Guitar- What Are the Most Important Alternate Tunings?

Standard tuning on guitar is having the strings tuned to the notes EADGBE.

Some guitarists go their whole lives never deviating from standard tuning.

They are missing out on much magic and whole other worlds!

What are some alternate tunings you could explore?

There are several different categories of altered tunings, including:
  • Open Tunings
  • Dropped Tunings
  • Raised Tunings
  • Deviations from Standard Tuning

Open Tunings:

These are tunings in which the strings are tuned so that they make a major or minor chord when strummed open.

Some examples:

  • Open G ("Spanish Tuning")- DGDGBD, remembered as Dads Give Dogs Great Big Dinners
  • Open C ("English Tuning")- CGCGCE, (also CEGCEG, and CCGCEG)
  • Open D ("Vestopol Tuning")- DADF#AD, or DDDADF#
The above are the most important and most widely used of the open tunings.  However, you can produce an open tuning for any chord.  More examples:

  • Open A- EAC#EAE, or EC#EAC#E, AAEAC#E 
  • Open B- BF#BD#BF# (BD#FBD#F)
  • Open Bb - BbEbAbDbFBb (b indicates flat)
Besides the fact that these each give a different sound than a player could achieve in Standard Tuning, Open Tunings are valuable for several reasons.

While strumming them open, without fretting any notes, produces a major chord, the other major chords can be played by simply barring one finger across all strings at different frets.

Instead of a finger, a slide can be used in the same way.

This means open tunings can be a breeze to play.

Open G is recommended for beginner guitarists to get started playing quickly and easily, and is a great choice for starting kids out on guitar.  Jessica Baron has excellent, extensive DVD lessons on this, including some wonderful lessons on singing, too, here's the link to this set:   Learn to Play Acoustic Guitar (4-DVD) for beginners

Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones has used Open G extensively, as have many other guitarists.

Minor Open tunings ("Cross note tunings") are possibly even more useful than open major tunings, as it requires only one finger on usually one string to fret a major chord in these tunings.  Playing minor chords in open major tuning is not this easy.

Lower the third on any open major tuning to get the open minor tuning instead.  For example, Open D minor is DADFAD.

You can also tune the open strings to play a fifth, sixth, or seventh chords, or modal variations.  Tuning to open fifths (the "power chord") can be particularly useful on an electric guitar, as you will be able to use heavy distortion or other effects more harmoniously when the third is omitted.

Some of these tunings require special strings, as deviating far from a strings standard tuning may produce too much tension on your guitar's neck, or in the case of tunings where the string is slackened, it becomes too slack to sound properly.  Thicker gauge strings are useful in this case.

Dropped Tunings 

  • Drop D- only the sixth string, the low E, is dropped, to D. DADGBE.  This is the easiest alternate tuning to try first, as most chord shapes are the same and those that change require only a one finger change.  Try Neil Young's Harvest Moon for a fun song to play in this tuning. If something heavier is more your style, you likely have several favorite songs that use this tuning.
  • Double Drop D- the first string, the high E,is dropped to D as well. DADGBD.  A logical next step from the previous tuning, perhaps equally useful.
These are also among the gentlest alternate tunings for your guitar's neck, and getting into and out of them is an easy change not requiring a string change.
  • Drop C- CGCFAD.  You'll definitely need heavier strings to try out this tuning. 
  • Detuning- It is fairly common for guitarists to detune a half or even a whole step on all strings, lowering Standard Tuning.  This reduces tension on the neck.


Raised Tunings

Opposite from detuning, strings can be raised a half step or more above standard tuning.  Be careful with these tunings, as tightening strings increases neck tension and strings can break!  Thinner gauge strings will be helpful here.  Safer and easier is to just use a capo on a guitar in standard tuning at the first or second fret to raise the pitch a tone or semitone!

A fun raised tuning that I do recommend you try, however, is:


Nashville Tuning aka High Stringing

This is not exactly an altered tuning; most often a high strung guitar uses standard tuning of EADGBE.

Instead, Nashville Tuning has the strings span two rather than three octaves.  It is the equivalent of using the higher strings of a twelve string guitar.

You can buy Nashville tuning string sets, or you can buy a set of 12 strings and divide them into one standard set and a high strung set.

When high strung, the low strings, the E,A, D, and G are an octave higher than they would be in standard tuning.  The B and E strings are the same as in standard tuning.  This takes a little getting used to but offers new possibilities.

