Bill Collings 1948 – 2017: Friday Links

Austin, Texas guitar and ukulele maker Bill Collings died this week. Collings began making guitars in the 1970s and launched a line of beautifully made ukuleles in 2009.

Window Shopping
– This September Fender are releasing a whole batch of cheaper ukuleles: the Seaside, Rincon, Zuma and Montecito. You can see some here and here.
– But if I was getting a Fender style uke I’d want an Eckhaus Tululele.
KoAloha Black Label Lava.
Hoffman A style tenor.
– New Fluke designs including a fetching designer soundboard by Evelyn Drew.

We lost our dear friend and mentor Bill Collings yesterday. He was the amazingly creative force behind Collings Guitars for over 40 years. Through his unique and innate understanding of how things work, and how to make things work better, he set the bar in our industry and touched many lives in the process. His skill and incredible sense of design were not just limited to working with wood, but were also obvious in his passion for building hot rods. To Bill, the design and execution of elegant form and function were what mattered most. Perhaps even more exceptional than his ability to craft some of the finest instruments in the world, was his ability to teach and inspire. He created a quality-centered culture that will carry on to honor his life's work and legacy. He was loved by many and will be greatly missed. Our hearts are with his family. William R. Collings 8/9/1948 – 7/14/2017

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Jonathan Lewis – Raggle Taggle Gypsies (Tab)

Raggle Taggle Gypsies (Tab)

Jonathan Lewis’s campanella ebook is right up there with John King’s as one of my favourite tab books. And he’s just relased a new one
Classic Folk Songs for Fingerstyle Ukulele (affiliate link). Which also has traditional tunes but this time arranged in a simpler, more approachable form.

Jon was kind enough to let me post one of the tabs from his book and I picked Raggle Taggle Gypsies. The tune is a big favourite of mine with my favourite version being Martin Carthy’s. I recorded my own version based on his tab making a few changes to suit my style.


Buy Classic Folk Songs for Fingerstyle Ukulele on Gumroad.

Muted Strums Tutorial

Muted strums are a useful tool to have in your repertoire. They can add percussion and syncopation to an otherwise boring strum.

You perform them by resting a finger or fingers from your fretting hand on the strings. You need to hold them down enough so the strings don’t ring open but not strong enough to hold them down. If you just rest them against the string without applying any pressure it should do the trick.

There are a few different ways you can perform them:

One/Two finger mute: Relax the chord you’re holding, lay pinkie or ringer finger or both across the strings. The advantage of this is that you keep your fretting fingers in the chord position. So it's useful for mid-strum mutes.

All-finger mute: Rest all your fingers across the strings. This produces a very solid mute but does mean your fingers are out of position for chords.

Chord release mute: If a chord has you fretting all the strings you can create a mute just by releasing pressure with your fingers just enough to stop the chord sounding. The advantage with this technique is you can very quickly switch between muted and open strums.

A Chnk Alternative

The most obvious way to use muted strums is as a substitute for chnks. They provide a similar percussive sound but are easier to pull off.

Here’s a typical chnk strum played with one finger muted strums. Slowly then up to speed.

d u x u d u x u

The main advantage they have over chnks is that they can be played on up-strums as well as down-strums.

d u x x d u x x

Nirvana Style Mutes

Another common place to use them is between chord changes. Most famously used in Smells Like Teen Spirit.

In this example I’m using all-finger muting.

d – d – x x x x

Niles Rogers Style Mutes

The speed you can apply the chord release muting makes it perfect for funk and disco chord vamps. The great part is that you can just strum down-up-down-up and switch between muted and unmuted strums to create the rhythm.

In this example I’m playing and muting a G9 chord 4555.

Picking Hand Muting

You can also mute the strings at the strumming end of the uke by resting the side of your hand on the strings just in front of the bridge. That dampens the string while still letting you fret the strings and produce a note. You can do this while strumming but it’s even more effective on single notes.

Here’s a little riff on the C-string just switching between the third and fifth fret. I play this with fingerpicking but this technique works well if you’re using a pick and is easier that way.

Further Reading

How to Play Ukulele Strums: my ebook on all things strum related.
Easy alternatives to chnking
Strum blocking

Loudon Wainwright III – Swimming Song and Martha Wainwright – BMFA (Chords)

Loudon Wainwright – Swimming Song (Chords)

I did Loudon’s ukulele song way back and it’s high time I did one of his classic songs.

I’ve written the chords up with a capo on the second fret. That’s the easiest way to play it and without the capo it’s the same key he plays it in live.

Here are the chords without a capo.

Suggested Strumming

You can use this simple strum all the way through:

d – d u

Do that once each for the G – C at the beginning. After that do it twice each time you see a chord name (note: there are two E minors back to back in the write-up).

It sounds like this:


Twiddly Bits

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Here’s my attempt at the two banjos playing the riff in the intro and between verses.

If you want to play the whole thing with a capo on the fourth fret here are the chords: Swimming Song (Chords in F).


