I Took my Uke to a Party…

After several years of singing and playing the guitar I decided to buy a ukulele so that I would have a smaller, more portable instrument to carry around.  As seems to be the case for anyone who takes up this instrument, I became obsessed with the uke and had some lessons.  Then the fun really started.

Unlike in that old Gracie Fields song I Took My Harp to a Party but Nobody Asked Me to Play, you don’t need to hide your uke under your coat.  The little ukulele actually attracts an audience, as I discovered when I took my ukulele to play a few songs at a picnic with some friends.  After this great day, where we all had a lot of fun together, these friends began to ask me to bring the uke along to parties and other social events.  The happy nature of the ukulele sound seems to break down barriers and encourages people to participate and we would have sing-alongs with lots of laughter and conversation.  This also gave me the opportunity to perform some of my own songs, which I have been writing for years, in front of a non-threatening audience.

Playing the ukulele has opened up my life to new people and experiences, especially after becoming one of the founding members of Bayside Ukes, where I have met a great bunch of friendly ukulele obsessives like myself.  In belonging to this group, I have learnt so much from playing with others and have become more confident when performing before complete strangers.  Helping to organize a ukulele group has also allowed me to make a small contribution to my local community.

Now I have joined with a fellow ukulele devotee.  We sing harmonies and play pop songs together.  Recently we were asked to entertain around 60 people at a birthday party. After overcoming some pre-performance nerves we really enjoyed ourselves.  Afterwards another ukulele player, who we did not know, came up and said how much he liked our singing and playing and we had a wonderful chat about the joys and techniques of learning to play the uke.  We also inspired one guest to get their ukulele out of the cupboard.  The ukulele is a fantastic icebreaker, as so many people are just taking it up themselves or know someone who plays the uke.

Who would have thought that this small instrument could have such a big impact on one’s life?  So don’t sit at home with your ukulele.  Get out there and share your enjoyment of playing with others.  You never know where this will lead.


Bayside Ukes member


Beware Uke Sizings

Being a self-taught uke player (ukist?), I found there hasn’t been any shortage of help on the web for learning techniques of playing.  Ukists around the world are generous beings, sharing their skills and knowledge to help their fellow humans join the fraternity of world ukists.

There is, however, a shortage of information on one matter: uke sizes.  I’m not talking about the difference in size between soprano, concert and tenor ukes.  That info is widely available.  I’m talking about the variation in size between ukes of different brands and how this can impact on the player.

The first uke I ever bought was a tenor Lanikai.  I bought it online (from a local store) and was very happy with it.  In fact, this is the uke I use mostly today.  After having this instrument sit in a green Woolworths shopping bag for months, I decided to buy it a proper home.  So I ordered a tenor uke gig bag from the same shop.  When it arrived in the post, I was quite cross when I discovered it was the wrong size for my uke – it was way too small.  When I rang the shop, they told me that it was definitely a bag for a tenor uke, however, I was told that it was common knowledge (!) that Lanikai ukes are larger than the standard uke.  Luckily enough, the music store was kind enough to swap it over with a case (a better quality one, at that) which fitted my slightly over-sized uke.  Moral of the story, always take your uke along when buying it a new case.

There is yet another sizing matter people need to know about.  After fitting my Lanikai with a low G string (my preference for playing strummed chords), I bought a different brand uke so that I could keep the high G on it to play tabs that need a high G.  I tested out ukes during a local uke festival.  Price right, tone good, so I bought the uke (it also came with a bag!).  I’ve been taking this uke out from time to time when I have the urge to play something more complex.  Trouble is, I wasn’t really getting much better at the harder tabs.  Then I realised that part of the issue wasn’t me – my newer uke actually has a much wider neck and fingerboard than my Lanikai.  I measured the fingerboard of the new uke at the nut and it was 3.8cm, compare to 3.4cm on my trusted Lanikai.  For someone with short fingers like me, this makes a real difference.

So why, you may ask, does a short-fingered person like me play tenor ukes?  I was totally inspired by the sound made by Jake Shimabukuro on his tenor uke.  Here’s one of my favourite performances of him playing his uke:

It’s not very likely that I’d ever play anything that complex – especially with the minimal amount of practice that I do – but hey, one can dream about it.


Bayside Ukes Member

10 Reasons Why Ukuleles and Dogs Mix

DSCN1097_2       images       DSCN2294 - Version 2     images-1

  1. Dogs do not remain puppies forever and leave your ukulele and tuner alone.
  2. Dogs want to share in the fun with you and your ukulele.
  3. Dogs love to sit with you while you are playing your ukulele.
  4. Dogs are music lovers and make a great audience.
  5. Dogs wag their tails in time with the music.
  6. Dogs sing along when you hit those high notes.
  7. Dogs never criticize your performance.
  8. Dogs do not care what genre of music you play.
  9. Dogs never tell you to be quiet and stop playing that uke.
  10. Dogs know that when you have finished your practice you will take them for a walk.

Note:  The above dog was well rewarded for taking part in this post.


Bayside Ukes Member

Flexible Chords for Inflexible Hands

Arthritis is a problem for many older players of the ukulele and other stringed instruments as it limits flexibility.  This should not be seen as an obstacle to playing the ukulele.  It does not really matter how you position your hand or form chords as long as you can play them.  You do not have to play the ukulele with a perfect technique, although it is good to strive for this even with physical limitations.

