Category Archives: How to practice

UD#85 Playing Fast Notes on a Uke!

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UD#85 Playing Fast Notes on a Uke! from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek The Riddle: How can you play two or three notes in a row, but only pick the string once? Answer to follow! Now for today’s lesson. BLUES RIFF! (A riff is a short musical phrase or pattern that can be played repeatedly.) To warm up, please play this simple blues riff. Play it a few times so you get comfortable with it. It has the same notes as the opening riff to “Layla” by Eric Clapton. You can click the tablature to listen to how   …Continue Reading


UD#84 The Ultimate Ukulele Scale

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  UD#84 The Ultimate Scale Practice (Use all your fingers) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   Do you have reluctant pinkyitus? It’s common among guitar and ukulele players. I am recovering from it myself. When I was just starting out, I only used my first three fingers on my left hand. My pinky felt weak and unreliable, so I avoided using it. I was encouraged when I learned that Django Reinhardt, one of the greatest Jazz guitarists of all time, played with only two functioning fingers. But, then, eventually, I came around to this thought, “Well, if   …Continue Reading


UD#79 You are an Instant Guitar Player

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UD#78 You Are and Instant Guitar Player from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   I remember when I first picked up a ukulele. It was exciting because as a guitar player, I seemed to be instantly able to play a uke. I didn’t know the names of the chords and notes that I was playing, but all the shapes and patterns that I knew from playing guitar were instantly transferable to the ukulele. Why is this?   Why do guitar players seem to be able to play ukulele instantly? The answer is that the first four strings of   …Continue Reading


UD#78 How Do I Hold This Thing?

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UD#78 How Do I Hold This Thing? from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   I use to suffer from tendonitis in my left wrist from playing guitar. It was particularly bad in university. I was once unable to play my instrument for a year right in the middle of my music degree! I remember seeking lots of advice about how to “hold” my left hand: where the thumb should be, and how the wrist should be. I would understand the advice but, it seemed that when I went to play guitar, I would always revert to my habits.   …Continue Reading


UD#77 Right Hand Calling Left Hand

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  UD#77 Right Hand Calling Left Hand Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   Please fret this chord: Do it again and notice how you are using the fingers of your fretting hand. Do you fret the notes of the chord simultaneously or one at a time? If you fret the notes one at a time, which finger do you fret with first? Usually, I see beginner students fret the Em chord like this:   First, the index finger…   …then, the middle finger…   …and finally, the ring finger.   Is there any problem with fretting the notes   …Continue Reading


UD#76 Performing Without Practicing?

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UD#76 Performing Without Practicing? Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   I remember Liberace performing on TV when I was a kid. We loved to watch him. It’s funny to think of him playing piano so well with so many diamond rings on! He once turned to the camera between songs and held up his hands, wiggling his bejewelled fingers, and said,  “Look what you get when you practice!” This became a catch phrase around our house for years.   Today, I want to talk about a student of mine. For the purpose of this article let’s call her   …Continue Reading


UD#72 Seeing With the Fingers

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Seeing With the Fingers (UD#72) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   One of my students recently put a lot of work into playing without looking at his hands. The resulting change in his playing and confidence was just so startling that I really wanted to write about it in today’s newsletter.   The Puppeteer… We were in a lesson and I noticed just how much my student was “looming” over his fingers, trying to keep his eyes on everything that was going on. He was also having a really tough time getting the fingers of the left   …Continue Reading


UD#71 Remembering Lyrics: What’s My Next Line?

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Remembering Lyrics: What’s My Next Line? (UD#71) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   One thing for sure, these days we don’t have to do as much remembering as we used to. With Google we can look up things we need to know at anytime. Our phones remember phone numbers for us. The musician standing in front of an iPad and singing songs is a ubiquitous sight. Obviously, it’s a big advantage for a musician to not need to be tethered to some kind of device to remember lyrics. There is great freedom in that. Also, it’s very   …Continue Reading


UD#67 Good Tone From the Start

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Good Tone From the Start (UD#67) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   Most players start out picking single notes with the thumb. So, one of the things that I have been trying to teach more clearly is how to get a good clean robust tone when you pick that way. I’ll talk about this technique today as it relates to picking AND to my first love on the uke. Here is a little video from the studio. I am playing “Danny Boy,” a song that appears in The Chord Melody Book for Ukulele: If you watch the   …Continue Reading


UD#66 Make Friends with your Metronome

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Make Friends With Your Metronome (UD#66) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   When we play in groups the timing issue can sometimes get a little bumpy. Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Play a little quicker. You are dragging! No! A little slower. You were a little late on that note. Hmmmmmm….You were just a pinch early.” What a nightmare! Consider this for a moment. When you are playing music with someone, the sound leaves their instrument and enters your ear and is perceived by you AFTER it happens. Same goes for the sound coming off your   …Continue Reading


UD#65 Carrying a Tune!

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Carrying a Tune! (UD#65) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek I have a lot of students who claim to “not be able to carry a tune.” These are often people who have been labelled “tone deaf,” or have been asked to “just mouth the words” instead of singing. How heart breaking! Many of these people love music but feel that they simply can’t and never will be able to sing. The happy news is that in all my time teaching I have not had one student who couldn’t learn to “carry a tune.” Maybe there are people out   …Continue Reading


UD#52 Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets

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Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets  (UD#52) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Today I want to talk about simplifying song sheets and chord charts. Sometimes it can be handy to know how to “trim down” or simplify chords on the fly. This is particularly true when you sit down to play with others. Sometimes there’s no time to look up chords you don’t know. It can help to know what your options are. I thought I would put together a few words on this subject today. CHORD CHART SURVIVAL: I often find myself saying something like   …Continue Reading


UD#50 Tablature: The Secret of the Shapes in the Numbers

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Tablature: The Secret of the Shapes in the Numbers, The Forest for the Trees (UD#50) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek In today’s article I want to talk about a common challenge that many of my students experience when they are reading tablature. Okay let’s get going… As many of you know, I am a big fan of learning music by ear. But, the reality is that we often have to learn music from the the written page. Either in STANDARD NOTATION. Like this:   Or in TABLATURE (often referred to as tab for short) like this:     …Continue Reading