10 Reason It’s Easier to Learn the Guitar than the Ukulele

It’s a good job no one pays any attention to a word I say. If they did, they’d realise how often I contradict myself. I change my mind more often than I change my underpants (i.e. about once a week).

I’ve stated a few times that it’s easier for a beginner to play the ukulele rather than the guitar. But is it easier to learn the ukulele than the guitar? I thought I might run with the hypothesis that on this subject, and many others, I’m talking a whole load of fanny-rot.

It’s easier to learn the guitar than the ukulele because…

1) It’s easier to tune: The shorter scale length of the ukulele makes it decidedly tricky to get in tune. A slight tweak of tuner can send it wildly out of tune. Add to that the fact that strings take a couple of weeks to bed down and you’ve got a big problem. If even professional musicians like Amanda Palmer and Stephin Merritt can’t get their ukuleles in tune, what chance has a beginner got?

2) It’s possible to find a teacher: Google results for “guitar teacher” = 316,000. Google results for “ukulele teacher” = 1,480. The best way to learn a new instrument is sitting face to face with someone who is already an expert. It’s much easier to find those people with the guitar.

3) It’s easier to make it sound OK: Guitars naturally have a big sound which is generous to less careful playing. It takes a bit more experience to tease a good sound out of a ukulele. It’s all to easy to smother all the tone out of the poor thing.

4) You don’t have to worry about holding it: Sometimes ukeing standing up is a little like playing whilst juggling a sack of potatoes. And using a strap feels like giving in.

5) They don’t have friction tuners: The friction tuners on beginner level ukuleles are universally awful. I wonder how many people have given up on the ukulele because they couldn’t get the tuners to stick and didn’t realise you could tighten them.

6) It’s easier to find tabs and lessons online: There’s a whole lot more than there used to be. But the uke stuff still doesn’t come close to the amount (and, dare I say, quality) of guitar stuff.

7) You can buy a decent guitar in a shop: Imagine that. Walking into a shop and being able to try a wide range of instruments of playable quality and decide which one you like best. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a shop with more than one ukulele for sale. And I’ve never been in one with more than zero good ukuleles for sale.

8) No one cares what strumming pattern you use on the guitar: In my many years on the dark side, I don’t ever remember anyone discussing any strumming patterns.

9) The strings are in the right order: What the hell kind of sense does re-entrant tuning make anyway?

10) It’s physically possible to play and E chord on the guitar.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

(And, no, this isn’t an April Fools joke).

NeverShoutNever! – Your Biggest Fan (Chords)

NeverShoutNever – Your Biggest Fan (Chords)

Here are the chords for the rest of NeverShoutNever’s Me & My Uke EP due to popular demand and to help ukulele-playing school boys impress girls (which is the closest to a noble calling this blog is ever likely to get).

Your Biggest Fan is another fairly straight forward three-chord affair with just C, G and F all the way through.

Suggested Strumming

Right at the start it’s:

d u x u d u

Then for the rest of the verse keep going with the x u d u

In the chorus the ‘da da’ part is just down strums. Then there’s this:

d – d u – u d –

Monday Exposure: Ukulele Bartt

I don’t think there’s anyone who looks like they’re enjoying playing the uke more than Ukulele Bartt. And it’s highly infectious – I get an urge to pick up the uke every time I see him play. Particularly when he’s shredding the crap out of some flamenco ukulele.

Bartt has just released a new album, Under the Big Fat Moon , and was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

On first listen, there’s a strong Beatles influence on this album. Who else has influenced your songwriting?

Everyone says I’m George Harrison-ish. And I love Lyle Lovett’s sarcasm and Nanci Griffith’s sweetness. Then there’s Freddie Mercury’s crazy diminished chords, and Tchaikovsky and Johnny Winter and Hoagy Carmichael and Eddie Cantor and Bob Marley and Julieta Venegas and Anoushka Shankar and … uh … Oh, Brian Wilson, of course. I guess I love everybody!

How did you start playing flamenco on the ukulele?

I dunno how it started; I just play that way sometimes. I’m not a true Flamenco player like Paco de Lucia, but I’m crazy about Paco, and Flaco Jimenez and Los Panchos, too. I’ve been thinking of doing a Flamenculele album in Spanish. But Flamenco is usually sung in Spanish anyway, so maybe I’ll do it in English. Aw, heck. I might as well do it in French. Has anybody ever done a French Flamenco-ukulele album?

