Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ukulele...want to be a maestro? Easy!

This special post I'm doing is for anyone who is keen to learn how to play the ukulele and for others who want to play like a ukulele maestro!
When I first started out to teach myself the ukulele in 1963, I had a very basic chord guide booklet. It was good enough for me to learn the major chords that was grouped under each key and apply them to most songs I knew. Over time, I had memorised these groups of chords. But when I bought a few song books later, I discovered that most of the songs I love use many different chords both major and minor. And in playing these songs, some of which have more than 20 chords in just one song, if you do not take the trouble to learn and practise them, you will not improve your standard of play.
Thus the 1st important key step in wanting to be a better ukulele player is to be committed to LEARN and then to try out the chords and the song, one at a time. Don't take shortcuts!
A long,long time ago, I knew I was able to play any song with 4 to 6 chords as long as I was familiar with the tune. That is fine if you are doing a group sing-along where you may not even be looking at the song lyrics and tabs. Often I play "by ear".
However, if you want to go beyond that...then do follow my tips here.
Take the song "Five Foot Two" [above]. In all my examples I assume you know how to sing the song or put another way, how the song is sung. Youtube is a great resource here!
1. Source out the song especially with ukulele diagram chords on the page. They are of immense help in your learning process. You can't possibly remember all the hundreds of chords! It is already so difficult to remember phone numbers. But many ways, the chords will somehow stick in direct relation to the amount of time you spend practising.
2. The song 5 Foot 2 uses only 5 chords in all! It is the kind of song made for the ukulele lover.
Don't get too excited. Analysed the tabs where each chord is placed over the lyrics. Now, there are 2 ways you can learn to play the song smoothly and beautifully.
One way is to practise playing all the 5 chords first. Just strum slowly and easily beginning with C, then to E7, A7, D7, G7 and C again. No tunes, no singing yet. Just trying out the smooth changing of your fingers from chord to chord. Once you can do this well..strum and SING the song as you play. Very Important to SING aloud...this helps your memory process to register better.
Strum to the tempo of the song.
The other way is to follow the chord progression as shown over the lyrics and just SING and play along. It will be a little staccato as you pause and move your fingers to "new" chords, from one to another. But over time, you will get better.
So there you are...go try it out.
That most wonderful song " Dream A Little Dream" uses 13 chords in all. It is not easy but not too difficult either and worth the effort when you succeed! Just beautiful! Listen carefully to the tune if you want to play it well!
The old time favourite "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree" uses 21 chords in all!
This one is a big challenge !


Anonymous said...

Hey! I am from a school newspaper and wanted to use one of the uke diagrams for a "learn how to play uke spread!" Do I have permission to use this picture? Please email with your response! thanks so much!

unk Dicko said...

Go right ahead.
Good luck to your Ukulele news spread!