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Ukulele Hunt

The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again (Chords)

The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again (Chords)

I love writing up Smiths songs. They’re full of interesting chords and challenging lead parts to tackle. So this week I’m taking on Bigmouth today and five of my favourite Smiths lead lines on Thursday.

Before you start: slap a capo on at the fourth fret.

For the pedants: I’ve taken a couple of liberties with chord naming to fit things in. The D11 is actually a Dadd11 (a D11 chord would include 7, 9 and 11) and the Am after the F functions as an Fmaj7.

Suggested Strumming

The strumming is a little complex. Here’s how I play the main strum:

Which sounds like this (slow then up to speed):

Main Strum

The only variation comes in the middle section which I strum like this (with the x’s indicating muted strums):

Middle Strum

Twiddly Bits

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The solo is just this figure played four times. There’s no capo for this part.


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Friday Links: Art on a Postcard, Irish Tunes

Jonathan Lewis launched his excellent and challenging ebook Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele a couple of years ago with a guest post about campanella ukulele. It was well worth a buy then and he’s been adding to it since and he’s just updated to the final version which includes 40 tunes (16 jigs, 11 reels, 7 hornpipes, 2 polkas and 4 pieces by O’Carolan).

Art on a Ukulele is a new project from Art on a Postcard which raises money for The Hepatitis C Trust. Thirty artists headed by Mick Rooney will be painting 30 ukuleles. Eight of which are made by Pete Howlett and will be used in a special performance by the UOGB. You can sign up for their mailing list to keep up to date with it and with Kev Munday’s art on a plectrum

New Releases
– Another album of infectious singalong folk from Keston Cobblers Club Almost Home.
Craig Robertson’s latest The Visitor.
Ben Carr’s instrumental looping A River’s View Of Sunrise.
Jeremy Messersmith’s 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs For Ukulele: A Micro Folk Record For the 21st Century and Beyond

alt-J – Interlude I (Ripe and Ruin) (Tab)

alt-J – Ripe & Ruin (Tab)

alt-J’s new track 3WW has me very excited for the new album. In preparation I thought I’d have a go at Ripe & Ruin from their debut album.

Ripe & Ruin is an acappella duet (the good kind of acappella where everyone sings words and no one is doing cheesy beatboxing). But I’ve taken some liberties with the arrangement having anything between one and three notes at a time.

The only tricky part of the arrangement is the rapid jump up the neck in bar 24. Otherwise it’s pretty straightforward so you can concentrate on varying the dynamics.


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Guitar Pro 7 First Impression Review

Guitar Pro has been my tabbing software of choice since the start of Uke Hunt almost ten years ago. I’ve used it to make hundreds of tabs. So I was giddy with excitement with last week’s release of Guitar Pro 7 (I’m a Guitar Pro affiliate in case that changes your opinion on my review).

I’ve been putting it through its paces (on a Mac) since then and here’s what I think of it so far.

Should You Buy It?

If you’re starting fresh and wondering whether to buy Guitar Pro 7 I’d highly recommend it. It’s more powerful, widely-used and user-friendly than free apps like TuxGuitar and the long dormant Power Tab (although an alpha of Power Tab 2.0 has popped up recently). And at €75 (about $80) it’s way more affordable than the eye-wateringly expensive general scoring apps like Finale and Sibelius. If you’re going to be tabbing regularly it’s well downloading the trial and giving it a go. It’s a no-brainer.

If you’re considering upgrading from Guitar Pro 6 it’s more of mixed bag at the moment. The improvements are more than enough that I’ve already forked out €30 for the upgrade. But there are downsides to the transition and I wouldn’t blame anyone for sticking with Guitar Pro 6 until the kinks have been worked out and a few options added back in.

The Good Stuff

Visual Overhaul

It’s been 7 years since Guitar Pro 6 (GP6) was released and it was starting to show its age. And the rise of HD/retina displays has been as kind to GP6 as it was to ageing actors. Guitar Pro 7 (GP7) is an overdue improvement. It’s now clean, crisp and easy on the eye.


The layout has seen a similar improvement. GP7 switches to retractable panels. So there are more options under your fingertips and once you’ve got a score set up you can quickly hide at least two of the panels away while you get on with tabbing. Thumbs up from me.

Image and Audio Exports

Guitar Pro 6’s PNG image export left a fair bit to be desired. The image quality was low and the background was grey (which actually worked out nicely for me on the blog). For higher quality images I had to export a PDF then convert that to PNG. GP7’s PNG export is much better. Although still not as good as exporting a PDF.

