1 week, 4 songs, 15 chords

June 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

I wanted to put together a few videos of my ukulele playing but I’m heading to the airport to fly home in a few and don’t have time to pull it off. I will include one in my monthly summary; a promise.

I love the ukulele! In just a week I bought one, learned a few chords and have learned 4 songs so far. “You Are My Sunshine”, “Tonight You Belong to Me”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Ode to Joy”. Even though you could play just about any song on the ukulele, it seems like ukuleles go best with the “happy songs” out there. I won’t lie, it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re humming along to these songs.

You will inevitably find different tabs & chords for just about any song out there, but I went with some fairly simple ones. I really enjoyed the youtube videos by “Ukulele Mike” and the resources on ukulelehunt.com and ukulele-tabs.com.

Playing a musical instrument is something I’ve just never really gotten around to. It’s one of those things that always seems like it’s going to be pretty expensive and time consuming. The great thing about the ukulele is that it’s not pretentious like a lot of other instruments can be to learn. You aren’t going to run into stuffy teachers online. In fact, I would argue the ukulele community is probably one of the strongest and funnest groups out there. Just check out the Portland Ukulele Project:

If you’ve always wanted to learn an instrument and just haven’t had the courage, like me, to do so, I encourage you to give the ukulele a shot. It’s even gotten me singing a tune or two which is a huge accomplishment.




where troubles melt like lemon drops

June 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

This weekend is Father’s Day and I love this picture of my Dad with my niece, Grace. He’s the best Dad anyone could ask for. I’m looking forward to heading home to be there for Father’s Day and his birthday this coming week. To me this picture epitomizes the feeling of the late “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole’s ukulele rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Playing the ukulele has not only brought back a lot of simple, beautiful songs but a lot of memories as well. It connects you back to that childlike feeling of things being much simpler and filled with wonder. It shuts out all the baggage you’ve gathered along the way.  At TED last year Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele artist, played an incredible rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. If you haven’t seen it you have to check it out. What I liked even better was what he said. “Today I’m going to try to convince you that what the world needs now is ukulele. This is the underdog of instruments and I’ve always believed it’s the instrument of peace because if everyone played the ukulele the world would be a much happier place.”
I couldn’t agree more.

just strummin’ along

June 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

Yesterday I learned a few chords and learned how to play “You Are My Sunshine”. Not only is it one of the easiest songs to learn to play, it suits the ukulele perfectly. The hardest part isn’t learning chords but getting the strumming tempos down. I think the ukulele is the perfect instrument for me because I just have to let myself go with it vs trying to master it. It’s kind of like dancing that way for me. When I lived in Latin America I could never learn salsa by taking classes and learning the steps. I had to get out there, make a fool of myself and just start dancing. The great part about a ukulele is that the sound is so fun, you can’t help but just enjoy it. Before you know it, you’ve got a rhythm going.

The great thing about learning an instrument nowadays are all the online resources and apps that help you along the way. It’s so much easier than when I was trying to learn guitar back in college. (No, I didn’t have the internet or anything other than DOS based email then.)

I found this chord chart to get me started with a few simple chords that comprise a lot of simple songs you can learn out there.

You can find chord charts for just about any song online. The next one I want to learn is “Tonight You Belong to Me”.  You may recall the rendition from the movie The Jerk with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters. Here’s that great scene from the movie:

I also like the tutorials from “Ukulele Mike” on YouTube. I used his video to learn “You Are My Sunshine” yesterday. Seems like a happy dude from Seattle. I’m sure the ukulele comes in handy there during the dismal months of the year.

In addition to videos, there’s a great website called ukulelehunt.com that has a lot of great tips. I also downloaded two apps:

Guitar Toolkit ($9.99) works as a great tuner, including multiple instruments. and also has a metronome for keeping the beat. It also has some chords to learn but I prefer another app for that.


UkeMaster ($3.99) has a simple way of laying out all the different chords & you can strum the phone to hear what they should sound like.

My Dukulele

June 14, 2011 § 1 Comment


After my failed attempt at naming my composting bin Compton, I vowed not to name anymore of my projects, but a ukulele kind of begs to have a name. Mine is from China from a placed called Vineyard guitars – not inspiring…I need to bring it back to Hawaii.

“Dukulele” (Duku for short) will be his name in honor of my Hawaiian college friend, Duke. He actually coined the name on FB after unabashedly correcting my misspelling yesterday:

“In Hawai’i we spell it Ukulele, but it would be very British and Haole….. I s’pose… to spell it Ukelele. Although a great way to remember the spelling is to know the word in Hawai’i for “Uku” [oooh kooh] an Uku is a flea or like a bug. When I was young we’d say something like, “tag… you’re it. you got the Ukus,” the equivalent in the South of saying, “you got the cooties.” I think lele means “get over here.” I have an aunt who would scold me with that word.”

Learning a musical instrument is definitely one of those things that’s really difficult to learn for me. I feel clumsy and out of my element. It’s definitely one of those things I feel fine messing around with in a room by myself but would feel to self-conscious about with other people. This will be a good lesson for me to be less uptight and just jump in, leaving perfection aside during Dukulele time. I can think of no one better to channel than Duke and his effervescent personality. I’ll just imagine him sitting here saying “Girl, you gotta just start strummin’.”

More likely he’d just say “tag… you’re it. you got the Ukus”, laugh and run away.

it’s ukulele time

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve never really learned how to play a musical instrument other than a short stint trying to learn guitar in college (which didn’t yield all that much). I think a ukulele is much more my speed and while in NY this week I picked up an inexpensive one at a store on the Lower East Side.

Ukuleles have made a resurgence over the years, from Israel Kamakawiwo’ol’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow to the Magnetic Fields. There’s lots of great music out there the ukulele has lent itself to.

I’ll see how far I get beyond You are My Sunshine.

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