Monthly Archives: February 2015

Book review: The Daily Ukulele

Daily Ukulele coverThe Daily Ukulele is the #1 best-selling ukulele book at Amazon, and for good reason. With 365 well-known songs across many genres, the book has something for everyone, and a song for every day of the year.

I bought this book originally after members of my local meetup group, the Ukulele Union of Boston, suggested it. The book is perfect for meetups and groups because, if most of the participants have the book, nobody needs to print out 30+ copies of each song. And the arrangements are simple enough to serve a general audience of beginner and intermediate players.

To be clear, this is a strum and sing-along book. Each song lists the chords along with the lyrics and melody in standard notation. Charts at the top of each song offer a quick reference for fingerings. Having the melody of each song written out in standard notation (without tabs) is also a great resource for students learning to read music on the ukulele.

In addition to a broad range of popular and traditional songs, the book covers a few categories that come in handy but might not call for purchasing a dedicated book. These include songs for children, holidays and other celebrations.

Finally, the spiral binding allows the book to lie flat while playing, and is a huge win. All music books should have this feature, in my opinion. Since most don’t, I’ve gotten into the habit of removing pages of many of my ukulele books and putting them in a 3-ring binder.

Amazon sells the book for about $26 – that’s less than 7 cents per song.

Here’s a sample of what the pages look like:daily ukulele sample

Complete song list:

