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Uketropolis: Ukulele Q&A with James Hill
Every week Uketropolis.com founder James Hill answers student questions about playing ukulele and interviews innovative ukulele educators.
May 6, 2021
#35 - Meet my Mom
In this special final episode of Season 1, I interview my Mom. We share a few laughs as we talk about my childhood, her own musical journey, raising musical children and much more. I hope you enjoy the interview and I'll see you in a few weeks for the start of Season 2!
Apr 29, 2021
#34 - Classical ukulele: thrills, spills and trills!
James answers student questions about classical ukulele: 1) Vivaldi's monster chord, 2) the thrill of the trill, 3) to mute or not to mute?
Apr 22, 2021
#33 - World Traveller
A special whirlwind tour of the planet to celebrate Earth Day! From Chile, it's "El Tortillero," from Italy, "Santa Lucia" and from Hawaii, "Hone A Ka Wai." James explores three of the most well-loved pieces from The Ukulele Way.
Apr 15, 2021
#32 - Lightning Round
Lightning round: one question from every course on Uketropolis.com! 1) How do I print the sheet music? 2) What do the words "tonic" and "dominant" mean? 3) How do you play two notes at the same time if they're on the same string? 4) Any tips for changing from F7 to Bb7? 5) Any suggestions for amp settings (low, mid, high)?
Apr 8, 2021
#31 - Try This!
In this episode: TRY THIS! Five super-simple strategies for teaching ukulele. Even if you're not a teacher. 1) Start with C7. 2) Gulp. 3) Memory. 4) Word swap. 5) The power of percussion.
Apr 1, 2021
#30 - Extreme Ukulele
Extreme ukulele. 1) How to record your sound (mic vs. pickup). 2) How to protect your ukulele. 3) Why you should master the "monostrum." Buckle up!
Mar 25, 2021
#29 - The Game of Strumble!
Why is it so hard to sing and strum at the same time? What's the best way to practise this musical juggling act? The answer: Strumble!, a board game that makes practice fun. Download Strumble! for free at https://www.uketropolis.com/strumble
Mar 17, 2021
#28 - Mindful Musical Moments with Catherine Goykhman
Catherine Goykhman shares her thoughts on blending mindfulness with music education. Resources: Catherine's website (https://www.catplaysukulele.com), Daniel Ward's "Arpeggio Meditations" (https://danielward.net/book-store), Choan Gálvez’s "50 Miniature Studies for Ukulele" (https://www.choan.es/en/).
Mar 11, 2021
#27 - A B♭ chord an Irish jig walk into a bar...
Questions from Level 2 of the JHUI Teacher Certification Program: 1) How to simplify a part for a student who is struggling. 2) How to teach the B-flat chord using an Irish jig. 3) How to avoid unwanted sounds between notes.
Mar 3, 2021
#26 - Ukulele Funbook (Zsolt Schäfer Interview)
In Ukulele Funbook, author Zsolt Schäfer takes us into a world of imagination, creativity and, yes, silliness! Whether it's musical soup, ukulele sudoku, connect-the-dots or alternate tunings, every page of Ukulele Funbook is a chance to learn while you play and to play while you learn. A companion over the holidays, a reward at the end of class or a stress-free way to introduce musical concepts, Ukulele Funbook is the perfect complement to the Ukulele in the Classroom method. So grab your ukulele, sharpen your pencil and have fun! www.uketropolis.com/funbook
Feb 25, 2021
#25 - Perseverance
James answers questions from Booster Uke students: 1) Is D7 really D7 when there's no root note? 2) How does low-G tuning change the sound of chord twins? 3) How using a "guide finger" makes chord changes easier.
Feb 18, 2021
#24 - Demystifying the Diminished 7
Step by step, James demystifies the most mystifying of chords: the Diminished 7.
Feb 11, 2021
#23 - Peace like an 'ukulele
James answers questions about the free course "Peace like an 'ukulele." 1) How to get better at ukulele without even playing it. 2) Why melody picking is for everyone. 3) How to navigate Uketropolis. 4) Low G vs. high G tuning. 5) How to avoid muting strings by accident. Take the course for free at https://www.uketropolis.com/peace
Feb 4, 2021
#22 - UkeTube
James answers questions from YouTube. 1) The Ukulele Way vs. Ukulele Jazz. 2) Why does Bbmaj7 sound mournful? 3) Thumb position. 4) Strumming technique.
Jan 27, 2021
#21 - OMG, the circle of fifths makes sense!
Our first crop of student questions and comments from the brand-new course Ukulele Jazz! 1) OMG, the circle of fifths makes sense. 2) How to find the backing tracks. 3) Is there an alternate fingering for that awkward G minor 7?
Jan 21, 2021
#20 - Ukulele Jazz Has Arrived!
To celebrate the launch of the brand-new Ukulele Jazz course (www.uketropolis.com/jazz) James counts down the top 10 reasons why jazz is amazing on ukulele!