What makes the uke work well in this style of playing?

Flamenco sounds like crap on my Hawaiian ukes, but on my Candelas uke it’s muy magnifico. Candelas built Andres Segovia’s guitars, so they have lots of Flamenco secrets. Tomas Delgado spent more than a year buildi ng it for me. It’s the type of woods, the luthier’s techniques, and I guess it’s also in the way you play the thing: fast right hand and lots of finger-picking.

How do you make the ukulele work alongside big, loud instruments like piano, saxophone and drums?

Just get a bigger, louder amplifier!
The guys in my band are pretty danged good, so if it works, it’s because of them. Jon Gold is a blues piano monster; he’s from Oingo Boingo (the band, not the geographical location). And Tony DiGiovanni has drummed in Big Bands, and with heavy Jazz cats. I was a Rock guitar player and I’m a hard-core Boogie-Woogie guy, so I love putting that stuff into uke music. But I do love playing with the Hawaiian Braddahs, too. Especially just sitting on the beach with the ukes having a kanikapila.

You’re very adventurous with your ukulele covers – Bohemian Rhapsody, Flight of the Bumblebee – are there any tunes you wouldn’t cover on the uke?

“Happy Birthday” is probably one I’d skip. But I’ll try anything. I’m doing some Tchaikovsky, and I love playing funky stuff like advertising jingles or the theme song from “The Jeffersons.” My band does a great version of “Gumby,” too!

What’s in your uke collection?

The crown jewel is my Candelas tenor. Actually, it’s a little bigger than a tenor; it’s an eleven-er. It’s got tons of custom abalone and mother-of-pearl, with all sorts of little personal touches.
I’ve also got a nifty Ka maka soprano and a Mele tenor that I’ve wrecked from playing so hard. And a Lanikai 8-string electric, a bunch of Portuguese stuff: cavaquinhos and braguinas, a Romanian mandola, plus lots of guitars and basses, drums, a whole bunch of stuff. I’m addicted. I painted my face on one uke, with the sound hole as my open mouth. It’s pretty goofy.

As well as the uke, you play the Portuguese guitar. How do you go about playing an instrument tuned DABEAB?

It’s really tricky to learn the scales if you’re used to Western tunings, and it’s also a pain to keep in tune. It’s got 12 strings that are looped on both ends, and the tuning pegs are Old-World machine heads that screw up and down. They’re beautiful, but awkward.

There’s Coimba tuning (CGADGA) and Lisboa tuning (DABEAB), depending on which region of Portugal you’re in. Fado music is so dramatic, and the Guitarra Portuguesa is such an idiosyncratic instrument. After I heard Carlos Paredes play, I HAD to get one.

What on earth (or not on earth) is a Martian Moonboodle?

That’s me goofing around. I just had a little more space to fill up when I was writing the liner notes for my CD, “Under the Big Fat Moon,” and I wanted to see if anyone reads all the way to the bottom. Thanks for reading it!

What can we expect to hear from you in the future?

I’m planning a groovy instructional DVD. If anybody wants to tell me what they’d like me to include, I’d love it if you e-mai led me at UkuleleBartt@aol.com.

I’m going to do more international Ukefests, too.

My band is also doing a live worldwide Internet broadcast, so you can see us perform live on Saturday, April 4 at 8:00 PST (Los Angeles time). And you can e-mail the band during the show, so hopefully we’ll get some hellos from the far reaches of the planet. You just go to Bartt.net and click on the button and POOF! We’ll be on your computer. And tell them that Ukulele Hunt sent you!

You can buy Under the Big Fat Moon on CD Baby now.

Guy Forsyth – Waking Life (Tab)

Guy Forsyth – Waking Life (Tab)

Guy Forsyth’s little ukulele monologue in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life was, fittingly enough, a nightmare to work out. The intro anyway. It’s full of jazzy discords. I’m a long way from certain that it’s right. So if you have any suggests throw them my way.

The chords under the chatting, on the other hand, are fairly simple. It’s just D and Bm with a few plucked notes in. Although he does throw a missed beat or two in there on occasions.

