Learning Ukulele with Curt

The Latest News

Take a look at the Updated Site Pages to get a detailed rundown of which pages have been recently UPDATED or are NEW . LearningUkulele.com covers more than just the Lessons , Books , Songs , Books , Lesson Series .

1st `Ukulele Lesson Updated

Published: June 17, 2024Updated: June 17, 2024

UPDATEDYour First `Ukulele Lesson – • Let's take a journey with our hypothetical student, the ukulele player in the Uke Groove Trio and tag along for his first few lessons. His name is Bernard or Barney and is just starting out and has a goal of getting better and developing a more in-depth understanding of how music works and how to apply it to the ukulele.

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution, 3rd Edition

Published: June 8, 2024Updated: June 8, 2024

NEW UPDATED 3nd Edition • Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution – UPDATED several fixes, tweaks, and general clean up. Be sure to download the latest version. New A4 size.

This book is FREE for ALL Gold site members.

The understanding of a chord's function within a chord progression or song is the first step in the process of scale selection for improvisation and creating melodies,as well as applying the principles of chords and scale substitution. It’s also the only way that can accurately be used to determine the correct name of a particular chord.

This book focuses on the following:

  • Analysis of Chord Functions within Chord Progressions
  • Scale Selection Based on Chord Function
  • Chord and Scale Substitution Principle

A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z – C Tuning, 2nd Edition

Published: May 2, 2024Updated: June 1, 2024

NEW UPDATED 2nd Edition for ANY Tuning • A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z – Any Tuning, 2nd Edition NEW format for each progression.

This is the edition to get for when you don't need the chord grid suggestions.

This book is FREE for ALL Gold site members.

Studying the blues chord progressions presented in this book will open a wealth of creative possibilities for exploring chord progressions in all styles of music, not just blues.

This volume covers the keys of C Major and C Minor . Each example includes detailed accompanying text explaining the principles behind each progression and its chord substitutions.

Funky Frets & LearningUkulele.com April Festivals

Published: April 15, 2024Updated: April 15, 2024

UPDATED Funky Frets & LearningUkulele.com • Kelly and Curt will bother be at the Memphis Uke-N-Roll Jamboree and Allegheny Ukulele Soirée as a vendor and Curt is performing at Friday night at Allegheny and presenting two workshop Saturday. Plus great jammin' both weekends.

Stop by our vendor table and we will have great deals on ukes and accessories and Curt is bring a lot of his ukulele books.

The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele - Volume I

Published: April 15, 2024Updated: April 15, 2024

UPDATED The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele - Volume I, 2nd Edition • Volume I features the principles of voice leading applied to chord progressions. These principles are explained using chords from The Advanced Guide to Ukulele Chords &nmdash; Vol 1. Chapters with common major and minor Full Diatonic, Partial Diatonic, and Chromatic chord progressions are also included to further explore voice leading principles presented in the book.

All books by Curt Sheller (Learning Ukulele with Curt) are FREE for ALL Gold site members.

A Guide to Ukulele Strums, 3rd Edition

Published: February 28, 2024Updated: March 20, 2024

UPDATED A Guide to Ukulele Strums, 3rd Edition • Learn a variety of strums and rhythmic patterns in wide range of musical styles.

All books by Curt Sheller (Learning Ukulele with Curt) are FREE for ALL Gold site members.

QuickStart Scale Fingers for Ukulele, Ionian/Major Scale, 2nd Edition

Published: February 28, 2024Updated: March 20, 2024

NEW UPDATED QuickStart Scale Fingers for Ukulele, Ionian/Major Scale, 2nd Edition • The first in the series of essential scale. Revising the individual scale series.

All books by Curt Sheller (Learning Ukulele with Curt) are FREE for ALL Gold site members.

This book is C Tuning, High or Low G. Revamping the QuickStart Scale & Arpeggio Series of books — both hard copies and PDF files are available.

QuickStart Scale Fingers for Ukulele: Blues , Pentatonic , Dorian , Mixolydian , Aeolian , have been updated.

This is a big series and includes the Traditional, Contemporary, and Altered scales as well as all the modes. For arpeggios the traditional Major, Minor, Augments, and Diminished are covered.