  • 26 Miles
  • 59th Street Bridge Song, The (Feelin’ Groovy)
  • After You’ve Gone
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Ain’t We Got Fun?
  • Aint She Sweet
  • All I Have To Do Is Dream
  • All My Loving
  • All Night, All Day
  • All Of Me
  • All Through The Night
  • Aloha ‘Oe
  • Alphabet Song
  • Always
  • Amazing Grace
  • America
  • America, The Beautiful
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • Anniversary Song
  • Any Time
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight?
  • Around The World
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Avalon
  • Away In A Manger
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
  • Baby Face
  • Baby Love
  • Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
  • Battle Hymn Of The Republic, The
  • Bear Went Over The Mountain, The
  • Beautiful Brown Eyes
  • Beautiful Dreamer
  • Best Things In Life Are Free, The
  • Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home
  • Blowin’ In The Wind
  • Blue Christmas
  • Blue Hawaii
  • Blue Skies
  • Brahms’ Lullaby
  • Brown Eyed Girl
  • Buffalo Gals
  • By The Beautiful Sea
  • By The Light Of The Silvery Moon
  • Bye Bye Blackbird
  • Bye Bye Blues
  • Bye Bye Love
  • Cabaret
  • Caissons Go Rolling Along, The
  • California Dreamin’
  • California, Here I Come
  • Can’t Buy Me Love
  • Can’t Help But Smile
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love
  • Candy Man, The
  • Careless Love
  • Carolina In The Morning
  • Chapel Of Love
  • Chicago
  • Chinatown, My Chinatown
  • Chipmunk Song, The
  • Cindy
  • Clementine
  • Close To You (They Long To Be)
  • Come And Go With Me
  • Consider Yourself
  • Crazy
  • Danny Boy
  • Daydream Believer
  • Daydream
  • Deck The Halls
  • Deep in the Heart of Texas
  • Devoted To You
  • Dinah
  • Dixie Land
  • Do Lord
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
  • Don’t Worry Be Happy
  • Do-Re-Mi
  • Down By The Riverside
  • Down In The Valley
  • Downtown
  • Dream A Little Dream Of Me
  • Dreidel Song, The
  • Drunken Sailor, The
  • Easter Parade
  • Edelweiss
  • Eency Weency Spider
  • Eight Days a Week
  • Enjoy Yourself
  • Erie Canal, The
  • Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit
  • Everybody Loves Somebody
  • Far Away Places
  • Farmer In The Dell, The
  • Feliz Navidad
  • Fields Of Gold
  • First Noel, The
  • Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue
  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow
  • For Me And My Gal
  • From Me To You
  • Funiculi, Funicula
  • Georgia On My Mind
  • Getting To Know You
  • Give Me That Old Time Religion
  • Give My Regards To Broadway
  • Glory Of Love, The
  • Glow-Worm, The
  • Go Down, Moses
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain
  • Good Day Sunshine
  • Good Morning To You
  • Good Night Ladies
  • Good Night
  • Goodnight, Irene
  • Groovy Kind Of Love, A
  • Happy Together
  • Happy Trails
  • Hard Day’s Night, A
  • Hard Times Come Again No More
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Hava Nagila
  • Hawaii Ponoi
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song. The
  • Heart And Soul
  • Hello Dolly
  • Help!
  • He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands
  • Hey Jude
  • Hey, Good Lookin’
  • Home On The Range
  • Hound Dog
  • How Can I Keep From Singing?
  • How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
  • How Sweet It Is
  • Hukilau Song, The
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • I Ain’t Got Nobody
  • I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
  • I Feel Fine
  • I Left My Heart In San Francisco
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • I Saw The Light
  • I Walk The Line
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • I’ll Be Seeing You
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • I’ll Follow The Sun
  • I’m A Believer
  • I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
  • I’m Beginning To See The Light
  • I’m Henery The Eighth, I Am!
  • I’ve Just Seen A Face
  • If I Had A Hammer
  • If You’re Happy
  • Imagine
  • In The Good Old Summertime
  • In The Sweet By And By
  • Indiana
  • It’s A Small World
  • It’s My Party
  • It’s Only A Paper Moon
  • I’ve Been Working On The Railroad
  • Jackson
  • Ja-Da
  • Jambalaya
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Jingle Bells
  • Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho
  • Joy To The World
  • Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
  • Keep On The Sunny Side
  • King of the Road
  • Kumbaya
  • Last Train To Clarksville
  • Let It Be Me
  • Let It Be
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Let Me Call You Sweetheart
  • Let The Rest Of The World Go By
  • Let’s Get Together
  • Letter, The
  • Limehouse Blues
  • Loch Lomond
  • Long, Long Ago
  • Look For The Silver Lining
  • Love Me Do
  • Love Me Tender
  • Love Potion Number 9
  • Lovely Hula Hands
  • Makin’ Whoopee
  • Marine’s Hymn, The
  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • Mele Kalikimaka
  • Michael, Row The Boat Ashore
  • Mickey Mouse March
  • Midnight Special
  • Miss the Mississippi And You
  • Mister Sandman
  • Moon River
  • Moonlight Bay
  • More We Get Together, The
  • My Blue Heaven
  • My Bonnie
  • My Favorite Things
  • My Funny Valentine
  • My Girl
  • My Guy
  • My Love
  • My Old Kentucky Home
  • Night Before, The
  • Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
  • Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?
  • Oh, Susanna
  • Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’
  • Old Folks At Home
  • Old MacDonald Had A Farm
  • On A Slow Boat To China
  • On Broadway
  • On The Beach At Waikiki
  • On The Good Ship Lollipop
  • On The Road Again
  • On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  • On Top Of Old Smoky
  • Over The River And Through The Woods
  • Peace Like A River
  • Pearly Shells
  • Peggy Sue
  • Pennies From Heaven
  • Please Please Me
  • Polly Wolly Doodle
  • Pomp And Circumstance
  • Prayer Of Thanksgiving
  • Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Has Plenty Pa-Pa-Ya
  • Proud Mary
  • Que Sera, Sera
  • Rainbow Connection, The
  • Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
  • Rawhide
  • Red River Valley
  • Red Rubber Ball
  • Ring Of Fire
  • Rock Around the Clock
  • Rock-A-My-Soul
  • Rocky Top
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Runaway
  • Runnin’ Wild
  • Sakura
  • Save The Last Dance For Me
  • Second Hand Rose
  • Seems Like Old Times
  • Sentimental Journey
  • Shall We Gather At The River
  • She Loves You
  • She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain
  • Shenandoah
  • Shine On, Harvest Moon
  • Side By Side
  • Sidewalks Of New York, The
  • Silent Night
  • Simple Gifts
  • Sing
  • Sixteen Tons
  • Skip To My Lou
  • Sloop John B., The
  • Smiles
  • Some Folks
  • Some Of These Days
  • Song Of The Islands
  • Song Sung Blue
  • Spoonful Of Sugar, A
  • Stand By Me
  • Star Spangled Banner, The
  • Strangers In The Night
  • Sunny Afternoon
  • Sunrise, Sunset
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
  • Surfin’ U.S.A.
  • Swanee
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
  • Take Me Out To The Ballgame
  • Taps
  • Tell Me Why
  • That Hawaiian Melody
  • That’s Amore
  • That’ll Be the Day
  • There Is A Tavern In The Town
  • There’s A Kind Of Hush
  • These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
  • This Land Is Your Land
  • This Little Light Of Mine
  • This Old Man
  • This Train
  • Those Were The Days
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Three Little Birds
  • Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport
  • Times They Are A-Changin,’ The
  • Tiny Bubbles
  • To You, Sweetheart, Aloha
  • Tonight You Belong To Me
  • Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That’s An Irish Melody)
  • Toot, Toot, Tootsie!
  • Try To Remember
  • Turn! Turn! Turn!
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Ukulele Lady
  • Ukuleles Are The Best
  • Unchained Melody
  • Under The Boardwalk
  • Up On The Roof
  • Upside Down
  • Wabash Cannonball, The
  • Wade In The Water
  • Wake Up Little Susie
  • Walk Right In
  • Walkin’ My Baby Back Home
  • Waltzing Matilda
  • Water Is Wide, The
  • Wayfaring Stranger, The
  • We Shall Overcome
  • We Three Kings Of Orient Are
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • We’ll Meet Again
  • What A Wonderful World
  • What’ll I Do
  • When I Fall In Love
  • When I’m Sixty-Four
  • When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
  • When the Red, Red, Robin Come Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along
  • When The Saints Go Marching In
  • When You Wish Upon A Star
  • When You’re Smiling
  • Whispering
  • White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation), A
  • Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
  • Wildwood Flower
  • Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  • With A Little Help From My Friends
  • World Is Waiting For the Sunrise, The
  • World Without Love
  • Wouldn’t It Be Loverly
  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Yankee Doodle Boy
  • Yellow Rose Of Texas, The
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • You Made Me Love You
  • You’re A Grand Old Flag
  • You’ve Got A Friend In Me
  • You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
  • Your Cheatin’ Heart
  • You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Common Ukulele Chord Forms with Alternates

