Ka Ipo Lei Manu.. John King arrangement

Download the tab here

If you know me, you know John King is my biggest ukulele influence. It pains me to say he passed a few years ago, just after I began my ukulele journey. I am sorry he is gone but so glad he was here. Much of my ukulele playing philosophy comes from John.

I have poured over his book “John King’s The Classical Ukulele” and learned so much. I have read his entire website Nalu Music. And I have worked up several of his arrangements.

This particular arrangement is a Hawaiian song I saw him perform on youtube. I am not familair with Hawaiian music (shame on the ukulele player) so I had never heard (of) this song. John’s description: “A poignant love song written by Julia Kapiolani for her dying husband David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii.”

Intrigued, I investigated the song, read about it, listened to many youtube instrumental and vocal versions and found I really love the melody as much as the story.

I never found a TAB of it so I took it upon myself to learn it from his video. This is the result..

I have been playing it for a few years now but only recently youtube’d it..

And just today I tabbed it… for you.

Some performance notes: There are some tricky right hand rolls beginning with measure 9. Use your thumb on the top string, index on the next string down (3rd) and middle finger on the second string from the bottom. The string roll order is 3432 (these are strings, not frets). Let me know if you need any help.

Practice it. Over and over. Practice just that roll. It is worth it.

And overall, watch his performance, my performance, and listen to vocal versions for inspiration. I wrote the TAB in straight time but I encourage you to play it with feeling and lots of breaths between sections.

Then play it for your sweetie

UPDATE: A fellow from the Ukulele Underground forum asked me for a little help.


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22 responses to “Ka Ipo Lei Manu.. John King arrangement

  • Ray

    Thank you very much for making this tab available. Playing and listening to it is true bliss for me.

  • EnergonCube

    You, sir, are a saint. Thanks for the Tabs!

  • Car Hire Alicante

    Maybe you will want to add a facebook button to your website. Just bookmarked the site, although I must do this by hand. Just my advice.

  • Jim Russell

    wonderful! thanks for the tab….and for your lovely rendition of this wonderful song. mahalo.

  • EnergonCube

    Ok. I’m a total noob and this will be the first uke song I’ve ever played. Well, for any instrument really. A bit more than I can chew? Maybe. But I’m learning a lot!

    I’m struggling with the change up in measures 9 & 10 just before the roll. Any pointers as to how I can make that any easier or is it one of thing that I need to practice a thousand times (which I’m in the process of doing)?

    • ukulelesecrets

      @EnergonCube This might be a tad ambitious for a first uke song, unless you have a lot of fingerstyle experience on other instruments, which you say you haven’t.

      But on to your question: measure 9 actually begins with the roll so I am not entirely sure what you are having trouble with. Maybe it’s the roll itself? Just to make sure, the left hand fingering for the first chord in measure 9 is

      middle finger – 7th fret, THIRD (from the bottom) string
      ring finger – 7th fret, FIRST (bottom) string

      The SECOND string is played open. Then on to the roll, for which I have an supplemental video.

      Hope that helps.. or try again to explain to me where you’re at.

      Good Luck (and yes, many repetitions)

  • EnergonCube

    Ah. I meant measures 8 & 9. So, the jumps from 0003, -558, -707. (not sure if I’m typing those out correctly).

    Yeah, I figured it was a bit much. But it’s keeping my A.D.D. in check so I don’t get bored while I learn the basics. I can make it all the way through the song, albeit played slower than what it’s supposed to be. (A triumph for me!) This is the biggest trouble spot, though.

    • ukulelesecrets

      Oh, ok then. Yes, you typed the notes correctly.

      So, you can play the first chord with your index on the 3 fret (personally I use my middle.. Doesn’t really matter)

      Play the 558 chord by barring the 5th fret with your index and catch the 8 with your pinky. Then refer to my previous comment about the 707 chord. Then the roll.

      Wow, I’m impressed and happy you are playing the song all the way through. Don’t worry too much about speed, just get it clean for now. This song sounds beautiful played slowly.

  • EnergonCube

    I swear, the beginner books need something better than “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain.”

  • David

    Love this arrangement, and thanks for the tab.

    Tim, I’ve been playing this for only one day – but why do I want to slid down from fret 8, and slid up to fret 5 in some of the bars (e.g. bar 28) – is this just wrong for this type of music, as neither you nor JK slide any notes. My fingers don’t seem to belong to me when I play Uke!

    • ukulelesecrets

      @David.. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Actually, the slide down from fret 8 to 7 is nice. I’m not quite sure what you mean about sliding up to 5, unless you are substituting the open G for the 4th fret (third string) then sliding to 5th. Which also sounds ok to me. There may be some campanela purists who would disagree.

      Personally, I like to see varying interpretations of an arrangement. Go with what feels good (as long as it sounds good)


  • Herb Mundon

    I came across your ukulele website by a very fortunate accident. I am learning Hawaiian slack key guitar and was searching for a tab for the song Ka Ipo Lei Manu…a beautiful, romantic, tragic song. So far, no success for the guitar tab but I also play the ukulele – born and raised in Hawaii, so the search had a bonus.

    Your ukulele secrets are awesome (“primo” in Hawaiian slang).
    Thank you (Mahalo) and aloha

  • rob

    I want to thank you for working out the tabs on this piece. I too admired Mr. King’s work. I met him briefly at a NYC Uke Fest, and saw him perform. I bought his Classical Ukuklele book and CD. But I was really frustrated that I could never find his tabs for Ka Ipo Lei Manu. Now that you have done the hard work of solving the tabs, I have started practiciing it, and maybe in a month I will have mastered it enough to play it for others. Again, thank you for your work.

  • Bryan Welch

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing the work and sharing the tab. Beautiful song and feels really good under my fingers! Appreciated the campanella triads lesson too. Keep up the good work!

  • Mark.

    Many many thanks for the work you’ve done on these tabs. I have had a go at your version of Larry O’Gaff in the past. Thanks for that too.


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