A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z – C Tuning, 2nd Edition

Published: February 1, 2024Updated: February 6, 2024

NEW UPDATED 2nd Edition for C Tuning – High or Low G. • A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z – C Tuning, 2nd Edition • Minor tweaks and new format for the Example Chords for each progression.

This book is FREE for ALL Gold site members.

This book is a Baritone, G Tuning edition as well.

Studying the blues chord progressions presented in this book will open a wealth of creative possibilities for exploring chord progressions in all styles of music, not just blues.

This volume covers the keys of C Major and C Minor . Each example includes detailed accompanying text explaining the principles behind each progression and its chord substitutions.

The Daily Ukulele Harmonic Analysis Worksheets

Published: December 2, 2023Updated: January 5, 2024

NEW UPDATED Harmonic Analysis Worksheet for: The Daily Ukulele book. Lots of progress on going through The Daily Ukulele book. The A , B , C , D , and F titles are done.

Adding the famous licks, riff, and intros to the songs we know and love. Adding the melody (Standard Music Notation & TAB) for the first phrase for reference. 190+ songs posted as of 5 January 2024.

Here are a few of the NEW and Updated Songs

And many more.

Muse Group acquires Hal Leonard

Published: December 5, 2023Updated: December 5, 2023

Hal Leonard , the legendary sheet music and educational publisher, joins digital leader Muse Group, in a partnership set to revolutionize access to popular music and creator tools for musicians worldwide.

As makers of the world’s most popular online libraries, tools and community spaces for audio creators — including MuseScore , Ultimate Guitar and Audacity — this partnership further solidifies Muse Group’s position as the industry leader in music content and creation. Both Muse Group and Hal Leonard will retain their respective HQs in the USA and Cyprus, and distinct operational expertise.

Links & More Info

This is a big news...

MuseScore , Ultimate Guitar and Audacity are some of a the main programs used right here on LearningUkulele.com.

For I started with Finale, then migrated to Sibelius, and now finally moved everything over to the open-source music notation program MuseScore

New and Updated Lessons & Daily Ukulele Book

Published: November 11, 2023Updated: November 11, 2023

Added the little recognizable licks, riffs, solos, and other goodies to many of the songs in Daily Ukulele — 365 Songs for Better Living Harmonic Analysis Series of Lessons.

Sneaking up on getting 1/3 of the songs from the Daily Ukulele book done before the end of the 2023. Focus will be on the songs that have the cool licks, fills and intros in them that are not in the Daily Ukulele book .

New and Updated Lessons & Daily Ukulele Book

Published: October 27, 2023Updated: October 27, 2023

Going to be added the little recognizable licks, riffs, solos, and other goodies to many of the songs in The Daily Ukulele Harmonic Analysis Series of Lessons.

  • NEW Added The Monkees 1966 first #1 hit, Last Train To Clarksville to the Daily Ukulele — 365 Songs for Better Living Harmonic Analysis Series of Lessons. Add the Intro & Solos to the for Ukulele groups to turn this song into a performance and not just strum along. This song will go great with their 1967 #1 hit, I'm A Believer
  • NEW A PDF Leadsheet in Standard Music Notation and Ukulele TAB of Curt's every evolving original song, Pony Express . An original Bluegrass inspired song. Also posted a video from Curt's Live performance at 2023 NJ Uke Fest.

Linux News

Published: October 13, 2023Updated: October 13, 2023

NEW Linux Audio News: Focusrite Extends Help to Linux Developer to Enable Driver Support .

Since 1987 I've (Curt) have been a big supporter of Apple Mac computers. With the from my original introduction using a Mac II and me being the lead in introducing computers, Desktop Publishing (DTP), and automating the art department I worked in. Since then over the years I taught my self how to program and still do all my DPT a.k.a., Publishing work using Affinity Publisher and Affinity Designer for all the books and lessons PDF art work using a Mac Studio and macOS. Been through it all with DTP, from Aldus Pagemaker, QuarkXpress, and now Affinity Publisher. For the past three (3) years, starting my fourth year, All other work, development, and minor graphic is on Linux with my System76 Thelio computer running Pop!_os.