Jan 14, 2021
#19 - The Water Is Wide
A polychord is two chords played at the same time, a head-on harmonic collision that can be surprisingly beautiful. In the wake of the attacks on the US Capitol, James turns to the ukulele to help make sense of a tumultuous time.
Dec 31, 2020
#18 - New Year, New Uke.
Scales. Inversions. Strum patterns. How to tackle three of the most common New Year's resolutions for ukulele players. Brad Bordessa's book "Ukulele Chord Shapes" can be found here: https://liveukulele.com/store/ukulele-chord-shapes/
Dec 24, 2020
#17 - New Traditions
For James' free "Deck the Halls" ukulele jazz tutorial and sheet music, go to https://www.uketropolis.com/deckthehalls.
Dec 16, 2020
#16 - There's a map for that
The next JHUI online session begins on January 1st. To learn more and watch a sample lecture go to https://www.uketropolis.com/jhui. Special thanks to my sister, Julia Booth, for the great singing tips and for being the inspiration for my piano method (such as it is). To meet Julia, go to https://www.boothvoicestudio.com.
Dec 10, 2020
#15 - Boom!
James expands on student questions and comments from Booster Uke (https://www.uketropolis.com/boosteruke): 1) What is the strumming pattern in Li'l Liza Jane? 2) Will Booster Uke provide the direction and structure I need to make real progress? 3) Partner songs for Careless Love.
Dec 2, 2020
#14 - Animal Instinct
1) The art of NOT playing the A string. 2) Can animals sense what a song is about? 3) How to create depth in a performance using dynamics and articulation.
Nov 25, 2020
#13 - Radio Play
How to turn your FM radio (or Spotify playlist) into a fun ear-training exercise. Plus, how to make hard chords easier by using a melodic approach in your practice.
Nov 19, 2020
#12 - Light and Shadow
To learn more about the JHUI Teacher Certification Program please visit www.uketropolis.com/jhui.
Nov 11, 2020
#11 - Resolution
Five variations on the C chord. Five ways to create resolution. Free handout: http://www.uketropolis.com/resolution
Nov 4, 2020
#10 - Suspense
It's early in the morning on November 4th, the day after the U.S. election. And there's a feeling of suspense in the air all over the world. Here in Nova Scotia, Canada, we feel it too. What is that feeling of suspense? When do we feel that in music and why?
Oct 28, 2020
#9 - Eve Goldberg Interview
The first Uketropolis interview! Meet Eve Goldberg, musician, activist, teacher and songwriter. Find out more at www.evegoldberg.com.
Oct 21, 2020
#8 - C Salutation
James unveils "C Salutation," a simple piece to help you relax and practise at the same time. Download the score and audio tracks for free at https://www.uketropolis.com/salutation
Oct 14, 2020
#7 - Forgotten Twins
1) A forgotten pair of chord twins. 2) The difference between good pain and bad pain. 3) How a chord can be Am7 and C6 at the same time.
Oct 7, 2020
#6 - King Tonic, Queen Dominant.
1) Left-hand vs. right-hand muting. 2) Why the I chord is called the "tonic." 3) Ideas for differentiation in multi-level ukulele groups... because every ukulele group is a multi-level ukulele group.
Sep 30, 2020
#5 - Searching for the key
James P. on "Lesson 5: Streets of Laredo" My pinky finger is a little slow to get to that B-flat chord! James Hill replies "Lesson 5: Streets of Laredo Not to worry, James... it will come with practise! You can try rolling the chord (i.e. dragging the thumb across the strings so that the onset of each note in the chord is slightly staggered). This will give your pinky finger a *fraction* of a second more time to get in place. That might be all it needs. -- Amy on "Lesson 1: The F Major Scale" I like your color coordination - the colour of the shirt matches the colour of the book!! James Hill on "Lesson 1: The F Major Scale" Shucks... thanks, Amy! -- Sibo Wang on "Lesson 1: The F Major Scale" If I'm reading the sheet correctly, those mystery melodies are also using notes from the C major scale only, right? Then, for music which uses C,D,E,F,G, and A only, how do we know it's in the key of F major or C major? And why do we need to make this distinction? James Hill on "Lesson 1: Th…
Sep 25, 2020
#4 Bonus - I have an iDEA
I recommend you listen to Episode #4 before diving into this bonus episode. So you've learned to count "by two" through the musical alphabet: A, C, E, G, B, D, F. Now you can quickly name the notes in any one of those chords by leapfrogging; what are the notes in a C chord? c, e, g. The notes in an F chord? f, a, c. Awesome! But if you listen closely, some of the chords you create will be major and others will be minor. Just remember: "I have an iDEA." That will remind you that the chords D, E and A need sharps in order to be major chords. For example the D major chord is d, f#, a. The E major chord is e, g#, b. The A major chord is a, c#, e. The outlier is the B chord which gets two sharps: b, d#, f#. Why do we want to make every chord a major chord? Because most musicians use the major chord as their harmonic starting point. It's the "vanilla" of music. Start there, then add fancy toppings! When you can name the notes in any major chord you have a foundation from which to grow in…
Sep 23, 2020
#4 - Practise with your eyes closed. Seriously.
