Jan 13

Easily Format Your Song’s Text Into ChordPro Format

Confession time: I don’t actually edit my songs by typing chords into the lyrics. Well, at least not initially. The very obvious problem is that setting exactly when (where) to change chords requires playing through the song a few times, and moving that [Gm] one word or syllable to the right, well, it’s a pain.

So, I dont’ begin with “nicely formatted” text (ChordPro format).

Gm                 Cm            Gm
People are strange when you're a stranger 
Cm         Gm   D           Gm
Faces look ugly when you're alone 
Gm                Cm          Gm
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted 
Cm          Gm     D           Gm
Streets are uneven when you're down

Continue reading →

Jan 13

(Free) Power Tab Editor Software by Brad Larsen

If you’ve ever stumbled upon a song file with the “.ptb” extension, well, you’ve found a Power Tab (Music) file that you can open and edit thanks to this free (Windows-only) editor:

Power Tab Editor is a tablature authoring tool… to create sheet music, more commonly known to musicians as tablature. The program provides the most commonly used symbols in tablature, including chord names, chord diagrams, rhythm slashes, bends, slides, hammer-ons/pull-offs, harmonics and palm muting.

This program even plays (in full MIDI glory) the song with metronome!

Power Tab Editor screenshot

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Jan 13

Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

Ken Middleton turned me on to this super cool tool that converts a single YouTube video — or entire YouTube playlist — to MP3 (several quality presets available) or lossless WAV files. It even auto-imports ID3 tags and embeds a thumbnail. Sweet.

DVD Video Soft's Free YouTube to MP3 converter

This is a godsend for practicing — I’m currently converting the Ukuleles For Peace 2011 demo performances.

DVD Video Soft site

Jan 13

Installing a PDF Printer Driver

Bridget, up in Ottawa, asked how she could save her songs as Acrobat PDF files so she could easily share them with her ukulele groups. Well, this isn’t built into UkeGeeks, however, it’s a fairly easy task to install a “printer driver” that’ll work with any program, including your web browsers (we’re talking Windows here, I believe that it’s built into Apple’s OSx)

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Jan 13

Song Editor Gets a Facelift

From the outset I’ve viewed Scriptasaurus as a widget — an add-on for other folk’s existing websites. What this completely missed, of course, was what most people actually want: a way to spruce-up (“prettify”) one or two songs for their themselves and their uke clubs.

So my “demo” editor was, well, lame.

Secretly, however, I’ve had this alternate design laying fallow for a couple years, an artifact from another, now abandoned, side project. So I’ve finally made a few adjustments and adapted it for the public song editor, hopefully making the task of prepping songs faster and friendlier.

Continue reading →

Jan 13

The UkeGeeks WordPress Plugin (BETA!)

UPDATE: December, 2014: This plugin hasn’t been actively worked on since I originally coded it. Chiefly this was due to a lack of time, but also a lack of interest. I have tested it on WP 4.0.1 and it works. The plugin code itself is a bit stale, however, that said, it might be good enough 😀 – ed

Easily add chord diagrams and styles to your website with this nifty plugin.

How To Install

  1. Download the UkeGeeks WordPress plugin .zip file to your computer.
  2. Login to your blog’s WordPress admin (wp-admin)
  3. Click “Plugins” in the left sidebar
  4. Click “Add New”
  5. You’ll see a link at the end of the sentence about plugins extending WordPress — there’s a link that says “upload a plugin in .zip format via this page” — click the “this page” link.
  6. The rest is super easy — “Choose File”, then click “Install Now”
  7. After a moment you’ll get the “Plugin installed successfully” page — click “Activate Plugin”

You’ve done it!

To use this you just need to wrap the song portion of your blog posts in this short tag: [ukegeeks-song] like this:

This would just be part of my normal post.
{c:Verse 1}
[C]This is my song, [E7]a song I like
But [A7]oh! I can't sing!
Oh, [D7]woe! True, [G7]I cannot [C]sing [G7]
This is back to normal post content.

It’s important that you include the begin and end tags — the end tag includes a forward slash.

NOTE: This plugin only works on installed WordPress sites you host: WordPress.com users, this is not for you.

Nov 12

“Chord Magic” – Unleash Your Fretboard with Four Chord Shapes

Following the break at Saturday’s Pluckin’ Strummers we got a quickie lesson that made my head spin by dint of its simple, power-packed awesomeness: namely, that you only need to learn four shapes to play every major chord!

I’d already experienced the fun of “moveable” (or “closed”) chord shapes and though I’d picked up some patterns they were mostly a random set of awkward finger poses. Now, however, they suddenly made sense!

Read this article: “Ukulele Chord Magic”!

(yes, it’s on a site for renting a Kauai vacation home, but isn’t that all the more reason to respect how well done the lesson is?)

Here’s your executive summary: Each chord “family” — Major, Minor, 7th, Augmented, whatever, it makes no difference — has only FOUR chord shapes!


Four major chord shapes. Four minor, etc. All you need to practice is moving them up and down the fretboard.

Spicing up a song with alternative chord “voicings” is suddenly easy.

(Note: If you don’t recognize a few of them (like your “G” major) remember that Major chords are, by definition, only three notes (the “why’s” and “how’s” of chord construction and theory are beyond me, and thankfully, irrelevant for playing them). This means that since the uke has four strings we’re doubling up on one note. Sometimes we’re lucky and can choose a simplified fingering, giving our fingers a break while still covering the three required notes. So we have options. That’s why the “G” chord shape is, to my original eyeballing, unrecognizable as being identical to the F#’s, but it is!)

