Monthly Archives: April 2011

Alacran y Pistolero: Spanish Ukulele Vocal Video and Tab

Download the TAB for Alacran y Pistolero

This is my favorite song from the Once Upon a Time in Mexico movie soundtrack. I recorded this a few years back and strangely enough it is by far my most viewed video on youtube. 5,000+ views! Google for the lyrics.

And so, two years later, after many viewers literally demanded the tabs and berated me for not providing them… I have succumbed.

The intro is fingerstyle and strumming and here is where you get to use one finger per string. Thumb on the fourth, or top string, index on the third, middle on the second and ring finger on the first or bottom string.

When the singing starts I tabbed it to be one strum per measure but as you see in the video I am strumming the one and three beats. It’s in 3/4 time. You can interpret however you like.

Download the TAB for Alacran y Pistolero

UPDATE: pepamahina has graciously provided the lyrics in Spanish along with the English translation. Thanks, pepamahina!

Download the LYRICS for Alacran Y Pistolero


UPDATE #2: Manny Sanchez has offered up the lyrics with chords. Now you can strum, fingerpick, or play it any way you want. Thanks, Manny!

Download the LYRICS and CHORDS for Alacran Y Pistolero

Niel Gow’s Lament: Irish Video and Tab

Download the TAB to Niel Gow’s Lament

My friend Jim introduced me to this hauntingly lovely SCOTTISH tune. Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife. Niel Gow was Scottish. I call it Irish because some people searching for Irish ukulele songs would be happy to find something like this. No offense to anyone.

From Niel’s wikipedia page, “After having been widowed, Niel married Margaret Urquhart from Perth in 1768, and they went on to share a happy married life until she died in 1805. Niel was deeply hurt by her death, and stopped playing the fiddle for a while. His friends finally convinced him to pick it up again, and the first thing he played was his ‘…Lament for the Death of his Second Wife’.”

Jim and I were mostly moved by the classical guitar versions we found on youtube but when we arranged it as such, very slow with almost no rhythm, it still lacked a little.. at least for the ukulele. So I added more open sounding chords and some rhythmic ‘ghost’ notes to give it depth because the ukulele’s range isn’t as lush as a classical guitar. The ghost notes in the TAB are in (parenthesis). Play them very softly as I do in the video.

Also, the TAB is in straight time so I encourage you to interpret it with feeling and sensitivity. I am sure everyone will play it a little differently and that is a good thing. It should be personal.

Download the TAB to Niel Gow’s Lament

Ukulele Secret #5 Galloping Triplet

As seen on my latest William Tell Lone Ranger video, here is a variation of a ukulele triplet.

This is not the triplet I usually see in ukulele playing as this one uses the thumb on an up stroke, the middle finger on the down stroke and then the thumb follows with a down stroke.

Thumb UP

Middle DOWN
(really shoot that finger down like you’re flicking a mosquito off your arm)

Thumb DOWN


Practice it with a steady 123 123 123 123 rhythm.
Trip-a-let, trip-a-let, trip-a-let, trip-a-let.

But to get the gallop feel you pause between triplets. Musically I think it seems like playing successive quadruplets with the last stroke of each beat being silent. 123(4) 123(4) 123(4) 123(4).

Trip-a-let-stop, trip-a-let-stop, trip-a-let-stop, trip-a-let-stop.
This also sounds great with the strings muted by the left hand.

At the end of the video I give you an extra credit assignment. Enjoy!

Ukulele Secret #4: Expanding Your Triplet

Everybody loves the triplet strum. This secret takes one of the more popular strums and shows you how to add a beat and change the whole feel.

I am skipping a tutorial on the triplet strum itself as there are many already out there. If I get the urge I will find one and include it here. But the basic right hand is index finger down, thumb down, index up. Repeat.

I am playing two of these triplet patterns and then adding a down up with the right hand index finger. So the new pattern count sounds like 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2, repeated. One two three one two three one two one two three on two three one two, etc.

Give it a try.

Swallowtail: A Closer Look

Ok. So it’s a bitch to play.

I will break it down the best I can in this video. It’s hard but it can, and has been done.

