Well, I’ve just about reached the end of the “Absolute Beginners” omnibus ukulele book by Steven Sproat. There’s more I need to do to improve my technique in the exercises contained in the book, but I want to move on to other things at the same time, to keep the momentum in my ukulele learning.
Since buying my uke back in August, I’ve had a couple of other books to consider, both of which focus on fingerpicking. Until recently, they were just too advanced for me, but now I think I’m ready to have a go. I’ve opted for “Bluegrass Ukulele” by Fred Sokolow, in the Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Songbook series. The book includes a CD with all the exercises and songs, as well as some additional audio instruction and comment which I find very helpful. I’m still at the first few exercises in the book (very basic) but I’ve had a listen to several of the more advanced tracks on the CD and I am impressed with the quality of the production and the clarity of the voiced instruction.
For someone who, like me, is new to the ukulele and has never played guitar, the first chapter of “Bluegrass Ukulele” hits the right level. The combination of tabs and standard musical notation are introduced from the outset, without unnecessary complication. It’s clear how the tabs work and how the picking and chords are performed. If you’re already familiar with tabs, then you won’t be bored with lots of explanation.
The written instructions are concise and pitched in a nice informal way. I like the references to musicians whose fingerpicking styles are being explained. It give a good sense of purpose and context to the exercises.
Listening to the examples on the CD and then trying to reproduce the sounds myself, I get a real sense that I am making progress. The rate of that progress is up to me and how much practice time I can find each day.
This is a book that I shall continue to use for the months to come. If I can progress just half-way through the book, I will have made significant strides into the realm of fingerpicking ukulele oneness 🙂