Best Bits of Get Plucky with the Ukulele

Get Plucky with the Ukulele is the new book by Will Grove-White off of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and his own group Will Grove-White & the Others.

As you would expect of someone who started playing the ukulele when it was ignored and deeply unfashionable in the 80s, Will has an obvious deep love of the ukulele. And that’s reflected in this book’s wealth of uke knowledge, anecdotes and photos collected over decades of playing.

The book does a full sweep of the ukulele. The first half covers the history of the ukulele and notable ukulele players (those famous for ukulele, famous for their music and famous for other reasons). And the second half delves into how to play the ukulele. The writing is witty, informative and opinionated. I heartily recommend picking up a copy.

Will was kind enough to send me one and here are a few of my favourite bits to whet your appetite.

Laura Dukes, Rabbit Muse and Charlie Burse

Great to see these three getting some attention. It’s a crime that all Rabbit Muse‘s music is all still out of print.

Usually I’m the sort of pedant referred to in the book who points out that a tenor guitar isn’t a ukulele. But that Charlie Burse clip is so great I’m willing to overlook it.

The Ukulele Built in a POW Camp

For sheer bloody minded ukulele fanaticism in the face of misery and torture, Second World War veteran Thomas Boardman has to take the first prize.

There are a bunch of profiles of musicians and other famous folks who play the ukulele packed with interesting detail and anecdotes. But my favourites are the less well known like Greenwich Village ukulele painter Bobby Edwards.

The most impressive is the story of Thomas Boardman who managed to build himself a ukulele from whatever bits of wood, metal and wire he could scavenge as a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp in World War II. If you ever find yourself in the Manchester Imperial War Museum search it out.

America Takes Hawaii (And it’s Ukulele)

It came as no surprise that when in 1893 a group of European and US businessmen (with some gentle support from a group of US marines overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy…

Too many histories of the ukulele gloss over the machinations behind the uke’s first big push into popularity. So it’s good to it being pointed out that the ukulele was used by the businessmen who stole Hawaii from the Hawaiians to drive tourism to the island and fill their pockets.

Aside: After this good work it’s a bit of shame that he includes a couple of illustrations of the ‘topless Hawaiian hula girl in a grass skirt and lei’ variety.

Part of the strategy of these businessmen was to use songs and images to present a Hawaii packed with pliant, nubile women. And those songs and images are, unfortunately, still part of ukulele culture. With the huge contribution that Hawaiian women have made to the ukulele world it’s time to cut that bullshit out.

This is a criticism of the ukulele world in general rather than the book in particular. The writing in the book is very strong on the contribution of Hawaiians and women in general to the ukulele. And I think it provides the framework for understanding why these images are part of ukulele culture.

If this sort of thing is your bag I wrote a whole thing about music and cultural appropriation.

Agatha Christie Murder Solved by Uke

You caught her round the throat with it and strangled her… And you put another string on the ukelele – but it was the wrong string, that’s why you were so stupid.

*Spoilers for the 80 year old short story The Bird with the Broken Wing.* It gives me great pleasure that a character would be undone by their lack of uke knowledge.

The book also has the real-life murderous tale of Frederick Galloway ‘The Ukulele Slayer’.

Playing in a Ukulele-Only Group

Even though you’re all playing the same instrument, you don’t all have to play the same thing.

This is the bit I was really looking forward to. The only other people as well qualified to write about this are also in the UOGB. And with the number of people who are part of ukulele groups there’s no shortage of need for help on this.

Unfortunately, there’s just half a page on this. But it’s a good half page. And I’m still holding out hope of a full book on the subject from one or more members of the UOGB.


Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on Amazon US
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Cole Porter – You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To (Chords)

Cole Porter – You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To

I had a clutch of requests for this Cole Porter song after posting Victor and Penny’s version the other week. And I’m always eager to write up a song that includes an aug7 chord.

Being a Cole Porter classic, You’d Be So Nice has been covered by a horde of people including Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. But I’ve stuck to Victor and Penny’s ukulele version for the chord chart.