It is often a smart option to have one guitar high strung when two acoustic guitars are playing together.  This thickens the sound and adds the shimmering effect of a twelve string guitar, but with an even fuller sound.  Try this and you may find that these harmonically pleasing effects greatly improve your songs.

The G string becomes the highest pitch and finest in diameter string.  In fact, these are the thinnest possible guitar strings, and because they are generally meant to run in course with a thicker G string (on a twelve stringed guitar), they easily break.

For this reason, I would issue these three tips for using Nashville tuning:

1. Use a lighter pick than you normally choose, or use less force if using fingers.  Use caution when strumming forcefully!

2. Be careful with further altering this tuning.  Down tuning may work fine.  I certainly wouldn't recommend raising the pitch of the tiny g string!

3. Buy some extra G strings to avoid having to waste the rest of the set when the little G string inevitably breaks!

Other Deviations from Standard Tuning: 

There are lots of these you could try.  There are many ways to tune based on modes, for example.


Perhaps the most important, and one I strongly recommend you try is DADGAD tuning.  This produces a Dsus4 chord when strummed open.  It produces a distinctive and rich sound with the repetitive D notes.  The lowest string is fun to use a drone.

It is super easy to learn to play DADGAD tuning in the key of D, and rewarding to learn to use it for playing in other keys, too.  Learning DADGAD has been the best thing to happen to spice up my songwriting.  Try it and you will find it will open up many possibilities unavailable in standard tuning.  I love this tuning so much that I have a "DADGAD guitar" which is nearly always kept in this tuning.   I will write a post with my favorite DADGAD songs soon.

There is a fair amount of info on DADGAD online.  I used John Sherman's nice chord chart for this tuning, which includes key changes achieved with a capo.  I printed this out and put it in my songbook.  You can find it at the bottom of this page

Sometimes I change this to DADDAD instead.  This tuning is nicknamed "papa papa" and is another alternate tuning that is immensely fun to play in.  It's nice for heavier songs and also for some folk tunes.  John Butler has used this quite a bit and it is also popular with dobro players.

Tuning To The Day?

Several well known players have made alternate tunings a big part of their work.  Neil Young, David Crosby, Steven Stills, Ron Wood, Jimmy Page are a few who you probably know.  Pierre Bensusan, Bert Jansch, David Wilcox, and even Rory Gallagher are a few of my favorites who make wide use of alternate tunings, and whose work you should check out for massive inspiration.

Of course, no one has used and recorded in alternate tunings more than Joni Mitchell.  She has recorded songs in scores of alternate tunings, including many she invented.  She said, in a magazine article that I read long ago, that sometimes she tunes according"to the day," by matching a string to the call of a bird or some other sound of the day and arranging the other strings to be in harmony with that.  I haven't tried this myself but it is an interesting idea.

If you do invent your own tunings, be sure to write them down!

You will be able to figure out the chord shapes for any tuning when you understand how to build any chord.

What is your favorite alternate tuning?

*Colorful Guitar image from Color Me Happy: 100 Coloring Templates That Will Make You Smile (A Zen Coloring Book), photographed by Millie Green.

How To Know Which Chords Belong in a Key

Whether you want to write songs or are trying to figure out how to play songs that you would like to play, it is important and helpful to understand the natural order of chords for progressions.

There is a formula that tells you exactly where and when minor chords are called for and when to use major or dominant seventh or diminished chords within a key.

*Here is more info on building chords and scales if you need this background info first.

Now, we all know that rules are made to be broken (sometimes) and so it is not necessary to always abide by this formula.  You can't begin to break the rules, however, until you know what they are.

Which Chords Belong In Each Key?


Major Keys:

For any major key, the chords available are:

I. The Tonic- in the key of C, this would be a C major chord.

ii.  The next chord is built from the second note of the key scale, it is a minor chord (ex: in key of C, ii. is D minor).

iii. The chord derived from the third note of the scale is also a minor chord.

IV. The chord built on the fourth note of the scale is a Major Chord.

V. The chord built on the fifth note of the scale is the dominant chord.  So in the key of C, this would be G7.

vi. The chord built from the sixth of the scale is a minor chord (the relative minor to the key chord).

vii.  The seventh chord in the series is the diminished chord.

Again, these are the chords available for a progression in any major key:

Upper case Roman Numerals denote Major chords, while lower case numerals indicate minor chords.
  • I
  • ii
  • iii
  • IV
  • V7
  • vi
  • viidim
 Chords included in the key of C are: C, D minor, E minor, F, G (G7) , A minor, and B minor diminished.

