Rob MacKillop

Ukulele

The ukulele is an extraordinary instrument, with a remarkable history. Apart from its well-practised use as a strummed accompaniment instrument, it is capable of real beauty, and the most delicate expression. It has as much depth as the Renaissance and Baroque guitars and lutes, and is worthy of serious study by all those who have a heart for music.

NEW!!! Skype or FaceTime Video Lessons with Rob MacKillop. Follow THIS LINK.

Please Note: My NINE ukulele books are all published by Mel Bay.  See http://www.melbay.com/authors.asp?author=711 for details.

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Here are videos of some of the pieces in these books.

And, finally, a bit of fun…

  1. Hi Rob, I bought “20 Progressive Fingerstyle Studies Ukulele” and it gave me very much. Now I would like to learn some more. I would be very much interested in buying your baroque and celtic music books. Do you have any idea when those books will be available? Thanks for the wonderfull work you are doing for helping us ukulele fans. Greetings from Finland, Esa

  2. Would the arrangements in your Ukulele books work well on a guitar/uke hybrid “Guitalele” type instrument?

    Are your books are written for a particular tuning?

    • My books are written for gCEA, that is, standard uke tuning with the high octave 4th string. With a little creativity on your part, I guess they could be adapted for guitalele.

  3. Hey Rob,

    Love your uke books: I have all of them, and they are my favorite pieces and studies to play right now. Two questions:

    in measure 24 of Fairy Dance in the Celtic book, there is a marked a pull off from g on the 2nd string to the open forth string. Is that supposed to be a pull off to the open e in the next note after the open g? I’m not sure how to play this.

    for the 20 Old Time Am Tunes, what kind of pick do you recommend? Using a pick for this is new to me.

    Your slow downs with commentary on phrasing etc. are so helpful. If you ever get the time to do that for some of the Sanz pieces, that would be great.

    Thanks!

    Marc

  4. Hi Marc,
    Thanks for that. The pull off in bar 24 is a mistake! Just take it out 🙂

    I use a Gibson extra heavy pick.

    Hope that helps?

    I’ll think about the Sanz pieces. Thanks for mentioning it.

    Cheers,

    Rob

  5. Hi Rob,

    I have another place that confuses me, this time in the Sanz book. In Folias page 26, bars 50 and 58 there is marked a tie that I can’t figure out how to play. Perhaps it’s a mistake, because I don’t think there can be a tie (between the two F sharps) when there is an open e in between. So, in our group we thought that A: perhaps they are supposed to be pull offs from the F sharp to the open e (as is marked in bar 56) or B: perhaps these two are supposed to be hammer ons from the open e to the following F sharp, or C: as in Fairy Dance perhaps the tie is just a mistake and should be taken out? How did you intend it to be played? We thought it sounds good with option B, but we weren’t sure. Perhaps it’s something else altogether that i don’t understand.

    Thanks for all your help and terrific arrangements!

    Marc

  6. Hi Marc, that is a pull off followed by a hammer on. Sorry it wasn’t clear enough. I guess two slur signs would have been clearer, but I wanted to give a sense of it as being one movement or gesture, so smoother in execution. Does that make sense? But you are right to point it out, as it is not 100 per cent clear. Sorry about that!

  7. On the recording for the new Bach ukulele and guitar duets, will the instruments be recorded on different channels so that it is possible to switch off the ukulele sound completely and just leave the guitar to play along with?

  8. On the recording for the new Bach ukulele and guitar duets, will the instruments be recorded on different channels so that it is possible to switch off the ukulele sound completely and just leave the guitar to play along with?

  9. Thanks for the information. In the end I decided to buy your Progressive Fingerstyles ebook, although MelBay certainly don’t make the buying process easy. They aren’t currently accepting international orders, although I can’t imagine why it’s difficult to ship an ebook, superstorm or no superstorm.

  10. Hi Rob: I ordered your new Bach book from Mel Bay. John Ulrich and I are looking forward to playing the duets. Looks great. I’ve had a nagging question in my mind maybe you could answer. The studies books are so good for playing the material in your other books. When playing Tears for Amelia, which folks love to hear played by the way, I was wondering what the best left hand technique is for the the first and fourth strings when you play them together. I’ve been using the second and third fingers. Is that best, as this happens in so often in many of the arrangements, or is it just context and different fingerings for different passages?
    Thanks! Marc

    • Hi Marc,

      I use fingers 1 and 4 throughout – see video above. But that depends on which uke I’m playing, and this is why I rarely put left-hand fingering into my scores. The fingering I use on a soprano is different from what I would use on a tenor. Plus I have very large hands, and not everyone does. I just say to people to do what feels comfortable, and that is usually the right fingering for your hands.
      Glad you like Tears For Amalia. Although a homage to the great Fado singer, it is also a nod and a wink to Francisco Tarrega, the great Spanish guitarist of the late 19th and early 20th century. His Lagrima (or Tears) was the first classical guitar piece I learned, and still one of my favourites.