Anyway, invest the fifteen minutes. Pour a coffee and settle into “Ukulele Chord Magic”!

(Note #2: Why begin with “seventh chords”? Because, while you might want to begin with the majors, the spacing on the seventh chords is clearer and better illustrates the technique and its simplicity. I discovered this while making the colorized diagrams shown above.)

(Last Note: the diagrams show the standard 12-frets found on soprano ukuleles — your tenor uke has substantially more, so you just keep repeating the patterns!)

Oct 12

Free Blank Ukulele Staff & Tablature Music Manuscript Paper

Part of the reason I’ve resumed work on the tablature conversion “software” (JavaScript is software? sure. why not?) is so I could learn to play a song’s melody– you know, music that sounds like “music” as opposed to just the chords (I cannot sing) — with people asking, “ummmm, what are you suppose to be playing now?”

However, in order to do this I needed blank manuscript paper, paper with the musical staff (just treble clef, of course) plus the tablature “bars”. Naturally, I made my own… because I’d never heard of this Google thing.

Download the Free Ukulele Staff & Tablature Music Manuscript Paper (79KB PDF)

Free Ukulele Staff & Tablature Manuscript Paper
The page has six staves, each containing the treble cleff musical staff plus G-C-E-A tablature lines (strings, actually I suppose).

Like I said, I failed to Google for the paper — had I, I would have found this really nice (and also free) uke paper these cats already have. Idiot.

I also need to thank Shirley Kaiser (SKDesigns) and Linkware Graphics Music Images for providing (free) vector music shapes — the treble clef symbol, for example.

Aug 12

Fingering Diagram versus Tablature


Just as pictograms preceded our phonetic written language, every ukester quickly learns to read “fingering diagrams” before learning tabs.

Fingering Diagrams are just pictures of the ukulele’s fretboard, zoomed-in, showing where to place your fingers. They’re awesomely intuitive!

Tablature (aka “tabs”), on the other hand, aren’t immediately obvious, being a hybrid of diagram (the four lines are, in fact, your uke’s four strings) plus written instructions (the column of numbers indicating the fret to press on each string).

Whereas a fingering diagram shows where to place your fingers (which frets to press down) tablature tells you which frets to press.

That’s it — that’s the difference!

The “trick” for either method is to know the orientation: if you can locate the G string you’ll be fine.

For fingering diagrams hold the ukulele away from your body, but facing you — this will place the G string on your left (the A string’s to your right). See top picture.

Now, still holding your uke at arm’s length, rotate it counter-clockwise 90° to a horizontal position — this puts the G string on the bottom. This is how the lines in tablature are drawn; “A” at the top, “G” on the bottom (see bottom picture).

Now all that’s left is jotting down which frets to play, so, using the simple, triangle shaped G chord as our example we’ll begin with the “G” (bottom) string:

  • the G string is played “open” (you don’t press any frets at all) so we write “0
  • on the C string we press down the second fret, so we write “2
  • on the E string we press the 3rd fret, so, yup write “3
  • finally, the A string. We need to press the second fret, so, sure, write “2

Congrats! You can read tablature!

By the way, this is how chords are written, G string to A string, so we wind up saying a G chord is:


Why use tabs? Well, it’s a very compact way of writing lots of chords (or single notes), but more on that later.

Aug 12

Low G versus Standard “Reentrant” Ukulele Tuning


I think this really illustrates nicely the benefits and challenges of switching from a re-entrant tuned ukulele to one with a Low G string.

The pluses are:

  • a deeper sound (even if it’s just a little bit);
  • often your major chords have a fuller sound (still doubling a note, but an octave apart is possible);
  • a greater range — five extra notes’ worth!

On the other hand…

  • some easy picking patterns become more difficult (the low G really stands out);
  • most tabbed songs (for solo uke) assume a high g and you’ll need to do some on-the-fly thinkin’

At one point I would have included the string itself as a negative: until quite recently most low G strings were wrapped wire, just like a guitar string, and tended to wear out quickly. Not so now with Aquila’s reds or the Worth nylon low Gs.

All told I enjoy the sound my Low G (over reentrant tuning) adds to my mediocre playing.

Range Comparison, Part 1: low G v. high g Fretboard Mapped to Piano

A couple more visual aids on “Low G” versus ukulele’s standard reetrant (High G) tunings, here’s the ukulele strings mapped onto a piano keyboard, low and high G, illustrating the odd (but nice sounding) re-entrant tuning versus the more intuitive “do ray me fa” progression available with a low G string.

If you’ve ever wondered why sometimes you see the strings written gCEA, well, that’s a common way to indicate low g

(unless I just got that reveresed… hmmm, I should Google that) 

Range Comparison, Part 2: Range on Piano Keyboard


Range comparison, re-entrant ukulele tuning (high G) versus Low G for typical soprano ukulele. You can see that a low G string extends your range by five extra notes (G, Ab, A Bb, & B).

(Note: Range mapped onto a piano keyboard because, even if you don’t play, it’s nice to see relative positions laid out on physical objects — we’re visual critters after all. The black keys are the sharps and flats.)

(graphics from a never completed video I’d begun over a year ago. Sigh. Perhaps some day… )