Tag Archives: Beginners Music Theory

New Uke For Xmas (2019)

If you’ve got a new ukulele for Christmas or are considering taking up playing one, you’ll soon find there are lots of on-line resources to help you, whatever your level:

Day & Summary Day & Summary
01 –  Helmut Bickel – Fingerstyle 02 – New Uke For Xmas – Useful sources
03 – Bernadette’s 30 Day Challenge 04 – Songs & Songbooks – eg MUJ
05 – James Hill’s Ukulele Way 06 – Danno Sullivan – Play It Daily
07 – Cynthia Lin – Tutorials 08 – Phil Doleman’s Two Minute Tips
09 – Samantha Muir – Classical Uke 10 – Ten Thumbs Productions – Tutorials
11 – Richard Hefner – ezFolk Lessons 12 – Stuart Fuchs  – Tips & Tutorials
  • Have a general look around this website, as we pick out a wide selection of our favourite tools & tips, on-line uke lessons, songbooks, chords, music theory, forums, equipment & other website resources. In particular, my musings on what helped me when I first got my uke as a complete beginner may prove a useful summary if you’re totally new to playing.
  • Joining a local group is always a boost – whether you are a beginner, improver or expert player. We’re a very friendly club based in Lewisham which meets every Tuesday for free jamming sessions. Everyone is welcome & we pride ourselves from having members from all over London, Kent & Surrey. We’re back strumming in the New Year from Tue 7 Jan 2020. Contact us for more details.
  • If you aren’t near Lewisham, do check out the Mighty Ukulele for Londonwide gigs, events & UK clubs or Uke Hunt’s extensive clubs & groups listings covering  UK & Ireland; Europe; USA & Canada and Australia & New Zealand for a local group.
  • If you need advice on buying an instrument, Barry Maz has a wealth of independent reviews on Got A Ukulele as well as a schedule of uke festivals and other handy info to help get you started.

Good luck & happy strumming!



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PLUC Weekend Workout

PLUC - Circle of Fifths - Whole Wheel

PLUC – Circle of Fifths – Whole Wheel

Christopher Davis-Shannon, aka the Tinman, has a website with playalongs of old-time tunes as well as various tutorials and Uke Minutes with different tips and techniques, including singing whilst playing, practice exercises, strumming methods, picking patterns, chord melody, using a metronome and showboating tricks:.

His latest YouTube series 12 Keys In 12 Weeks (#12Keys12weeks) gets you playing a different scale each week. He provides a number of exercises, including a little melody up the scale for each one using broken – arpeggiated – chords that ‘fit’ within that key by containing just notes from that specific scale (known as a chord family).

In the first video, below, he is demonstrating C major – check the original YouTube page for links in the description for his free worksheets (and more detailed lessons on scales and chords within them). As he progresses, he’s starting to add in different chord voicings to get you to follow the melody notes and play further up the neck. By the end of the series you should be more confident at playing in any key.

Should you want to understand a little more how he arrives at the chords for each scale, have a quick look at a Circle of Fifths.

If you’re playing in the key of C major, take all the chords nearest C on the wheel in a little ‘L’ shape. These chords are made up from the same notes that you’ll find in that specific scale. Go through the letters alphabetically from C right round to C again to get the whole scale.

PLUC - Circle of Fifths - C Major Chord Family

PLUC – Circle of Fifths – C Major Chord Family


When playing chords in this key, the letters on the outside are major chords, the ones on the inside are minor ones and the one out on the leg of the ‘L’ is a diminished chord (dim7 or sometimes written as °):

C major – D minor – E minor – F major – G major – A minor – B dim – C major


PLUC - Circle of Fifths - G Major Chord Family

PLUC – Circle of Fifths – G Major Chord Family




For G major, you’ll get: G major – A minor – B minor – C major – D major – E minor – F# dim – G major


PLUC - Circle of Fifths - D Major Chord Family

PLUC – Circle of Fifths – D Major Chord Family





For D major, you’ll get: D major – E minor – F# minor – G major – A major – B minor – C# dim – D major


And so on, round the wheel in the same way for each different key.



See more of our posts covering improving your chord playing; musical keys, the PLUC Transposing Tool and other PLUC Weekend Workouts. Original Circle of Fifths diagram from Wikipedia’s public domain images.

Here’s Christopher, with the first video in the series – C major:


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Twelve Days Of Ukemas – Day Ten

For Day Ten of our Twelve Days of Ukemas, we fittingly have Ten Thumbs Productions.

Tyler Austenfeld has been producing an amazing variety of lessons – at least two every week on Weds & Sats – since 2013. He loves teaching & is very encouraging, believing everyone can be musical given the chance. Topics covered in his YouTube Channel include:

  • Beginners: Here’s a thorough tutorial for brand new players (including holding the uke, tuning, first few chords, a couple of strumming patterns & links to several follow-on videos. Check the pinned comment for the PDF worksheet) and further beginners’ YouTubes.
  • There’s a wealth of songs, through many decades, right up to the current day: ‘How To Play’ Ukulele Songs; Song Tutorials Through The Decades (songs from 1950s – 2010s); Tutorials Of Popular Artists (eg Bruno Mars, Eric Clapton, Green Day, Jack Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Twenty One Pilots, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, CCR, Queen etc).
  • Ukulele Tips, Tricks, Techniques & Songwriting –  this covers all sorts of interesting items, often in mini-courses, such as different types of strumming (eg reggae, palm mute, chnking, triplets, Mariachi etc); hammer on & pull-offs; percussive techniques; barre chords; Twelve Bar Blues – licks & turnarounds; right-hand dynamics; fingerstyle & fingerpicking; jamming with others, soloing & improvisation; pentatonic & other scales; jazz chord progressions; songwriting tips etc.

