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Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: How To Play Ukulele eBooks

You’re still looking on the net for Christmas presents this late? You are screwed. Unless…

The big advantage with ebooks is that they’re delivered straight away (unless you pay be echeck – slogan: “Do you miss the hassle of real-world checks?”) and you can send them to anyone, anywhere instantly.

In my opinion, the best ukulele ebooks around are those available at How To Play Ukulele. Of course, I might be slightly biased in that opinion since I wrote them. If you want a more even handed view, here’s what other people are saying.

How To Play Ukulele Chord ProgressionsHow to Play Ukulele Chord Progressions

This is the first time someone’s explained basic chord formation and scales and transposition in a way that makes sense to me
Mike Dickison of Mike’s Ukulele Page

I started using the book – it’s great!!! This is really a helpful and friendly guide.
Jen Kwok

I am really glad I bought your chord progression theory book. You did just a great job! I am taking piano from my daughter’s classical teacher. He is great but somewhat hardcore classical. He tried to explain some of the theory to me, but I think that your book is way more accessible and directly applicable. And this comes from me, someone who has taken theory classes in the past!
Carol Seigal

Your ‘How to play ukulele chord progressions’ is excellent. It cleared up a number of things for me. I’m just getting into music theory and having something that relates directly to the ukulele was very useful.
Chris Double

The “How to Play Ukulele Chord Progressions” was great. I got a better sense of hamonized chords, and their fretboard relationship. The feelings the sounds generate for different chords, and how the tension is built and released really made sense.

This ebook is key to understanding chord relationships, and I can take my music to whole new levels.
Terry Truhart

christmascoverHow To Play Christmas Ukulele

An excellent selection of tabs and playing tips… I highly recommend picking it up.
Chris of The UkeCast.

Just have to say again that your “How to Play Christmas Ukulele” is really terrific. There is a fair amount of ukulele Christmas music out there but very little as good as your arrangements. All of your music is very easy to play as well a lot of fun to play.
Art Crocker

The selection of songs is great. There are popular favorites, along with some that I’d never heard of before. All are arranged for beginner to intermediate. I’m definitely in the beginner camp, but have been able to play a few bars of each… Priced at $7.00, this eBook is a bargain.
Ukulele Review

Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: CDs

Beirut – Flying Club Cup

Beirut – Sunday Smile (mp3) via their website

Beirut are hugely popular with hipsters and college kids. Whichever record exec focus-grouped the idea and found out that brass band waltzes and ukuleles were what the youngsters wanted deserves a raise.

You can check out the songs at flyingclubcup.com where the all the songs are performed in various locations (in an abandoned house, on the river bank, on the street) to great advantage.

Beirut are responsible for turning loads of people on to the ukulele and my Beirut posts are some of the most popular on the blog. So if you buy this for your uke playing loved one, be sure to give them the url of this blog too.

Craig Robertson – That Dress

Higher Heels (mp3)
Leopard (mp3) via his website.

Whoever said, “They don’t write ’em like the used to,” obviously hasn’t heard Craig Robertson. His songs have a classic, timeless feel to them and could have been written yesterday or ninety years ago. They’re full of dark and sinister ne’er-do-wells.

If you’re not drinking whiskey and smoking when you start listening to this album, you will be by the end of it.

Craig has a huge pile of mp3s available for free download. You can find cover versions here and demos of his originals here.

Buy Now

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Precious Little

Theme from Shaft (clip)
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (clip)
God Gave Rock and Roll To You (clip) via their website.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain seem to be popular with just about everyone. They’re a viral YouTube smash; writer Howard Jacobson called them, “the best musical entertainment in the country”; George Harrison wanted to jam with them; they’ve appeared on kids TV a number of times and Brian Eno said that they, “may well turn out to be one of the turning points of 21st Century Art.” I think that’s a fair demographic reach.

Personally, I could happily go without the covers of Nirvana and the like that seem to have made them popular. I find them much more impressive when they’re being musical rather than ironic.

Buy Now.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: Patterned Ukes

When you’re giving someone a gift, you do want it to be that little bit more special. Ukuleles with an added design give that extra ‘wow factor’. You could commission yourself a painted uke. Or, if you’re a bit more strapped for cash and time, buy off-the-shelf.

Fluke Ukuleles

Flukes seem to be almost universally popular. Even more so when there’s a half naked dolly-bird holding one aloft.

