– Another excellent record from, UK folkies Ninebarrow, Releasing the Leaves.
– House of Skin & Bones by Dana Hubanks
– Sky Heart by Leaf Eichten Lovetree
– The King has Two Horse’s Ears by Inni-K
Death with Dignity is a beautiful song by Sufjan Stevens about the death of his mother (a subject that clearly resonates with Kanye West). The song is heavy with grief backed with sparse, shimmering ukulele. And idiots will still tell you it’s impossible to be sad when playing a ukulele.
I think he’s using open C-tuning for this which is gCEG (i.e. tune your A-string down so it’s the same pitch as the g-string). Then capo at the fourth fret.
The picking uses one finger per string in an AMIP pattern (going down the strings).
This part is really quiet on the record so I’m making it up about half the time. Take that as a free pass to mess around with this part and play it how you feel it. I’m guessing it’s played on a classical guitar but it works perfectly well on baritone.
Here’s a ukulele version of the piano solo from the song. It’s played in standard tuning without a capo.
I’ve been using Guitar Pro for almost 10 years. I think all my tabs on Uke Hunt have been made with it. I highly recommend it if you’re getting into making uke tabs.
Out of the box, it is set up for guitar so I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learnt about using Guitar Pro 6 for making ukulele tabs along with a few general tips (note: this is not at all a substitute for reading the actual manual).
Starting a Ukulele Tab
Start by going to File > New Score > Empty. (You can just cancel out of the Score Information screen for now.)
Now set up a ukulele tab by going to Track > Add… and it’ll bring up this window:
You can find the ukulele under the slightly kinky sounding “Exotic Guitars”. In the bottom left corner there are options to show slash notation (more on that later), standard notation (which I leave off most of my tabs) and tab.
Changing the Tuning
By default, the tab created is in high-g gCEA tuning. You can change that by clicking on the guitar in the far left column which brings up this picture of a bass guitar head:
If you click the drop down menu where it says “C Tuning” you get options to change to D-tuning or low-G tuning. Select which you want then click either of the Apply ticks (it makes no difference which if you haven’t started your tab yet).
There aren’t options for low-A or baritone tuning but they’re easy to create. Make low-A by selecting D-tuning. Then go to the bottom left tuner of the bass guitar and click the down arrow until the box reads A3. You can save the tuning for future use by clicking the arrow that has just appeared next to the drop down box:
Setting up baritone tuning is the same process with a lot more clicking. Start with low-G tuning then click the down arrow on each of the little tuner boxes five times to give you D3, G3, B3 and E4. Then you click the down arrow, give the tuning a name and you’ll be to use it at any point in the future.
Making Ukulele Chords
There are a couple of ways to add chord charts to the tab. By default it’ll put the chord name above the stave and show all the chords used underneath the song title, artist etc.
The first way is to find the location of the chord change on the tab then click this little Am guitar chord:
That brings up a box that lets you select or create your chord. It’s pre-populated with the notes in the tab at the position you’ve selected.
The other method uses the sidebar that pops up when you click the big C7 in the far left. You’ll see a box with a dotted outline and a plus sign. Click that and it’ll bring up the same chord maker used in the first method. Make your chords there and you can add them to the tab at any point you select.
Whichever way you create the chords they’ll end up in that sidebar. It’s a much easier way of adding the same chord at many places in the tab.
I’d recommend adding some common ukulele chords there in the sidebar. They are saved as part of the template that we’re setting up so they’ll be there for any new tab you create. Mine has all the major, minor and 7 chords (arranged in circle of fifths order so chords that are played together are close together).
By default Guitar Pro uses slash chords for the chord names. This is less than ideal for ukulele chords so I recommend going to preferences (Guitar Pro > Preferences on Mac or File > Preferences on Windows) and unchecking “Add the bass note to the chord’s name…”.
If you want your chord diagrams above the tab itself rather than all at the beginning you can change that by going to Files > Stylesheet then tick “Diagrams in the score”.
Changing the Sizes and Other Styles
I find the default sizing of ukulele tabs to be a little small. You can bump it up by going to File > Stylesheet. The option for “Global score proportions” is 6 by default. I like to set it to 8.
There are a whole heap of options in the Stylesheet. I recommend having a look through to see what’s there. There might be a few things you want to change straight away. And there’ll be others you’ll find you want to change as you make tabs.
Saving a Ukulele Template
Now you’ve done all the hard work setting the tab up you can save it to use any time you want it.
Just go to File > Save template as… then give it a name and save it in the templates folder.
Now when you go to File > New Score you’ll see your new setup there.
If this is going to be the setup you use most often then you can make it the default. Go to the preferences screen and change the “Default template” to the one you’ve just made.
Once you’ve done that you can start a new ukulele tab with your preferred settings by clicking this little button at the top left:
If you don’t want to go through that palaver here’s the template I use:
To add it, unzip the file. Then open Guitar Pro and select File > Open and find it on your computer. Make any changes you like, save it as a template and set it as the default.
Changing Bar Layout
Guitar Pro does try to automatically layout the bars in your tab in a sensible way. But I always do some tweaking to get it right.
You can bring up the bar arranger by clicking on this tiny button with the blue triangle at the bottom of the window:
That gives you the options to increase or decrease the number of bars on a line and lets you adjust the width of each bar.
Better still, you can change how many bars on every line of the tab. Go to Bar > System Layout… and select the “Fixed bar count per system” radio button. I like to go with either two or three bars per line depending on the piece. If you select “Same size for all bars” then they’ll be nicely lined up through the whole tab.
Transposing to Ukulele
It’s easy to transfer tabs from guitar (or bass or whatever) to ukulele. You just copy it from the original tab and paste it into a ukulele tab.
