Two ideas. A million possibilities.

james' two cents Mar 04, 2020


In 2002 I released my first album. It was called "Playing it like it isn't" and I recorded the whole thing in my dorm room. That was the start of my career as a musician.

At that time there was no YouTube 😮 and the third wave of ukulele hadn't really started yet so I was always getting emails from people saying, "Help! I want to learn ukulele but there's nothing out there."  Now things are very different.  Now I get emails from people saying, "Help! I want to learn ukulele but there's so much out there I don't know where to begin." 

It's true.  A few minutes ago, I googled "free online ukulele lessons" and got 20,000 results in the blink of an eye.  We're drowning in ukulele these days. Which is wonderful. But overwhelming!  As you make your way through those 20,000 lessons it feels like you're never going to reach the bottom.  You wonder, "when is somebody going to say something that is universally true?"  Something that doesn't just apply to one song or one strumming pattern.  Of course, there are thousands of leaves and branches little ukulele tips and ukulele tricks, we'll never run out of those but what are the "tree trunk" skills and concepts that underpin everything on this instrument? 

When it comes to solo ukulele there are just two things to understand and master: interlaced and synchronous.

That's what I'm really interested in and so I'd like to share one universal ukulele truth with you right now.  It's about the solo style of ukulele where you play the melody, the chords and the rhythm at the same time.  When it comes to solo ukulele there are only two things.  Not 10 things, 100 things or 20,000 things.  Just two things to really understand and master: interlaced and synchronous.

Let me show you what I mean. "Interlaced" is when you find the gaps in a melody and you fill them.  In this style of playing, the melody and chords are staggered; pick, strum, pick, strum, pick, strum.  Synchronous is the only other option: you play the melody and the chords on the same beat. I'm being really careful to play the chords so that the highest sounding note is the melody note. That way, the melody comes through loud and clear.

If you're a student of The Ukulele Way you already know this but most of the arrangements that we play have some combination of interlaced techniques and synchronous techniques. In The Ukulele Way you learn them separately first and then you learn how to combine them.

When it comes to ukulele lessons there are a lot of "free fish" out there but very few "fishing lessons."  If you're ready for a deep dive and you want to get to the bottom of how the ukulele works, is the place to go for the best online ukulele lessons.  For the solo ukulele course that really runs with the concepts in this video, check out The Ukulele Way which is just one of the courses that you can test drive for free at  I'll see you there!

Click here to download a free score of the theme from the New World Symphony that James plays in the video.


Stay in the Uke Loop!

Subscribe to the Uketropolis Gazette. Free arrangements, tips, interviews and more delivered to your inbox.


Stay in the Uke Loop!

Get monthly teaching tips, learning strategies and interesting interviews delivered right to your inbox.