Often the seventh chord is flattened and played as a major chord instead, as B flat in the key of C.

Minor Keys

In a natural minor key, the chords are:
  • i
  • iidim
  • III
  • iv
  • v
  • VI
  • VII 
Chords included in the key of A natural minor are: A minor, B minor diminished, C, D minor, E minor, F, and G: the same chords in the key of C.  A minor is the relative minor of C major, and the order of chords in a minor key is relative to the major scale; you just reorder the chords from the major key beginning with the relative minor, the vi.

But, as you know from our discussion on scales, there is more than one minor scale.  In fact, the above is not often used! Instead, for a minor key, you can also build chords using the harmonic minor scales, in which case you would raise the seventh chord a semitone and include G# rather than G.  You would also include chord V as a Major -or Dominant seventh- chord when using the harmonic minor scale for chord progressions.

Now the above are the rules; these chords are the only chords that strictly belong in any key.


You Can Break The Rules

These rules are broken all the time, by many artists in many songs.  These are just guidelines.

How To Break the Rules:

It is common to change a major chord to a minor chord instead.  This seems to happen most often on the IV chord, being changed to a minor, in a song in a major key, or the V chord being changed to major in a song in a minor key (which is within the rules anyway when using harmonic minor scales).

You could change any of the major chords you wish to minor if you think it works for your song. 

Or vice versa; what is supposed to be a minor (the ii, iii, or vi, in a major key) is sometimes played as a major chord instead.  This happens all the time in popular music.

Another popular way to break these rules is to throw in a flattened chord, particularly a flattened seventh, rather than the diminished seventh.  The fifth and or the third are flattened in many songs as well.  Less frequently, the sixth has been flattened as well.

You could include a chromatic, semitone shift anywhere in your progression, using both the called for chord as well as flattening it-- rock music has made the semitone shift a characteristic sound since its beginning.

You could also use dominant chords in a position other than with the called for V chord in a major key or III chord in a minor key.

Not to mention using major7 chords or subbing other chord variations (such as sus and extended chords) wherever you'd like.  I like to extend into extra bars by varying the chord different ways- from the I to the Imaj7, or with a sus, back to the key chord, then the other sus and back to the key chord again, for example.

The simple song I was working on today moves from a C chord (as the IV) to a Cadd9 before moving to D before D7, for example.

You could imply the chords rather than playing them outright.  You could do this with treble notes against a bass line, or leave out the treble altogether and imply the chords using just a bass line instead.  This might be just the thing for your bridge or another song section.

Also, remember that you do not have to stay in one key!  Key changes, called modulations,  do not break the rules, but knowing the rules for which chords fit in which key will help you to make successful and easy key changes when you recognize the available pivot chords that are common to both keys.

Working in a key change may be the most interesting thing you can do to enliven a boring song.


I want to tell you that I was introduced to and learned much of this information by the best and most helpful book I've ever read on the subject of music: How To Write Songs On Guitar, by Rikky Rooksby.  This book is extraordinarily worthwhile if you want to know how songs are put together, especially regarding chord progressions and song structure.

I read this book as an absolute beginner musician, with fumbling fingers on my first guitar, and it was the most helpful of any of the many music theory books I had yet read in my quest to understand music.  I learned a lot and, as a result, was able to entertain and impress myself with writing my own songs from this beginning, rather than exclusively frustrating myself trying to play songs which exceeded my skills!

 I checked this book out again a couple years later, when my skills were much better established, and learned still more on second reading.  In fact, I renewed this book twice from the library and took copious notes!  You'll learn a lot from this book too, much more than the basics included in my short lesson.  This book and Ricky Rooksby's other excellent books are worthy books for adding to any musical library.

Thanks for reading my blog!  Please become a regular reader by subscribing to these posts via email using the form on the right sidebar, and to our email newsletter, coming soon, by using the pop up box or scrolling bar.
I hope you have some fun making music today!

How To Extend The Life of Your Strings

Double the Life of Your Strings

It would be nice to extend the life of your strings to eliminate some of the recurring expense of string changes, wouldn't it?

It turns out that there are quite a few tricks and tips for doing just this.

The first and most important ways to save your strings are obvious, but most of us have neglected to do these simple things from time to time:

Washing Your Hands Before Playing




Wiping Down Your Strings When You're Done

All that is necessary is a quick wipe both over and under the strings to remove any dirt or oil.