Inspiration for Fluke designs ranges from Hollywood to Dollywood (with their cowboy fluke). Flukes sell for between $200 and $300. You’ll pay a bit of a premium for the design and also if you want a rosewood fretboard (rather than the standard plastic).

Find Fluke ukuleles.

Black Bear Christmas bell ukuleleBlack Bear Christmas Bell

At the other end of the price spectrum is the beauty.

Duane Heilman of fantastical ukuleles. This one’s more down-to-earth and based on the old Lyon and Healy bell ukulele designs.

The auction eBay auction for this one has finished now but it didn’t sell so it may return. If you’ve got a loved one worth $2,000 to you, keep your eyes peeled.

See Black Bear ukuleles

Pahu Kani custom ukulelePahu Kani

Another heftily priced ukulele. I have no idea how these sound but ooooh pretty, pretty, pretty. And, at the end of the day, isn’t it what’s on the outside that really counts?

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: Electric Ukuleles

If you can’t stand the sound of your loved one strumming incessantly, it might seem a little counter-intuitive to buy them an electric ukulele. Were it not for one word: headphones.

ovation applause electric ukuleleOvation Applause

With their round backs and distinctive sound-holes, Ovation Applause tenor ukuleles are heavily based on their guitar big brother. In my opinion, they have a slightly dated look – there’s a definite whiff of Bon Jovi unplugged about them. But recently, Kaki King came along and rescued the Applause image.

Buy for: the hair-rocker in your life.

Find Applause ukuleles

Bugsgear eleuke electric ukuleleBugsgear Eleuke

Bugsgear’s Eleuke has a much more modern look. They come in a sparkling blue or a more understated natural wood.

They now have one you can plug headphones straight into, so no excuse for waking up family members with midnight strummings.

Find Bugsgear EleUkes

kala archtop electric ukulele tenorKala Archtop

The Kala Archtop Tenor has a more classic look with jazzy f-holes and an archtop.

Buy for: midnight jazzers, those who find the term ‘f-hole’ endlessly amusing.

Find Kala ukuleles

What’s your electric uke recommendation?

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

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.

Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: First Ukulele

Deciding which ukulele to buy is tricky even for seasoned uke players. If you play uke for long enough you’ll discover the right answer to the question ‘which ukulele should I buy?’ is ‘all of them’. If you’re buying your first ukulele or you’re buying someone else’s first uke it can be difficult to know where to start. So I’ve put to together a little first time ukulele buyers guide (particularly for people buying online). If you’ve got any advice to add, let everyone know in the comments.

Ukuleles make great gifts for kids to get them into making music – they fit into child sized hands and let them jump around pretending to be rock stars. They’re also great presents for musicians – particularly guitarists – as they are very portable and easy to learn.

Unless you live in Hawaii, dedicated ukulele shops are hard to come by. Local music/guitar shops will probably sell a couple of very basic models. If you want some real choice, the internet is probably your best bet.

There are a number of dedicated ukulele sites in the US, The Ukulele Shop in the UK and RISA/Uke Surfer in Germany. But the biggest choice is to be found on eBay. Buying on eBay can be a bit risky sometimes, but there are some ukulele sellers with good reputations. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything buy glowing praise for musicguymic from anyone. All the instruments he sells, even the cheapest, are expertly set up. ukulele4u is another popular seller and usually has a wider selection of lower priced ukes.

Which Size Ukulele Should I Buy?

There are four main sizes of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The smallest of these, soprano, is the classic ukulele and the one that most people start on – particularly children. If someone has asked you to buy them a ukulele, this is probably what they mean.

How Much Should I Spend?

There are a lot of cheap ukuleles for under $20. These are usually playable – many people start out on these – and would make a good present / stocking filler for a guitar player. However, they’re often not set up ideally which isn’t handy for a beginner. Spending a little more will give you a much better instrument and will be more playable straight out of the box.

Ukuleles for Under $50

Makala ukuleles are your best bet if you’re on a tight budget. As I mentioned before, if you musicguymic it will be properly set up (which makes it worth the small premium). It’s also worth getting a decent set of strings to put on it (such as Aquila).

Another popular budget option is Mahalo ukuleles. Their popularity stems mainly from looks, particularly the Mahalo Flying-V ukuleles and – insanely popular with girls of all ages – pink Mahalos.