  11. Rob: your reply has been helpful. I watched our video, but perhaps because your fingers are so long or my lack of experience or both, I couldn’t figure out what you were doing. Tears for Amalia is a joy to play, and people who hear it ask for it to be played again. I learn so much from your studies. Right now Folias from your Sanz book is my favorite piece to play. I can almost do all of it smoothly, and it’s very satisfying. I love the campanella in it.

  12. Hello Rob,
    We have a Go for Baroque uke group now, and we’ve performed some of your Sanz pieces. Very fun. We want to do a group from your Celtic Tunes book, and we’re trying to decide if we are supposed to swing them or not. Drowsy Maggie, for example, is a reel some of the players want to swing, or long/short the eighths, or lilt, or whatever you call that. I think I hear you on the CD and the slow version playing the eighths straight. What’s your take or insight into this. Is it just preference? What’s the traditional way to play it? Is your arrangement meant for straight and swing performances? Are jigs swung too? We’ll be playing them slower than you do on the CD! Marc

    • Hi Marc! To swing or not to swing? That one will rage for decades to come. I don’t normally do it, especially in a group situation. Straight is straight, but there are many shades of swing. So in a group situation it is safer to ‘play straight’. When playing solo, I do dip in and out of swing as I feel it in the moment. Likewise with jigs. Hope that helps! Rob

  13. Hello again Rob,
    Our group is doing better with the jig and reel rhythms, and we’ve followed your advice about playing mostly straight to stay together. We have two brief questions perhaps you can answer easily if I’m not trying your patience. 1) We’d like to play your Da Foula Reel and then Drowsy Maggie as a medley. How do you go from one to the other? 2) We want to perform The Blarney Pilgrim too. With all three, is it possible/a good idea to add accompaniment with chords on the ukulele? They seem to be modal, so it’s not clear how to proceed, or would it be better to have some kind of percussion?

    By the way, we are starting on some pieces from your Bach book, and they are very enjoyable for a group to perform! The musette is easy enough to get, but also very well arranged to sound good. Marc

    • Hi Marc,
      Always happy to hear from you. To your questions:

      1. That depends on the tempi you are taking both pieces. If you can find a unified pace for both, then just go straight in without a break. If there is a difference in tempo, a short two-second pause might be best.

      2. I don’t personally like chords in traditional music, but I seem to be in a minority. When I was growing up, everyone played the tune, adding their own melodic decoration. These days we get dreary guitar strumming behind everything, and I just find it makes everything sound the same – plus they often play off chord choices. I’d be happier with percussion than strumming chords. But, as I say, I’m in a minority, so the best advice is to do what pleases you most.

      Glad you like the Bach book! Some easy pieces there, but some hard ones too. Good luck with it all.

      Rob
      PS Say “Hello!” to your group for me!

  14. Hello Rob, Thanks for your reply re Flowers of the Forest. I also have a question about Afreeka. Your recording is great. I am finding it difficult though to get much volume when tapping the strings. What’s the trick there?

    • Hi Jeff,

      I’ve noticed that some ukuleles respond to the technique better than others. I guess I was lucky when I wrote it that I had in my hands a uke that did that technique easily. What makes one uke more amenable to it than another, I don’t know. But it does work on all ukes, but seem need more attention than others.

      I must stress that I feel I’m bouncing off the strings more than hitting them. Hope that means something to you, because it’s hard to describe.

      Good luck with it!

  15. Re above- hitting the strings with a pencil produces the exact effect, even though it looks silly,…

  16. Another question, for the stirring and attractive Queen Margeret University Jig- for some reason the repeated 1/16th A notes are really difficult to play. How do you do that?? (a slower audio version might help,…)

  17. Oh- well that was easy!
    Thanks Rob.

  18. Rob, I just noticed that your audio of Flowers of the Forest is not in G or D tuning- what is it?
    Thanks!

  19. Hello!
    Several months ago you mentioned writing another uke book for MelBay. Have you decided on a genre and could you share with us any information about this.
    P.S. I took your recommendation to get the “Pieces for Machete” book, so far only having the chance to work on Clara Polka on the uke, but looking forward to learning several of the other pieces when I get back home (China) from my temporary post (Burma).

