Category Archives: Listening

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   …Continue Reading


UD#47: Wine Tasting for the Ears (Ear Training Made Easy)

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UD#47  Wine Tasting for the Ears (Ear Training Made Easy) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek This week’s photo is from Drinks of the World by James Mew and John Ashton, 1892 SOURCE: openclipart.org “I don’t understand how musicians can hear a song and then be able to play it. How do you do that?” It’s really tough for me to answer a question like this. When I was young and learning to play guitar I was lucky enough to discover that the notes I heard on recordings were “findable” somewhere on my guitar. I loved to work away   …Continue Reading


UD#42 Sus Chords: Got a Spare FInger?

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UD #42 Sus Chords: Got a Spare Finger? from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek I remember being excited by sus chords when I was a kid. Still am! Sometimes there are long periods in a song that only have one chord. Sus or suspended chords are one of the tools players use to add tension and release without changing chords. Here is a little exploration of the most common kind of suspended chord: the sus 4 chord. Hope you enjoy it. The first suspended chord I learned was on the guitar: the mighty Dsus4. On the uke this   …Continue Reading


UD#29 Stay Together Everybody!

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UD#29 Stay Together Everybody! (Staying in Time) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek This week I want to talk about playing together as a group. We are all familiar with the topsy turvy sound of a group of musicians who are not really playing together in time. I think this happens in large part because the members of the group are not listening to each other. Each individual is making their own playing more important then the playing going on around them. The other day I tried an experiment with a class to see if I could get   …Continue Reading


UD#20 Never Jam Alone ep. 2 – FUNKY MINOR BLUES

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UD#20 Never Jam Alone Episode #2 – Funky Minor Blues from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Here is a funky little song to jam along with. It’s called “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King. It’s a minor blues which means that it uses mostly minor chords as opposed to major chords and 7th chords like most blues songs. Here is the progression. | Cm           | Cm           |Cm           |Cm           | | Fm           | Fm   …Continue Reading


UD#19 What Key is it in?

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UD #19 What Key is It in? from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek I love this video of Bobby Mcferrin: What he demonstrates in this video is that on hearing a few notes of a pentatonic scale (5 note scale) people intuitively know where the rest of the notes are. This is because scales are all about the relationships between the notes. Once we’ve intuitively clued in to what scale we are listening to, we can guess the rest of it without hearing all the notes.  It’s a kind of musical extrapolation.The same effect can be demonstrated with   …Continue Reading


UD#18 How To Figure Out Songs By Ear

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UD#18 How To Figure Out Songs By Ear from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Here’s the scenario: You hear a song that sounds pretty simple that you would like to learn to play. You can’t find the chords anywhere on the internet. How do you figure out how to play it? Last week we talked about diatonic chords (the chords that come from one scale). If you haven’t read that newsletter, please go here: UD #17 The Building Blocks of Songs. The first thing to do when you are figuring out a song by ear is to determine   …Continue Reading


UD#16 Never Jam Alone Episode 1

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UD#16 Never Jam Alone Episode 1 from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek I’ve often heard students say this: “I don’t understand what happens. I practice the songs at home and when I come and play them with you in class I make all sorts of mistakes! What’s that all about?” Playing by yourself is fundamentally different from playing with others in one very important aspect: timing. When students practice at home they often take a little bit more time playing tricky parts of a song and speed through the parts that they can play easily. When you play   …Continue Reading


UD#9 No Tab Necessary: Transcribing (SAKURA SAKURA)

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UD #9 No Tab Necessary: Transcribing (SAKURA SAKURA) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek -How to learn a song from a recording Transcription is notating (writing down in music or tab) a piece of recorded music that you don’t have the printed music for. It is one common way that musicians learn new material. They “lift” solos, riffs and melodies off of recordings. Transcribing is easier when you are transcribing from a recording of the same instrument that you play. The thinking goes like this, “That’s a guitar being played. I have a guitar here. The note I   …Continue Reading


UD#8 Musical Instincts and Inside Out Listening (Playing by “feel”)

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UD #8 Musical Instincts and Inside Out Listening from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek When most of us think of listening we think of an outside in process. Sound from the outside coming in. Listening this way is what teaches us a song when we don’t know it. But, once we know a song we have to listen the other way – the inside out. Once you really know a song you can let that knowledge tell you how to play it. When to change chords, how to sing the melody. I call this instinctual playing. Instinctual playing   …Continue Reading