As with washing windows or mirrors, just any cloth will not do; it is best to use a microfiber cloth or something that will not leave any fibers, threads, or fuzz behind.  A well washed soft cotton diaper works nicely.

Grab each string with the cloth and wipe up and down the length of the string, being sure to get underneath.  You can wipe the fretboard clean, too, while you are at it.

Another more or less obvious tip is to keep your instrument in a case when you are not playing it, to protect against dust and grime.

Starting with clean hands, ending with a wipe down, and putting your instrument safely away are obvious ways to save your strings.  Is there anything else you can do to get more life from a set of strings?

There a quite a few more ideas you can try, starting with these

Helpful Products: 

  •  GHS Fast Fret String and Neck Lubricant - a string lubricant and cleaner that is also good for wood.  This is not a spray; it has a handy applicator that makes using this beloved product super easy.  For any string type.
  • Fingerease - this affordable and famous string lubricant comes as a spray and promises the added benefits of less string squeak, reduced finger tenderness, and smoother callouses. For any string type.
  • For steel strings, try coated strings.  These last significantly longer than non coated strings.  Elixir is the most recommended brand and I know some guitarists who won't play with anything else.


A Handy Hack for Steel Strings: Boiling

I tried this trick myself last year out of curiosity and it worked well. There was a lot gunk left in the pan when I was done and my dead strings sounded much nicer and lasted a few more weeks after this treatment.

Here's a link to a page with step by step instructions and photos for boiling guitar strings.

Hacks For Extending the Life of Nylon Strings:

  • Reversing the strings- if your instrument has a tie-on bridge, you can use this method.  Simply remove your strings and put them back on upside down, with the ends previously wound at the tuners tied to the bridge and vice versa.
  • Retying- if reversing sounds like too much trouble, you can simply loosen your strings at the tuning pegs and pull the slack up to the bridge and retie.  This moves any worn areas away from the frets.
  • Soaking in a basin of room temp or lukewarm (NOT HOT) water with a quarter cup of ammonia for about fifteen minutes. While they are soaking, use a washcloth to wipe them.  Then rinse with cool water and dry with a towel. This tip comes from Tom Prisloe at, who says that after this treatment, the strings won't squeak as much and won't need to stretch like new strings.  He says washed strings are great for recording because they are smoother from being played in and have a lively, clear sound. 

Have you tried any of these methods?  Do you know any other ways to extend the life of strings (besides playing less)?  If you do, please share in the comments below.

I hope you have a great day!  Happy Playing!

Conquer Any Chord When You Know How to Build Them All


How To Build Chords

Chords are arrangements of particular notes sounded at the same time.

Most folks begin learning chord shapes (how to play a C chord, for example) without really understanding how the chords are built and what notes are included in each chord.

But there are a lot of chords, so it really helps to learn how they are built.

Then you can figure out how to play any chord- on any instrument!

Major Chords

Major Chords are built using the first, the (major) third, and the fifth interval of the scale.  So, to make a C major chord, you use the C scale and choose the 1, 3, and 5 notes: C, E, and G.

G Major would be played using the notes G-B-D.

This is just one of many ways to play a G major chord on a guitar (G-B-D-G-D-G).

Minor Chords

Minor Chords include a minor third, rather than a major third interval, along with the root note and the fifth note of the scale.  If you start with a major chord, you flatten the third.  C minor is played C- E flat- G.

G minor would be G-Bflat-D.  So the young lady playing the G major chord on guitar in the illustration above could move her index finger down one semitone to the first fret.

On a piano, you would simply move your middle finger one key to the left, if starting from the major.

Seventh Chords

Seventh Chords add another note: the seventh of the scale.  There are three types of seventh chords:

  • Dominant Sevenths take a major chord and add the flattened seventh interval or degree of the scale. so C7= C-E-G-Bflat  
  • Major Sevenths add the major seventh interval to the major chord (so a semitone higher than that of the dominant seventh chords). CMajor7= C-E-G-B 
  •  Minor Seventh Chords start with a minor chord (flattened third), and add the flattened seventh on top of that.  Cmin7= C-Eb (Eflat)-G-Bb (B flat)

Sus (Suspended) Chords

There are two types of Sus chords, Sus2 and Sus4.  It is also possible to use them together.

