How I’m Improving My Sound

I’ve been working on slowly improving my sound the last couple of years. It’s still very much an ongoing process and I’m certainly not an expert. But a few people have asked about it on YouTube, so I thought I’d rundown the gear I use when I make videos.


This part has been unchanged for a long time. Almost all my videos are done with a tenor Ohana TK-35G or a tenor KoAloha Sceptre. And I use clear Worth strings for the most part.


I’m using an Audio Technica AT2020 USB. Mostly because it’s super-easy to use.


AKA the thing you record in. Until recently, I’ve been using Garageband (the free software that comes with Macs). But I upgraded to Apple’s Logic Pro X (thanks Patreons!).

Basic Effects

These are effects I use on every video. Unless it says otherwise, they’re the stock effect in Logic.

Noise Reduction

I just use Logic’s built in noise reduction. I keep this at a fairly low level so it doesn’t cut out any ukulele sound.


EQ allows you to adjust the volume of different frequencies (i.e. the pitch of the note). The pros do all sorts of fancy things with EQ, but I just do two things with it. I scoop out anything below the range of the ukulele which cuts down on low end noise. And I boost the high end of the ukulele so it’s more balanced with the lower notes (which tend to be louder).

Here’s an example with no EQ then EQed:



At their simplest, compressors reduce the volume of loud sounds and increase the volume of quiet sounds. That’s particularly useful for ukuleles as it can increase the length of the uke’s sustain. Just don’t overdo it because compression will reduce the dynamics of your performance and can increase the amount of noise.

Here’s an example of two notes without compression then with:



Reverb adds echo to your sound to create the illusion you’re in a pristine acoustic space rather than a Unabomber-style shack. Reverb sounds great. Which makes it very easy and tempting to overdo. And I have overdone it many times in past.

I’ve used the built in Garageband/Logic reverb but I’m currently using Raum.

Here’s an example with no reverb, the amount of reverb I like to use, too much reverb and way, way, way too much reverb:


Other Effects

These are effects that I either use occasionally or just use for fun.

Stereo Panning Tremolo

Tremolo rhythmically increases and decreases the volume of what you’re playing. Like in the intro of How Soon is Now?. But some tremolos can offset the volume changes between the left and right speaker to make it sound like the track is moving from left to right.

It’s useful to turn a mono sound into a stereo one. But you have to be subtle with it if you’re just recording one instrument. I find it works best when you have a steady picking pattern.


Brainworx Stereomaker

The Brainworx Stereomaker is another effect that turns a mono track into a stereo one. But this one does it by means that are beyond my ken.

I’ve only recently picked this one up but you can hear it on the I Know the End video. I haven’t decided whether it’s going get a permanent place in my DAW. I like the sound but I’ll have to learn how to tweak it to my taste.


Don’t pay full price for this. It goes on sale regularly. I picked it up for $10.


I don’t think I’ve ever used delay in a video but it’s a fun thing to play around with. You can use delay to create a complex sound from a very simple pattern. In the example below I’m using a dotted-eighth note delay to create an U2-ish sound.

If you want something wild, check out the free Valhalla Super Massive plugin.


Avril Lavigne – Sk8er Boi (Tabs)

Avril Lavigne – Sk8er Boi (Tab)

Before I get thrown in music jail, this was not my idea.

To be fair, unlike the lyrics, the music of Sk8er Boi does have a few things to recommend it. I do enjoy the move from Em to Eb while keeping the two note riff on the A-string. And the chorus is undeniably catchy.

I went into this tab expecting it to be pretty straight-forward. But there are a few tricky twists in this arrangement. The trickiest bit comes in bars 18-19 with the pinkie playing the 10th fret. I tried a few different ways of playing this section and couldn’t come up with anything that felt natural.


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Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End (Tabs)

Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End (Tab)

This is one of my favourite songs of last year and no amount of boomer wailing is going to convince me otherwise. I’m also a big fan of her policy of wearing her jammies for every media appearance for the last year.

The song starts out very simple with an F-Bbmaj7 chord progression in the verses. The picking pattern is very ramshackle. I’m just using whatever falls nicely. With the melody mostly played with alternate picking. The rhythm of the melody does get a little complex. So I recommend listening to the original recording and following that rather than trying to read the rhythms.

Once the middle hits, things speed up but get much more simple rhythmically. I start introducing more strums here with just the melody notes picked.


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UkeTube: Ryo Natoyama, Adrian Demain

Watch on YouTube

Ryo Natoyama – Absolute Zero
Adrian Demain – Shadowplay
Tune-Yards – Cannonball
Sarah Moyer – Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life
Izumi Pahepuaokalani – Lei Kiele
Blue Dean Carcione – Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars
Gwendolyn Fitz – Caught Up in My Mind
KimaMusic – Breaking & Entering
Bailey Rushlow – Don’t Dream it’s Over

Friday Links: Lemon Nash, Eurovision and Ponzi Schemes

New Astraluna EP The Pass Of Storms

On Video
1960 interview with jazz and blues ukulelist Lemon Nash.
Germany’s ukulele-heavy Eurovision entry.

