Superbly organised and sequenced tutorial course for the serious student - there's now also a baritone uke version
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 September 2014
I deliberately used the words 'serious student' in my review caption because that's the impression I get from this brilliant book. This is most definitely NOT a book to dip into nor look at now and then, nor is it a book if you just want something that will quickly give you a few basics and a few songs to sing along with as you strum. But, if you are serious about wanting to learn to play the ukulele then you will already know that just as with any musical instrument, you will need to invest time, energy, effort, thought and lots of practise into the process of learning. That is the basis upon which this book is built. If that doesn't frighten you off, then this book is probably one for you - either as your main teaching aid or as a major strand in your journey towards mastering this surprisingly versatile little instrument. (Not that baritone ukeleles are tiny - but that's another story and is not relevant here as this book is for GCEA tuned ukes).
The subtitle of the book lays it on the line ..... "... A 40 week, one- lick-per-day workout program for developing, improving and maintaining ukulele technique...". Whether or not you actually do work on a day-to-day timetable will depend upon your rate of progress and, of course, what time you have available. Note the use of 'workout' in the title. It was well chosen, as you will see.
I suggest and believe that it's more useful and accurate to think of this book as providing you with a task for each successive or subsequent day that you devote to the ukulele. You may need to stay on a task for longer, or other pressures of life may mean you have to have a break. It won't matter. Just work through the book in sequence. That's the crucial key. KEEP TO THE SEQUENCE.
The learning process is greatly helped by the fact that each of the 40 sets of tasks are always organised in the same order: As far as the book is concerned, these stretch from Monday through to Sunday, but that's just an arbitrary labelling. It's easier to think in terms of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 etc.
In those terms, all 40 weeks are organised like this ---
Day 1 --- Chord vocabulary. (Chords for that week. Learn how to make & play them.)
Day 2 --- Strumming (Patterns and styles are evolved throughout the 40 weeks)
Day 3 --- Fingerstyle (Complexity evolves throughout the 40 weeks)
Day 4 --- Scale exercise (You get the idea by now --- a 40 week evolution)
Day 5 --- Legato (Developing smoothness and fluency using hammer-ons and pull-offs etc.)
Day 6 --- Licks & Riffs (Build your own 'library' of useful licks from a wide range of genres.)
Day 7 --- Miscellaneous (All sorts, such as tweaks, jazz, tremolo, muting, vibrato, vamping etc).
Each task is accompanied by appropriate explanations in text form (thankfully not as verbose as those found in the 'Dummies' series of books) and each week has its own track on the CD. Each of the 7 tasks-per-week is demonstrated and each task has the timing for its track to help you find it more quickly. All tasks are shown in both tab and notation.
You'll notice that this book avoids specialising in just strumming or just fingerstyle. You develop both skills simultaneously. This can be quite demanding upon concentration, motivation and time .... which is another reason why I used that phrase "...for the serious student...". But - and it's a big BUT - this approach means that you will develop a much wider range of skills, techniques and styles. You should also find it increasingly interesting and inspirational as you work through the book. You could, of course, just focus on the strumming or the fingerstyle tasks each week, but that would effectively devalue the key feature and strength of this book.
Unlike many other book tutors, there is only a cursory introduction at the outset. If you need that level of support, you will easily find it on Youtube or in the vast archive of freely downloadable pdf documents on the internet. Also unlike most other tutor books, this one never leads you towards complete pieces to practise or perform. Once established, the weekly pattern of tasks is maintained throughout. If and when you want songs to practise, there is an unbelievable wealth of freely downloadable songs and songbooks on the internet. Many ukulele clubs have created their own collections and songbooks and a great many of these can be downloaded in their entirity. A website that I always recommend is PDF-MINSTREL. Everything is free and ukulele music is well covered for all ability ranges.
So, to summarise --- The sole aim of this book is to make you into a much more complete musician and to help you develop a much more comprehensive understanding of the ukulele.
When I originally wrote this review, I included a 'personal niggle' about there not being a version of this superb book for those who play the baritone ukulele. That situation has now been resolved and there IS such a book. HOORAY!!
Baritone Ukulele Aerobics: For All Levels - Beginner to Advanced
If you play the DGBE-tuned baritone uke then you might be on the lookout for a good chord dictionary. One to consider is 'The baritone ukulele chord bible'
The Baritone Ukulele Chord Bible: DGBE Standard Tuning 2, 160 Chords (Fretted Friends Series)
This takes you from the simplest chords right through to the most exotic.
An alternative baritone ukulele chord dictionary is 'Hal Leonard Baritone Ukulele Chord Finder: Over 1000 Ukulele Chords'. I can't comment on this book as I haven't seen it, but it might be something to check out:
Hal Leonard Baritone Ukulele Chord Finder: Over 1000 Ukulele Chords
Another alternative is to search online for baritone ukulele chords. One website that I can highly recommend is "Baritone Ukulele Chords - ezFolk[dot][com]". When you find the chord(s) you want, you can right click and copy that set of chords for printing or for archiving.
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