Suggested Strumming

Here’s your main strum:

d – d – d u d u

Here it is slow then up to speed:

Main Strum

That will do you for most of the song. But there are a few quick chord changes on E7-Emaj7 and
You can play those:

d u d u

Which sounds like:

Short strum

The only shorter chord change is right at the end. Do one down strum per chord there.


Buy the Sarah Vaughan version
Victor and Penny on YouTube

James Clem, Sledding with Tigers: UkeToob

Full Playlist

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Friday Links

Last chance to order a Uke Hunt t-shirt. The minimum order has been passed so they’re definitely going to get made and shipped as soon as the pre-ordering is done.


Light-box ukulele.
And that’s why you don’t play ukulele with a pick.
Martin found under a bed.

New Releases

Allo Darlin’s We Come from the Same Place.
Nicholas Abersold’s String Cheese.
Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings.


– Two new tab sites: Fingerstyle rules! (click on the letters on the right for the tabs) and the Spanish language Ukelatino.


1936 Harmonica & Uke: Percy Spouse + Sid Owen, Australia (Thanks to Ron Hale).

Ukulele chord changer – like the Chordmaster that Islanders used to have. You strap it to the neck, press a button and it’ll make a chord for you. I wouldn’t recommend it for most people but I know a guy with arthritis who uses a Chordmaster so worth checking out if you have those sort of problems.

Punk Pop Riffs (Tab)

Another one for the Riffs for Ukulele series. Usual rules apply: they’re intended to be played for a lark (even more so with these punk pop songs); no, I’m not going to write up the full song; and they’re not necessarily in the original key (although only Sum 41 in this post isn’t thanks to some capo deployment).

Paramore – Still Into You


With Paramore’s recent foray into ukulele songs it’s only right I include one of theirs. Two riffs on this one. The top one is plucked thumb and two finger style and the bottom one using alternate picking.

Buy it on iTunes

Blink 182 – What’s My Age Again?


After a bit of octave shifting the arpeggio riff in this one works way better on ukulele than I was expecting. Thumb and two finger picking for this one again. Try to emphasise the notes on the g- and C-strings.

Buy it on iTunes

Green Day – American Idiot


Capo on the first fret for this one too. The switch from G to F at the end of bar two is very fast. If you’re struggling with it you can just switch the F for playing all the strings open like at the end of bar 4.

Buy it on iTunes

Sum 41 – Fat Lip


Not going to lie, this one is pretty preposterous on ukulele. But, hey, Sum 41 were a pretty preposterous band.

Buy it on iTunes

Panic! at the Disco – I Write Sins Not Tragedies


I’m not sure if this one entirely belongs in this post. But I’ve become obsessed with it recently. I tried to get all the discordant bits in. Which makes it much more difficult than it needs to be. Here’s a simpler version:


Buy it on iTunes

No Hassle Chord Changes

With all the intricate and dexterous actions that evolution has equipped our hands for it’s left us woefully unprepared to play an Fmaj7 chord on the ukulele. It’s made plenty of chord changes a pain in the arse too.

Laziness to the rescue! You can change the fingering of a chord or use a different inversion to make changes much more straightforward.

Here are a few tricky chord changes that can be simplified with a bit of rejiggering.

A to D

Here’s an obvious refingering. If you use your second, third and fourth fingers to play it you can keep your first finger tucked behind.

The Sucker Way


The Smart Way


Video Comparison

Em to B7

In chord charts the B7 is almost always shown played with a barre. But it doesn’t have to be. Switch the notes on the g and A strings and you get the Em chord shape with everything moved across one string.

The Sucker Way


The Smart Way


Video Comparison

G to B7

Another B7. This one doesn’t actually have a B in it. But thanks to crazy ear-shenanigans your brain fills in the B for you (here’s Vi Hart explaining it as well as why chords and scales are as they are).