Barbara on "Lesson 5: Carnival of Venice (Interlaced)" When playing a song like this, I often find myself playing one string off on my right or left hand (sometimes both) because I am looking at the music. Do you have any suggestions on how not to get "lost"? James answers: Hi Barbara, good question! I second what Zsolt said and I'll add this. It sounds a bit odd, but try playing with your eyes closed! Even if that means you just memorize a small part of the piece (1 or 2 measures) and then play that part 10 times with your eyes shut. You will hear and feel things in a new way. Try it and let me know if it helps! -- Catherine on "Lesson 3: Interlaced and Synchronous Arranging" How do you choose which note to insert for the interlacing accompaniment? Reply by Zsolt from Team Uketropolis on "Lesson 3: Interlaced and Synchronous Arranging" That is a great question! There are many ways - on the above example James fills the gaps with one note from the underlying harmony - usually in a…
Sep 16, 2020
#3 - Pinkie on C?
Susan on "My Open Strings: Highlights" I am starting with my grade 9s tomorrow. I tuned them all Friday afternoon but because of Covid I am not going to touch them right before they do or approach a student. Neither can they pass around the class tuners or tune each others. I sure hope we all tune by ear together. James answers: Good luck, Susan! I'm sending good vibes your way. It may be a blessing in the end... tuning one's own uke is a great skill. If you can help them to become more independent in that way, you're doing great! -- Cynthia on "Rocky Mountain: Demonstration" I notice that you play the C chord with your fourth finger. Is this necessary? James answers: It's really up to you. I like using the pinky because it means I can use the other fingers for ornaments and extra stuff (e.g. "rocking" to the F chord feels like less of a stretch). But it's up to you! -- Dwayne on "The C Scale: Highlights" Do you have notes you can share on what chords you're using to accompany in…
Sep 9, 2020
#2 - You're going too fast!
John on "Lesson 3: The Jazzy Twins" When you're playing Lil Liza jane fast it very hard to follow you specially when your learning those notes. James answers: Good point, John. You can slow down both the video and the interactive score. To slow the video, click on the "gear" icon at the bottom of the video, click "speed" and select a slower speed. For the interactive score, use the "speed" buttons (+/-) below the score. Also, if you want to take it *really* slow for practise, you can switch to "synthetic" playback using the "Recordings" menu at the bottom of the sheet music. That will switch to a fake ukulele sound (not ideal) but the advantage is that it will play the melody clearly at any tempo. Give it a whirl! -- Pankaj on "Lesson 2: The Gentle Twins" Hi James!!! You are awesome. Can you please tell me how you are strumming?? It's too fast for me to follow... Not able to recognise that whether it is only up or down or both. Not getting the sound how it is produced. It will be gr…
Sep 2, 2020
#1 - How do I know when I know it?
In this episode we focus on Book 1 of The Ukulele Way. JP asks: Is it recommended to be able to play through at 100% speed repeatedly without mistakes before moving to the next lesson? Excited to learn more but don't want to be sloppy either. James answers: Hi JP, great question. The short answer: get it 80% perfect then move on, circling back to review in two lessons' time. Why? 1. Because getting stuck is no fun. 2. Because things that seem difficult now may seem easier after you have a couple more lessons under your belt. Uke on! -- Richard L. asks: Working on the first few measures of Acadian Lullaby (Lesson 6) and I’m confused by the chord diagrams that are labeled as C but aren’t conventional. I can sort of reverse-engineer them and see that they are made up of notes that would make a C chord, but I don’t see how I would know how to come up with them. Should I understand how to make these chords at this point? Maybe this is more advanced and you will explain it in futur…
Sep 1, 2020
Welcome to Uketropolis!
Welcome to Uketropolis, a podcast with real ukulele answers to real ukulele questions. I'm your host, James Hill. I'm a lifelong ukulele player, teacher and believer in the power of ukulele to make positive change in the world. I've written and co-written several ukulele methods including Booster Uke, The Ukulele Way and Ukulele in the Classroom. I'm also the co-founder of the JHUI Teacher Certification Program and in 2019 I brought all of these education projects into one place and called it Uketropolis.com. Thousands of students worldwide have formed a warm, supportive learning community around these resources and what I do every week in this podcast is I choose a few real student questions from Uketropolis.com and offer my suggestions and thoughts on those questions. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I'm a third-generation Canadian ukulele player and that many players and teachers have paved the way for the work I've done as a teacher, player and author. First, thank you…