Jim D’Ville’s Play Ukulele By Ear Review

If you’re a regular on the blog, you’ll have noticed I’ve linked to quite a few of Jim D’Ville’s posts on Play Ukulele By Ear. His posts are always interesting and informative and I think ear training is essential for any musician. So when Jim was kind enough to send me a copy of his DVD on playing ukulele by ear I chucked in straight in the DVD player and got down to business.

The Lowdown

Play Ukulele by Ear is a 52 minute DVD introduction to musical intervals and using your ears to tune your ukulele and pick out chord progressions.

The C Tone
Tuning By Ear
C The Home Key
F The IV Chord
Chord Progressions
Diatonic Chords

Price: $22 + $4 international shipping from Jim’s site or eBay.

The Good Stuff

Simply and Effectively Explained: Jim puts the information across in a very straight forward and effective manner. He’s obviously taught a lot of people this stuff before and knows what works.

No Prior Knowledge Needed: If you don’t have any knowledge of musical theory at all, you’ll still be able to follow along with the DVD and learn from it.

Interval Recognition: I think this is the strongest part of the DVD. Jim demonstates the sounds of different intervals and relates them to specific songs to help you recognise them more easily. And he has a great way of explaining the moods of the different chords in a I – IV – V progression to help you spot them in songs (and it’s very useful to be able to do that).

Interesting Titbits: Jim throws in plenty of interesting factoids such as harmonic resonance and ambulance sirens using 7th intervals.

The Beret: Every pro uker needs their trademark headgear and Jim now owns the beret.

The Not So Good Stuff

Filmed Lesson: The DVD is a filmed group lesson (although you don’t see the group apart from the occasional Fluke headstock invading the screen). It’s a bit disconcerting to watch because he’s looking everywhere but at the camera.

It’s a DVD: It’s just my personal preference and I know there are plenty who disagree – I’m probably in the minority – but I find it hard to learn effectively from DVDs. I can’t dash through the parts I understand already and it’s difficult to go over the bits I don’t grasp again. I find that DVDs/online videos are good at conveying an interest in the subject but I usually find I’ve forgotten everything by the next day. Probably a bad habit picked up from watching to much television.

It’s mostly down to my learning style. If yours is different, you might prefer a DVD.

Bringing it back to an actual review of this DVD in particular, I think it could do with being chopped into smaller sections to make it easier to find certain parts. There’s a lot of information on the DVD – too much to take in one go if it’s all new to you – so it would be useful to have smaller sections.


Play Ukulele by Ear is great for anyone who wants to know the basics of harmony and how to recognise intervals. By the end of it you’ll be able to spot a I – IV – V progression a mile off – which is worth the price of admission alone. But don’t expect it to turn you into an expert able to reel off tabs after one listen. If you’re already sound on the basics and looking to develop your ear to a more advanced level check out Ear Master.

Buy Play Ukulele by Ear on Jim’s site or eBay.

View Comments


  1. cardboardfrog November 25th, 2009 11:28 pm

    having the pleasure of a student teacher in the family (my sister with whom i’m very close) i can safely say that visual learners are in a minority as are aural learners,
    interestingly though the most value you could gain from such a dvd learning process would be to play through the exercises with a friend, allowing both you and your friend to play off your strengths and weaknesses and gain the most from the learning experience.
    i’ve enjoyed jim’s blog posts and will be adding the DVD to my list to santa.

  2. todd November 26th, 2009 3:27 am

    Really enjoyed this review Al….will have to check out Jim’s site…

  3. drfrancov November 26th, 2009 7:24 am

    I slightly disagree with Al…If you live far from anyone who can teach you music, ie ukulele, then video is an awesome format to learn from!…Jim does a fantastic job at teaching,..You can tell he loves doing it…I actually own his book The Natural Way to Music and find it an outstanding resource!…I would encourage anyone to buy the DVD…or maybe ask Santa for it!

  4. J-Hob November 26th, 2009 8:41 am

    I’ve had the DVD for a little over and month and do think that it’s an excellent purchase. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, I particularly liked the part about the tonal quality of the I, IV and V chords. I’m sure that I will watch the DVD many times over in the future.

    I would have preferred it if the DVD was filmed specifically for the DVD rather than as a group session which then made it to DVD. I prefer being spoken to directly and I think it would show that more care had gone into the production and how the presentation would work differently for a remote audience if it had been filmed specifically for the DVD.

    Having said that, it is a credit to Jim’s teaching ability that this does not detract much from the learning experience.

  5. Linda Roberts February 27th, 2013 1:54 am

    Is there a ukelele jam in SLO?

    If so when and where does it meet?

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