The Sucker Way


The Smart Way


Video Comparison

Anything to Fmaj7

If anyone tells you to play Fmaj7 the 2413 way throw your ukulele at them and run away. They are not your friend. In the first take of my trying to play the chord you can actually hear my wrist cracking as I attempt it.

The Sucker Way


The Smart Way


Video Comparison

D7 to G7

Like the B7, this version of D7 doesn’t actually have a D. But it is way easier to play. This version is often called the ‘Hawaiian D7′ for reasons that elude me.

The Sucker Way


The Smart Way


Video Comparison


Ten ways to play an E chord
How to Play Ukulele Chords – my ebook on chords and chord theory.

Junior Brown – Better Call Saul (Chords)

Junior Brown – Better Call Saul (Chords)

This one is hot off the press. The new song for the upcoming Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul. Although it’s performed by Junior Brown and his guit-steel, the lyrics are by show creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould with music by Dave Porter (composer of the Breaking Bad theme). On the downside, the video is only available in the US but you can listen to the song here.

The chords transfer very nicely to ukulele and there are a few tasty licks too.

Suggested Strumming

Here’s my favourite main strum:

d – d u d – d u d – d u d – d u

That’s just d – d u four times. That’ll see you most of the way through. There are a couple of places where the changes are quicker. For the A – C in the odd numbered verses and the E7 – D in the solos just do d – d u twice for each chord.

That’s pretty frenetic. So if you want something similar go for this:

d u – u – u – u

With the up strums short (stopping them just after you strum). Again, just split that in half for the quicker changes.

Twiddly Bits

There are a few simple but effective twiddles throughout the song. Here’s the little intro:


The little riff in the second half of the solo:


And the little run at the end:


Buy it on iTunes
Breaking Bad theme tab

James Hill, Keston Cobblers: UkeTube

Full Playlist

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Friday Links: Ukulele Court Battle

The Uke Hunt t-shirts have passed their goal. So they’ll definitely be printed. A massive thanks to everyone who has ordered already. Still plenty of time if you want to order one. You can find them on Teespring.

New Releases

James Hill’s new album The Old Silo is out now. You can stream it here and download the opening track free here.
– The Staves are working with Justin ‘Bonnie Bear’ Vernon on their new album and you can listen to the first track from it here.


Drawing of an exceptionally handsome ukulele player.
Marion Davies and Lawrence Gray.
Play a Bari, Wear a Boa (c.1960).


The Rather Wonderful World of Chap Hop (via HermanVDC).
Tina Fey on ukulele (via Things I Saw That I Love).


Tyrone and Lesley’s Gentlemen’s Songbook has chords for a bunch of their songs. Including the much requested Unaccompanied.

Courtroom Drama

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain failed to get an injunction against The United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra’s UK tour. More court battles to come. And it won’t be hard for the UOGB to find evidence of people who are confused. Here’s an exchange from TUKUO’s own Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.06.24Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.06.24 copy

No prizes for guessing who has played Helsinki.

Don’t even get me started on the People’s Ukulele Front of Great Britain. Splitters!

Alexander Wandrowsky – Canzone Danza

Alexander Wandrowsky – Canzone Danza

After posting this tune a few weeks ago on the UkeTube I immediately got a couple of tab requests. And Alexander “DerMitDerUkulele” Wandrowsky was kind enough to send me his tab. Two versions, in fact. The one above is in D tuning as it’s played in the video. And here’s one in F minor and played in standard tuning:

Alexander Wandrowsky – Canzone Danza in Fa Minore (Tab)

Quick warning: the chords here have been changed to match F minor but the standard notation is still in G minor.

My Version

Canzone Danza (Uke Hunt Version)(Tab)

I absolutely love this tune so I had to have a crack at my own arrangement.

I’m playing it in G minor but in C-tuning. I start of playing the tune campanella style. Then go into combining the melody and chords. Then back to the campanella style to rip through the tune at double(ish) speed.

Subscribe to Alexander’s YouTube channel

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