Buy it on iTunes
LWIII – The Ukulele Song (Chords)

Martha Wainwright – Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole

Martha Wainwright – BMFA (Chords)

While I was working on the Loudon song I got a request for my favourite song about him (those Wainwrights do love writing songs about each other). And couldn’t resist writing it up as well.

In the original version Martha slides a D chord up five frets to get a G chord with a D in the base. I’ve gone with the spirit of that by sliding the D chord up and leaving the A string open (creating a Gadd9 chord).

Since the Em only crops up next to the G chord I’ve used the no hassle version of the change by keeping the G chord held and adding my pinkie on the C-string, fourth fret.

Suggested Strumming

This will get you all the way through:

d – d u d u


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UkeTube: Shine, Ben Taiki

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Friday Links: Folk Tabs, Miniature Vintage Ukes

You might have seen me raving about Jonathan Lewis’s campanella tabs in the past. He’s back with a new tab ebook Classic Folk Songs for Fingerstyle Ukulele. This one has much simpler arrangements but still up to his high standard.

I was very kindly gifted this two vintage tiny ukuleles made by Cy Tuff. He made these lovely little ukuleles between 1942 and 1964. And he did a great job with them. Big thanks to his granddaughter Sue for them and to Chuck for passing them along.

Window Shopping
– A George Formby banjolele has been auctioned off for £28,000.
– Two vintage Lyon & Healy shapes: the Shrine and the Bell.
Shell-back Ray Rootswork ukulele.
KoAloha custom headstocks.

Beethoven – Ode to Joy (Tab)

Ode to Joy (Tab)

I’ve already tabbed Ode to Joy twice: a dead easy strumming version and the UOGB’s group version. This third and final tab is a fuller solo version.

For this piece Beethoven nicked Nirvana’s loud-quiet-loud-quiet… trick. So I use strumming for the loud bits and picking for the quiet bits.

In the open section I strum down for the first note in the bar then flick up with my index finger for the rest. I’ve tabbed all four notes for those flicks but it’s not a big deal whether you hit the top two, three or all four strings. Bars 4 and 8 are slightly different with two down strums and a single picked note.

I switch to picking for the softer section in bars 9-12 before returning to bombastic strumming. Repeat that section and you’re done.

If you want more tabs like this you might like my Classical Ukulele ebook with ukulele-style arrangements of classical tunes.

The Big Ukulele Chord Quiz 3

Time for the Uke Hunt Annual Chord Quiz. Test your chord knowledge, theory knowledge and musical ear. The method is as low-tech as ever.

– Grab a pen and paper.
– Answer the questions (using a ukulele to help you is entirely allowed and encouraged).
– There might be spoilers in the comments.
Check the answers here (no peeking).
– Return in triumph or despair and share you score in the comments (some of these questions are pretty tricky, so not too much despair). And I’d be interested to know which rounds you found easy and which were hard.

If you’re reading by email or feed reader you may need to click through to the post to see everything.

Chord Diagrams

Name the 7 chord from the chord diagram (e.g. C7, D7 etc.).






Chord Flavour: Diagrams

All these are G chords but are they G, Gm, G7, Gm7, or G9?






Chord Flavour: Listening

All these are D chords but are they D, Dm, D7, Dm7, or Dmaj7?











Chord Makeup

Each of these triads of notes makes up a minor chord (e.g. the notes of a Fm chord are F, Ab and C). Which one? (The notes are listed in alphabetical order starting at C to make it harder.)

16. D, F and A.

17. C, E and A.

18. C, Eb and G.

19. E, G and B.

20. D, G and Bb.

Chord Progression

Match the MP3 to the chord sequence:

a) G – D – G – D – G
b) G – C – D – C – G
c) G – Am – D – C – G
d) G – Em – C – D – G
e) G – D – Em – C – G











Go here to check your answers


Big Chord Quiz 1
Big Chord Quiz 2
More ukulele quizzes

Haim – Want You Back (Chords and Tab)

Haim – Want You Back (Chords)

It was Glastonbury the other weekend. The one time of year British music fans get the same value from the license fee as sports fans do all year. The standout performances I caught were Songhoy Blues (the whole show is here if you’re in the UK) and Haim. I’m not ruling out a Songhoy Blues tab in future but for today it’s Haim’s latest.

Suggested Strumming

You can go very minimalist and just do one strum per chord. The only thing that might trip you up is some of the timing. I’d definitely recommend counting the bars to get a feel for the chord changes.

The progression at the end of each verse has the first two chords lasting a beat and half each. Followed by the F lasting the final beat of the bar plus the whole of the next bar.

With a metronome it sounds like this:

Strum 1

That rhythm continues into the chorus but with the addition of a couple of chord changes:

Strum 2

And the second half of the first chorus adds in an extra chord:

Strum 3

Halfway through the second chorus the rhythm switches. Here you have a chord that lasts three beats then switches on the final beat of the chord. So if you were counting the bar you’d change on the 4. This rhythm lasts until the end of the song.

Strum 4

Twiddly Bits

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Here’s the little descending riff in the second half of the verses:

And the funky riff in the choruses. I’m muting the strings with the underside of my picking hand here to keep the notes short (more on that in a future post).


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UkeTube: OK Computer Special

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