There’s More than One Way to do a Ukulele Song

In a ukulele group there is always a lot of debate about how to do a particular song.  Some people think that imitating the original version is the only way to go, while others have their favourite cover version that they like better.  Personally, I think that there is no right or wrong way to do a song, but as so many ukulele groups use identical song books and perform the same songs, I believe that a group should do it’s own arrangements.  If everyone did things the same way it would be a very boring world.

Coming from a visual art background, I have learnt that it is more creative to develop your own individual form of self-expression.  If you painted like Picasso or Monet it would hardly be your own take on the world.  The same goes for performing songs.  Unless you are a very good impersonator, nobody sounds the same vocally or has the same playing style as the original artist, so why try to replicate that version.  Here is where a group needs to forget about the original and play around to find a way that enhances their own sound and gives some room for creativity.

A good example of this is The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s version of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush.  As a man, George Hinchcliffe has hardly the singing style of Kate Bush, yet he does a wonderful jazzy version of her song that suits his voice, uses the unique sound of the ukulele to full advantage and injects it with the personalities of the group’s members.  It just shows that a great song allows so many possibilities for interpretation.

A song with a solo vocalist is also going to sound completely different when done by a large number of singers.  If everyone sings the same melody together it could sound very monotonous and possibly messy, which will not add anything to the performance.  This is where it pays to rearrange the vocals for a group.  For instance, when The Langley Ukulele Ensemble did a ukulele take on Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, the male ukulele players sang the main vocal together then combined in harmony with the female players.  One member did a ukulele solo, while the others strummed and picked the rhythm.  Their performance has great clarity and is very appealing.  The arrangement makes the most of the large number of performers and enhances their particular sound.

So experiment with a song.  Change it to suit the particular voices in the group, whether male of female.  This can include altering the key and tempo, as well as introducing various harmonies.  With the ukuleles you can change the rhythm patterns or do combinations of compatible strums, and create fingerpicking parts.  The ukulele is never going to sound the same as a guitar so work with its particular feel good tone.  Don’t be afraid to leave out solos meant for guitar, or if there is a member who feels confident with these, they can do a ukulele solo.  The possibilities are endless.

Of course as you gain experience it becomes easier to do your own arrangements.  You can start with something simple, like tempo, whether slowing a song down or speeding it up. The main thing is to have an open mind and a willingness to give it a go.  If you have trouble, get together with someone else in the group.  Two heads are better than one.

Don’t be stuck in a rut or a slave to convention.  Try to be as innovative as you can and stamp a song with your group’s unique personality.  It will be that much more enjoyable to play and your audience will thank you.



Bayside Ukes Resumes 12 July


Hi Everyone,

Bayside Ukes will return to the Hampton Community Centre next week on Tuesday 12 July at 7pm.

New members are welcome to join our friendly group of ukulele players.  Please be on time to register for the evening.  The session will begin at 7:15 sharp and remember to bring your copy of The Ukulele Club Songbook and a music stand.

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 would also like to thank those members of the group who gave up two days of their holiday to perform for two local groups of senior citizens.  We all had a great time.

This term we plan to be doing more performances so get ready to learn some new songs.

The two ten week term dates for the second half of the year are:

TERM 3:  12th July – 13th September

TERM 4 : 4th October – 13th December

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.


Who says You can’t play the Ukulele?

You want to learn to play the ukulele and a little voice in your head says, “It’s too hard” or “I’ll never be able to play it perfectly.”  A critical family member or friend may say that you are not musical or you can’t sing so “stop that awful noise.”  Well don’t let your inner Demon of Perfectionism or anyone else deny you the pleasure you will gain from playing this fantastic little instrument.

The ukulele is an instrument that you can take up at any age.  Even a child can do it.  As US performer Amanda Palmer says in her Ukulele Anthem:

             “You can play the ukulele too, It is painfully simple,

Play your ukulele badly, Play your ukulele loudly,…….

        Limit yourself to three chords,  And do not practice daily.”

It is meant to be fun, not a chore.  You can be as casual or as serious as you like.

You don’t need to be a musical virtuoso to play the ukulele, as it is primarily a rhythmic and percussive instrument that contributes to the beat of a song.  It is easy to sing along with simple chord strums on the ukulele.  If you don’t want to sing you can concentrate on fingerpicking the melodies beginning with simple ones.  You will get better if you set yourself small goals and will be surprised at how far you can progress.

As for the cost, a basic ukulele is relatively cheap and highly portable.  You can take it anywhere to practice.  There are also plenty of free resources on-line to help you to learn to play basic chords (see the Links on this website).

Joining a local ukulele group will help you to improve and is a lot of fun.  There is no need to feel isolated.

So do yourself a favor and jump into the wonderful world of the Uke!


Bayside Ukes Member

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