Here’s how they compare (Click the image to see it full size):

Guitar Pro 6 PNG Export

Guitar Pro 7 PNG Export

Guitar Pro 7 via PDF

GP7 adds the ability to export MP3 audio files. GP6 could only export WAV audio files. I don’t often export audio files form Guitar Pro but every time I’ve exported a WAV I’ve converted it to MP3. Now GP7 will export MP3s saving the hassle.

MIDI Import

Both GP6 and GP7 allow you to import MIDI files and will attempt to turn them into standard notation/tab. But GP7 does a massively better job at it.

Here’s how GP6 handled a random MIDI I downloaded from the internet:

And the same file in GP7:

GP7 has included the key signature, got rid of the useless rests and correctly picked up on the triplets (importing triplets is an option in the GP7 but not in GP6). The GP7 import is much neater and more readable. It will also now import lyrics (I’m going to be generous and blame the midi file for that being in the bass clef) and you can select which tracks from the MIDI you import.

Minor Improvements

Sounds: When playing back a tab Guitar Pro uses its “Realistic Sound Engine”. It’s certainly more pleasant than MIDI playback. GP7 adds a bunch of new sounds. Ukulele-wise, it’s gone from one sound to three: ukulele, natural and picked. They’ve made sound improvements a tentpole feature of GP7 so someone must really care. But I’ve been fine with the sound in GP6 and the improvements in GP7 are wasted on me.

Polyphonic Tuner: A polyphonic tuner will check the tuning of all your strings at once. You just strum all the strings into your computer mic and it’ll tell which are at of tune. I was fully expecting it not to work and be thrown off by the re-entrant string. But it worked perfectly. I don’t know if I’ll actually use it much but it gave me a, “Holy shit I am living in the future,” moment.

Track Defaults: GP6 didn’t let you change the default settings for new tracks. Now you can save a default notation types (standard, tab or slash), tuning, name and sound for each instrument.

New Preferences: In GP6 pressing the + key makes a note shorter and – made it longer. Which is something my brain never got to grips with. Now there’s an option to switch it to the obviously correct way around.

Locking files: You can now password lock files so they’re either not editable or not viewable without it.

The Not So Good Stuff

Linux Dropped

GP7 drops previous version’s support for Linux. Not a big deal for me or most Guitar Pro users. But this is certainly going to make GP7 a no-go for some people.

File Format

Once again the Guitar Pro file format has changed (now to .gp). That means files you create in Guitar Pro 7 can’t be opened in previous versions.

It is possible to export to .gpx (which opens in GP6) but the option to export to .gp5 is gone. Which is a shame because as well as being openable by GP5 and GP6 other tabbing software is able to import it. That just leaves MusicXML as a way to transfer between tab software.

Useful Preferences Gone

There were a couple of preferences in GP6 that either aren’t in GP7 or I can’t find.

Play sound when editing: GP6 allowed you to hear all the notes on a beat as you typed them in. Which meant you could immediately hear if you’d goofed. I regard this one as pretty much essential and I’m hoping it’s back soon. UPDATE: It is there and I missed it. In the menu sound > play while editing.

Add the bass note to the chord’s name when it’s not the root note: When automatically naming a chord Guitar Pro will give them slash chord names if the root is different from the lowest note of the chord. Great for guitar chords but awful for ukulele chords. GP6 allowed you to turn this off but GP7 doesn’t seem to.

Backup every _ actions: GP6 had an option automatically backup your file after a number of actions of your choosing. Which saved my arse a few times. As far as I can tell GP7 is manual saves only.


Crashes: I’ve had a couple of out-of-the-blue crashes using it. Nothing I wouldn’t expect from brand new software.

The big issue I’ve had is while using bluetooth headphones. That causes GP7 crashes every time I try to play a score and makes all audio from the computer sound like complete garbage in the meantime. It might be particular to my setup.

Virtual Instrument Scales The ukulele scales in the virtual instrument (a fretboard popup that shows notes and scales) are all kinds of jacked-up. I didn’t find one that was correct. Here’s what it thinks C major looks like:

If you look at the bottom of that screenshot it has the right notes for the scale. But something is going very wrong in translation to the fretboard.

I had a peek at the scales for guitar and they seem better but some have a few notes missing.

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Foals – Spanish Sahara (Chords)

Foals – Spanish Sahara (Chords)

This is the last Life is Strange song I’m doing. Promise. And it’s going to be a whole two days before I even post another song by a band on the soundtrack.

Spanish Sahara is a great song for a mixed ability group of ukers. The chords and strumming are dead simple. And there are some intricate lead parts for the show-offs. So I’ve divvied up the parts among a few ukes.