These chords are formed when the third is omitted and the second or fourth is played instead.  Because of having no third, these chords are neither major nor minor and so have an ambiguous sound.

Csus2= C-D-G; Csus4= C-F-G.  Or you could play a Csus with both the second and the fourth: C-D-F-G

Sixth Chords

These simply add the sixth to the major or minor triad.  So, for C: C-E-G-A


Augmented Chords

These begin with a major or minor chord, but the fifth is sharpened, and becomes an augmented fifth interval.  In other words, you raise the top note by half a step. C becomes C-E-G# when augmented, generally notated as C+ .


Diminished Chords

Diminished chords are interesting and special.

They are entirely built using minor third intervals.
  • Diminished Triads use the root note, then a minor third, and another minor third (the flatted fifth).  So for C: C-Eflat-Gflat
  • Diminished Seventh Chords are made by stacking another minor third on top of the basic diminished triad by also adding a double flattened seventh.
  • Half Diminished Chords use the basic diminished chord triad of minor third intervals, but include a major third (the flattened seventh) on top.   
There is a special use for diminished chords, as the seventh chord of any key; we will look at chord progressions here soon.

Extended Chords

These extend major or minor triad chords beyond the octave by adding the ninth, the eleventh, or the thirteenth.

Cadd9, for example, would add a D note to the C major triad: C-E-G-D.



Inversions are made by rearranging the notes within a chord.  That is, when you play a note other than the root note as the bass (or lowest note of the chord).

In a major or minor chord, because there are three notes, there are two choices other than the root to use as the bass note:

  • First Inversions use the third (or minor third, in a minor chord) as the bass note, and
  • Second Inversions use the fifth of the chord as the lowest note.

Inversions are notated as "Slash Chords."  Such as C/E, read as "C over E," meaning E bass note played under a C chord, which is the first inversion of the C major chord.

We will look more closely at and play some slash chords in an upcoming post here.

You can also play inversions of other types of chords.  Diminished seventh chords, listed above, are particularly easy to play inversions:  because all the notes are at minor third intervals, if you move them by a minor third (three frets up or down the neck on a guitar), then the notes continue to hold their same relationship.

So, there are a whole lot of chords, but you can play them all when you understand how each is built!

Please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the right sidebar, and to our email newsletter using the pop up box or scrolling bar.   And have a great day!  Make some music!

Five Fun Songs for Ukulele (Plus One)

Five Fun Songs for Ukulele (Plus One)

Hi, ya'll.  If you have been stalking this blog looking for a post here this week, please accept my apologies.  I am working on two handfuls of fun and educational stuff to post here (as well as an ebook).

But I want to include video and audio recordings in these, and I'm having technical difficulties with the sound.  Plus the weather has been clear and warm and getting outside has been most important here.  That and to be completely honest, I have had a hard time this week putting down the Gretsch Tenor I have been playing lately; making music has demanded my time over writing!

Here are some songs that I find such fun to play that I keep playing them over and over again.  Learn one or some or all of them this weekend or soon and you will have fun jamming too.

1. Stressed Out- Twenty One Pilots

I have never really been a "Top Hits" kind of gal, but when I heard this song the other day, I just knew I had to play it.  And it is really fun to play these several progressions that make up this song.  I had been messing about with chord progressions between F and A minor and D minor on ukulele myself recently; I think this may be why this song particularly struck my ears and said play me on the ukulele.  It's fun to play on guitar as well.  The rapping singsong style makes this an easy song to sing, too.
There are three progressions here: verses and prechorus with F to Dm to A minor; chorus with F-Em-Am-Em-Am-G-C-E (times two); and the bridge goes Am-G-C-Em (times three)

2. Breakdown- Jack Johnson

I think I included this song in my list of Easy Beginner Songs to Play on Acoustic Guitar, or if I didn't, I sure could have.  Or I could include it in the upcoming list of EASY songs to play on ukulele as well.  I have been thinking of this song as an easy song, but not an incredibly fun one, as I first learned it as a strum along, and it is super simple with the same four chord progression repeating throughout.  I recently heard this version of Jack playing this song with Jake Shimabukuro, and WOW, this sounds so delicious that I was running for my uke to try to play along.  This song is immense fun to play fingerstyle rather than just strumming chords.

