Category Archives: Tutorials

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..

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.

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

Ukulele Secret #2: Folksy Fingerstyle Travis picking

Top, inside, outside, inside. Top, inside, outside, inside.

There is nothing new under the sun. This is a common fingerstyle pattern for ukulele, as well as three finger banjo or guitar (but that’s another blog or two). It is also known as Travis picking. I am just offering a different angle at showing you how to play it.

In the video I am not counting out the time or beats proper. I use words as a shortcut to playing music in a cool, badass way.

Pay particular attention as to which right hand fingers are to pluck which string. RIGHT HAND fingering explained..
T = Thumb, I = Index Finger, M = Middle Finger, A = Ring Finger

So.. what are the beats we’re playing?

Follow along with the video. I use a lot of repetition. YOU will use a LOT of repetition. Dozens or even hundreds of reps are not uncommon in learning a new technique or pattern or section or song. Don’t be intimidated by those numbers, though. When you practice this way results come within minutes. The more uninterrupted the reps, the faster the results, and the more badass you become. I promise.

Practice this as slowly as it takes and speed it up only when you are comfortable.

If you have questions just comment to this post. I will do my best to help you along.

Now, kick some ass…

[BTW, as promised.. here is the TAB for that Ring of Fire riff demonstrated in the video.