Bob Brozman’s Ukulele Tunes & Techniques Review

Bob Brozman’s Ukulele Tunes & Techniques (DVD)

Bob Brozman is one of my musical heroes. A quick check on YouTube will show you why. It’s not just his playing, it’s his musical philosophizing too. He’s always interesting and often highly quotable (the quote of him on my About page is from this DVD). All that meant that buying this DVD was a bit of a no-brainer for me.

The DVD has Brozman playing through different arrangements of a number of Hawaiian and American tunes tabbed out in the accompanying booklet. Towards the end, he is joined by Hawaiian guitarist and ukulelist Ledward Kaapana. Brozman’s tunes are arranged on D-tuned ukulele and Kaapana’s tunes for low-G ukulele.

The full tab list is:

Hi’ilawe, Meleana’E, The Beach at Waikiki, Ukulele Blues, Sweet Georgia Brown, I’ll See You In My Dreams and Spanish Eyes (Kaapana).

There are also untabbed performances of Ukulele Spaghetti, Tomi Tomi and L&D Slack Key (Kaapana).

The Good Stuff:

Techniques. This DVD was a huge inspiration on my playing. Each time I watch it I’m itching to to try something new I’ve picked up from it.
– Some of the stuff Brozman pulls off is just fantastic to watch and hear.
– There’s a lot to be learnt here about how to use chord inversions and how to incorporate them into chord solos.
– Some very good examples of how to arrange the same song in different ways to keep it interesting.
Ledward Kaapana. He’s a big teddy bear and probably the most adorable man in the world. He also pulls of tricks in L&D Slack Key that are worth the price of admission by themselves.

The Not So Good Stuff:

Tunes. I haven’t learnt a single tune from the DVD. It’s sometimes hard to work out exactly which piece of tab is being played. Sometimes what is being played isn’t tabbed out at all. Brozman turns in a fantastic fingerpicked version of The Beach at Waikiki but all we get tab for is the strummed version. When I watch this DVD I promise myself I’m going to learn one of the songs but it never happens.
Kaapana isn’t a natural teacher. Bob has to play both faux-naif “What ya doing there, Led?” role and the know-it-all teacher role.
Tunings. Bob’s in D-tuning which makes chord names confusing for C-tuners (particularly if they’re a bit slow in the head like me). Led’s in low-G which isn’t really a ukulele.

Overall: Inspirational.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

John King – Classical Ukulele Review

I’ll be taking a look at some of my favourite ukulele books, DVDs and CDs. If you have a favourite ukulele book DVD etc, let us know about it in the comments.

John King – Classical Ukulele (Book and CD)

There’s little doubt that John King is one of the foremost ukulele technicians (just check out his YouTube channel for proof). He spent many years playing the classical guitar and not only brings the classical repertoire to the ukulele but also brings the classical technique and approach to playing. He’s very big on the ‘campanella’ style – playing one note per string and letting them ring into each other – and uses it throughout the book.

Classical Ukulele is part of Jim Beloff’s Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Masters series and tabs out 19 of King’s arrangements. Although it’s called ‘Classical Ukulele’, around half the pieces in the book couldn’t be classed as classical. And that’s all to the good since my favourite pieces are the traditional tunes (particularly ‘Alekoki and Tarantella Italiana).

Most of the works in the book are arranged for solo ukulele. One, Rigaudon, is arranged for two ukuleles and five are arranged for ukulele and guitar.

The book comes with a CD of all the tabs. King plays a Fluke (which is a blow to those of us who think we’d sound that good if only we were playing a DaSilva special).

You can get a flavour of the style and difficulty with the tabs he has put up on his site.

Full list of tabs:

An Air From County Derry (Danny Boy), Greensleeves, Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), The Celebrated Chop Waltz (Chopsticks), Prélude (Op. 28, No. 20), ‘Alekoki, Pupu A‘o ‘Ewa, Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman, Prélude (BWV 846), Ahe Lau Makani, Tarantella Italiana, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Prélude (from BWV 1007), Rigaudon, Für Elise, Menuett, La Carolina, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, The Entertainer

Good stuff:
– The arrangements are the most elegant I’ve ever seen on the ukulele.
– They’re a good challenge for an intermediate player.
– The CD is great. I’ve listened to it for pleasure a number of times.
– It’s a masterclass in the ‘campanella’ style and has been a big influence on how I arrange tunes for the uke.