(If you like what you see & want even more detailed information, you can join Ten Thumbs’ Patreon scheme from as little as $1 per month to gain access to tabs for every lesson, jam tracks and more.)

Here’s a Twelve Bar Blues with Barre Chord Shuffle in A major:


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Twelve Days Of Ukemas – Day Eight

We know Phil Doleman – he’s a nice chap! He’s a good teacher & performer – always doing workshops at every ukulele festival he’s at. He explains things very clearly, so his sessions are well-worth attending.  In fact, it never seems like a proper uke fest if he’s not there!

Phil has interesting online lessons (see his blog & YouTube Channel – or even via Skype) & a really good uke music theory book, How Music Works on the Ukulele (all based round the uke fretboard, so perfect for beginners or those who don’t read music).

From his selection of over twenty Two Minute Tips, here’s a demo on how to use your left hand more efficiently, without strain (and a little more on barre chords here – learning to play the Bb chord with ease).


By the way, if you’ve never attended a ukulele festival, it’s a great way to expand your knowledge. See many uke performers of differing styles; attend a few workshops to learn new skills, jam along with others and maybe even pluck up courage to play in an open mic session! The Got A Ukulele Calendar is international & updated regularly throughout the year as folk send in information. I’ve been a few – some small & local and others large-scale & national. My favourite to date is the Ukulele Festival of Scotland, which is held in lovely surroundings at Dumfries. It’s fantastically well-organised & packs in a lot from mid Fri afternoon to early Sun evening.


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Twelve Days Of Ukemas – Day Three

For those of you who are new to playing, Bernadette Teaches Music recently produced a 30 Day Challenge on YouTube which makes a good practical introduction if you have no experience of the instrument.

It takes complete novices through the basics, showing how to hold a uke, first chords, how to read tab, to play a few songs & an intro to music theory. Here is the full YouTube playlist & the worksheet booklet to accompany the videos (links also underneath each YouTube in the series).

Anatomy of the ukulele (video one):


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PLUC Weekend Workout

Want to brush up on your knowledge of the fretboard? Need to know how to relate written music to the notes you play? Then head over to Tom Potts’ handy Ukulele Note Finder tool.

All you need to do is hover over a position on the fretboard & it’ll tell you where else you’ll find notes of the same pitch (ie octave) elsewhere on other strings. Or, if you are looking at a piece of music, go to the bottom of the screen, find the note on the stave you have to identify, & it gives you your various playing options on the fretboard.

In the example below, you can see there are four high Cs (C5) on a standard gCEA-tuned 12 fret instrument. The open C string is an octave lower –  C4 / middle C. Use the various search boxes on the right hand side of the PLUC site pages to look up more articles, tools & tips from us about very basic understanding of music, notes & fretboards if this is all unfamiliar to you!


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PLUC Weekend Workout

Uke Nut is an interesting blog, covering various ukulele resources, including links to a selection of fingerstyle tunes & practice drills. Amongst the instructional postings are some links to a useful site of tools –

Uke Nut has customised the Fretboard Memorisation Tool for a standard gCEA-tuned uke. Use it to practice identifying the notes up to the 10th fret. This will help you develop your skills, including helping you form moveable chords more readily.

Ukulele Fretboard Memorization Tool from, customised by Uke Nut

Ukulele Fretboard Memorization Tool from, customised by Uke Nut


More PLUC fretboard-relatedmoveable chord & quiz posts.


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PLUC Weekend Workout

Chris has found this interesting lecture from the basic Listening To Music course by Yale University and feels it would repay many members of our group for the time spent watching it.

It opens with a preamble about musical notation & the reasons we use it (also mentioned in last month’s PLUC Weekend Workout & other music theory postings if you need more detail). Then the majority of Prof Craig Wright’s talk covers rhythm in many music styles, showing how different time signatures sound & getting students to listen to various pieces of music so they can conduct along to the beat. Read the rest of this entry »


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PLUC Weekend Workout

There are so many online learning resources out there, it’s difficult to know where to start! One of the interesting sources is TED-Ed, who create ‘lessons worth sharing’. They produce fun & informative videos & lectures on numerous topics. Here are three for you to view for starters. Read the rest of this entry »


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PLUC Weekend Workout

Here’s a fascinating stop-frame animated YouTube from Vi Hart talking about how musical notes are made up of different frequencies. It uses an unfretted instrument (viola) to show how you can work out where along the fingerboard the different notes appear, so you can see how this translates to the uke & why the frets are where they are. Read the rest of this entry »


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