No I can start exploring doing Audio and Video on LInix using open-source applications.

Checkout out the LearningUkulele.com Credits page for all the hardware and software that is used to support and develop LearningUkulele.com.

With Focusrite and PreSonus pledging Linux support I can start exploring using LInux for audio and sound. Already using MuseScore on Linux and Mac for music notation.

The Daily Ukulele Harmonic Analysis Worksheets

Published: March 15, 2023Updated: September 15, 2023

NEW Harmonic Analysis Worksheet for: The Daily Ukulele book.

Going through the songs in The Daily Ukulele book, affectionately called The Yellow Book and performing a Harmonic Analysis of each song. This will be a long proccess, adding a few songs each week until all 365 songs have been added. The first 10 or so are up. 70+ songs posted as of 15 September 2023.

Over the course of 2023 Curt will post RMA (Root Movement/Harmonic Analysis) worksheets of selected songs from the Daily Ukulele Book, the Yellow Book. With comments and suggested harmonic improvements as we correcting any mis-labeled chords.

Checkout Ain't Misbehavin' RMA for an example of what to expect.

Glossary Updated

Published: August 30, 2022Updated: August 5, 2022

The ever expanding Glossary of Music Terms and Information has been updated.

Updated entries include: Modal Interchange: Borrowed Chords

Modal Interchange (Modal Mixture, Borrowed Chords) consists in temporarily borrowing chords from a parallel tonality or mode that shares the same root. These borrowed chords originate from the major or minor parallel modes, including their respective harmonic and melodic minor, as well as symmetrical scales sharing the same root. You can borrow from any parallel scale or mode.

You can hear this harmonic move in a few famous examples, including: A Day In The Life (The Beatles) ( D Dm ) and Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day ( C Cm ).

The 2023 Funky Frets Uke Fest t-Shirt Logo

Published: July 21, 2023Updated: July 21, 2023

NEW , Curt just finished to 2023 Funky Frets Uke Fest t-shirt design. Using Kelly's fest banner/postcard design and Bernadette idea of a 50s dancer it turned out pretty cool.

Click on the Show More button below to see it a lot larger and in it's 2023 fest glory.

The 2023 Funky Frets Uke Fest is October 5-8, in Boyertown, PA USA

QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, Volume I, C Tuning, 2nd Edition

Published: May 16, 2023Updated: May 16, 2023

NEW Expanded, 2nd Edition of QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, Volume I, C Tuning book.

Learn to create exciting solos in a variety of contemporary styles! Scales are used to improvise, create melodies and riffs. With broad knowledge of the essential scales that are used in contemporary music and a mastery of the ukulele's fingerboard and fingering principles, you're well on your way.

QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, Volume I, C Tuning is a concise, well organized book ideal for any ukulele player beginning to explore improvisation. Scale Fingerings for Ukulele keeps a sharp focus on six critical scales, their fingerings and their related chords. All material is covered in every key.

Checkout out the NEW Expanded 2nd Edition of QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, Volume I, C Tuning' .

Warm Up Lesson Series Added

Published: February 15, 2023Updated: February 15, 2023

NEW Lessons Series added: Warm Up Routines .

Just like, you don't want to just take off and run as fast as you can. You should ease into to it to prevent injuries and perform at an optimal level.

Warm Up, Stretching, Limbering Up …

Whatever you call it — it's how do you, what do you do to get ready for a performance, practice session.

Just as a running would just jump right in a start a race, they always (or should) warm up a bit right before the race. Get the juices rolling and engine warmed up.

2023 Chord a Day Updates

Published: December 28, 2022Updated: December 29, 2022

2023 marks 10yrs ago that the Chord a Day series was launched. Each year brought updates and several years ago videos were added for each chords.

For 2023 more on each chord's common Harmonic Function .

Learn about Full Diatonic, Dominant Function, and Secondary Dominant.

LearningUkulele.com 20th Anniversary

Published: December 23, 2022Updated: December 23, 2022

2023 marks the 20th year of LearningUkulele.com and Learning Ukulele with Curt.

