ukestuff

Ukulele "Stuff": Education, Technology, Play Alongs, Reviews, Accessories, and More!

Ammoon 21″ Electric Ukulele

While I was at TMEA in February, I had the chance to see Kris Gilbert’s J&D Electric Ukulele, and this created a need (in my mind) to buy an electric ukulele. I actually have a few ukuleles with a pickup installed, but what I was interested in was a ukulele that would be very, very quiet. A large percentage of my ukulele play along work is done at night when the rest of my family is asleep. They have frequently gone to bed (or attempted to do so) while I played ukulele, working out the details of play along videos. As an added benefit, many electric ukuleles have a way to patch audio in from another device (e.g. an iPad) and out (to headphones with a 1/8″/3.5mm jack or a 1/4″ 6.35mm jack).

When I came home from TMEA, I learned that the J&D electric ukulele was selling for $199, and the similar (i.e. identical) Mahalo EUK-200 was $216. I didn’t want to spend that much for something that might work the way I needed it to, so I began to look for cheaper options to try before committing more money. I came across the Ammoon electric ukulele in a few different locations–wish.com, Amazon, and eBay. It was selling for $60-$80, but I found an eBay listing for an instrument that looked exactly the same for $49.95, and I bought it.

The ukulele arrived from China about three weeks later–spending most of that time stuck in customs in Chicago. When I unboxed the instrument, it was indeed an Ammoon electric ukulele, 21″ long. The scale length is 13.5″, making it a soprano…all to be expected. The outward box definitely sustained damage on the trip, but the instrument was fine. The ukulele came with a light storage case, extra strings (unlabeled but likely Aquila replicas) and a tuner. No battery was included, either for the ukulele (9V) or for the tuner (2032).

The only ukulele available at the $49.99 price point was painted red, so that is what I ordered. I am actually quite pleased with the quality of the paint job on what is listed as solid Okoume wood. The matte finish looks good (far better than what I imagined) and the Ammoon logo is screened on the top in a non-overwhelming way. Overall, I like the looks of the instrument. The design is similar to my Ashbury Lonely Traveler, as well as my Jamstik 7!

The electric ukulele has sealed chrome generic tuners that are fine…no sloppiness or problems with the tuners at all. There are twelve frets on the fretboard with front markers on the 5th, 7th, and 10th frets, but there are no side dots on the ukulele. The fretboard and tie-on bridge appear to be made of rosewood (old stock?) and the saddle is made of plastic. The bridge is very small…something you don’t see very often on a ukulele. I think this may be due to the ability for the bridge to be securely screwed into the solid wood instrument, whereas traditional ukuleles have very thin wood and need to distribute the glue on a bridge (even when screws are used). The nut is 34.8mm wide (35mm). The first and fourth strings are spaced 28.2mm apart at the first fret, with 7.95mm between each string. All of these measurements are common for a Chinese-made soprano ukulele (and that isn’t a bad thing…it just “is.”).

One of the biggest problems you will face with this ukulele is the original set-up. Action at the first fret was originally greater than 1.0mm, and action at the 12th fret was greater than 4.0mm. I’m not afraid to try to solve these problems on my own, and was able to get the string action to a level that I am comfortable with–but many players who would be enticed by this instrument may not have set-up skills, and would need to bring it to a luthier to set-up, resulting in another $50 or more of labor charges. That might make this a deal breaker for some players, and trust me, you don’t want to play it in its original condition.

My purpose for this ukulele is centered around the play along videos that I create. I plugged audio into the ukulele, and then headphones into the ukulele…and was greeted by a lot of background hiss. Quite frankly, that was disappointing. Added to that, the pick-up seems to be unbalanced, resulting in a lot of sound from strings 2 and 3 (E and C) and very little sound from strings 1 and 4 (A and G). I have pulled the pick-up assembly apart, and now get sound on strings 1, 2, and 3. It is a flat piezo pickup that was probably made for guitar, and the sensor crystals are arranged in “bumps” that should sit under a guitar string. The problem is that ukulele spacing is not the same as guitar spacing. I have a different flat piezo pickup coming later this week ($6 shipped on Amazon) and will also

Saying that, when the instrument is plugged into the 1/4″/3.65mm jack, there is no hiss, and the patched audio goes through that connection, too. If the balance of the pick-up can be adjusted, all will be good with the world. I can deal with the hiss through the headphone jack.