3. American Pie- Don McLean

This song is fun because everyone seems to love to sing it- and you'll be glad to have the help!  I saw David Letterman quote Jon Mayer as saying this song is "kind of a beast."  And Mayer obviously believed it, because he sang the song and ripped out some signature lead lines, but let the band play the progression while he wore his guitar and focused on just singing.  This would be an easy song, as there are no difficult chords or changes here, particularly on guitar (as E minor is easier on guitar than on ukulele), but the progression is so long it takes a lot of repeats of playing this with a lead sheet in hand to commit the verse progression to memory.  That's okay though, because you will have fun every time you play it.  I find this song equally fun to play on ukulele or guitar.

4. Banana Pancakes- Jack Johnson

 This song is just pure fun to play, the dominant seventh quickly changing chord progression in the verses can't help but make you smile. They are easy changes on ukulele, and not difficult on guitar.

And this video has me itching to get my hands on an accordion; that would be tremendous fun to play, I bet!

I have had trouble limiting the Jack Johnson songs for this list; he has so many that I could write a post titled Twenty Five (or more!) Fun to Play Jack Johnson Songs.  Shot Reverse Shot, Washing Dishes, Better Together, and Talk of the Town are several that we have been playing often most recently. 

5. Every Morning- J Mascis

Up your tempo to jam this easy song.  I love playing this on guitar, too, but I am finding that J's acoustic songs sound really great on my ukulele.  This easy to play song is just a 3 chord trick: G-Am-C-G, with a different bit for the "Oh Baby, can't you see me, seeeeeeeeeeee meeeeee:" That part is D to C, then D to C to Am.  What a fun video, I know they must have had a good time making this little film!

6. Is It Done- J Mascis

This song on ukulele is my fun project for this weekend.  Playing the version of Breakdown with Jake Shimabukuro listed above made me think of this song, which I know will sound similarly beautiful on the ukulele.  Plus, I wanted to post this video here, too. <3  I love love love love love J Mascis's music, from the entire dinosaur jr catalog to J's powerful drumming with Witch , to- and especially, his acoustic stuff.  I have had SO MUCH FUN playing along with and learning from J on guitar, I am not sure why it has taken me this long to start playing his songs on ukulele. I sure am enjoying doing so!  J's first acoustic album, Live at CBGB, is what inspired me to finally (in my 30s) learn to play music myself.  I would listen to that album over and over and it would hurt how badly I wanted to be able to play along with him.  This video makes me go fan girl gaga.  Did I say how much I love J Mascis yet?

What are your favorite fun songs to play on ukulele?  Please comment and let us know!

Cordoba Protege Ukulele Review

I bought the Protégé by Cordoba U1 Concert Ukulele on a whim, because I fell in love with it at the guitar store.  It was a fabulous price, and was obviously a quality, well made instrument.  And I loved the sound, even though I didn't know how to play it!  I hadn't planned to play ukulele, so I had no idea of the tuning or chord shapes for this precious little baby instrument, but I was compelled to take it home with me.

I gave it to my husband as a spontaneous surprise gift; I figured I was less likely to be in trouble for such a spur of the moment purchase when it was for him, and I figured we could take turns and see how we liked it.

Well, taking turns didn't work well as it was way too much fun to share! I went back to the store on the very next day, and bought another one so we both could play.  (I knew Cordoba was a good choice, but decided to try another model from this maker, rather than us have two just alike.  I'll review that one here, too).

About the Protege, this ukulele is particularly sweet.  It is solid mahogany, with a satin finish, meaning there is no laminate coating here.  This ukulele is pretty in an understated and natural way.  The abalone rosette is simply elegant.  The simple look is uncluttered by any binding, just the lovely satin brown mahogany and classic shape stand out when looking at this lovely ukulele.

My Mr. says that mellow is the word he would use to describe the charm of this uke.

He loves this ukulele

Sweet is definitely the word that best describes its tone; it sounds bright (yet mellow) and special.  The one we have gets to buzzing a little when it is really played, but it is a nice buzz, like the ukulele is singing along to accompany itself.  I know this is caused by the comfortable, super low action (action is the amount of space between the strings and the fretboard) on this easy to play sweetie.  I think this gentle buzz could be easily eliminated by raising the action a little, but he enjoys the subtle vibration that comes through. 

For the price, I don't think you could beat this uke in quality or appeal and I recommend the Protégé by Cordoba U1 Concert Ukulele as a bargain entry level ukulele that performs with sweet style.

If you don't have your ukulele yet, do yourself a favor and click over to Amazon and buy one of these now!  You will be so glad you did and you will love your ukulele too.