@ukeist has been posting some great pictures recently including Charles “Ponzi Scheme” Ponzi and Schoonmaker’s Drugstore 1931.
Ukulele Ike with Buster Keaton and Sally Eilers.

Window Shopping
Johnny Winter inspired Firebird Ukulele by RIGuitars.
60s Kamaka Tiki uke with a tiki-guy on the headstock.
– Cheekily branded Y’Ke Ke ukulele from the 1930s.


A massive thanks to Uke Hunt’s Patreon backers for keeping the site up and running. And double thanks go to March’s Tenor backers:

– Arthur Foley
– Ben Beckwith
– Colleen Petticrew
– Dan
– David Burt
– Elizabeth Beardsley
– Fiona Keane
– Jeff K.
– Katherine Penney
– Kie77
– Leia-lee Doran
– Lisa Johnson
– Margie Peres
– Mr Daniel Barclay
– Nick Parsons
– Olga deSanctis
– Pat Weikle
– Pauline LeBlanc
– Sandi Clement
– Suzy Cramer
– Thorsten Neff
– Trevor Mccravy

Frightened Rabbit – I Wish I Was Sober (Tabs)

Frightened Rabbit – I Wish I Was Sober (Tab)

I recorded this video last year for the anniversary of Scott Hutchison’s death. And I’ve been a little reluctant to get around to the tab as I’m still cut up about it.

The trickiest part of the arrangement comes in the bridge. In this section, I’m trying to combine the guitar riff and the vocals so there are two melodies to keep track of at once. The fretting in some places isn’t intuitive, so check the video if you find yourself getting tangled up.

And be sure to keep a steady tempo when the chorus hits so you don’t do what I did and speed up horrendously.

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The Woodpile tab
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O du lieber Augustin/Hail to the Bus Driver (Tabs)

O du lieber Augustin (Tab)

O du lieber Augustin is a short and sweet waltz from 17th Century Vienna. It’s a real earworm that’s been repurposed for everything from symphonies to children’s songs all over the world. My first encounter with it came in The Simpsons. But I was inspired to do a version after watching the absolutely wild movie Funeral Parade of Roses.

The tune is fun, super-simple and uses only two chords. Just make sure to give it a bounce to give it an oompah waltz feel. You can do that by playing the second and third beats staccato i.e. muting them shortly after picking them instead of letting them ring (where they’re not part of the melody).


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The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry (Tabs)

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry (Tabs)

I went into this one expecting it to be tricky. But it all fell quite nicely once I transposed it into C. The riff works very well and is an absolute classic (even if I can’t shake the feeling it’s a bit 90s daytime TV theme).

For my version, I worked from the ’79 version which I didn’t realise until after is subtly different from the 80s video version. The biggest difference is in the bridge section. The video version has harmonised vocals and ascends on the “more”s at the end. While the single version is a single vocal line and descends at the end.

The chord move F-Em-Dm at the end of the riff is very quick. You can make it easier by keeping your middle finger free on the F chord. Leaving open to play the Em. Here’s the fingering I use for that section:


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UkeTube: Rita Payes, Krista Muir

Watch on YouTube

Anthony Kauka Stanley – Rocky Theme
Rita Payés i Elisabeth Roma – Oración del remanso
Krista Muir – Concrete Lovesong
Jarmo Julkunen – Close To You / Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On Your Head
4stringboy – Street Spirit
Ari Chi – Gang Over Luv
James Hill – Eucalipstick
Eliel Carvalho – Asa Branca
garazfunk – Step Two
williwaw – standing like a tree for me

Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (Tabs)

Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (Tabs)

I’m still to entirely sure this one works but it is fun to play. There’s very little melody in the song. So this arrangement is heavily chord-based. But you can style it out, especially if the listener knows the song and is singing along in their head.

The verses and choruses are talk-sung. So there I play the chords in the rhythm of the vocals. The bridge has just two notes: F (A-string, 8th fret) and E (A-string, 7th fret). They’re both in the chords they’re sung over, so there’s little to do here either. The outro has a long descending melody. All but one are the root notes of the chords they’re sung over. So the only addition to the chords is an A note (g-string, 2nd fret) over the B minor chord.

The only tricky bit is the solo. But if you hurl yourself into it and make sure the bends are out of tune it’ll work out fine.

By the way, the timing is this one incidental. I started working on it before the recent blow-up because every day is a good day to overthrow unelected leaders.


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