I experienced a buzz on the E string (2nd string), and tried everything to determine what was causing it–tightening every screw, making sure the string wasn’t touching any frets, and even opening the internal cavities for the electronics to make sure that things weren’t buzzing (and even putting some foam in there to stop vibrations). As I was making videos today, I no longer heard the buzz. I don’t know where it went…but when I change strings (sooner than later), I’m wondering if that may also address the issue.

There are two dials to adjust volume and tone located on the lower left side of the instrument. They work well enough, and the range of tone is dark to bright. There is a “middle” point you can feel with the tone dial, which is where I am leaving mine. These face a right handed player. The input (top) and headphone (lower) jacks are on the lower right hand side of the instrument. I worry about these jacks because they are right were I want to set the ukulele as I am playing it on a couch, putting pressure on those connectors. If you have a 1/8″/3.5mm cable that has 90º connectors, and headphones that have a 90º connector, it might be a good idea to use those instead.

The ukulele does serve its purpose–in my case at least. Playing the ukulele as loud as I could, I generated 75.0 dB of volume. I then played my loudest ukulele, my KoAloha Opio Sapele Tenor, and registered 92.1 dB of volume. While 75 to 92 doesn’t seem like much difference, remember that a decible (dB) is a power ratio index, not a linear index. A 20 db difference results in a sound ten times louder…meaning that the difference in volume is quite extreme. If you play the Ammoon Electric Ukulele at a normal volume level in your house in another room while everyone is sleeping–you’re probably not going to wake anyone up (unless you start singing).

EleUke recently announced new versions of its Peanut ukuleles in an Indiegogo campaign, after I had bought the Ammoon electric ukulele. The new models have some changes in their design and (in the case of electric models) technology.. I decided to sponsor the crowdfunding campaign with an investment in the concert electric, which also has a bluetooth receiver (so you can send audio from a device, like an iPad or iPhone). The Concert Electric Peanut is supposed to ship in May, so I will review that instrument when it arrives. If the coming Concert Electric Peanut works out, EleUke sells upgrade kits for their older models, and I might buy one of those kits to put into the Ammoon.

In conclusion, would I recommend this instrument? The answer is: probably not. Even if you bought a model that had equal distribution of the pickup, you still would need to set up the instrument yourself or have a luthier set it up for you. Additionally, the hiss through the headphone jack as well as the untraceable (and suddenly missing) vibration on the 2nd String make me hesitant to recommend the instrument. I am impressed by the fit and finish of the instrument, but considering that the electronic aspect of the instrument is the selling point, I’d advise you to look elsewhere for a solution. Again, that is just my opinion, and you are certainly welcome to give the instrument a try, as I did. If you buy from Amazon (at a higher cost and with faster shipping), you can return an item. I don’t bother with returns when buying from eBay.

One final note: A replacement ukulele saddle, purchased from Amazon for $6.00, solved the largest problem of the instrument, and allowed vibration from all four strings to reach the electronics. That’s an extra $6.00 that you shouldn’t have to spend–and the hiss from the headphone jack is still there. So while this unit will absolutely work for what I am using it for (I used it last night to create four play along versions of the song “Wavin’ Flag”), I can’t recommend this unit for others. I wish I could!

Positives:

  • Really nice build quality–paint job is very nice with a good finish
  • Affordable
  • Closed generic tuners work well, no loose play in the tuners.
  • Comes with some accessories (light bag, extra strings, tuner)

Negatives:

  • Hiss from audio jack
  • Batteries not included (for ukulele or tuner)
  • Pickup is not sensing the vibrations evenly
  • Input and Headphone jacks are in a odd location for normal use
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Korg Education Bundle

I’m back from the Texas Music Education Association annual conference, and I had the joy of presenting one session (on forScore) as well as attending a number of sessions–and ukulele sessions. I also had the chance to hang out with Andy Ramos and to visit with Kris Gilbert, and you’ll see podcasts with them on this blog soon.