Ukuleles for under $100

Kala ukuleles mostly inhabit the $200 – $300 price range but also make some lower price models. The Kala Soprano ukulele with set up and strings for $60 looks like a good deal to me. Oscar Schmidt are another popular company that sell ukulele in this price range.

In a similar price range in Europe, is the Ashbury Concert for £50. I have the Koa version and wouldn’t be without it.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players: Stocking Fillers

A quick guide to what little gift to get your uke obsessed love one for Christmas. (Or what you might like to get for yourself because everyone else is getting you socks).

Ukulele Strings

A good set of strings is the fastest and cheapest way to improve the sound of any ukulele. But if you’re buying them for someone else, be careful. Type in ‘ukulele strings’ on eBay and you’ll get a dizzying variety.

One particular problem is buying the right size. If the person you’re buying them for has a number of ukuleles, you don’t need to worry – they’ll probably have one of each size. If they’re a relatively new player, your best bet is to buy strings for a soprano ukulele.

The most popular brands of uke strings are Worth and Aquila. If you’re lucky enough to come across some KoAloha pink strings, get them and send them to me.

Ukulele Tuner: Intelli IMT-500 Tuner

Intelli IMT-500 Tuner“Ever tried tuning in a room with lots of noise or in the dark?” asks musicguymic.

I can’t say that tuning my ukulele in the dark is a big problem for me. Tuning in a noisy environment, however, is. The Intelli tuner clips on to the end of the uke and picks up the pitch by vibration of the uke itself – avoiding any confusion with ambient sound.

It’s a chromatic tuner i.e. you can tune to any pitch you want. This means that, as well as ukes, it can be used to tune guitars, mandolins, banjos etc.

The cheapest I’ve seen these advertised is musicguymic on eBay.

The perfect present for: those who torture you with out of tune playing, ukulele group members, regular live players, buskers, multi-instrumentalists, those with noisy kids/housemates, those who play the uke while potholing.

Humidifier

One for the serious uke player, this. Because they’re made of wood, ukuleles can warp and crack over time as they dry out. Humidifiers stop this happening.

Someone who’s getting their first, cheap ukulele doesn’t need a humidifier. But if you know someone lucky enough to be getting a good quality uke (particularly a vintage one), I’m sure they’d be very pleased to get a wax and humidifer set to go along with it.

The perfect present for: a uke collector, someone’s who’s getting an expensive uke for xmas.

Metronome

I’m very guilty of speeding up as I play (and generally wandering out of time) and so are many players. I know I should use a metronome but I don’t. It’s probably because I’ve only got a nasty little, electronic metronome that emits a sharp ‘bip’. If I had a nice vintage metronome, I might use it as often as I should.

Baldwin tempo-maticThe sexiest metronomes on eBay at the moment:

Cadenzia Palmer Pocket Metronome

Baldwin Tempo-Matic Metronome (yes, it’s electronic – but it’s gorgeous).

Ukulele Felt Picks

Guitar picks are death to ukuleles. They sound too harsh. Felt picks are made for the uke’s more delicate disposition. Besides, they’re a cheap stocking filler.

Perfect for: recovering guitarists.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players.

Christmas Ukulele 2: The Second Coming

Christmas is the one time of year when anyone who plays an instrument is expected to entertain friends and family at some point. Which can be quite daunting if you don’t have something easy and recognisable to play. Particularly if you’re full of the Christmas pudding. But it’s nice to be able to entertain the people who have helped you along the way with encouragement, uke gifts and patience during twanging practice.

With that in mind, I’ve kept the arrangements in this second Christmas ebook as easy and playable as I can. To make sure flubs and fumbles are kept to a minimum while you’re centre of attention.

If you haven’t bought an ebook from me before, you can find full details of the process here. And if there’s anything else you need to know send me a message and I’ll get back to you.

Buy it here

What You Get

After you buy you’ll be taken to a page where you can download:

– Tabs of full arrangements for these traditional Christmas favourites:

Go Tell It On the Mountain
I Saw Three Ships
Il est ne, le divin Enfant
In Dulci Jubilo
Joy to the World
O Come All Ye Faithful
Once in Royal David’s City
The First Noel
We Three Kings
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
While Shepherds Watch their Flocks

They’re all arranged without any fancy finger work. The picking hand can all be done with the thumb. And the fretting doesn’t go higher than the sixth fret. Written for high-g tuning.