In working towards my goal of knowing the ukulele fretboard on an intuitive level, I have been focusing on memorizing the notes of the fretboard. Once I’ve done that, it will be easy to play any chord whose form I know anywhere on the fretboard – as long as I know the chord forms and root notes for each form.

This image is a perfectly concise visualization of the most common chord forms and their alternates, with the root note of each indicated by a circle (instead of a dot). I’ll be making flashcards of these. If you know the notes on the frets and have these forms memorized, you can instantly play any chord, anywhere on the neck. How’s that for a super power?

ukulele chord form alternates

Link: Alternate Forms for Most Common Ukulele Chords

Aldrine Guerrero at NAMM 2015

Aldrine at NAMM 2015NAMM is the biggest music merchant trade show in the US, and the ukulele presence there has become a honeypot for Ukulele Underground owner Aldrine Guerrero. This year we can sit back and enjoy a huge playlist of 38 videos he produced from the event, featuring all the major ukulele companies and some you’ve probably never heard of.

View the full play list or Play them all

Aldrine asks many of the vendors the same question: Given that this latest wave of ukulele popularity, which is now going strong in its 10th year, what do they think is different this time? Most answer that it’s a combination of great players like Aldrine, web sites making it easy to learn about and learn the instrument, and the wide availability of affordable, high quality instruments.

10 years in, I’m not sure we can still call it a “craze”. The ukulele as an instrument is here to stay, in my oppinion, and is no more of a craze instrument than the guitar.

Book review: Mel Bay Learn To Play Fingerstyle Solos for Ukulele

Mel Bay Learn to Play Fingerstyle Solos for UkuleleMel Bay Learn To Play Fingerstyle Solos for Ukulele, by Mark Nelson, was my first book of fingerstyle ukulele tabs, and the songs in it represent many long-time repertoire pieces that I’ve memorized and play regularly.

Overview

This is a good first book of fingerstyle arrangements, especially if you want to learn some Hawaiian songs. It comes with some basic introductory material, a CD of all the songs performed and 24 songs. About half of the songs are traditional Hawaiian tunes with the other half being a mix of traditional songs from Mexico, Ireland and classical composers.

Learning Fingerstyle

The book starts off with some basic introductory material and a tutorial for a very simple version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It covers reading tablature and notation as well. Even so, I don’t think a true beginner at the instrument will be comfortable with this book. For someone comfortable strumming and maneuvering some intermediate fingering changes, it does offer an easy introduction to this style of playing.

