Sakura Sakura: Japanese Traditional Video and Tab

Download the TAB to Sakura Sakura

Well, since I am a bit under the weather tonight and missing my monthly Austin Ukulele Society meeting, I thought I would at least try to be a little productive.

I arranged Sakura Sakura using influence from John King and Jake Shimabukuro’s versions. John’s version, found in his Classical Ukulele book is a single note melody and Jake’s version has more chords and some harmonics. Although I hope I am not ripping them off (I really don’t think so), I think I came up with a good combination of the two that is not difficult to play. It sounds good, too.

PERFORMANCE NOTES: Koto sounding notes and harmonics. These are the two SECRETS to this arrangement.

FIRST the KOTO sounds. Very often in the song I am using tiny bends of the strings to get that particular sound. I know you can hear it. They are not noted on the TAB.. because I didn’t know how. So, you will have to watch the video and listen closely. I try to place them strategically.

The TECHNIQUE.. Before you pluck the note with your right hand finger, bend the note SLIGHTLY up with your left hand fretting finger. Then IMMEDIATELY after you pluck the note, let it return to it’s original ‘unbent’ state. And there you have it. Instant KOTO. The technique combined with the right notes will transport you to their origin. Badass.

SECOND.. the HARMONICS. I may be mistaken but I believe they are called ARTIFICIAL harmonics, hence the “A.H.” over the notes in the tab.

The TECHNIQUE, if you don’t know how already.. Fret the note indicated in the TAB with the left hand finger. Then place your right index finger on the string DIRECTLY over the fret (not between the frets like we play regular notes) TWELVE FRETS UP, on the same string. An octave.

IMPORTANT: DON’T push the string down onto the fretboard.

With the right thumb pluck the string. It’s a little tricky but worth figuring out. If I haven’t explained it well enough just ask and I will try again. Or, I am sure there are countless explanations online.

There are also many versions of this song on youtube and Al Wood recently tabbed out a nice version over at ukulelehunt. Listen to as many as you can, even versions played on other instruments. You might get some really cool ideas to incorporate.

さようならありがとう (thank you and goodbye)

Download the TAB to Sakura Sakura

And here is the viddy..

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Ukulele Secret #7: Pretty Up Your CFG… plus bonus chords

Who says a ukulele badass can’t play pretty stuff.. at least once in a while?

Here are some different chord voicings, or inversions, plus some ideas to ‘pretty up’ the basic C F G chord progression, otherwise known as the I IV V (1 4 5) progression in the KEY of C. C is the I chord, F is the IV chord and G is the V chord.

First some chords, then ideas. BTW, videos are at the bottom of the page.

CHORDS: These chords have a really nice continuity as they all have the C string open. I’ll throw in an Am voicing (VI chord) because it is very close to the F chord. They are played like triads with the open C as the glue between them. Pay close attention to the fret markers.

The left hand fingering for ALL the chords:

1st string – pinky
2nd string – index
3rd string – open
4th string – middle

Playing them this way makes it easier to switch between them.

C chordF ChordGsus ChordAm Chord

Experiment and try them in various orders. Below I’ll mention a few songs I mess around with as well as an original I wrote using all these chords. But first…

BONUS CHORDS: Here we ascend from the original C voicing and head for celestial realms. The Dm7 is the ii chord, the Em6 is the iii chord and here is another F. Again, pay attention to the fret markers.

Dm7 ChordEm6 ChordF Inversion

Honestly, this pattern of triads can continue for as many frets you have.

IDEAS: We all know there are thousands of songs in the key of C. Here are a few to play with using these voicings.

Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Insert yours here…

Here is the video tutorial so you can hear what it sounds like.

And here is the original song I wrote a few years ago using these chord forms. The actual chords mentioned in this tutorial begin around the 48 second mark. Also note, if you follow this blog, I am using the Folksy Fingerstyle technique.


Ukulele Secret #6: The World’s Most Dangerous Triplet

I came across this a while back on an Italian blog and it has given me great entertainment once I figured out the secret. It is deceptively simple, and gives the appearance of being simple, but the ears hear a lot more than the eyes see.

This was coined the ‘index and pinky strum’. I hear a triplet in there so I am lumping it in with my triplet strums category. DISCLAIMER: I usually don’t like to put something out there that has already been done but I think my slant might help simplify it some.

Well, how do you do it?

As you see in the video, it really is a triplet. Index down, index up, pinky up. Repeat.

POINTERS: I only strum the top two strings with my index and the bottom two with my pinky. This can vary and by all means, don’t try too hard to do that. It will work itself out. Those are the basic mechanics of the strum.

THE SECRET: Don’t try to be accurate with the index down, index up, pinky up, etc, etc. Instead… be sloppy. The technique or concept I used to get better at this is pretending I spilled hot water on my hand and I’m wringing it furiously in pain and trying to get the water off.

This means the right hand is going up and down in an effortless and RELAXED manner. And fast.

Thanks to Bob Guz for showing me the chord progression I use to demonstrate. He played in the Shorty Long band and said this was the basis for tin pan alley sound. It’s fun, too.

D, B7, E7, A7 — or — 1, Dominant 6, Dominant 2, Dominant 5

Here ya go..


Cripple Creek: Bluegrass Video and TAB

Download the TAB for Cripple Creek

Well, let’s see. What haven’t I covered? There’s been Irish, Scottish, classical from Rossini, folksy fingerstyle, Hawaiian, Spanishy..

Oh, yea.. BLUEGRASS

Although I’ve touched a little on the claw hammer technique (more old time than bluegrass) I think it’s time for some three finger ukulele bluegrass.

I say “three finger” because it is a technique borrowed from the guitar and banjo that I use frequently. If you remember Folksy Fingerstyle, we are using the same fingers here.

4 – T or P
3 – T or P
2 – i
1 – m

I don’t have the right hand fingering notated on the TAB so pay close attention. Your thumb will ALWAYS pick the 3rd and 4th strings (top two). Your index finger will ALWAYS pick the 2nd (from the bottom) string. Finally, your middle finger will pick the 1st (bottom) string. Therefore your thumb will be doing a sort of alternating bass line.

But don’t think about it that way. Just learn the TAB. It is probably at the intermediate level so be patient. The rolls can be tricky.

Also notice the tied notes in the 8 to 9th measures and 10 to 11th measures. The note begins on the AND of the four beat as it sort of jumps in early. You’ll hear it. Additionally, the tie between the 3rd and 4th frets on the third string is always a slide.

I don’t follow the TAB in the video. I play it different every time. The TAB has most of the variations and you can mix them up and develop your own. It is quite fun.

I am basing this arrangement on a youtube video I found a few years ago. There was no video of the performance, just a picture and the music. I labored to pick out the notes and I’m fairly satisfied with the outcome. I also threw this video together way too fast and at too fast a tempo so enjoy the ‘naturalness’ of it.

Download the TAB for Cripple Creek

And the vidya..


BASIC basic claw hammer ukulele

Did I say BASIC? I mean it.

There are many wonderful tutorials on claw hammer ukulele technique on the youtube. I know because I learned from them.. there is the incomparable Aaron Kiem and also YoppyKyabetsu’s 5 minute claw hammer ukulele, and more. Look them up.

If you have already tried these and are still having trouble, then this is for you.

Here I break down the mechanics of claw hammer technique and emphasize repetition. emphasize repetition. emphasize repetition. emphasize repetition. emphasize repetition. emphasize repetition.

Warning: It is a slow and long winded video (with crappy, amateur editing, thank you) intended for microscopic inquiry. If you are interested in playing claw hammer technique but haven’t quite got the hang of it this just might help.


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

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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