John King – Classical Ukulele Review

I’ll be taking a look at some of my favourite ukulele books, DVDs and CDs. If you have a favourite ukulele book DVD etc, let us know about it in the comments.

John King – Classical Ukulele (Book and CD)

There’s little doubt that John King is one of the foremost ukulele technicians (just check out his YouTube channel for proof). He spent many years playing the classical guitar and not only brings the classical repertoire to the ukulele but also brings the classical technique and approach to playing. He’s very big on the ‘campanella’ style – playing one note per string and letting them ring into each other – and uses it throughout the book.

Classical Ukulele is part of Jim Beloff’s Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Masters series and tabs out 19 of King’s arrangements. Although it’s called ‘Classical Ukulele’, around half the pieces in the book couldn’t be classed as classical. And that’s all to the good since my favourite pieces are the traditional tunes (particularly ‘Alekoki and Tarantella Italiana).

Most of the works in the book are arranged for solo ukulele. One, Rigaudon, is arranged for two ukuleles and five are arranged for ukulele and guitar.

The book comes with a CD of all the tabs. King plays a Fluke (which is a blow to those of us who think we’d sound that good if only we were playing a DaSilva special).

You can get a flavour of the style and difficulty with the tabs he has put up on his site.

Full list of tabs:

An Air From County Derry (Danny Boy), Greensleeves, Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), The Celebrated Chop Waltz (Chopsticks), Prélude (Op. 28, No. 20), ‘Alekoki, Pupu A‘o ‘Ewa, Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman, Prélude (BWV 846), Ahe Lau Makani, Tarantella Italiana, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Prélude (from BWV 1007), Rigaudon, Für Elise, Menuett, La Carolina, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, The Entertainer

Good stuff:
– The arrangements are the most elegant I’ve ever seen on the ukulele.
– They’re a good challenge for an intermediate player.
– The CD is great. I’ve listened to it for pleasure a number of times.
– It’s a masterclass in the ‘campanella’ style and has been a big influence on how I arrange tunes for the uke.

Not so good stuff:
– If you’ve read his articles on Nalu Music , you’ll know that King is one of the most engaging and knowledgeable ukulele writers there is. I’d have liked to have seen some of that in the book.
– The campanella style can sound a bit weak. I would have preferred beefed-up uke arrangements to guitar accompaniment.
– A bit more guidance on what the right hand should be doing would have helped me.
– Chopsticks?

Suitable for: Intermediate to advanced. Those who like to get stuck in to some tricky and challenging pieces.

Overall: best ukulele tab book I’ve ever bought.

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

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

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  1. Jason December 6th, 2007 5:25 pm

    I have enjoyed this book for quite awhile now. I keep going back to it as my skills improve and can now play some of the songs that at first seemed impossible.
    My favorite book I’ve found thus far is John King’s “Famous Solos & Duets”. This book contains great arrangements and is a bit easier than “The Classical Ukulele”.
    Great site by the way, I check it everyday!

  2. Woodshed December 7th, 2007 8:30 pm

    Thanks, Jason. I know what you mean about ‘keep going back to it’. I always keep it laying around and pick it up now and again.

  3. Famous Solos & Duets for the ‘Ukulele by John King – Review | Ukulele Hunt March 10th, 2010 9:50 pm

    […] a huge fan of John King’s Classical Ukulele book (in an, “OMG!!!1! It changed the way I think about the ukulele,” way). So it was only a […]

  4. stuart January 7th, 2012 9:59 pm

    john king he was the best for me stuart miller

  5. Woodshed January 7th, 2012 10:04 pm

    stuart: Me too.

  6. Ann June 9th, 2012 8:56 am

    Hi, just another uke addict who bought your book and am happy to give it a definite “thumbs up” . Also, “Thanks” to you Woodshed for your fabulous site, I have always recommended to everyone I try to get onto the uke bandwagon. Great Job!!

  7. Woodshed June 9th, 2012 3:03 pm

    Ann: Thanks very much!

  8. Johnny July 16th, 2012 7:09 pm

    Thank you for reviewing this book! Through this post I discovered the book and I must say, Tarantella Italiana is one of my favorites in this book. (it’s always fun to show it when people are around haha).

  9. Woodshed July 17th, 2012 8:16 am

    Johnny: I’m very glad I could turn you on to it.

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