After a brief, and I mean brief introduction with a soprano ukulele in the 1980s. I lost interest and could not figure the uke out. Remember that this is pre Internet age and there where no ukulele books or ukulele players around my neck of the woods.

Fast forward to 2003 and I stumbled on to the ukulele again, a better musician at this point and saw there was more to it then the soprano uke I know about. Still no books beyond the Mel Bay Roy Smeck book.

For LearningUkulele.com I took advantage of my jazz guitar skills, training, teaching and performance experience and started pursuing and exploring the potential of the ukulele. Researching the field I saw very little material organized at a level that actually works for intermediate to advanced players – most of the beginner stuff is suspect as well. I have developed an international reputation as a ukulele expert having written 50+ books for `Ukulele and Guitar. In my private teaching practice I typically have between 50 to 60 students a week of all levels.

MuseScore 4 is OUT NOW!

Published: October 24, 2022Updated: December 13, 2022

Today, December 13, 2022, MuseScore 4 along with their new orchestral playback library Muse Sounds was announced! This a polished and great looking overhaul. .

What's new in MuseScore 4?

  • New orchestral plugin, Muse Sounds
  • Saving to cloud on MuseScore.com is now working
  • An improved system for publishing to MuseScore.com
  • A simple toggle for switching between playback profiles (MS Basic and MuseSounds)

And an entirely new interface, an engraving overhaul, Multiple workflow improvements, a new mixer, VST instruments and effects support, and Accessibility improvements


This is great news at LearningUkulele.com and I (Curt) will be using it on on macOS and Linux. MuseScore has been used for ALL my scores for the last several years. Previously it was Sibelius for many years and a long, long time ago Finale.

More information on the MuseScore 4 visit the site. There is also more information on LearningUkulele.com MusceScore listing .

About: Help Updated

Published: December 10, 2022Updated: December 12, 2022

Finally getting around to updating the Help section of LearningUkulele.com.

Take a trip on over to the: Help section.

2023 Festivals Being Updated

Published: November 14, 2022Updated: November 18, 2022

Going through ALL festivals listed for 2022 and checking for 2023 dates.

Let us know if there are any ukulele festivals that need updated or we are missing.

Festivals are listed by month , region USA , Canadian , Australian , European , and International . As we as all on one page .

Learning Ukulele with Curt Site Newletter

Published: November 2, 2022

Started up the LearningUkulele.com / Learning Ukulele with Curt Site Newsletter again. First newsletter went out 2 November 2022.

An archive of the newsletters are available on: LearningUkulele.com Newsletter

A newsletter will go out once a week with all the news and updates for the site.

Autumn Leaves

Published: September 30, 2022Updated: October 11, 2022

Autumn Leaves is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les Feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prevert. Yves Montand (with Irene Joachim) introduced "Les feuilles mortes" in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit. The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform this version.

The Autumn Leaves Play-along Track is in the Key of G/Em and the Melody & Chord Ukulele Arrangement in B♭/Cm .

Ain't Misbehavin'

Published: September 14, 2022

Ain't Misbehavin' is a 1929 stride jazz/early swing song. Andy Razaf wrote the lyrics to a score by Thomas Fats Waller and Harry Brooks for the Broadway musical comedy play Connie's Hot Chocolates. The Funky Frets Uke Group is performing this classic at the 2022 7th Annual Funky Frets Uke Fest , Friday October 7. A Leadsheet & Video Examples are available for download.

Download the leadsheets and there is a rehearsal Saturday October 17, 2022 at Funky Frets Music Store @ 1PM right before the Funky Frets Uke Jam.

There is an Easy open position chord version and a more sophisticated 4-part, a.k.a. Jazz chord version.

13 September 2022: Added a leadsheet with the melody, lyrics, and sample bass line to the song pages in the Assets section. The Musescore file is also available that you can use to have the melody, chords and bass play for practicing.

7th Annual Funky Frets Uke Fest

Published: October 3, 2022

The 7th Annual Funky Frets Uke Fest is this coming weekend in Boyertown, PA USA. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday October 7-8-9, 2022.