The big problem you’ll come across is that most guitar parts will have notes that are too low to played on the ukulele. These are just turned into rests by Guitar Pro. You need to transpose the tab up into the ukulele’s range.
You can transpose any piece of tab by selecting the part you want to transpose then going to Tools > Transpose. That brings up a box with a few options. Choose how many semitones up you want to transpose it (one semitone = one fret) then OK it. You can also transpose the whole track (by selecting “All bars”) or all the instruments in the tab (“All tracks”).
There are a couple of ways you can approach transposing to ukulele. If you don’t care about what key it is in, find the lowest note in the tab and work out how much you have to transpose it upwards until it reaches the C of a ukulele (or whatever the lowest note you’ve got in the tuning you’re using).
If you want to keep it in the same key you need to transpose the track up by an octave (+12). It’s possible you’ll still have notes that are too low. In that case, transpose up another octave.
Thanks to it’s reentrant tuning, the ukulele is a tricky instrument to transpose to. There are so many ways to play the same series of notes on a ukulele. Because of that when you transpose into ukulele tuning you’re going to have to do some rearranging of notes to get it playable in a sensible way.
Slash Notation Weirdness
Guitar Pro’s slash notation (used to show strums) doesn’t play well with ukulele tab. The chord names overlap with the stems of the notes. Like this:
But slash notation looks exactly the same for guitar as it does ukulele. So make your slash notation on a guitar tab (the notes don’t matter at all) and that fixes the problem.
It’s been a long time so I’m not sure of the defaults for Guitar Pro. But I’d highly recommend making sure of these settings:
– Back up every  actions: I have it set to every five actions. It’s saved my arse a few times.
– Add the bass notes to the chord name…: Turn it off for ukulele chords. They’re useful for guitar slash chords but on the ukulele they’re just unnecessarily confusing.
– Play sound when editing: I find it helps me to pick up on any mistakes I make.
Tips for Exporting
I find the best way to export tabs is to go with PDFs. They’re very shareable, downloadable, don’t require any special software and can be viewed on pretty much any device. And Guitar Pro handles them very well.
It doesn’t handle images so well though. It does export lower quality png files with a grey background. That’s pretty much ideal for use on my blog (it makes them quick to download and the grey matches the background of the site). But it’s definitely not ideal for all occasions.
If you want high-quality, white-background images the best way I know of is to export a PDF. Then export the PDF as an image (I do this in Preview on the Mac: Go to File > Export… and in the Format dropdown box choose your preferred image type).
You can also export your tab as a Guitar Pro file. This is great if you’re collaborating with someone or are looking to give other people the chance to build on your tab.
Unfortunately, the file format used by GP6, .gpx, is tightly locked down. I haven’t seen any other tab software that’s able to import it. However, many can open .gp5 files. So this is the best way to share Guitar Pro files.
You can create them by going to File > Export > GP5…
I like to keep it pretty varied on Uke Hunt but I think this is the first modern, mainstream country song I’ve written up. That’s thanks to the dominance of formulaic, disingenuous bro-country. But with its 6/8 time signature, southern soul influenced vocals and Albatrossy guitar work (the two songs have the same relative chord progression as well) Tenneesee Whiskey makes for a very nice change of pace.
You can use this strum almost all the time:
d – d u d –
The only time you need to mix it up is on the short Asus4 chord. There I use:
d u – u d –
Together they sound like this:
Here’s tab for a uke version of the Albatrossy intro:
This is one of those cases where transposing from guitar to ukulele is very easy. If a line is played on the E- and A-strings of the guitar (i.e. the bottom two) then you can transfer them directly to the E- and A-strings of the ukulele.
Gus Raucous leads a version of New Order’s Blue Monday played on 1930s instruments for the BBC.
The Boston Globe explores the roots of Aaron Copland’s Ukulele Serenade.
Happy St Patrick’s Day! To celebrate I arranged my favourite song by my second favourite Irish songwriter (can’t can The Van).
One of the things I love about arranging tunes is noticing little things that completely passed me by listening casually. I didn’t realise that the melody in the chorus shifts against the chords. The basic chords though the whole song are Am-F-C-G. The first, “Is that alright?” is on the Am and later it’s on the F chord. Of course, I completely ruin it by arranging them both exactly the same way.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow (Thursday) still plenty of time to work up a Irish tune or two.
The Dubliners and The Pogues – The Irish Rover
Imelda May/Blondie – Dreaming
The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
The Pogues – Fiesta
The Pogues – Irish Rover
The Pogues – Sally MacLennane
The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
Van Morrison – Keep It Simple
Father Ted Theme
Lisa Hannigan – Knots
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – Falling Slowly
The Irish Washerwoman
John King – Larry O’Gaff
John King – Swallowtail (Tab)
Thin Lizzy – Boys are Back in Town (Riff)
Turlough O’Carolan/Jonathan Lewis – Loftus Jones
U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Riff) (Tab)
Whiskey in the Jar/Kilgary Mountain
If that’s not enough for you, there’s also Jonathan Lewis’s ebook Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele.
It’s St Patrick’s Day this week and time for the inevitable Pogues post.
If I Should Fall… rollicks along at a rapid pace which makes changing to the E chord tricky. It makes it easier if you play the A to D change the no hassle way or you could use a different version of E.
If you want to avoid the E chord altogether – I wouldn’t blame you – here are the chords with a copo on the second fret (or D-tuning):
You can use this for almost all the song:
d – d – d u d u
Which sounds like this (slow then up to tempo):
The only place you need something different is in the break. Do the main strum on the A, then this once each on the D (or E later in the break) and A:
d u d u
Then back to the main strum for A again.
Here’s tab for a ukulele version of the tune in the intro that crops up a few times in the song:
And here’s how that sounds: