The roads are not all surfaced, and some places are difficult to get to, so take longer in each place.  You certainly can’t do an island in a week as we had hoped to.

2.  Again, more about Hawaii… Some places in Hawaii could be likened to an American version of the Spanish Costa Del Sol in the 80’s, as in, there are loads of tourists and tourist spots, but some other places remain untouched and breathtakingly beautiful.

It takes all sorts.  You could easily suck up the Tiki Culture and hang out eating burgers and drinking Mai Tai’s all day long, if that floats your boat.  By the same token, you can avoid all of that like the plague, stay in hostels, swim with turtles, surf, snorkel, climb volcanic mountains, or come back to tourism and ride in a helicopter to see where they filmed Jurassic Park.  Frankly, it’s up to you!

3.  One of the three ukulele virtuosos that I’m aware of lives on Hawaii, and his brother owns a shop at Waikiki beach, on Oahu.

Jake Shimabukuro is from Hawaii, and his brother owns a shop, called the Uke Box, on Waikiki Beach.  If you go, you might bump into Bruce Shimabukuro or (more likely) the very lovely guy who works there more regularly, Aki.

4.  There aren’t many ukulele jams, so social strumming has to be arranged well in advance.

Hawaiian culture has ukulele, and slack key guitar embedded within it.  If you want to strum along with others, you should go at a time when there’s a ukulele festival, or jam already set up.  Don’t expect to drop in like you can with Ukulele Wednesdays.  We tried to go and strum along with the guys at Ukulele Underground, but there’s not an open club, sadly.

5.  This is how a ukulele is made, at one of the top ukulele factories in the world.

This is an old video, but nevertheless, if you want to walk through a ukulele making factory, Kanile’a, then here’s your chance.  If you do end up going to Hawaii, you should also play a Kamaka.

6.  If you go to Maui, go and say hello to Jason at Lahaina Music

Jason at Lahaina Music on Maui

Jason at Lahaina Music on Maui

We ended up hanging out with Jason for a fair few hours.  He allowed us to use his wi-fi and also accommodated a few local musicians who just came in to jam with him.  He’s an affable and helpful chap and he reckons we should all visit the slack key guitar and ukulele festival in June.  If only we could all muster up the funds!

Ukulele Lesson for School children… Trouble by Taylor Swift…

I don’t often post about the work I do in schools, but sometimes, little miracles happen that I just have to share.  This was one such fun ukulele lesson for school children, which was caught on record.  I hastily prepared the song ‘Trouble’ by Taylor Swift, and took it along for my after school club.  I didn’t expect them to love it as much as they did.  Listen towards the end, you’ll hear a cute hiccough and a lot of giggles.  🙂

Ukuleles 1: Airlines: 0

It’s official! You can take your ukulele as well as hand luggage on flights!*

*If your uke is in a soft case, that is…

james-hill-2008-07-27-9910-500x429

Virtuoso player James Hill travels globally with his ukulele.Check him out on YouTube, he’s awesome!

Ever wished you could take your laptop bag or handbag AND your ukulele on a flight with you?  Yes, me too.  Actually, I already have been taking my ukulele away with me for the past 6 years, in addition to my bag, and people often question it, but I’ve never been stopped by the airline.  A violinist friend told me about a loop hole about small instruments on flights, and the lady who I talked to when I joined the Musicians Union also confirmed this, so long as I had my MU card with me, and the flight card, I should be alright to take my ukulele along in addition to one other piece of hand luggage.  Now, it’s open knowledge – they’re looking to change the regulations, after a string of complaints over broken instruments, with people like James Hill who owns a number of very expensive ukuleles, necessary for his livelihood, who has had to buy extra seats for his uke so they would let him on the plane with it.  Other issues with people being forced to put very expensive instruments in the hold and they’ve come out broken, for which your insurance will try to hold you accountable.

Under the new regulations, due to come into force in 2015, if they go ahead airlines must accept you and your ukulele.  As should the world at large!

Please read the full article on the Incorporated Society of Musicians website here.