For intro and first verse you can just use one down strum per chord.

Once it gets going I like to use this as the main pattern:

d – d – d u d u

Do that twice each for F – Am – C then once each for Am – G. Which sounds like this:


Twiddly Bits

For the intro I used a baritone and a standard ukulele playing the same notes two octaves apart. Here’s tab for both with the gCEA tuned uke at the top and DGBE bari at the bottom.

Spanish Sahara (Solo Tab)

I’ve tabbed the solo as one ukulele part but it actually uses two (although you could just use one and play it as is if you wanted to). The first uke plays the first 8 bars. Then repeats the first 8 bars while the second ukulele plays bars 9 – 16. Both parts are played with alternate picking.


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More indie tabs and chords

Bonus: Foals – My Number (Intro Tab)

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UkeTube: Rachel Manke, Vinicius Vivas

Full Playlist

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Friday Links


Mandy Harvey: singer and ukulelist who has been deaf since 18.
Taimane has tips for travelling with your ukulele.
Manitoba Hal on spicing up your blues.
Hawaii Music Supply visits the Pono factory.


– Some fancy fret marker inlay from Ko’olau: shark fin style and wifi style.
Hive bird’s eye ukulele.
– Someone on eBay is really pushing their luck and trying to sell a cheap tourist ukulele for $10,000 (unless I’m missing something).
Stunning custom Moore Bettah ukulele.

Holland Bloorview kids’ rehabilitation hospital in Toronto are holding a 24-hour uke-a-thon on April Fools Day. You can keep track of it on Twitter.

Tune-Yards: 7 Second Ukulele Lessons

My baritone needed restringing the other day so I took the opportunity to tune it Tune-Yards style and write up a few of her riffs.

She uses dGBE. Which is baritone tuning with a high-d string. Aquila do make a set of high-d strings but I just moved my old E-string and tuned it to D.

If you put a capo at the fifth fret in dGBE tuning it will give you standard, high-g tuning. That means you can play all these on a standard tuned ukulele and they sound right. I’d particularly recommend giving For You a go. It’s a great bit of picking and sounds even better in standard tuning.


Tuning: gCEA (standard tuning)

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Tuning: dGBE (high-d)

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For You

For You (Tab)

Tuning: dGBE (high-d)

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Tuning: dGBE (high-d) or DGBE (low-D)

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Wooly Wolly Gong

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Tuning: dGBE (high-d) or DGBE (low-D)

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Chuck Berry’s Major and Minor Pentatonic Trick

Chuck Berry’s intro to Johnny B Goode has to be the most famous piece of guitar playing in the universe. Not only did he influence an entire generation of rock and roll guitarists, you can hear elements of his playing in all the great rock guitarists since.

The lick combines major and minor elements to make for an ambiguous, interesting run. If you already know your major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales you’re ready to start using this trick in your own licks and improvising.

Here’s the opening lick slightly adapted for ukulele:

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The Scales

Pentatonic scales are made up of just five notes. Because they’re so simple they suit a huge range of music. You’ll hear them all over blues, rock, country and folk songs.

If you want a full dive into the minor pentatonic scale I go into it in my Blues Ukulele ebook. But for this example I’m just using the C major and minor pentatonic.

C Major Pentatonic

1st position

Here’s the open position of the C major pentatonic scale. It always makes me think of the My Girl riff.

2nd position

This scale shape uses exactly the same notes but slightly higher up the fretboard. Compare this scale to the lick and we’ve already got most of the notes. All we’re missing is the C-string, 3rd fret (i.e. minor third) and E-string, 6th fret (minor 7th).

C Minor Pentatonic

1st position

The minor pentatonic is all over blues and rock playing. If you’re only going to learn one scale to improvise with this would be the one.

2nd position

Moving the scale up to the second position you get this. And there are the C-string, 3rd fret and E-string, 6th fret we need for the lick.

Combined Pentatonic

Knock the two scales together and you have a scale with plenty of options. You can just got at it with this scale. But my preference is to primarily use either major or minor pentatonic then introduce notes from the other to add some colour.

1st position

2nd position

Some Examples

Descending Lick

Here’s a Chuck Berry style descending lick that uses the same ideas.

Aerosmith Style

You can hear this combination of major and minor pentatonic playing by all the rock gods (Hendrix, Clapton and Page used it regularly). Here’s a lick cribbed from Joe Perry’s solo in Walk This Way.

Combining Blues Scale and Major Pentatonic

If that isn’t enough notes you can add in a note from the blues scale. In C the only difference between the minor pentatonic and the blues scale is an F# (E-string, 2nd fret). With that you can play this BB King style lick.

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