Not so good stuff:
– If you’ve read his articles on Nalu Music , you’ll know that King is one of the most engaging and knowledgeable ukulele writers there is. I’d have liked to have seen some of that in the book.
– The campanella style can sound a bit weak. I would have preferred beefed-up uke arrangements to guitar accompaniment.
– A bit more guidance on what the right hand should be doing would have helped me.
– Chopsticks?

Suitable for: Intermediate to advanced. Those who like to get stuck in to some tricky and challenging pieces.

Overall: best ukulele tab book I’ve ever bought.

If you have this book, leave a comment letting us know your opinion.

More Christmas gifts for ukulele players

Lessons I Learned from Bob Brozman

I’m on a little break at the moment (back on the 14th May) but I had to get a post up celebrating the music of Bob Brozman – who died last week – by listing just a few of the things I learnt from him.

Brozman was a huge inspiration for me. So much so he was one of the few things that could get me to leave my Unabomber-style shack and venture into the real world. His ukulele-only set at the Wukulele Festival in 2010 reinvigorated me.

And I’m certainly not the only one. Bob became a big part of the ukulele scene appearing at festivals – he was due to play this year’s Ukulele Boudoir Festival – giving ukulele workshops around his home state of California and releasing many ukulele instruction DVDs inspiring ukers all over the world.

The Ukulele is Exciting

I first saw Bob Brozman live in 2000 and it was a complete revelation for me. In terms of making music in general and the ukulele specifically. I already owned a ukulele but only messed around with it. His uke tour d’force, Ukulele Spaghetti (from Blue Hula Stomp) convinced me it was a much more interesting instrument than I’d realised. And my commitment to playing it well increased from that point.

You can find UkuleleDav’s tabs for Ukulele Spaghetti here.

How to Avoid a Rut

Bob played music for 50 years, never got bored and was always stretching his playing. To keep his playing fresh and himself excited, he was always exploring the world, new instruments and new ways of playing.

He started off as a bluesman before falling in love with Hawaiian music – producing an incredible album with Cyril Pahinui and many collaborations with Ledward Kaapana. From there he spread out to jam with and learn from players of the uilleann pipes , accordion, chaturangui and many more.

The video above is a typically international jam with Takashi Hirayasu from Okinawa on sanshin and Djeli Moussa Diawara from Guinea on kora. But was also one of the finest proponants of homegrown American music as one of Robert Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders.

If you ever find yourself bored with playing there’s always new genres, areas of the world and instruments to inspire you.

Where the Interesting Music Is

Being an active ethnomusicologist, he came up with plenty of theories on how music developed and where the best music could be found.

A recurring theme in Bob’s collaborations was islands. Collaborating with musicians from Hawaii, Reunion, Ireland, Okinawa and Papua New Guinea amongst many others. I asked him what was so special about islands, “Musical instruments and ideas, not always 100% perfectly expressed and understood, arrive on islands from distant places and cultures, percolate in isolation on the island, then emerge as new hybrid music. That plus the strength of nature so evident on islands makes for wonderful new music. Hawaii was one of the first “laboratories” for this phenomenon.”

He also, “started to realise that all the interesting music is happening at the frontiers of colonialism. Where the guitars have arrived.” (interview with His friend and producer Daniel Thomas (quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinal): “He was always interested in what happens when a guitar is left behind in some culture or on some island with no instructions on how to use it, and how it adapts to what that culture feels is consonant.”

Learn Your Chord Inversions

The biggest thing I learned from his DVD Ukulele Tunes and Techniques was to make better use of chord inversions. A theme he continued in his Uke Toolbox DVDs.

As ukulele players we tend to just play chords around the first few frets. But by venturing higher up the neck you can instantly make your playing much more interesting. Particularly if you’re playing with other ukers.

It made me see past the restrictions of the ukulele opened me up to chords, inversions and rhythms that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

There’s a World of Ukulele-like Instruments

Bob was a big proponant of the charango. Which he referred to as the “Bolivian super-ukulele.” And it’s not the only uke-similar instrument I came to through him. From Debashish Bhattacharya playing a four-string lap-steel anandi to the three-string sanshin played by Takashi Hirayasu.