Judging by the film, he’s playing in ADF#B. But I’ve written it up in C tuning.


Buy the MP3
Buy Waking Life

Requested by Minamin, Nic and Elizabeth.

Saturday UkeTube: PJ Harvey, Melissa Polinar

Warning! One of these videos autoplays – I couldn’t figure out a way to stop it. But it isn’t on YouTube and I like it. It’s the first one if you’re desperate to stop it.

Revenge of the cute ukulele girl this week with Melissa Polinar looking to be on a collision course for Boing Boing (excellent song choice as well I think). PJ Harvey looks more ill each time I see her. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukulele Window Shopping

Not much catching my eye this week. Perhaps the raging UAS beast has been sated by my cave in to the Ukulele Shop’s current sale. I’m sure it won’t be long until it’s back.

The UAS beast might be having a post meal nap, but the URCAS (ukulele related crap acquisition syndrome) beast is still at work and hungering for kitsch Hawaiian uke shirt and a ukulele clock.

One uke that did catch my attention is this 5 string uke. The sound clip linked to in the listing is John King and well worth downloading and keeping.

Uncle Charlie wows the girls of Coney Island with his uke and pipe.

Friday Links

AAAAAARGH!!! Big blog problems at the moment. The site doesn’t seem to be updating. So no new posts are appearing on the front page or anywhere else on the site. Phew! Panic over. A big thanks to Armelle for alerting me to the problem. And a MASSIVE thanks to j-hob for fixing the mess. If you notice anything still looking screwy, let me know.

Anyhoo, on to ukulele news.

Bushman Ukulele Luau 2009 lineup. Good news for fans of Ukulelezo. Great news for fans of tba.

Jimmy McGee has secured his place in the play-offs. Now it’s time to up the ukulele quotient and vote for Tricity Vogue.

Someone finally tells Amanda Palmer where she’s going wrong.

Violonlele Resophonic on KDUS. Want one.

Ukulele MP3s: Stereogum are promising a listen to Death Cab for Cutie’s ukulele track later today (UPDATE: it’s up here). A week’s worth of ukulele mp3s on Doklands. Melophobe has a track from Those Darlins.

Tonight You Belong to Me chords, Jerry’s Breakdown tab and Dream a Little Dream chords on Uker Tabs.

Ukulele/facial hair watch: Ukulele Loki joins the Mustache March.

Hawaiian Barbie.

Noah and the Whale – Second Lover (Tab)

Noah and the Whale – Second Lover (Tab)

Is it safe to talk about Noah and the Whale again? The whole 5 Years Time thing did get a bit annoying. This one is definitely no three chord strumalong. There’s some very tricky picking involved.

When I pick it I use the one-finger-per-string (thumb on G string, first finger on C string etc.).

If you don’t fancy tackling that, you can make it easier by missing out the G string so you get this:

The chords in the last bit are A – Bm – C#m – Bm over and over.

Requested by Kate

Baritone Ukulele Hunt

A typical day in the Uke Hunt inbox:

Email: Hi, do you have any baritone ukulele tabs?
Me: No, sorry. But Tab-U-Learn has a load.

Email: Do your ebooks cover the baritone ukulele?
Me: No, sorry.

Email: How come you don’t do baritone tabs?
Me: I’m not really a baritone guy.

Email: Do you do baritone chords?
Me: Nope.

Email: I want to buy a baritone ukulele. Which should I get?
Me: Dunno.

Email: Do you have any tabs for the baritone ukulele?
Me: Oh for the love of crisps. FINE.

Baritone Ukulele Hunt

I’m sure there are hundreds of people better suited to a baritone site than me. But, since there’s only Tab-U-Learn doing it, I thought I’d give it a go. It won’t be updated anywhere near as often as Uke Hunt – just when the mood strikes me.

And because I didn’t want the others to feel left out:

Soprano Ukulele
Concert Ukulele
Tenor Ukulele

There’s not going to be much there to interest you (no tabs and chords). It’s mainly aimed at newbies. And an excuse for me to spread my tentacles across the internet. (I said tentacles).

Michael Jackson – Beat It


You can blame the inclusion of this one on my increasing addiction to Guitar Rock Tour. It might be the endless repetition, but I really like this riff. And the Eddie Van Halen solo is widdletastic.

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