– Super-simple melody arrangements of all those tunes. Only one note at a time. For high and low G.

– A PDF with a bit of history of the songs (sometimes more accurate than others) and tips on playing the tunes.

– Additional downloads of: standard notation of the tabs, mobile-friendly downloadable videos, MP3s of the full versions and the melody-only versions.

Quick warning: if you’re using iPad/iPhone/Android you can’t download directly to your gadget read this for more info.

What People Are Saying

Here’s what people who have bought the ebook are saying:

Wilfried Welti of Ukulele Arts:

Al did a great job making many Christmas carols accessible for every ukulele player. Nobody will be afraid to take on his arrangements, and this is quite an achievement!

Wilfried also made a video of the While Shepherds… tab from the ebook.

Dianne S.:

I’ve played through a few of these already. They are easy and fun. Also love the cover design.

Kempo:

Thanks for these, they’re nice and straight forward to play but sound really good, well done!

RobNY:

Great book Al. The book is well worth the full price.

Walter:

Buying this was the easiest decision I’ve made all day. Thanks for helping to make the ukulele so accessible

What They Sound Like

Full Arrangement Videos

Melody Versions

Here’s what the melody-only versions sound like. The melody tab also has chord names so you can be accompanied by a friend. Or if, like me, you’re a badass loner you can play along with these mp3s. They’re split so the left hand side has the chords and the right has the melody.

Go Tell It On the Mountain

I Saw Three Ships

Il est ne, le divin Enfant

In Dulci Jubilo

Joy to the World

O Come All Ye Faithful

Once in Royal David’s City

The First Noel

We Three Kings

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

While Shepherds Watch their Flocks

Buy it Now

Buy it here

If you haven’t bought an ebook from me before you might want to read the FAQ page for more information. And if there’s anything else you need to know send me a message and I’ll get back to you.

Christmas Carols for Ukulele by John King: Review

Christmas is coming fast and it’s time to start practicing a few tunes to entertain the family. With John King’s Classical Ukulele and Famous Solos and Duets for ‘Ukulele being the two best ukulele tab books around and his arrangements of Carol of the Bells and What Child Is This? being great, I felt pretty safe picking up a copy of his Christmas Carols for Ukulele.

Lowdown

Melody in standard notation only and ukulele chord diagrams (NO TAB) for:

Angels We Have Heard On High
Away In A Manger
Coventry Carol
Deck The Hall
The First Noel
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Good King Wenceslas
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Here We Come A-Wassailing
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring
Jingle Bells
Joy To The World
O Christmas Tree
O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
O Come, O Come Immanuel
O Holy Night
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Silent Night
Toyland
Up On The Housetop
We Three Kings Of Orient Are
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
What Child Is This?

The Good Stuff

Erm…: I’m assuming this book is aimed at people who just want chords to some traditional Christmas songs. It fulfills that purpose.

It’s cheap: £5 on Amazon and $8 on Elderly.

The Not So Good Stuff

No tab: That makes it either useless or a huge chore to use to at least 90% of ukulele players.

Boring arrangements: If you could call them that at all. There are so many ways to play the same notes on a ukulele that standard notation doesn’t cut it. If you’re expecting anything like his other books, you’ll be very disappointed.

No audio: It doesn’t give you any idea of how it’s supposed to sound.

No performance notes: John King’s writing is as good as his arranging. None of it here.

Overall

The information on this book online is very scant. I was expecting something completely different given John King’s other books. I was very disappointed with it (a shame to say that about somethig that John King has put his name to). Definitely one to avoid. It seems to have been thrown together to make a few quid at Christmas. If you’re looking for chords and melody for these public domain Christmas tunes you can find them all over the net.

What Do You Want For Christmas?

Photo by S’mee

Pretty soon, your clueless relatives will be searching the intertubes trying to come up with something to buy you for Christmas. To help them out, I’m going to be doing a series of posts of suggestions of gifts for ukulele players. If you want to avoid getting socks that play jingle bells, leave a comment letting everyone know what you’re hoping to find under the tree (uke-wise obviously). Or if there’s something you have that any uke player would love to get, tell us about it.

 Update: Christmas gifts for ukulele players.

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