How to Flip Cliches

From Jim D’Ville’s 3 questions with Bob Brozman: “Build a man a fire and you keep him warm for the night. Set him on fire and you keep him warm for the rest of his life.”

My interview with Bob Brozman.
Bob Brozman Spotify playlist
Bob and other ukulele masters showing off.

35 Things You’re Missing

The amount of ukulele stuff on the net is swelling rapidly. I spend most of my day trying to keep up and I still miss loads. So here’s a list of uke goodies you may have missed because they are nowhere near as popular as they should be. If there’s something you think I should be made aware of, please do leave a comment.

Ten Ukulele Sites That Aren’t in the Top 25 But Should Be

Taken from the Top 50 Ukulele Sites

1. Ukulele Languages

Armelle’s world tour of ukulele is only just outside the top 25. She has a great range of non-English and English language videos alike.

2. Humble Uker Ramblings

You haven’t noticed how often ‘Via Humble Uker’ turns up on the Saturday UkeTube?

3. Play Ukulele by Ear

Jim D’Ville travels the world interviewing ukulelists about their approach to music and provides invaluable information about the most widely used chord progressions.

4. Ukulele Dav
5. Descordes et Dubois

Two French sites with some excellent tabs.

6. The Backwards Ukulele Player

Michael has a real knack for finding great old news stories and pictures.

7. Ukulele Secrets

A relatively new blog from UkuleleTim promising to teach you, “how to play ukulele like a badass.”

8. Ken Middleton
9. Ukulele Bartt

Two ukers offering tabs and playing advice on their sites.

10. Ukulele Brasil

A few years back I’d get emails from Brazilians unable to find a ukulele amongst the cavaquinhos. Good to see that’s changing.

10 Posts Fewer Than 500 People Have Seen This Year

1. Rod Thomas – Same Old Lines
2. Ukulelezo – Optional Accessory

How quickly people forget, eh. Rod Thomas was the 2008 Ukulele Video of the Year and Ukulelezo was the 2008 Bushman Contest Winner.

3. The Fall – Theme From Sparta FC

Let me explain the story of the Fall-feit: I posted I’m Yours, against my better judgment, to stop the cavalcade of requests. Less than two hours after it went live, I was being taken, unconscious, to hospital. Realising I had angered the indie gods, I pledged to do a post on the most indie band there ever was whenever I posted something suspiciously popular.

4. The Elected – At Home (Time Unknown)

I only posted this because I had a bunch of requests and now no one reads it. Typical!

5. Kate Micucci Interview

If you’re ever wondering why I don’t do many interview posts anymore it’s because, no matter how famous the interviewee, no one ever reads them.

6. Shorty Long – Viper Mad
7. Mirah – Take Me Out Riding

Two great songs probably suffering from the fact they a) aren’t very well known and b) don’t have a video on YouTube for me to embed.

8. GUGUG – Get Carter

Plenty of GUGUG in the more popular posts. But not this one.

9. Jack Pepper – Girl of My Dreams

His musical talents were enough to attract Ginger Rogers, but not to attract any views.

10. The Blockheads – A Little Knowledge

The Blockheads without Ian Dury really isn’t the Blockheads.

10 YouTubers with Under 300 Subscribers Who Should Have Thousands

1. KestonCobblersClub

Loveable, tuneful folkies. Top band.

2. lololobotomy (Lila Burns)

Kimya Dawson-style songs with touching and insightful lyrics.

3. DianeRubio
4. SanfordAndSong

Two top-notch instrumentalists.

5. BenMealer

Old-school songs made fresh.

6. Phredd

So much fun your pants will explode.

7. UkesNotDead

Jeremy Kyle-loving star of Uke Hunt Podcast #6

8. NicholasAbersold

Writer of adorable songs.

9. Machitz (Roberto Moritz)
10. Machetista (Roberto Moniz)

Two Madeiran masters of the uke-precussor the machete.

5 Books Amazon Keeps Hidden

Search for ukulele books on Amazon (US) and you won’t find these on the first page.

1. 101 Ukulele Licks by Lil Rev

I wrote a full review here .

2. The Classical Ukulele by John King

Full review here.

3. Famous Solos and Duets for Ukulele by John King

My review here.

4. The Ukulele: A Visual History by Jim Beloff

My review here.

5. Ukulele for Dummies by The World’s Handsomest Ukulele Blogger

It’s not even out yet, so I can’t complain. It’s more favourably placed in the UK store. I wrote all about Ukulele for Dummies here.

Fingerstyle Solos for ‘Ukulele by Mark Kailana Nelson Review

I’ve had a copy of Learn to Play Fingerstyle Solos for ‘Ukulele by Mark Kailana Nelson (Mel Bay) for an absolute age. And I’ve got a lot of pleasure out of it. So it’s long past time I gave it a write-up.

What You Get

Tab and standard notation intended for high-G tuning (although 13 of them can be played on baritone or low-G according to the book) for

Ahi Wela (which you can download tab for on his site)
All Through the Night
Aloha ‘Oe
Blue ‘Ukulele Blues
Danny Boy
Dona Nobis Pacem
E Ku’u Morning Dew
Hilo March
Isa Lei
Kaulana Na Pua
Las Mananitas
Mbube (Wimoweh)
Minuet in G
New Spanish Fandango
Over the Rainbow
Planxty Irwin
Pua Sadinia
The Ragged Little Flea
The Southwind
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Wehiwehi ‘Oe

As the title suggests, it’s all fingerpicking.

It comes with a CD with a recording of each arrangement (but no tuning notes).

You get brief guides to reading music and tab (probably not enough if you’re entirely new to them but a decent reference) and fingerpicking; performance notes for each piece and a list of chord inversions.

The Good Stuff

Perfect for Intermediates: I think this is the best book around for intermediate players who are experienced with chords and want to start tackling fingerpicking pieces. Each track has some performance notes that are going to offer you some guidance.

And the tunes are arranged fairly simply.

There’s a lot of crossover between the tunes in this book and those in, the more advanced, John King’s Classical Ukulele. They make for an interesting comparison. Here are the opening bars of Greensleeves arranged in Fingerstyle Solos (at the top) and Classical Ukulele (at the bottom) in the same key.

Mark Nelson’s version is much easier to play but less elegant.

Mbube (aka Wimoweh aka The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and Over the Rainbow: Easily my two favourite arrangements in the book. Over the Rainbow is particularly useful for occasions when someone you want to impress requests it.

FYI: Using Over the Rainbow to impress a potential suitor: acceptable. Using I’m Yours or Hey, Soul Sister to impress a potential suitor: entirely unacceptable. Using Wimoweh to impress a potential suitor: very much encouraged.

The Not So Good Stuff

Lack of Variety: You might have noticed I like to play uptempo tunes. Unfortunately, Fingerstyle Solos for ‘Ukulele is very heavy towards the slow, light tunes. There’s very little fast tempo stuff.

Not always carefully arranged: Some of the position choices in the book completely baffle me. For example, here are the opening notes for Planxty Irwin:

I can’t see any reason for that big jump between 3rd and 8th fret when you could play the C note much more easily on the g or E strings.

I have found myself rearranging a lot of the tunes in the book to suit my own style. Not necessarily a bad thing.


Definitely a recommended book for people looking to start of fingerpicking. Also a lot of fun to use as a basis for your own arrangements of tunes.

You can get a free arrangement from the book on his site.

Buy it on Amazon

Classical Ukulele Tabs

First off, if you’re interested in playing classical music on the ukulele then John King’s The Classical Ukulele is an absolute must.

But here are some of my efforts:

Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
Carl Orff – O Fortuna from Carmina Burana
Chopin – Funeral March
Danse Macabre
Ferdinando Carulli – Andante
God Save the Queen, Rule Britannia
Masaniello, Galope
Ode To Joy: Easy Classical Strumming
Ode to Joy: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Version
Ranz de Vaches “>Ranz de Vaches
Sakura Sakura
Waltz, Danca Camponeza

I’ve also done an ebook of classical ukulele tabs:

How to Play Classical Ukulele

And there’s Wilfried Welti’s excellent book of classical tabs.

Campanella: The Best Way to Play Ukulele?

If you’ve been following my fingerstyle arrangements for a while you’ll have noticed – and probably been frustrated by – how much jumping between strings goes on. It’s certainly not the easiest ways to arrange tunes but it’s very effective and gives the uke a harp-like sound of close harmony notes ringing into each other.

What is Campenella?

The campenella technique was developed for the ukulele by John King who took long forgotten techniques for playing re-entrant instruments and gave them new life. In this style of playing you play one note of the melody on each string and let them ring into each other.

If you can avoid it, you never play two consecutive notes on the same string.

Here’s a standard way of playing a melody:

And here’s how you could play it campanellla style:

To get the full effect, it’s vital that you let the notes ring together. So you want to have your fretting hand moving as little as possible – holding chord shapes rather than playing single notes – and have your picking hand doing most of the work.

Why Play This Way?

The harp is my absolute favourite instrument (take a listen to Savourna Stevenson). If I had been richer and not so lazy as a kid you’d reading an article on Harp Hunt about how to make your harp sound like a ukulele.

I love to recreate that sound of notes cascading into each other on the uke.

It also creates a sound that is unique to the ukulele. Of course a uke is never going to sound like a harp. Playing single notes on the uke can often just sound like a guitar played high up the neck. Whereas the campanella sound couldn’t be achieved recreated quite the same on any other instrument.

How Do You Arrange This Way?

The way I do it is trial and error. When you play this way there are any number of different ways a simple line could be played.

The example we looked at earlier could also be played like this:

Or like this:

Finding the right one depends on a combination of playability, fluidity and note emphasis.

It’s also well worth keeping an eye out for open strings you could use. These will give you an opportunity to change positions whilst keeping a note ringing.

Campanella Arrangements

If you’re looking to play some campanella arrangements you have to get John King’s Classical Ukulele.

Some campanella arrangements on this site:

Sailor’s Hornpipe
Larry O’Gaff

Advanced Ukulele Lessons

Once you’ve got to grips with the tabs in the intermediate section, it’s time to move up to playing some full tunes.

Step 1: New Tabs and Techniques

Strum blocking
Fingering and repeats
Advanced strums and rhythms
Hammer-ons and pull-offs
Advanced repeats, accents and trills
Vibrato, grace notes and bends
String bending tips

Extra Credit: Harmonics on a ukulele

Step 2: Full Tune Tabs

Theme tunes to films, games and TV shows provide a great test for your tab playing abilities and give your something instantly recognisable to play for friends and family.

Indiana Jones
Super Mario Theme
Godfather Theme
Good the Bad and the Ugly
The Office

Extra Credit: Get more tab arrangements for more popular instrumentals in the ebooks How to Play National Anthems and How to Play Ukuleles for Peace.

Step 3: Make your own arrangements

Once you’ve got the hang of other people’s arrangements of tunes, have a go at making your own.

– Here’s my tutorial for While My Guitar Gently Weeps in the hopes that you’ll work up your own rather than apeing Jake’s.
Combining melody and chords.

Extra Credit: Learn how to read sheet music to expand your repetoire.

Step 4: Finger Twisters

Tricky tabs:

Sigur Ros – Hoppipolla
Sailors’ Hornpipe
In the Mood
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music for a Found Harmonium
James Bond Theme (difficult version)

More tricky ukulele tabs

Nightmare tabs:

Iron and Wine – Naked As We Came
Nick Drake – Cello Song
Radiohead – Street Spirit

More Nightmare tabs

Extra Credit: Check out John King’s Classical Ukulele, Mark Nelson’s Fingerstyle Solos for ‘Ukulele and my ebook for some fingerpicking challenges.

Famous Solos & Duets for the ‘Ukulele by John King – Review

I’m a huge fan of John King’s Classical Ukulele book (in an, “OMG!!!1! It changed the way I think about the ukulele,” way). So it was only a matter of time before I picked up his Famous Solos and Duets for ‘Ukulele as well.

