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Thread: Best ukulele absolute beginners book assuming no music knowledge and is for morons?

  1. #21
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    When I bought my first ukulele, I also bought the Hal Leonard scale finder and chord finder. With those two books, you have your chords and your individual notes. With that, you can play anything;

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    New Jersey


    I started playing in December, with a bit of a break due to shoulder surgery, and have been trying to teach myself. Here is what I think of the books I have purchased and that I am using in that effort (with apologies for the length):

    Essential Elements for Ukulele, Books 1 and 2, by Marty Gross (Hal Leonard) -- These books come closest to the kind of books you would get from a music school and might benefit from having an instructor go over what you should be doing and also to slow you down. (I am not the most disciplined student, so a common issue with all of the books I have used is that it is too tempting to move ahead without mastering any one section, style, or technique.) The version of Book 1 that I got did not include any on-line audio files, although Book 2 did. I found both books informative and extremely helpful as I started playing. I continue to refer to them to see if things sound better than they did when I first tried playing. I do think the Essential Elements series is a great beginner series but, as I already noted, these would be best if an instructor was filling in the blanks for you.

    Ukulele for Dummies 3rd edition, by Alistair Wood ((For Dummies) -- I am very mixed on this book but I don't blame the author for the down side of those mixed feelings. I think the content, even though provided in the standard format for all Dummies books, is interesting and well presented. As someone else noted in this thread, the book might be better used in chunks (or should I say "chnks"), rather than attempting to use as a progressive lesson book, going cover-to-cover. Sometimes starting with a chapter in the book before reading about the same thing in another book, and other times taking the opposite route to supplement things you have already learned, or get an idea about a slightly different approach. My problems with the book have to do with the frustrating publication quality. There are songs in the book that are cut-off before the final bars. In one instance, a specific note the author draws your attention to is missing from the song because it is supposed to appear near the end and that section did not make the publisher's cut. The on-line material does not include the missing information. I really wanted to like the book more, but this simple publishing error took away some of the enjoyment from me, and I turn to this book the least as a result.

    Ukulele: Complete Edition by Greg Horne & Shana Aisenberg (edited by Daniel Ho) (Alfred Music) -- I am still only in the first part, Beginning. The structure so far works for me, although it might go too quickly from some basic strumming to jazz and blues styles. It could probably use a few more song examples for each section before moving on. I find I use this book the most as a teacher-substitute, but I also find that I need to use the audio files more often in order to grasp the rhythm of each song example. And, while this might run counter to my statement that the book might move too quickly, the early sections are loaded with information about music theory. When I had the patience for it, I very much appreciated the information as I have no musical background. Reading it actually helped make sense of everything else I was attempting when playing. But if you just want to play, and learn a new chord, you might find it distracting and may wish it didn't "clutter" the page as it is placed around the song examples.

    The other thing some might find to be a negative, is that there are points in the book where after a new chord is introduced, including a diagram of the chord, the diagram is not included above each practice song. So if you can't remember how to share an E chord or what a Fmaj7 should look like, you either have to have a chord chart handy, or search through the book for the diagram. This is all intentional as the authors want their readers to memorize the chords and that is an admirable goal. However, you might be frustrated when you are just trying to play. On the plus side, many of the practice songs include both chords and Tabs, so if you read the music theory section and were a good student, you might be able to work out what the chord should look like too.

    Ukulele Aerobics by Chad Johnson (Hal Leonard) -- What to say about this book? It does inspire me to at least pick up the use every day if for no other reason to feel the sense of accomplishment that I worked through another week in its 40-week program. But this book might require more discipline than any of the others, not just because it does demand some daily adherence, but because each of the day's "activities" (at least through week 10) are not always that interesting. The week starts on Mondays with the introduction of some chords. I guess you are supposed to just play those same five or so chords over and over until they are memorized and you can play them clearly. I did say I am not the most disciplined student, right? I typically go through them once or twice and then move on. Some of the riffs provide a challenge, but over all I use the book as a warm up. It is the first thing I do when I start a practice session. I do think that if someone actually spent a lot of time doing each day's thing for at least 20 -30 minutes, and maybe repeating the prior day before starting each new day's activity, they should be a pretty good player by the end of the 40-week program. I wish I could be that person, but I usually just want to get through it and start to actually play. Maybe the book can work better for you.