I have osteoarthritis in the first and second fingers of my left hand and I am unable to bend these fingers tightly to make a fist.  This lack of flexibility makes it difficult to form certain chords on my concert ukulele.  The arthritis has caused the joints of these fingers to become enlarged and bent, so reducing the stretch between my second and third fingers.  This makes it difficult for two or more fingers to be positioned on the same fret as in the G, D, D7 (Hawaiian) chords.

Instead of positioning my fingers across the fret-board I often hold my hand with the fingers pointing down the fret-board.  Unfortunately this does not look very elegant.  With my hand in this position I am unable to make a chord transition in the usual way but it is easier to make the transition between D, D7 and G.  The disadvantage of this position is when I move my fingers up to the first fret and my hand gets caught up with the headstock.  Some chords are also difficult to play using the correct fingering as I have limited stretch between my finger-tips when my fingers are bent.  When I play the Gm chord my third finger is unable to make the stretch to the third fret and I must substitute it with my little finger.  These are just some of the modifications I make to my technique.

In order to learn a song I must plan all my chord changes to allow for the restricted movement in my left hand.  I practice individual chord formations then the transitions between chords so they become smooth and fast.  It may take longer to learn a song but I know I shall not be placing undue strain on my finger joints.

With arthritis it is important to be flexible with my approach to chord formation and transitions because there are always exceptions to the rule.  What may work for one song, may not work for another.  If the transition between chords is really just too hard I find another chord as a substitute or just leave the difficult chord out.

If you also have arthritis do not get disheartened.  The important thing to remember is that you need to find out what works for you, persevere with practice and don’t give up.  Playing the ukulele will not only strengthen your fingers, improve flexibility and help your arthritis, but more importantly you will have fun while you are doing it.

Ukulele Mike has some exercises that may help improve your flexibility.  Dexterity Exercises


Bayside Ukes Member

Ukulele Burning Bright


HenriRousseau - Version 2

(Inspired by Henri Rousseau’s Dream Garden, pictured and William Blake’s poem, The Tyger. With apologies to all of the songwriters)


Ukulele Burning Bright

Can’t Stop the Music, In the Heat of the Night

Can You Feel It, There’s Something in the Air

Running Wild, Here, There and Everywhere

Ride the Tiger, Sing, Sing a Song

Bungle in the Jungle, All Night Long

The Heat is On, Dancing in the Moonlight

It’s Cool for Cats, After Midnight

Run through the Jungle, When Doves Cry

In the Midnight Hour, The Night has a Thousand Eyes

Can’t You See, The Eye of the Tiger?


Bayside Ukes Member

Welcome Back!


Bayside Ukes will return to the Hampton Community Centre next week on Tuesday 2nd February at 7pm.  Please be on time as members will need to register for the year.  The session will begin at 7:15 sharp and remember to bring your copy of The Ukulele Club Songbook.  This year the Hampton Community Centre has increased their Fee to $6.00 a person per session.

We hope everyone had a fabulous holiday break.  If you have not picked up your ukulele because of too much holiday cheer, now is the time to start practising.

We look forward to seeing you at our first session.  New members are welcome to join our friendly group of ukulele players.

Check out this ukulele version of Welcome Back.


How do YOU practice Ukulele?

Daily I hear you respond; alas that is my aim but not my reality.  However I do have a Ukulele practice plan that works well for me.  I have 5 steps which last around 5 minutes each, these are very loose time frames as each practice session goes for 30 – 40 minutes.

Step 1. Finger Warm Up:
Using all 4 fingers I work my way up the strings.  Starting on the A string I play the first fret (index finger) second fret (middle finger) third fret (ring finger) and little finger on the fourth fret.  I then move my index finger to the second fret of the E string and again play 4 frets.  I do this on all 4 strings and then work my way back again.

Place 4 fingers anywhere on the A string and then move them one at a time onto the E string/C string/G string.  I do this one at a time and also by twos and threes. Moving the middle finger and little finger in unison is a challenge.  I have heaps of these made up finger workouts.

Step 2. Simple songs.
Choose songs with a maximum of 3 chords.  These I play and sing, making sure to hold a steady rhythm and not to look down at the Ukulele.

Step 3. Strumming and fingerpicking.
Some strums I cannot do unless I am thinking Down/Down/ Up/Down/Up or whatever.  I do not worry about the chords but just do the strum and sing at the same time, with the aim of trying to make the strums more automatic.  I practise any of the fingerpicking in our songs and have downloaded practice fingerpicking exercises from the internet.  This is where I also practice barre chords.

Step 4. Single Song that needs work.
This could be a group song or just one I am working on myself.  I start by playing the chords through.  I play the song and the moment I hesitate is where I start.  I play that piece over and over. The aim being to get through the piece without any hesitation.

Step 5. Play pieces I like playing.
Often this will include a new piece, some familiar ones and always some chord melodies.

What do you do?

Bayside Uke Member

Happy New Year


Happy New Year to all our members and Welcome to our new website.

It was wonderful to finish 2015 with the group and solo performances at our  end of year party, and to see so many individual members entertain everyone with some new songs.

We look forward to many great ukulele sessions in 2016.


Term Dates For The First Half of 2016

Term 1:  Tuesday 2nd February – Tuesday 22 March.

Term 2:  Tuesday 12th April – Tuesday 21st June