How To Boost Your Ukulele Strumming Skills

Strumming is the act of striking all of the strings in rapid succession so that they all ring out together.  This is opposed to picking, in which individual notes are sounded by picking usually one string at a time.

Practice and apply the following strumming basics and tricks to boost your strumming repertoire and skills in no time!

The Sweet Spot

The first thing to know is that you do not strum the ukulele in front of the sound hole, as you would on an acoustic guitar.  Your ukulele has a sweet spot where strumming sounds best.  On most ukuleles, this sweet spot is at the juncture where the neck joins the body, although this may be found further down the neck, perhaps around the twelfth fret.  Try strumming your uke where the neck joins the body,at the twelfth fret, then further down the neck around the tenth fret, then closer to the sound hole, especially if your uke is a tenor, and listen to the differences in the quality of sound produced by your strumming. See if you can find your ukulele's sweet spot yourself.  She'll love you when you do!

Strumming Patterns

Your strumming pattern is your rhythm in strumming songs, provided by the order of and variation in your up strums and down strums.  Strumming patterns range from ultra simple quarter note down strums and down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up eighth note patterns repeated throughout entire songs all the way to highly complex patterns, sometimes with different simple or complex patterns used in different song sections.

You should be able to strum consistently and at an even tempo, using both up and down strums, and experiment with the different sounds achieved by different strumming patterns.

The "Swiss Army Strum"

To start, you could use this strum.  Alistair Wood recommends it in his book, Ukulele For Dummies , as being as universally useful as a swiss army knife.  He says it is the tool of a thousand uses, strum of a thousand songs.  I bet it could be useful in many thousands of songs.

You count and strum it like this:

one     two   and  three  and  four
down down up              up   down

The "Universal Strum"

This strum is the previously mentioned simplest strum of all, quarter note down strums: one-two-three-four

Both these strums are useful tools to have in your pocket when you set out on your ukulele journey.

You can learn lots more strumming patterns when you read Ukulele For Dummies and Ukulele Exercises For Dummies or other resources, and also by listening to songs and by experimenting and playing, which I say you should do as much as you can.

Use Your Fingers, Please!

Alistair Wood also says that a fairy dies every time someone strums a uke with a pick, and he strongly recommends not to use one. I wholeheartedly agree and suggest you use your fingers to strum.  Not only does it sound better, it also offers you the more authentic experience of feeling the strings beneath your fingers.

Your strumming hand has five fingers, and so you have a lot of options for strumming the uke:
  • Your thumb- the simplest way to strum.  Be careful not to get in the habit of clutching the bottom of the uke with your other fingers if you rely on this strum.
  • Your index finger- probably your most used strum.
  • Your index finger and thumb- there are a few ways to combine these digits for strumming.  My favorite is the triple strum, taught to me by Jake Shimabukuro himself (via YouTube). For this strum, you down strum with your index finger, followed by a quick upstroke with your thumb, and then another up strum with your index finger.  This is a mighty handy strum, especially for songs in 3/4 time.
  • Four fingers- "Rolls"  I find myself using these most often to accentuate a chorus or line in many songs.
  • Five, Eight, Ten fingers- Rolls can be played like this, too!

If you insist, like one child player I know that you'd rather use a pick than your delicate fingers, be sure to use a felt ukulele pick, as this will sound far more pleasing than the plastic pluck of a guitar pick.

Fancier Strumming is Easy, Too

Try some of these moves for variety and panache.
  • Figure 8- instead of strumming up and down across the sweet spot of your ukulele, for this showy strum you begin with a down strum around fret four, then continue moving your finger in an arc to up strum across the sweet spot, then arc around and down strum above the sound hole, near the bridge, then around and back up strum across the sweet spot, arc around to down strum again around the fourth or fifth fret.  So your finger traces the pattern of a figure eight straddling the fret board.
  • Vibrato- quickly roll your index finger back and forth across all strings.
  • Rolls- previously mentioned,but these deserve your attention.  There are many ways to rapidly roll your fingers over the strings, and these range from simple rolls you can pick up immediately with practice, to delicate and dramatic rolls that you might have to work up to having skill with.
  •  Split Strum- the easiest way to do this is to strike the G and C strings on your down strum and play just the A and E strings on the up strum.
The most important thing is that you play, so experiment with all of these strums.  For more info on how to, including some awesome books and websites that can further help, check our post on useful ukulele resources.