Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: Herb Ohta – Sophisticated Ukulele

Herb Ohta – Sophisticated Ukulele (Book and CD)

Herb Ohta (or Ohta-San if you prefer) has been playing the uke professionally for over 60 years and has released over 60 albums – he probably knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the uke.

Sophisticated Ukulele is another book in the Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Masters series but is presented in a very different way to the John King book. There is no tab in this book; just chord diagrams and the melody in standard notation.

The book features 26 songs mainly from the Great American Songbook but with 5 Ohta originals. The accompanying CD has Ohta playing solo ukulele versions of 15 of these. The full list of songs:

Dinah, Feeling Like It Lately, Fools Rush In, Georgia On My Mind, I’ll Be Seeing You, Imagine, I Won’t Dance, It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie, Ja-Da, Jeanie, The More I See You, My Blue Heaven, The Nearness Of You, Night & Day, Poipu-I Hawaii, September Song, Sophisticated Hula, Stardust, Sukiyaki, Sunny, Take The A Train, The Very Thought Of You, Waikiki Beach, Waikoloa, When I Fall In Love, Yesterday

Good stuff:
- There are some very nice arrangements here.
- I think anyone who works through this book will come away with some new chord ideas.
- Ja-Da.

Not so good stuff:
- No tab. That’s a big disadvantage to me. Just chords and melody line don’t give the entire story of what he’s actually playing. For those who want to strum and sing, this will not be an issue.
- Many songs aren’t on the CD.

Suitable for: Beginner to intermediate. Those who love to strum through and sing the old standards.

Overall: Well worth the price of admission. The fact you have to do some of the work yourself in putting together arrangements isn’t an entirely bad thing.

If you have this book, leave a comment letting us know your opinion.

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7 Comments

  1. Ben January 5th, 2008 5:35 am

    Too bad that it doesn’t have tabs. I got an Ohta-based tab of “Yesterday” and it’s one of my favorites to play.

  2. Woodshed January 5th, 2008 9:59 am

    I agree, Ben. I was disappointed when I opened it and realised there no tabs. I can read standard notation but only slowly.

  3. Chris October 7th, 2008 4:36 am

    Wow i was just messing around with the Ohta Masters book and was frustrated with the same things you mention. I even sat down to try to convert the standard notation into an arrangement of my own. But when i checked the CD to see how he plays ‘Won’t Dance’ there wasn’t even a recording of it. So they really don’t give you much to work with on some of the songs. I guess i could but his record to hear his version.

    Too bad because i really like Dominator’s Sophisticated Hula arrangement. Guess i’ll keep trying to figure it out.

  4. Woodshed October 7th, 2008 8:48 pm

    Chris: It is a big let down of the book. It’s quicker for me to do it by ear than try to work out the standard notation. They really should put a big ‘WARNING: Does not include tab’ sticker on it.

  5. Chris October 8th, 2008 3:34 am

    Hah totally. And then to not even include all the songs on the CD… I was all geared up to try to figure out how to play it by converting the sheet music myself for the first time. But I’ve got no chance without at least hearing the original. I’ve probably got no chance anyway but for now i’m blaming the CD.

  6. Andy January 18th, 2012 5:50 pm

    No tab no problem!

    It gets easier, trust me.

    I am going to impulse-buy this right now.

  7. Woodshed January 18th, 2012 9:54 pm

    Andy: Hope you enjoy it.

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