    Pop & Rock Ukulele, Fingerstyle Etuden by Elisabeth Pfeiffer (self-published) -- This is another book I use to warm up before each practice, but I find the melodies interesting and challenging, once you get through the first four. I do need to listen to the audio files in order to get the most use out of the book, especially for making sure I get the timing down correctly. There is very little in the way of instruction before each of the etudes (?), but what is there is useful. Also, each etude is presented in several different ways, with notes and Tab, just Tab, and just notes, so if you practice each of the ways you should be able to learn to read music. I don't, but some might find that since the book is published in both English and German, and as each etude is presented in three different ways, that the overall content is small for the price (a total of 30 etudes). In the short time I have been playing, I have only gotten through about 10 of the etudes, and that is only by lying to myself that I played them correctly. I have found that it has helped with my fingering technique. A total moron might get frustrated, but you don't need music knowledge to use the book IF you also use the audio tapes and stick to the Tabs (or Tabs/Notes) presentation.

    Two books that are not technically "teaching" manuals but I find essential to my personal playing development:The Beatles for Fingerstyle Ukulele arrangements by Fred Sokolow (Hal Leonard), and The Daily Ukulele, compiled and arranged by Liz and Jim Bellof (Hal Leonard and Flea Market Music, Inc.). Both have a mix of some easy, some hard songs and most of the songs are familiar enough that you can immediately tell if you are playing them correctly (or at least, close enough). I finish out every practice by trying to play (and learn/memorize) a few songs from one or both books. (They each also have some different arrangements of the Beatles songs.) Some of the songs in the Beatles book are complicated for a true beginner (like me) but I find the Solo Fingerstyle arrangement is too hard, I can usually work my way through the Lead Sheets (which just has lyrics and chords). Both books present a great opportunity to track your own progress. And when you do play something well, your family members that are otherwise annoyed by your constant practicing are at least aware of what you were trying to play. Occasionally, they may even say "That sounded good." Of course, you can get some of the same practicing in by getting Tab/Chord charts on-line (which I also do), or following along with YouTube and other videos, but I find having these books handy and always available makes it easy to practice.

    Last, two comments about the books in general and one last book suggestion: All of the above books other than The Daily Ukulele, come published with binding and a glued spine. Only the "Daily" comes spiral-bound. This means you will find yourself cursing the book as the pages close just as you were getting to your favorite section of a song. There should be a law that requires all music books be spiral-bound, but since there is no such thing (yet), I can't hold it against any of the books that don't make it as easy to use as the "Daily." All of the books I mentioned work (or not) for me. The best book for you is the one that keeps your interest and that you actually use. It might cost you a bit of money to find that, or those, books.

    And the last book suggestion -- get yourself a notebook or two. Jot down those chord charts or Tabs you find on-line. Play around with a different arrangement of the songs you are learning. If you get ambitious, try to transpose a song from one of those old guitar books you have laying around since high school. Actually putting pen/pencil to page is a great way to learn and your early efforts will be a sort-of musical journal to look back on when you have moved from musical moron to maestro (or as close as you care to get.)

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Dec 2020


    Quote Originally Posted by NotJake View Post
    All of the above books other than The Daily Ukulele, come published with binding and a glued spine. Only the "Daily" comes spiral-bound. This means you will find yourself cursing the book as the pages close just as you were getting to your favorite section of a song. There should be a law that requires all music books be spiral-bound, but since there is no such thing (yet), I can't hold it against any of the books that don't make it as easy to use as the "Daily." All of the books I mentioned work (or not) for me.)
    A solution for the binding issue: many print shops will, for a nominal fee (I’ve had it done for $6 or so) cut off the glued spine and spiral bind books for you. I also have them laminate the cover while they’re at it. I find it very much worth the money on books I plan to use often. For books I use less often, I weigh the pages down with coffee mugs or whatever is at hand.

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