Go for it!

Quick link to the TABS

Check it..

And here are me and Jim Beasley in our big yellow kitchen tribute to John King and James Hill’s performance of Larry O’Gaff and Swallowtail medley. If there is serious interest, and I mean serious… I will TAB Jim’s part.


Top 50 Ukulele Sites

Ukulele Secret #3: Campanela riffs

Skip the talk and get to the riffs.

As my friend Al from Ukulele Hunt once said, (um paraphrased) “the top 10 thing I learnt from John King is campanela“. Well, I agree. Me, too. And while that article contains 9 more gems, I will just add one more.


For me, that is what it takes to play like John King. There is no doubt in my mind he was impeccable in his practice and impeccable in his playing, if there is a difference.

First, what is campanela? And how is it spelled? Campanella? I will use the spelling John King used. There are many well informed articles, descriptions, introductions, analyses on many sites out there so I won’t go too far into it. I’ll just quote from John’s site and move on to the examples.

from Nalu Music

“In the time of J.S. Bach—some years before Capt. James Cook stumbled upon the island he called Owyhee—guitarists armed with re-entrantly tuned instruments had pioneered a style of playing they called campanela, which means little bell sounds. The bottom line is, they played each note of a melody on a different string, creating a sound like a harp—or little, pealing bells—where notes over-rang one another.”

but warning.. he goes on to say..

“The truth is it’s a crazy way to play the uke; ease of execution is all but sacrificed, subordinated to whatever it takes to get that shimmering, harplike sound. It works for me, because when I play it that way, the ‘ukulele sings.”

Accurate, to say the least. Not much more can be said, except that the effort you put into this technique is very rewarding.

While working up John’s arrangements that I found on his site and his book, Classical Ukulele, I discovered recurring patterns and forms. And as you can see in many of my song arrangements on the youtubes, I have embraced the technique.

Here are some of John’s secret hand positions and flow that I found in his campanela style. LEFT HAND FINGERING is provided on the TAB.

Examples 1 and 2 demonstrate some basic G major scale movement. When you get to the second beat of the measure, use your middle finger on the 7th fret and bar your index finger on the 5th fret. Watch the video closely. This is one of the most recurring forms I have seen so far.

Example 1

Example 2 extends the G scale and adds another hand position. Note the fingering and watch the example on the video. Here is where impeccability in practice comes into use. Start slowly and aim for precision and let the notes ring as much as you can before switching hand positions. You can see I take advantage of getting the finger needed first to the new position first and let the other fingers catch up. Farewell to Whiskey is pretty much contained in this riff.

Example 2

Examples 2 and 3 can be played together. Practice the position changes carefully and slowly at first.

Example 3

Use the same approach in the following F scale examples. When you see the index finger on the same fret, it is barred.

Example 4

Example 5

Example 6

Example 7 is my Ukulele Secret Weapon. I can’t pick up the instrument and not go into some variation of this. It is easy and pleasant to the ear. It can be expanded upon. You can see this demonstrated in Farewell to Whiskey and Red Haired Boy as I fill out the melody.

Example 7

Farewell to Whiskey: Irish Campanela Video and TAB

So how the heck is it spelled? Campanela or Campanella? I use the “John King” spelling but I think I am greatly outnumbered.

Regardless, here is the TAB to my arrangement to Farewell to Whiskey. It’s a lovely tune and I really take good advantage of the campanela style with the reentrant tuning. The TAB is the basic arrangement but expect a reentrant campanela secrets post next that demonstrates my approach to John King’s style.

Download the TAB to Farewell to Whiskey

And the video..

Red Haired Boy: Irish Campanela Video and TAB

Here is a snappy Irish tune that I arranged in 99.9% campanela style. Be on the lookout for an upcoming Ukulele Secret devoted to campanela and the reentrant tuning.

This would be called “melodic” style for the banjo where the melody of the song is played in the three finger banjo style. The TAB contains the main melody for the song but as you will see in the video, I play a lot more flowing notes in some sections, taking full advantage of the campanela style and reentrant tuning.

Download the TAB for Red Haired Boy

And here is the vidya..