    • Hi Bill,
      Funny you should ask – I’ve just sent off one book to Mel Bay, and am in the middle of writing a second. The first is 20 Popular Uke Tunes For Kids, and the second is 20 Easy Classical Uke Tunes for Kids. I decided to do two kids’ books, as I was given a ukulele when I was eight years old. I want kids to learn the campanella style of uke playing, what for me makes the ukulele unique. That said, my adult students are already demanding scores from the book, so maybe it is for 8-year olds at heart…

      Glad you got the machete book – some great stuff in there!

  20. Which Pieces for Machete book is that?

  21. I have not been able to find it anywhere.

  22. the book that is- except in some libraries. Where is it for sale?

    • I don’t know, and haven’t got time to look. Best of luck! Some people have asked me to send copies, but as the book was a gift from its author, I cannot do that. Not that you asked, of course. A library copy might be your best bet.

  23. Hello Rob.
    I have been working through 20 Easy Fingerstyle Studies for Ukulele, and I notice that on the recording you play the first chord in bar two different to what is printed in the book. You seem to play the notes g c e b (C major 7 second inversion) on the recording, but in the book the printed notes are c e g b. (C major 7 root position) I was wondering if the book is printed wrong.
    By the way, if the book is reprinted, I think the word “easy” should be omitted. The studies are excellent, but they are not easy for a total beginner (like me). I find them hard.

    Best wishes, and thanks for producing all that music.

    Peter de Wit.

  24. Rob
    Sorry about that Rob. I wasn’t thinking! – I was referring to a Little night Music. Since my message, I have realised that I misunderstood things, due to the the high G tuning. I realise now that the tab system makes the order of notes clear, but as a saxophone player I had not been looking at the tabs. I just read the music notation, which made it seem as if what you play on the record is different to the written notation, but when I looked at the tabs, it became clear. Also, because the chord is played as a sequence of notes, rather than all the notes simultaneously, it comes across as a different chord to the written notation. I hope you can understand what I am saying.

    Cheers.

    Peter.

    • No problem Peter. I know exactly what you are referring to. For me, the high g is what makes the ukulele a very different animal to the guitar. I like to make full use of that.

  25. Hello Rob,
    I’m an ukulele beginner and very interested in learning fingerpicking styles. I have a tenor strung with low g. I’ve browsed a few of your books and it looks like they are all written for standard/re-entrant g tuning. Do you have a version for low g, or could you recommend a good tutorial? Thank you!
    -Aaron

    • Hi Aaron,

      All my books are for high G. With a low g, to me it just sounds like a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret. I love the high g, as it make the uke unique.

      I’m sorry to say I can’t help you with a book, as I haven’t used one. But I’m sure there must be something out there. Good luck!

      Rob

  26. Rob, thank you for the prompt response!

  27. Hi Rob,
    Playing through your 20 Spanish Baroque Pieces by Gaspar Sanz is the most fun I’ve ever had on the Ukulele – a refreshing change from modern guitar versions. I enjoyed your playing of the Passacalle too. Saw you at the national gallery a few years ago playing historic instruments to some of the paintings. That was a good event. I admire and enjoy your eclecticism. Keep it up.

    Cheers, Brian.

  28. Great work, Rob. I can’t seem to find the easy classical book on Melbay or Amazon, any clues?

    Cheers
    Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      It has only just been released, so give it a couple of weeks to a month. Otherwise, it is available now as a print copy or download PDF with sound files from the Mel bay website. Let me know if there is still a problem.

      Cheers,

      Rob

  29. Hey Rob – just working through 20 easy fingerstyle studies – its great & helping me a lot, thanks!

    I noticed a small error where the tab differs from the notation (is this the most convenient place to leave these comments for you?) “One-nil”, bar 7, the tab says 4-1-0, but the notes are C-F-A (C-F-A is correct, I think).

    • Well spotted, Tyler. The C should be an E. The TAB is correct. Bar 11 also suffers from the same mistake. Again, the TAB is correct. But there is also a mistake in your comment 😉 See if you can find it… This is definitely the place to make such comments, and I really appreciate yours.
      Cheers,
      Rob

  30. Hi Rob, Full marks to you for such an engaging web site and music. Would you be interested in airplay via Australian community radio?
    Regards,
    Sam

  31. Hey Rob, I’m playing the easy fingerstyle studies and have managed without a strap so far, but now I feel like I need one. I can play “Bar Two” just fine, but I think a strap would allow me to concentrate more on interpretation, and not just getting the bar chord right. The problem is, my ukulele doesn’t have a strap button. I’ve been to two music stores and they’re surprised I consider using a strap at all. What kind of strap do you use?
    Thanks in advance
    Renat

    • Hi Renat,
      I got a strap button put on one of my ukes, the tenor, and it makes playing a LOT easier. I suggested my students do the same, and every one of them said it made a BIG difference. Once the strap button is on, just buy a regular guitar strap. One of the strap ends goes on the button, but you have to thread a ribbon through the other end, and tie it onto the head of the uke, passing it beneath the strings. I do this between the two tuning pegs, not between the nut and the first peg, as when you do it there the strap gets in the way of your thumb. A local guitar shop puts the button on for less than a packet of strings.