Jim D'Ville, The Aloha Boys (Glen Hirabayashi, Isaac Ho'opi'i, Irv Queja), Curt Sheller, Bill Wynne, Christopher Davis-Shannon, Gwendolyn Fitz, Michael August Petey Mack, Debi Velasco, William Ernestburg. Concerts, Workshops, Food, Vendors, Strum-Along Train Ride, Jams, and more …


The 7th Annual Funky Frets Uke Festival is this weekend, and we are working on making it a Roaring Good Time. The 2020's may not have start off that great in the world, but we are making up for it in 2022! Everyone loved the Philadelphia theme in 2019, so this year they are doing a Roaring 20's theme. New to the festival, instead of the ever popular Hawaiian Shirt contest, they will be having a 1920's style Hat Contest!

Is There Such A Thing as E♯?

Published: September 12, 2020

A B C D E F G — the seven (7) letters of the musical alphabet. Used to name a lot in music. From the names of the notes and chords, to rehearsal marks. There is a lot that uses these first seven letters.

Natural Notes

These seven letters: A B C D E F G are called the Natural Notes. There are quite visible on a standard piano as the white keys.

Sharps, Flats, Double Sharps, Double Flats

At the basic level and common in the 15 Diatonic Scale/Major Keys. Any, yes, ANY of the seven letters can be sharped, raised one semi-tone or flattened one semi-tone.

  • A♯ B♯ C♯ D♯ E♯ F♯ G♯
  • A♭ B♭ C♭ D♭ E♭ F♭ G♭

So notes can have multiple names depending on their musical use and context.

So, YES there is an E#, E Sharp. As well as B#, Cb, and Fb.

  • B♯ is a different notation than C. However, the same pitch/sound as C.
  • E♯ is a different notation than F. However, the same pitch/sound as F.
  • C♭ is a different notation than B. However, the same pitch/sound as B.
  • F♭ is the same pitch/sound as E. However, the same pitch/sound as E.

NOTE: Using the 15 Full Diatonic Major Keys/Scales , the Natural Notes are principle notes are used more then Enharmonic Equivalents .


It comes down the Full Diatonic Major scales — they each use ALL seven letters (A B C D E F G), in-order, no skips, no repeats. So for E, E♯, E♭ — the E is the third and always needs to have E as its name.

Learning Ukulele with Curt Discord Community Server

Published: September 12, 2020

The ukulele is all about community and sharing. And, what better place to develop the LearningUkulele.com community than with its own LearningUkulele.com Discord server .

Chime in and help grow the LearningUkulele.com community.

Mushy D

Published: November 30, 2019Updated: September 8, 2022

Here is a great fingering for that pesky open position D chord.

This fingering follows efficient fingering principles of playing notes right behind the frets.

Pesky D Chord

For alternate and a lot more information on the open position D chords checkout the Chord A Day Lesson: D

Tune Up and Get In Time

Published: August 30, 2022

Added a great Metronome and Tuner from GuitarApp.com to - well, get in tune and play in time.

They can be accessed using the little icons in the upper tight hand corner of the top navigation area.

Metronome and Tuner

Performances from the Archives

Published: July 12, 2022

Here is on from the performances archives, original composition by Curt Sheller (me). Performed at the 2009 New York Uke Fest at The Gershwin Hotel .

What to Practice?

Published: October 26, 2016Updated: September 7, 2022

I've been asked this question a few times. Practice what your not good at.

Ok — you might need more information …

I mainly focus on new material that I’m adding to my repertoire. I also make sure I write out everything. Writing it out reveals new voicings or a different approach to the arrangement. Recording it’s not enough, with a recording only you’ll have to transcribe yourself. A recording and written documentation combined are a better solution.

If I have a performance coming up or a recording, I focus on that material only. I work on sections, even small phrases, over and over and over. Rarely playing through the whole piece until all sections are worked out and mastered. Then I perfect the overall performance of the arrangement or song. If it’s a section that I have a high level of confidence that I’ll never screw up in performance, I’ll never practice it. But, never say never!

I do advocate writing out all your arrangements using whatever method you can. Whether it’s standard music notation, chord grids, TAB, chicken scratch and any combination, just get it down somewhere. So even when it gets to the point that you think, you can’t really forget it. You have something to check with for reference. Some things might change from your original arrangement that you didn’t expect, but still sound good. I’ve even when back and incorporated mistakes that I like into the original arrangement.

