Category Archives: Performance

Ukulele Christmas Medley Video with TABs

Well, the season sort of snuck up on me and I wanted to work up some new holiday tunes for Christmas. There are so many other things in the queue now but I decided to try to get this out sooner, in case you want to practice up before Christmas.

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The tunes are:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
We Three Kings
Away in a Manger
Silent Night

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The Ukulele Secrets I use in these arrangements are:

Ukulele Secret #3: Campanela riffs
Ukulele Secret #7: Pretty Up Your CFG… plus bonus chords

What I did here was make them as hard to play as possible. Ha! That’s just another way of saying I tried to put in as much campanella that I could.

The exception is We Three Kings. There is a wee bit of campanella but if you pay attention to the chord forms you will see it’s 90% ‘Pretty Up Your CFG’. It’s a great example of that secret. Coupled with the baroque feel, it makes for a fun song to play.

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So, I am only offering the TABs to It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and We Three Kings for now.

Here’s why…

My arrangement of Away in a Manger is in the key of C, like every one else’s I’ve seen. I really made it hard to play. So hard that I couldn’t really get the full campanella effect in the video. There are just too many easier ways to play it and make it sound just as beautiful. It is super easy so fish around and you’ll find it.

And…

This Silent Night arrangement started from my friend Jim’s interest in the song a few years ago. Then I saw Al’s version the other day at Ukulele Hunt. I wanted to give it the ole campanella try so I went after it. It’s really not much different than the others except some campanella and harmonics.

It is a beautiful melody and I encourage you to play it with a friend and do harmonies. Jim and I have been having fun with it and we might post a video before long.

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TAB: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
TAB: We Three Kings

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And the viddie..

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

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Secret Update and James Hill cover video

Hey Folks,

Well, I am finally moved back into my space, with the studio partially together.

1. Apartment repairs complete
2. Garage semi normal
3. Doctor visits complete and feeling much better
4. Business trip to Seattle over
5. Earned my CUA – Certified Usability Analyst
6. Lots of craigslist.com stuff out the door (with still more to go)
7. Received my signed copy of James Hill’s new CD A Man With A Love Song

And started a new chapter in life.. in a few different ways.

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My day job is absolutely crazy right now and will be for several months to come but I am resolved to share more secrets… so here’s what’s coming up.

1. the Train rhythm (my secret weapon)
2. a duet version of Tico Tico that will make your socks go up and down
3. Elvis has left the building.. the quintessential Elvis rhythm
4. a TAB of my Danny Boy arrangement
4. and “Claw-panela” a unique (to me) way to combine claw hammer technique with campanela runs

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WTH is claw-panela?

Well, I coined the term yesterday after having loosely worked up James Hill’s claw hammer medley from his new CD, of which I was a “Mover and Shaker”. The track is called Assam/Like a Bird and is a tribute to John Kavanagh and John King, respectively. An incredibly beautiful tribute. When I first heard it I was entranced. I still am.

BTW the CD is great. Lots of excellent James Hill compositions and playing and musicianship from guest artists. I highly recommend it.

Back to claw-panela. The song is played in the claw hammer style utilizing campenala style to play beautiful melody lines. I have been exploring ideas with the technique and will share what I have come up with in the future.

Meanwhile here is my toob of James HIll’s Assam/Like a Bird (minus his superb foot-stomping)

See you soon..

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Ukulele Secret #8: Cross Training, with demonstration videos

I recently read a forum post with someone inquiring about an unusual instrument (harp ukelele, but that is not important). It seemed like every other reply was something like “I would never play that!” or “What’s the point?” or “That is stupid.” I am paraphrasing but that is the general feeling I got.

On the other hand, there were some folks, like myself, that were excited and intrigued and even wanted to get one in their hands. That’s more like it! To me, at least. I am always curious to try some new kind of instrument.

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Which brings me to Ukelele Secret #8: Cross Training

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If you ever get the chance to pick up a new (to you) instrument, I highly recommend doing so. Whether “picking it up” means buying one or just trying it out at a friend’s house or a music store, do it!

And I am not talking about trying different ukuleles. Do that, too. But I mean different INSTRUMENTS. Like a banjo, mandolin, sitar, bass guitar, venezuelan cuatro, hammer dulcimer, violin (wince).. etc. These are all stringed instruments but don’t stop there…

Try a piano or keyboard. Learn how to do a triplet or paradiddle on percussion. Get shakin’ with a shaker. Try like heck to get a good note out of a bamboo flute. Pluck a kalimba (thumb piano). Make a sound, make music with whatever you can get your hands on.

After all, you are a musician.

It might sound less than pleasing at first (starting something new always has some learning curve) but spend some time learning a few chords or fishing for a melody.

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Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing.

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Gosh, why?? Well, because of the different tuning, different sound, shape and feel, new musical ideas emerge that would not have, if you stuck to just one instrument. You don’t have to master it, just noodle. Your brain gets exercised and your creativity gets a boost that you can bring back to the uke.

It will make you a better ukulele player.. maybe even a badass

I am not blowing smoke here, either. I speak from the mountain. I currently own, play, or have played all the instruments mentioned above and gained a level of proficiency with them as well.

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Listening to different kinds of music fits into cross training, too. You don’t have to go buy K-Tel’s Top Hits but just be curious. Try to play something that was originally played on a different instrument. When I was 16 or 17 I transcribed Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer, a piano song, to classical guitar. I loved the melody so much I just HAD to learn it. So I taught myself.

Which brings this stream of consciousness to my next secret.

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Play anything. Any type of music.

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Don’t limit yourself to “ukulele music”. That’s what’s fun about being a musician. But if you haven’t tried it, there are TONS of resources, tabs (even on this site) for ‘different’ kinds of music to play on the ukulele. Al Woods, proprietor of Ukulele Hunt is one of the best examples of a musician turning the ukulele into a black hole and sucking every kind of music into it.

And if you’ve come to know me even a little, you can see I love to play a great variety of music and flavors.

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So.. here is an example of the joy I get playing different kinds of instruments. It’s a bluegrass classic called Blackberry Blossom. Rhythm guitar is in the left speaker and melody features mandolin, ukulele and acoustic guitar. I am by no means a master of any of these instruments but just getting through a song like this is really fun.

And now for something totally unrelated.. well, not totally. I wrote and recorded the music, played the instruments, except the electronic drum loop, for this self shot and edited video, featuring me enjoying another hobby of mine. Hula hooping.

Get creative!


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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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..


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