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22 February 2015

A Ukulele Handbook for Beginners (2015)

Today I'm going to give a plug for a new Ukulele Instruction book that comes to us all the way from Oregon, USA.

"A Ukulele Handbook for Beginners" by Aaron and Nicole Keim is published through Lazarus Books and can be purchased from The Quiet American on-line store.

The version of the book that I have is a PDF version, The first thing I want to call out is the visually striking artwork. Having dabbled in producing stark black and white graphics myself I know a little bit of the pain of making something so apparently simple look good. As you'll see for yourself in this post, Nicole pulls it off no bother. The book is legible and clear on my iPad Mini.

Geeks turn away now, but the PDF weighs in at just under 15M which is some feat given that there are 52 pages in this book @ 5100 by 6600 pixels. I'm impressed! I'm guessing that this magic is being achieved by the large resolution and pure black and white palette. Whatever... it works!

You might have spotted a nautical theme already to the book. I asked Aaron where this came from and he told me that it is just for fun. I like it.

(Photo courtesy of TattooDo)

A quick detour while I'm on the artwork: I've been a long-time fan of Sailor Jerry's art. It's pretty basic outline work with careful colouring that obviously lends itself to tattoos. Jerry was a sailor himself and a lot of his more famous subject matter has a nautical theme to it. I love this style and whilst not as saucy as some of Jerry's pictures, the artwork in this Ukulele Handbook is certainly reminiscent of Jerry's nautical work.


So what do you get for your money?

A lot of hard work has obviously gone into the production of this book. I've read many ukulele beginners books over the years (I even considered writing one myself once) so I'm pretty well-versed in what to expect. I wasn't disappointed here.

There is a slow steady progression to the lessons. I didn't spot any obvious typos or mistakes and everything seemed to build well on what had come before. This is no doubt in part due to both Nicole and Aaron being music masters (I say this literally); Aaron's got a Masters in Music History and Nicole has a Masters in Music Education and taught for 9 years. If this doesn't qualify them for the job then nothing will!

You get schooled in chords, strumming, reading tablature, all interspersed with a little ukulele lore which ultimately builds up to ensemble pieces. The focus is on playing and this book's aim is to get you to where you need to be in order to be able to play with others. When I look at the huge number of ukulele clubs that have sprung up pretty much everywhere, I can't help but think that if you have aspirations to perhaps joining one, then this book is going to be a great foot in the door.

Give it a go! It's not hard.

The real strength of "A Ukulele Handbook for Beginner" comes in the fact that it is accompanied by a comprehensive set of videos. So once you've done reading the book, you can watch Aaron showing you how to do it for real.

The videos are well produced with a lot more narrative around the lessons to fill in the gaps. Aaron is a good speaker and a knowledgeable teacher. Everything is clear and relaxed. A big tick from me on this!

I will call out that the songs are all public domain, so expect a handful that you perhaps won't recognise at first glance. Don't let this put you off, you can move on to Motorhead afterwards. ;-)

Here's something you don't see often: a little bit of ukulele jamming etiquette.

"Not every group wants you to play along". Oh yes... the story of my life! Ha ha. I've never heard of "jam busting" before but I reckon I could be quite good at it!

I'm going to leave with Aaron and Nicole in action playing Mobile Line. That there's Jug Band music! Yee haw!

There you have it. Thanks to Aaron and Nicole for adding a chapter to the story of the ukulele with this wonderful book. Go get yourself a copy.... NOW!

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