I even write stuff out without the instrument at hand. Then you really know it. If you really know it intellectually, you own it, and then you can start playing around with it, adding variations, phrasing the melody different, trying different styles, etc.

After several downsizings, I went full-time to music, teaching, writing books, the websites and performing. My playing really went up a notch. My income went down several notches. So, theQuit your day job! if you can, gives you a lot of time to work on music and probably Less money to spend initially. I see the workers at the music store I teach at always fooling with various instruments that they are not familiar with. A few minutes here and there really pays off. Over several years, one or two have taught themselves piano.

I used to keep a guitar under my desk when I was a full-time computer programmer and pulling late hours. When the programs I were working on were compiling. I’d pull the guitar out and get five or so minutes in. Now, I always have a ukulele with me. You can get in a lot of little practices every day if you have an instrument with you.

When you only have a few minutes to “practice”, you sometimes actually practice. Before you pick up your instrument. Have a goal, a plan of what you want to work on. Short-term goals are better than one or two long-term goals. And, the short-term goals always add up eventually. Practicing and playing or performing are different. My Dad had to hear me play in public before he ever heard me finish a song. If you are an intermediate or advanced player. You're practicing, to someone listening, should never sound like a full song. If you're practicing sounds good, you are probably not practicing.

NOTE: What to practice is the part that a good teacher can help you with. I often believe my primary role as a private teacher is to help a student organize and discover what to — Practice.

Going It Along or Using a Teacher?

Published: August 30, 2022

With the number of resources available today teaching yourself might seem like a good option. There’s the Internet with countless web sites for learning just about anything and then there’s YouTube with probably thousands or more views for learning anything. So, with that in mind here are my thoughts on that subject of using a teacher or going it along. Now I’m a bit biased as have had a few good teachers and one absolutely amazing teacher / mentor as well as some serious study and research on my own.

Self Learning vs. a “Qualified” Teacher

First Self-Learning — Learning a musical instrument on you own is a trial and error process and takes a particular type of person to differentiate between their success and errors. As far as technique to all successes will be deemed efficient.

I believe and have seen that the area of "Technique" is really that one area that is hard to go it alone.

Qualified Teacher

The adjective qualified is the keyword here. And by qualified I mean experience and successful experience. They don’t even have to be a great player. How many successful major league baseball players attempt to be major league coaches and fail. It’s more like minor league coaches have more success that the pro, former player.

The actual hard part is finding a qualified teacher and you might have to go through a few. I would even suggest taking a few lessons with a variety of teachers and select the one that you think will give you the most success.

Find the local players that you really admire and find who they studied with, and who they studied with, and … you get the idea. Find the source.

A Few LearningUkulele.com Resources and More Information

Do We Need Lowercase Roman Numerals for Harmonic Analysis?

Published: August 8, 2022Updated: September 12, 2022

NO, as a musician, if you are doing a Harmonic Analysis you should already know the chord types for that chords based on theory and their use in the tonality relative to the scale used to create that harmonic passage — i.e., the Harmonic Function of said chord. Or, you are Putting the horse before the cart.

Examples from C Major: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim.

  • Traditional: I, iim, iiim, IV, V, vim, vii°
  • Contemporary: I II III IV V VI VII

NOTE: The Nashville Number System (NNS) doesn't use lowercase Arabic numbers. And, you are right - because there are no lowercase Arabic number as far as I know.

Also, save time as it is redundant, it is redundant.

And, that is why I don't use lowercase, traditional Roman numerals in my books and lessons.


Playing by Ear — The Ultimate Goal

Published: March 27, 2020Updated: September 10, 2022

Playing by Ear IS the ultimate goal for any musician when playing a musical instrument. It's true whether you're singing, banging a drum, strumming a guitar, or our favorite instrument, the ukulele.

If your fingers can already interpret and follow what your inner ear commands, you’ve obtained your goal and are playing by ear. However, the fact is that it's actually very uncommon for individuals to be able to "play by ear" with no apparent effort.

