Two-Chord Christmas Songbook by M Ryan Taylor | Play Ukulele Now : an online course by Dan Scanlan

Review: Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method

Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method is a book for absolute beginners starting from scratch. It teaches notation and tablature, starting the student off with melodic picking and then eventually moving into chords and strumming. With the exception of “Over the Rainbow” at the end of the book, the student learns through folk songs that are the staple of most of these kinds of methods.

The production value on the DVD is top-notch and will be a great addition for those that need to see a technique performed as well as offering a pleasant personality to play along with and motivate your practice.

As one reviewer noted, practicing for 45-minutes a day will get you through this book in about a month. I do not see that as a negative, the same could be said of most method books and the cost is negligable with a book/cd/dvd all for the price of one movie.

Cons: I did find one typo (not a big deal). If there is something this is missing, more strumming patterns to practice, which I find make singing and playing together a little more interesting, would be nice.

Where this method excels: One of the better introductions to melodic picking and tablature that I’ve seen among the beginner methods. If you’re interested in doing instrumentals on the uke, this is a good place to get a foundation.

Review: Starting Ukulele by Steven Sproat

This review of Starting Ukulele by Steven Sproat is biased by the fact that I come from a music-reading background (my dad was a band director and I’ve been reading music since I was 5-ish), and that I’ve studied Kodaly philosophy in teaching music to children (I’ve finished 2 of my 3 years toward certification at the time of this review), which admonishes a gentle, slow, natural approach with lots of time given to ‘own’ the music. This book grates against the grain of both of those biases.

This book is about learning your chords and strumming patterns. There is actually no sheet music (or tablature for that matter) in this book, just the song’s words (which is a problem if you lose the CD and don’t know the song), chords (diagrams are given), and ‘up and down arrows’ to represent the strum patterns. The book introduces you to the chords at break-neck speed (whole sets of them at a given time); the only rhyme or reason seems to be that these are the most common chords – so learn them, NOW. As an aside, the author states that it may take you months or years to master some of these chords. To me, that is just not good pedagogy, especially for a book aimed at children. ‘Sink or swim, we’re moving right along.’

That said, for an adult or teen who does not want to be coddled, and is ready for a ‘no holds barred’ style of teaching, this book has some great information in it. The chords are certainly useful chords, as are the strumming patterns and left-hand techniques taught. The CD is very useful for practice (though a few of the tracks are very ‘midi’ sounding), and each song is given two tracks – one with the ukulele playing and a second without (so you can shine on your own).

Like most of the methods I’ve seen, this book relies almost solely on old folk songs to teach the material. As far as I’m concerned, that’s great. Others hate that. Don’t be a hater; folk music is at the roots of all other kinds of music – embrace it the same way you’d give a hug to your grandma.

Some of the highlights in the book are a ‘rock n roll’ riffing pattern (technically blues) that is a challenge (but very useful and interesting), a breakdown of the split stroke and a Hawaiian triplet strum, and a short tutorial that introduces you to fingerpicking.

Had the packaging showed teens on the cover and had there not been a few major typos (that will confuse readers) I would have given this book four stars instead of three.