      Hope that helps.

      Rob

  32. Thanks for your reply, Rob! I was turned down at two guitar departments of larger music shops (“never heard of people playing the UKULELE with a strap! the wood is too thin etc”) but then I went to a guitar builder and had my button and strap within ten minutes!

  33. Yes, it is ! I used to balance it on my left leg, like a classical guitar, but with the uke being so small I had to turn my whole body into a uke adjustment device. Needless to say I developed some tensions. Now I have to get used to the feeling of a relaxed body and having to rely on my fingers to do all the work.

  34. Well, that’s good news, though sometimes freedom takes a while to get comfortable with. Good luck.

  35. Hello Rob, I’ve just been getting the 20 Old Time American Tunes under my fingers- they are really good and fun to play once you get the hang if it. The Briggs Instructor pieces are harder- I don’t know why 16th notes should be a challenge, but they are and they seem to be ingrained in Celtic and Appalachian music to a degree that seems foreign to those not brought up with those traditions.
    The tuning you use for the audio files is not standard gcea, and it seems to sound better than gcea, but I have not been able to figure it out. Do you remember what tuning you used?
    Thank You,
    El Jefe

    • Hi Jeff. I’m pleased you are getting into the 20 OT tunes. The Briggs tunes are quite unique, and I think they work wonderfully well on the uke, once you get beyond trying to read them. Try to memorise one or two. The same rhythms keep appearing, so once you’ve “mastered” one or two, the rest should come more easily.
      I kind of used standard tuning – I just tuned down a tone (if I remember correctly) as it sounded better to my ears for these pieces on a banjo-uke. I should have mentioned that in the book!

  36. I’ve been playing the uke for about 2 months. My husband bought if for me on a whim. I’ve never played a stringed instrument before, though I do read music. I found your 20 easy studies on amazon and I’m having a lot of fun with them. Some of the pieces are extremely pretty, and I’m looking forward to purchasing another book after I’ve worked through this one. I just learned Bar Two today and can finally get all the notes to sound when playing a bar chord–something I had been struggling with. Thanks for your notes.

    • Thanks for your comments, Leah. I’m so pleased that the book is helping. Mel Bay have just brought out two of my books for kids, which are proving popular with my adult students! One is of classical tunes by Mozart and others, and the other book is of traditional nursery rhymes, popular tunes.
      Good luck with Bar Two. The technical problem other than playing a bar chord, is to bring out the melody – the upper note – at all times. Quite tricky.
      Best wishes,
      Rob

  37. Hi Rob,
    I’ve been playing ukulele for about a year now and want to write and tell you how much pleasure I’ve gotten out of your ‘easy fingerstyle’ book. I’ve got a bunch of the songs (Tears for Amalia, Bar Two, Triplet Blues, Creepy Campanella Blues, Fast Arpeggios, One Nil) memorized and I love them as exercises and as songs. I’m still deciding which book of yours I want to get next which brought me back to your website and thus this message which is really just to say thanks for sharing so much of your work in such a direct and generous way.

    • Hi Jamey. I just happened to be on this website when your message came through. Many thanks for the kind words, and it is great to know that my studies have helped you. I have about eight Mel Bay uke books now, so there is a lot to choose from. The Spanish Baroque book is selling realy well, and getting great reviews. For something completely different, try the Briggs book – those pieces are great fun to play. All my books are listed on the Mel Bay site, and can be ordered from your local store, or downloaded from the Mel Bay site: http://www.melbay.com/Author/Default.aspx?AuthorId=37986

  38. Hello Rob,
    I have learnt a heck of a lot using your books and I’m currently working my way through your fingerstyle book, in the hope that it will improve my technique when playing the Gaspar Sanz pieces. I’m really interested in playing Baroque music on the ukelele and inspired as I am by your work, I have recently listened to some pieces played on the lute that were written by Thomas Robinson from his ‘The Schoole of Musicke’ book in the early 1600’s. I realise you must be extremely busy, but it would be fantastic to see these pieces adapted for the uke in an instruction book intended for a 21st Century audience! You’re probably rolling your eyes to the heavens by now, but, I would be interested to read your thoughts on this!
    Many thanks and best wishes,
    Paul