If you are like most people new or relatively new to learning to play an instrument, you need a plan to train your fingers to follow your ear melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically. This comes from an understanding of the music principles that drive music and lead the ear to direct the fingers so that then, and only then, can you start on the road to Playing by Ear.

Whether performing or practicing, music involves three elements: your mind, your hands, and your ear. When performing music, your ear directs your hands. And if all goes well, your mind is not involved and only gets involved when things don’t go as planned. Getting to this performance goal, whether it’s simply performing for your own enjoyment or on stage takes work and an organized approach to developing an "ear-hand-mind" connection so all will work together.

Common wisdom states that it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. This is essentially true - it does take hours and hours of dedicated, quality practice and exploration. I've found this to be especially true when learning any musical instrument, even the ukulele, despite its reputation as an easy to learn instrument. Getting really good and getting comfortable in performance and learning to play by ear takes not mindless hours and hours, but an organized, dedicated, systematic approach with distant goals and building blocks to ensure that you reach that ultimate goal.

The Internet is full of debate and examples of people who seem to be able to cheat at this without putting in the time. I regret to inform you that there is NO shortcut, and simply putting in the time alone is also not always enough. A lot of people put in the time. So what makes someone more successful when learning a musical instrument than another? Or, more importantly, how can you set yourself up for success?

Tips for Success

Here you go - my tips for success:

Get a coach, advisor or teacher - and not just any coach. Whether you have a coach, advisor, teacher, guide, guru or whatever you call them, they must be successful with a proven track record of helping others obtain their goals - not simply good players. Finding the right coach can take work, trial, and error. Some look to performers of their chosen instrument to become their teachers. This can be good place to start, but not all performers make good teachers. However, they probably had a good teacher. It's sort of like getting past the Academy award-winning actor and finding their most significant teacher - the behind-the-scenes person who played an invaluable role in the actor's success. Early in my development, I found Chuck Anderson. So hopefully you're be as lucky as I was to find a great teacher, coach, or mentor early in your development.

Practice Deliberately - have distinct goals and a plan for each session. Monitor your success, practice specific skills and problem areas, and constantly strive for improvement. If your practice sounds good, you're probably not really practicing but may simply be repeating something you can already do. Work instead on what you really need to improve: work on what you can’t do, or want to do better.

Teach Others - we learn by doing, and learn more and learn better when we teach others what we know. There is nothing like presenting what you know to others to truly understand it yourself. In all my years of teaching, I've found this to be extremely beneficial in my own musical development.

The Mind, the Ear, and the Hand - each one of these needs training, with specific steps to obtain the playing by ear goal. The ear needs to recognize the intervals, chords and rhythm that make up the melody, harmony, and rhythm of a song. But for all of the training needed for the mind and ear, it's largely up to the hands when playing an instrument, that is, they need the most training to successfully execute what the ear wants. So, make a plan, set your goals, find a good teacher, and practice, practice practice!

Playing Left-Handed vs. Right-Handed

Published: August 18, 2022Updated: September 13, 2022

Here is something that I do with all my students all the time to show them that they are better than I am. They ar better if I turn the ukulele around and try to play left-handed, upside down - It is hard.

Here is something that I do with all my students all the time to show them that they are better than I am. They ar better if I turn the ukulele around and try to play left-handed, upside down - It is hard.

Now I always respond to my student's "It's Hard." with "It's not hard, it's just new and unfamiliar". It is actually challenging and turning your instrument around to your other hand really showcases the struggles that new students and folks new to learning the ukulele are having. Now the problem that I'm starting to have is my fretting hand, my right hand is getting better but the strumming and fingerpicking hard is terrible. So, this demo might not work as well as it used to.

This does remind you as a teacher the struggle new students will have with the motor skills.

So if you are just starting out and have never played a stringed instrument and are left handed, just learn as a right handed player. You'll actually start with a bit of an advantage for a week or two as your fretting hand is your dominant left hand as a leftie. It's us righties that are playing is backwards.

Originally the right hand did the dominant work with guitar centuries ago and slowly over time the dominant hand switched to the left hand but the guitar was never turned about.