As Andy and I attended various sessions, we were amazed at how many ukulele sessions are focusing on four chord songs (C, F, G[7], Am), and the need for a “ukulele: what’s the next step” session. Kris Gilbert’s session on Saturday was the only session that moved to chords and techniques beyond the first four chords. Don’t get me wrong…the first four chords are terribly important…and I know if you are teaching a month long ukulele unit, that might be all that you can cover. That said, there is a whole lot more territory to cover.

One of TMEA’s major selling points is the vendor area, which is huge…it is a convention in and of itself. I keep my eyes out for ukulele items–and it was pretty quiet as ukuleles went. My friends at Peripole had their normal line of Luna ukuleles (and sold a bunch) but also now carry KoAloha Opio ukuleles, which I am a huge fan of.

The only instrument that took me by surprise was the Korg Education ukulele bundle. The instrument itself is by Tanglewood. A similar model was positively reviewed by Got A Ukulele last year:

The kit includes a light gig bag, a Korg Tuner, a colored string method book, and a Tanglewood concert ukulele with Aquila KIDS strings on it, selling as a kit for about $80. This is a bit more than I’d like to see, but not outrageous.

I’m a big fan of the Aquila strings, so I was very interested in the package. The two Tanglewoods that I saw (a more basic model than the Got A Ukulele reviewed item) had a very high setup (at the neck and saddle) with sharp fret edges. This is common, but you would want to see if you could buy these from a vendor who would address those issues for you before you received them.

The book, however, took me by surprise, because it asked for the A string to be tuned to G, making the ukulele GCEG. Andy Ramos and I attended another ukulele session at TMEA where the presenter suggested tuning to GCEG–and while I can’t speak for Andy, I’m not comfortable with that. I would rather encourage students to play one finger chords rather than learn an alternate tuning. The book, while it uses color charts, doesn’t integrate those colors directly in the songs, and it sort of feels like a missed opportunity. I suggested to the rep that they may want to offer packages with a book that doesn’t require the dropped tuning.

So, with the ukulele package, I would instead consider it a similar ukulele to a Kala KA-C or Makala MK-C with Aquila KIDS strings, a very light gig bag, and a tuner–with a book that I know that I personally wouldn’t use with my students. Is that package worth $80? Probably, again, as long as the vendor is willing to do some set-up work before you buy them. Otherwise, I’d direct you to a flight soprano (cheaper) or Outdoor Ukulele (more expensive) for most school environments.

21 Easy Folk Songs Book Now Available on Amazon!

In the category of items that might interest you, Jenny Peters and Rebecca Bogart have released a new book (their 6th in the “21 Songs” series) entitled “21 Easy Folk Songs for Ukulele.” In addition to the “21 Songs” series, Jenny and Rebecca also wrote the “Ukulele for All” Method.

21 Easy Folk Songs for Ukulele includes the following songs:

  • Lovely Evening
  • Lil Liza Jane
  • Happy Birthday
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody
  • Wabash Cannonball
  • Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • Worried Man Blues
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Goodnight, Irene
  • Down By the Riverside
  • Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
  • Sakura
  • All Through the Night
  • Beautiful Dreamer
  • Molly Malone
  • Shenandoah
  • The Ash Grove
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  • Turkey in the Straw
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Sweet Betsy from Pike

I have two of the 21 Songs series so far (and just bought 21 Folk Songs one, making a total of three), and the new book offers tablature in addition to traditional notation. This means that you can play the melody of the songs, or you can play the chords and sing the melody yourself. Or you could use the Acappella app and record yourself doing all three! There are a few songs in the book that also include a suggested accompaniment (fingerpicking) or chord melody. This gives players a lot of flexible ways to use the book.

The book is organized by the number of chords that you need to play it, and even has some songs in multiple keys, which can make for great practice, or even help a singer (e.g. I’m a tenor, so melodies that go below C don’t work well with my voice).

Here is a screen shot of a part of one of the songs in the book. This lets you see how the songs are presented in the book.

I like the idea of including tablature–this gives beginning players more to go for than just the chords of a song. I only have three suggestions for the book. First, the Amazon listing doesn’t show any of the pages with the music, and some people want to know what they are buying. That is why I included the screen shot above. Second. I’d love to see more chord melody arrangements in the book (chord melody is a great way to get into tablature beyond playing the melody). And third, I’d love to see a “music only” version of the book, perhaps in 8.5×11 format (as a PDF) so that once you had learned from the book, you could simply use the songs as a separate book without the other information.

Interested in the book? You should be…it has a lot of uses for beginning and intermediate ukulele players. Many convention or workshop sessions could be built around this book. You can support both the authors and this blog by purchasing the book and using these referral links:

Kindle Edition: ($6.99 as of 2/5/19): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NBQNH7F/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07NBQNH7F&linkId=7754398c12b7b00c8f6abd85b338c70b

Print Edition: ($13.99 as of 2/5/19):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1795608358/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1795608358&linkId=924272d1516a455fbb727cd197b694cc

By the way, if you buy the book before February 13, 2019, there are some bonuses, including a drawing for a Bondi Ukulele Starter Kit. See the “Bonuses” chapter at the end of the book for more information, or watch the promotional video below.

Want to know more about Jenny and Rebecca and their work? Check out their website, ukulele.io!


Flat.io, Ukulele, and Google Slides

I recently read about some improvements to the Flat.io Add-On for Google Docs and Google Slides. In terms of ukulele, Google Slides now includes the ability to write ukulele tablature. How does it work? Check out the Google Slides presentation below.

Want to click on the presentation directly? Go to: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1QsOJL1CDPIkVcOymtXzdcqkqKT7Bomsnqi7_atO_QLs/edit?usp=sharing

The Rainbow Ukulele Method…A Review

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If you are a music educator, and you are considering integrating ukulele into your instruction, you have some decisions to make as it comes to curriculum.

Specifically, do you want to teach ukulele as a solo instrument, or as an accompaniment to singing?  In my own teaching, as the subject is “choir” and ukulele is in addition to our choral content, I focus on ukulele as an accompaniment instrument.  This is how ukulele is used by a majority of players throughout the world—and it seems clear, from the earliest ukulele method books that I have seen (early 1910’s), that this is how ukulele was originally used as well.  Trust me…I support the ukulele as a solo instrument and play chord melody and tablature on my own, but my professional interest lies elsewhere.

That said, the ukulele can be used as more than as an accompaniment instrument, and there are a number of methods that you can use to teach melody, rhythm, and expression in addition to the instrument’s traditional role as harmonic accompaniment.  Hal Leonard and Alfred have their own approaches, as does James Hill (a renown ukulele performer and educator, see ukuleleintheclassroom.com).  You can also check out the work of my friend Paul Marchese (ukuleleforteachers.com).

One method I have been interested in for some time is Shelley Tommich’s Rainbow Ukulele, a method available on Pitch Publications (https://pitchpublications.com) and Teachers Pay Teachers.  The Rainbow Ukulele mega bundle, which includes all of the curriculum, is priced just below $60 (as of January 2019).  I’ll spoil this review early—considering the quality of the content and the amount of content you receive, $60 is a bargain.  Even if you don’t follow the method as it is laid out, any ukulele teacher could use parts of Rainbow Ukulele and have a wealth of additional content at hand.  Pitch Publications also sells printed books for students ($10, with discounts for bulk purchases), stickers for ukuleles (chords), felt picks, and other resources.

As with many methods, Rainbow Ukulele begins with a discussion of the history of the instrument and the parts of the instrument.  The second part of the method discusses musical elements such as pitch, rhythm, and notation.  These elements are embedded in the content instead of presented as a complete unit, but I expect that most teachers will have already introduced these concepts by the time a student is given a ukulele in school, so I assume this is presented as review material.

The next concept presented in the Rainbow Ukulele method is tuning, a very important aspect of playing ukulele—but something that I avoid teaching in my own middle school classroom.  If you have responsible students, by all means, proceed with caution—but do not hesitate to discuss tuning without actually having students tune the instruments.  I recently purchased the Jowoom String Tuner which tunes a ukulele by itself (you do have to move it from tuner to tuner and play a string), which has worked well in the classroom.  

Proceeding further in the Rainbow Ukulele method, the student is then shown how to hold the ukulele and how to play melodies on individual strings—including tab and traditional notation.  The teacher’s version includes a number of resources, such as audio recordings and also recordings embedded in a presentation—as well as presentations in PowerPoint and Keynote formats.  The “ukulele as melody” part of the method is covered in no more than eleven pages, which is similar to (or more than) the amount of “melody” instruction in methods published by Hal Leonard or Alfred.  As expected, this is significantly briefer than Ukulele in the Classroom which has a different focus altogether.   I think the concept of the Rainbow Ukulele method is exposure: exposing a student to the idea that a ukulele can play melody, but getting on to the aspect of the ukulele that most people want to pursue—using the ukulele as an accompaniment instrument.  Ultimately, I wonder how many teachers using the Rainbow Ukulele skip this section and move on with chords and songs.  While tablature and individual notes do not get specifically mentioned again in the method, all but five of the songs used in the rest of method stay above middle C, meaning that advanced students (or the teacher) could play the melody on most of the songs.

Rainbow Ukulele is best known as a method to teach chords, using colored stickers to show where to put your fingers.  This is a methodology which has been around for years, but Shelley came up with a standardized color system.  Every song through the rest of the method uses chords, and the student book shows the chords in both a “chord chart” (what I call lyrics plus chord names) and a “lead sheet” (what I call notated music plus chord names).  I won’t discuss the order of chords as they are introduced in the method as this is part of what you pay for, but as an example, C uses a red sticker and F uses two green stickers.

It is important to note that Kala has introduced its own Color Chord ukulele and related teaching resources, and Kala’s colors are different than Rainbow Ukulele.  Neither method fully aligns with the Boomwhacker colors, although Shelley did keep those colors in mind while choosing colors.  On my play along videos, I have made some videos that use Aquila and DR colored ukulele strings, and I have matched Kala’s Color Chords on some videos, but not Rainbow Ukulele colors, as I have not wanted to infringe on Rainbow Ukulele’s territory.  It should be mentioned that Kala offers a number of Color Chord resources free on their website, even within their free tuning app (iOS or Android).  The Kala Color Chord Ukulele only comes with four chords indicated—but you can play a lot of songs with those four chords.  I wish that Rainbow Ukulele and Kala could come to terms with a common color system.  All that said, I teach slightly older students and do not use the sticker method.  That said, I can still use materials from the Rainbow Ukulele method.

Kala’s Color Chord Ukulele: it is really a black Waterman Ukulele with decals.

The songs in Rainbow Ukulele represent a wide selection of folk music, which makes sense in a litigious world (public domain!).  These are represented both in the student book and the included presentation software files (PowerPoint and Keynote).  Each song has a number of different audio accompaniments…without melody, with melody, slow, etc.  I count a total of forty-three songs in the method, which use a total of four chords.  While the songs are standard folk songs, the recorded accompaniments offer a variety of musical styles, and I don’t think students—or adults—would be bored with the songs.  I would like to see a recorded version were there was singing in the background (to support reluctant singers).

The one area where I would want to see Rainbow Ukulele expand would be video resources for the songs.  I know the video format works, so combining the excellent resources of Rainbow Ukulele with video would be an incredible tool for teachers and create a wonderful learning experience for students.

Rainbow Ukulele also includes tools for assessment and rewards, including a plan for award beads; I think students go crazy over things like beads (even in middle school), and I wonder how I could implement such a plan with 350 students.

I also love that the fonts used in the presentation are included so that you can install those fonts and use the Rainbow Ukulele presentation on your device as it was intended to appear.  As a side note, if you use the Keynote presentation on your iPad, you can load the fonts to your iPad using AnyFont so that presentations look as they should.  I love that Keynote and PowerPoint files are included in the “kit.”

I want to thank Shelley for giving me the opportunity to review Rainbow Ukulele.  I have seen her state that the method is intended for elementary teachers, but I think it is an incredible resource for any ukulele teacher.  The audio files and songs could be used by any teacher, even if you aren’t putting stickers on ukuleles or giving away beads.  The method is attractive, comprehensive, and affordable. Most elementary teachers are utilizing ukulele as a stand alone unit, hoping to learn a few chords and to play songs with those chords.  Rainbow Ukulele is perfectly suited for this approach, and comes highly recommend by me.  Let’s face it, at less than $60, Rainbow Ukulele is a bargain for any teacher of the ukulele.

Want to buy Rainbow Ukulele? Visit:
https://pitchpublications.com/shop/ or https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ukulele-Program-Rainbow-Ukulele-BUNDLE-Lessons-Presentation-Student-Book-1526229

Note: This is NOT a referral link!

Some updates…(1/1/2019)

A new episode (#12) of the Ukulele Video Play Along Podcast has been uploaded (find it on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or Google Play).

I also updated the song lists today here on the blog.  This represents all songs created as of 1/1/2019, including Holiday Play Alongs (I don’t imagine there will be any additions to that list until late fall 2019).

Happy New Year, everyone!


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Videos: The Year (2018) in Review

As 2018 draws to a close, and the videos I am currently preparing are for something special in 2019 (February 15th to be exact…anyone know why this date in particular?), I will not have another play along video (although I may film a podcast episode tomorrow) until 2019.  That means that I can look at play along videos for 2018, as I did in 2017 (link).

Last year, I broke things down by month, but I didn’t want to do that this year.  In 2017, I created 176 play along videos.

This year, I only created 159 videos.  That sounds like a negative, but I added a few other categories of videos.

I created 20 videos of reviews in 2018; 10 skill drill videos (very, very useful in my own teaching), 10 videos for the Ukulele Boot Camp, 29 Karaoke videos, 21 play along videos were created in a separate key (and not counted in the total of 159), 8 tutorial videos, 2 additions to my Daily 365 project (I really need to get going on that in 2019), and 4 podcast videos.

In addition to these videos, I was convinced in July that I needed to start making videos for Baritone Ukulele–which sometimes share the same key as a ukulele video, and sometimes not.  I made 53 Baritone Ukulele Play Alongs in 2018, starting with “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” on July 8th.

Three videos are blocked and remain blocked (not a content strike…the copyright holder just will not allow them to be published).  I leave them in my own YouTube and do not publish them, because I have seen copyright restrictions change on songs (e.g. “Fields of Gold” and “You’ll Be Back”).  I have also received copyright notices from YouTube months later (e.g. On December 23rd, 2018, “La Bamba” was attached to a copyright, and I had published that video on August 9th, 2017).  We have also seen a song that was allowed to be used in a play along later taken away.  The one instance of this was “Low Rider” and both Dr. Jill Reese and Kris Gilbert had videos blocked because of that!

My first video in 2018 was “You and I” on January 2nd.  My last video was “Always Keep a Ukulele In Your Trunk” on December 27th.

The channel, as of today, has nearly 19,000 subscribers.  What’s my goal?  100,000.  I’d love to have a silver Play button to display at school.  So, if you haven’t subscribed, please do so.

The most watched video was “Rewrite the Stars” with just over 1.4 million views.

Yes…1.4 million.  All of the other Greatest Showman videos did quite well.

“Lost Boy” has regularly been my most popular video as of late, with 311,000 views.

And the revenue I have earned from making the videos?  $0.00.  If you follow the blog or podcast, you know that YouTube sends ad revenue to the copyright holder of the songs that are used for the play along, and my request to monetize the channel (for my own videos) was rejected because my channel is considered to be “duplication.”  I have resubmitted an application for my channel to be monetized for my own content, but I doubt it will be approved.

That’s why any sponsorship via Patreon is greatly appreciated.

Here are a couple of ideas that I’m floating for 2019.

  1. Look for a Google Form on new videos starting in 2019 asking for requests.  I can’t always make a video, and I try to create videos that I can use at school (obviously, any religious songs cannot–but I’m talking more about pop music as a whole).
  2. I will continue with the Podcast, and hope to get some guests on the podcast (in addition to my son who joined me for the last one).
  3. I would like to go back and make baritone versions for all of the songs that already exist.  That’s going to take a while, and will be a long term goal.
  4. As a Patreon Reward, I’d like to offer chord sheets of every new song (and old songs as I remake them).  Most of the time, I’m pretty confident in my chord analysis, and my chords differ from the sources online.
  5. When a song is in the public domain, I’ll also provide a lead sheet as a Patreon Reward.
  6. And I will continue with the next series of the Ukulele Video Play Along Method, which already has “The First Five Chords” (about 100 videos) and the Holiday Songs (about 70 songs).

I hope 2018 has been great for you; some really good things happened for me and I look forward to what 2019 will bring!


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Holiday Shopping Ideas – 2018 (Ukulele Video Play Along Podcast Episode #11)

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Well, the holiday season is before us, and you might have a ukulele player in your life, or have non-ukulele players who are looking for gift ideas for you.  As I think through my own ukulele gear, I have a number of items that might be an ideal gift for a ukulele player, at a number of price ranges.  One note: links to Amazon are referral links, which means that I would earn a small commission on a sale (it does not increase the price of the item).

Inexpensive Gift Ideas (less than $25)

  • Nomad Octopus Tool (8-in-1)less than $15
  • Oasis OH-18 Ukulele Humidifierless than $20
  • Strings: just get a gift card from stringsbymail.com (not a referral link).  Strings are $6-$8 a set plus shipping ($3.50), so plan $20 to $25 to be safe (two to three sets of strings and shipping).
  • Ukulele Straps: I have many favorites, but check out Uke Straps on Facebook.  Some awesome new straps – About $20 (not a referral link, but feel free to mention that I referred you).
  • G7th Ultralight Ukulele CapoAbout $20
  • Ukulele OrnamentAbout $10
  • Distilled Water – Less than $2 a gallon Ukulele humidifiers should use distilled water.  It’s a practical gift, particularly if you are giving a humidifier as a gift!

Some More Expensive Gifts (more than $25)

And Some Ukuleles…

I hope this list is helpful!  And best wishes to all for a very happy holiday season.  As I celebrate Christmas, a very Merry Christmas to everyone that celebrates Christmas, too.


Note: I think it is important to offer disclaimers.  I have not received any sponsorship from any of the companies lists above.  If you buy something from an Amazon link, I will receive a commission.  It is worth mentioning that Aklot sent me a ukulele to review in 2017, which I was incredibly impressed with, and gave it away to a niece last year.  I have bought other Aklot ukuleles and would do so again.  There are a lot of brands of ukuleles, and it is almost always better to buy from a reputable online dealer (the list including Mim’s Ukes, The Uke Republic, The Ukulele Site, Elderly Music, and Southern Ukulele Store (in the U.K.).  These companies all include set-up in the price of the ukulele, which can make a ukulele easier to play.  That said, I’ve been very happy with my Flight TUS35, the Aklot AKC-23 (now in the hands of my niece), and my Enya X1 camp soprano.  The set up on all of these was quite wonderful, and the Aklot and Enya come with a very nice starter kit as well.  If you buy the Aklot, buy a Oasis Humidifier, too.  The Enya is the “next step up” featuring high pressure laminate HPL (the same material Martin and Bonanza use in their ukuleles) with a radius neck, slotted headstock, and more.  While I haven’t seen all of the Flight Ukuleles, I would definitely recommend any Aklot and any Enya at this point.  While $125 may seem like a lot for the Enya, you are getting an instrument with features that are worth easily three times as much.

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New Patreon Reward! Holiday Songs

Knowing that a number of teachers would like a holiday-only selection of songs to use for a day, week, or month, I have put all of the holiday ukulele play along videos into a single Google Sheets presentation.  As we create more videos this month, they will be added to this presentation.

You can gain access to the resources that I am creating (those which are above and beyond the materials I provide on YouTube or this blog) by pledging as little as $1 a month to my efforts through Patreon.  Click the image below if you are interested in becoming a sponsor!  I will attempt to grant access to the Google Folder within a day.

And to those of you that are sponsoring my efforts, thank you!


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