As an aside, the term fingerstyle is a little tricky with books like this and with the ukulele in general. Technically, fingerstyle is a style of playing where the thumb plays an alternating bass line along with a melody on the higher strings. Some of the tunes in this book are definitely fingerstyle, such as the Hilo March, which is great fun to play and not too hard. Most, however, are better described as chord-melody where you’re finger-picking a melody between chords. Both styles of arrangement sound great, and the distinction really is a technicality. Traditional alternating bass fingerstyle is better suited to the guitar, as the high-G ukulele lacks the real bass notes needed to make it work.

Target Audience & Skill Level

As mentioned above, the songs in this book serve the intermediate player – someone who is comfortable learning some complex fingerings, doesn’t mind putting in some effort to learn the songs, and has some foundation of the basic mechanics of reading tab and plucking instead of strumming the strings.

Arrangements

The arrangements in this book are playable, sometimes clever and educational. In addition to how they sound, I also judge arrangements by how often I find myself rearranging them, finding a better way to do the same thing. This book provides arrangements that are pleasing to the ear and did not leave much room for obvious improvement.

That said, there is opportunity for some simplification. For example, parts of the Over The Rainbow arrangement feel needlessly complicated. While the book offers a beautiful arrangement, it uses altering fingerings of the same phrases when they repeat that all sound the same to an untrained ear (presumably, your audience). Changing up fingerings like this can help build your chops and realize the different ways to play basically the same phrase, and there’s value in that. But as a purely performance-oriented approach, it feels like extra work without much benefit.

Sample of arrangement

Because of these educational arrangements, this is a great book for someone learning this style of playing who is looking to put in some practice time and come away having learned more than the sum of the songs it has. Unless you can site read tablature, this is not a fun “sit down and play” kind of book. But your effort will be rewarded.

Song Selection

As already mentioned, about half the songs in the book are traditional Hawaiian songs that will be foreign to most mainlanders. If you aren’t so enamored with the Hawaiian heritage of this instrument and would prefer to play familiar songs, this does detract somewhat from the book’s value. Some of these songs are beautiful, and thankfully there are still plenty of familiar tunes here to keep you busy.

Included CD

The CD included provides performances of all the songs. While it’s not something you’re likely to listen to for its performance or audio quality, it does offer direction on what these songs should sound like in terms of melody, tempo and dynamics. Especially with all these Hawaiian songs you may not know, this is important.

Table of Contents

Here are the arrangements this book offers and some brief notes on them. In addition to the arrangements, the author includes fairly detailed playing notes with some background on the song itself and tips for playing some of the trickier parts. I’ve bolded the songs that I like most and, all by themselves, make this book worth the cost.

  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – in two versions, for learning purposes
  • All Through The Night – not the Cindi Lauper song!, both easy and extended versions offered
  • Las Mañanitas – a traditional Mexican tune that sounds like a lullaby, slightly odd rhythm-wise but otherwise very easy
  • E Ku’u – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Pua Sadina – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Isa Lei – traditional Fijian tune, easy and extended versions offered
  • Aloha ‘Oe – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Wehiwehi ‘Oe – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Dona Nobis Pacem – a recognizable classical tune
  • Galliarde – a very pretty baroque tune, here’s a recording of me playing this arrangement
  • The South Wind – a pretty traditional Irish tune
  • Greensleeves – a nice arrangement of a song everybody knows
  • Hilo March – this is a Hawaiian song but sounds more like a ragtime march, super fun tune, here’s a video of me playing it
  • New Spanish Fandango – another pretty traditional tune, here’s a video of this arrangement being played
  • E Ku’u Morning Dew – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Over The Rainbow – one of the nicer arrangements of this tune I’ve heard
  • Ahi Wela – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Minuet – one of Bach’s most well known tunes, it’s a joy to play this arrangement
  • The Raggle Little Flea – a really fun ragtime tune, here’s a video of it being performed
  • Kaulana Na Pua – traditional Hawaiian tune
  • Planxty Irwin – a pretty Irish tune
  • Danny Boy – well known Irish tune
  • Blue Ukulele Blues – an original tune written by the book’s author, Mark Nelson
  • Mbube (Wimoweh) – the “In the jungle…” tune from Lion King
  • Gaviotas –  another original tune written by the book’s author, Mark Nelson

Buy the book from Amazon