The book contains tab and standard notation for 22 tunes (18 solo pieces, 2 ukulele duets and 2 ukulele/guitar duets) and comes with a CD of the tunes faultlessly performed. Most of them are Hawaiian tunes and, despite the cover proclaiming ‘arranged by John King’, many of the arrangements are by the original ukulele arrangers such as Ernest Ka’ai and N. B. Bailey

The full tab list is:

Loke Lani by Ernest Ka’ai Arr. by John King
Haele by Ernest Ka’ai
Hone A Ka Wai by Ernest Ka’ai
Polka-Mazurka by Ernest Ka’ai Arr. by Henry Kailimai
Ka Wehi by Ernest Ka’ai
Funiculi-Funicula by Luigi Denza Arr. by N. B. Bailey
Hene by Henry Kailimai
Ahi Wela by Arr. by Keoki E. Awai
Spanish Fandango by Henry Worrall Arr. by N. B. Bailey
The Blue Bells Of Scotland by Arr. by T. H. Rollinson
Leilani by Ernest Ka’ai
Banjo Schottische by Ernest K. Ka’ai
Lauia by Henry Kailimai Arr. by Ernest Ka’ai
Wailana by Malie Kaleikoa Arr. by Keoki E. Awai

The Good Stuff

Lovely Tunes: For the most part, the pieces are beautiful, lilting Hawaiian tunes. They’re pleasurable to play and repay attention to dynamics and touch – something that I’m definitely guilty of neglecting.

Strummed and Picked: There are quite a few strummed tunes in the book. And the strummed arrangements are just as much of a challenge as the picked tunes. They involve a whole load of tricky techniques which are explained in the introduction.

Range of Difficulty: While it’s not for beginners, there’s a good mix of difficultly in the tabs. Some, like Hene, you can have a reasonable stab at playing on sight. Others are very challenging.

Introduction: John King is probably the best writer on the history of the ukulele there’s ever been. The lack of his writing in Classical Ukulele is one of my few complaints I have about it. It’s not a complaint that could be made about this book. There’s a big chunk of ukulele history and ukulele tab history (a delight for me, but I’m the world’s biggest uke tab nerd) at the beginning and it’s a great read.

The Not So Good Stuff

Famous?: Despite spending a lot of time playing tunes from the book, there is a noticeable lack of people saying, “Hey, was that Hone A Ka Wai you were playing just then?” I must admit that before getting the book you could count the number of tunes in the book I could confidently hum on the fingers of one finger.

Duets: It’s a little light on the duets, if that’s what you’re looking for. As it happens, there are more duets in the Classical Ukulele book. Luckily, I have no friends anyway.

Tuning: The notation is for a C-tuned ukulele, yet the ukuleles on the recording switch between D-tuning and D#-tuning.

No Campanella – The arrangements are excellent. They sound great and are very playable. But the don’t have the distinctive harp-like sound of the arrangements in Classical Ukulele.


It’s probably not fair of me to keep comparing this to Classical Ukulele. I regard those arrangements as a work of genius.

This book is really a tribute to the original ukulele arrangers – Ernest Ka’ai in particular – and it has given me a whole new appreciation for those musicians who took the instrument and created new techniques and a new repertoire for it. Playing the pieces the way they played them gives me a more direct connection with its history than any amount of reading. Well worth the price of admission.

If you’ve got the book, let me know what you think in the comments.

Buy Famous Solos & Duets for the ‘Ukulele on Amazon

John King – Larry O’Gaff (Tab)

John King – Larry O’Gaff (Tab)

I’ve spent hours and hours examining John King’s arrangements (particularly his Classical Ukulele book) and working out he decided to play things a certain way. I’ll always regret not emailing him and asking him a for an interview (although I’ve recently discovered that emailing your heroes can be a bit disappointing).

I had lengthy discussions with Ken Middleton about the opening run of this tune. I couldn’t believe that John King would play two consective notes on the same string. The only other time he does it in this piece is on the lower reaches of the C string where he doesn’t have a choice. But it is very difficult to get the phrase fluent any other way (and it’s still tricky the way it’s played).

And it’s not the only tricky passage. One part I had big trouble with is bar 28/29. So I play it like this in my version of the tune:

larry o gaff john king tab

Buy John King’s The Classical Ukulele (And you really should – it’s the best ukulele tab book around)

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