August 2022 Site Theme Updates

Published: August 1, 2022Updated: September 13, 2022

August in the Northern Hemisphere and just a few weeks before the kids start going back to school. Going through the lessons , songs , books , and assets on LearningUkulele.com and tweaking things a bit.

Several people have said they really like the new site look and I'm (Curt) working on making it even better.

Spread the Ukulele Aloha and soak in all that is Learning Ukulele with Curt to be able to improve you ukulele skills and an jump in on the Kanikapila.

Learning Ukulele Strums

Published: November 11, 2017Updated: September 9, 2022

D-D-U-U-D-D-U Chunk... Blah, blah, blah... This is no way to learn strumming on `ukulele or any instrument capable of strumming chords.

A strum is simply the execution of a specific rhythmic pattern in tempo - in a particular style.

One of the first skills a ukulele player learns is the art and craft of strumming, playing rhythm. This refers to an accompaniment technique suitable for the singer, singer - songwriter or someone who plays a support role for another instrument. Strumming requires a specific set of skills. They are: 1) Memorization of chords 2) The ability to switch chords smoothly and 3) The ability to choose and execute a suitable rhythmic strum.

First and foremost, the subject of strumming is inseparably linked to rhythm. Though an ability to read rhythm is helpful, it’s not necessary to profit from learning strums.

Each strum is identified with a term that differentiates it from every other strum. This term is typically called a “feel”. Drummers learn these terms early in their studies so learning this language is not only helpful to learning the strums, it’s also helpful with communications among musicians in general and drummers in particular. Strumming can be executed with fingers or with a pick. Regardless of your own style of strumming, it ultimately involves combinations of down strokes and up strokes.

In the finger style, down strokes can played with the thumb or the nail side of your fingers. Up strokes can be played with the thumb or fingers. Any technique is usable as long as you can differentiate between down and up strokes.

A metronome is helpful to these studies but not mandatory. The purpose of a metronome is to help develop a steady sense of rhythm and to help increase your awareness of tempo in a beats per minute format. Terms like medium or fast tempo are approximate.

All strums can be executed at any tempo. One strum is different from another based on the stroke direction, the stroke density, the subdivision of the beat and the accent pattern.

Preliminary Exercise

As a way to get started, set the metronome speed on 60 or just tap your foot slowly and evenly. Strike any chord with a down stroke (i.e. towards the floor) corresponding to the click or tap. Though this could be considered a strum, for our purposes, it’s just a way to get familiar with the relationship between tempo (speed of the beat) and the down stroke.

Next, try to coordinate an up stroke (i.e. towards the ceiling) with the space between the clicks or taps. Don’t be surprised that the up stroke is more difficult than the down stroke, There are two reasons for this discrepancy. First, the up stroke is anti gravitational (pulls away from the ground). The second reason is that the space between taps or clicks is more abstract and difficult to locate than the down and is consequently, more prone to error.

Go back to your metronome set at 60 or your slow even foot tap. This time, strike the up beats (space between clicks or taps) with down strokes. It’s also valuable to up stroke the clicks or taps (down beats). Though not as natural, there will be important applications for this seemingly “backward” stroking.

For more information visit the A Guide to Ukulele Strums book page and the lessons series Ukulele Strums - Getting Started.

Ho`olohe Hou Radio

Ho`olohe Hou Radio — 24 hour-a-day Internet radio station featuring the 100-year history of Hawaiian music and the entertainment industry in Hawai`i.

At the heart of the station is innovation. Bill Wynne didn’t invent radio, and he surely didn’t invent Hawaiian music. But he saw Ho`olohe Hou Radio as an opportunity to put the two together in a manner that has never been attempted before. He calls it Hawaiian Music Edutainment. Instead of spending so much airtime on commercials, a few minutes each hour on Ho`olohe Hou Radio will be dedicated to educational programming which will help the listener understand the historic and cultural importance of the songs and artists they hear on this unique station.

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the bestGlen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys

Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too.Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg

I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent.fatveg — Portland

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Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II, 37 years ago. Man, does time fly.

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LearningUkulele.com has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, Luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. Curt has been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

Content is added and updated daily — so check back often. I really do need to get out more ;-)

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