    • Hi Paul. Great to hear from you, and I’m pleased you are working through these books seriously.
      I know Tom Robinson’s School, and have played some of the lute music from it. But I’m not of a mind to transcribe it for ukulele at the moment. But you could give it a try!
      There is so much music out there, and a lot of it will sound good on the uke – I just haven’t got the time to do even one percent of it. So start arranging your own stuff now. Just simple stuff, to get you started. It can get quite addictive, and also teach you a lot about music.
      Best wishes,
      Rob

  39. So Rob, would you mind giving us a few tips? When do you choose to transpose to another key and which parts of a larger instrument’s register do you decide to leave out for the Uke? Is it always a good idea to keep the base line? Any good books or resources to look to?
    Another big fan!
    Jeff
    PS Michael finally delivered and it is a gorgeous Torres. At least I already am familiar with 4/6 strings,…:-)

    • Hi Jeff. So pleased you got a “Torres”!
      As for arranging – it’s a big subject. I don’t know of any books on the subject, and I tend to take each piece as it comes. I avoid anything that will make the uke sound like it is struggling, as usually that means the player is struggling too. I like to give the impression that the music could have been written for the uke, so it sounds natural and not forced or contrived. Bass lines can go up and down octaves freely, generally speaking. The melody is the main thing, as that is the part people might recognise. So, often I will set the melody, then see what else fits in without causing technical problems or musical nonsense.

      Maybe it does need a book!

  40. What model, make is the instrument you play in your 20 finger style videos? I have been playing a mahogany and I was drawn to the sweet tones of you playing.

    • Hi Jeff,
      It’s a uke by Edinburgh maker, Dallas Sutherland, spruce top. I’ve heard that people have subsequently tried to order one from him, but he is not currently making them.

  41. Hi Rob,
    Thanks again for the great lesson. I’ve been having a great time playing the Popular Songs and the Classical Pieces for Kids. Do you think it’s better to learn a broader range of easier things or work more on challenges that seem less accessible? It surely depends on what one hopes to accomplish but what about in respect to efficacy of progress and technical foundation for the learner.
    Best,
    Jamey

    • I thought I’d answered this, Jamey, but seem not to have. Sorry.

      I encourage periods of consolidation, as they are often necessary before making the next step forward. So once you consider you’ve reached a new level of skill, sit there for a while and enjoy the view. Look at many pieces at that level, then, when you are ready start pushing your playing into new areas. There is no end point in music, it’s a continual evolution. I’m still a student. So much music, so little time.

  42. Hi Rob
    I ‘ve got all your books above except the Celtic and the local music shop has ordered the” Briggs banjo for Uke” book for me. I am over 60 and find the page layouts, instruction very easy to understand. I also play classical guitar and am going to wander into your ” Scottish Guitar” book at some point too. I enjoy the variety of exercises you present in your works. The Bach Book was the first book and I was stunned that I could play the first song so easily and move on from there. So a big thanks to you for your planning and thinking in writing these books! Glad to have these books in the US! Also I want to compliment you on your teaching/ explanation on the Romantic Guitar portion of your site. The very last video on technique is super! I was thrilled when I saw it since I have two arthritic fingers. I do not to have to be forever struggling in the PIMA world! I started all this late in life and am enjoying playing uke and guitar.Thanks so much!

  43. Rob,
    Yea, I remember you answered me already but thanks again for the guidance.
    Here’s me and my daughter doing a song from your book:

  44. Oh, I didn’t think it would put the video on your page, I just pasted in the link and thought you could click if interested but now there we are; feel free to take it down if you’d like.

  45. Great! Now switch parts!

  46. I’m honored.

  47. Rob- I love the Celtic Fingerstyle Uke Tunes. One question- how do you keep from getting lost in all of the eight notes? I’m guessing that you Celts and Gaelics know these by heart and have them already in your heads and feet, but some of we white Americans don’t (can’t) jig like y’all can!

  48. thug sé an ceol ón gcliabhán leis

  49. Rob, your first Finger Style book is wonderful as I said before! Today I was rereading your comments and instructions at the very beginning of the first few pieces. I began to wonder if there is any one who makes a fretless uke that would make a smooth fretboard with just the painted on markers for the frets rather than any grooves and installed raised frets. I am told by the music shop where I have asked to order your books for me what they thought and they liked the idea. They said a local luthier might be interested in trying to make one here in the Quimper Peninsula of Washington state. Have you ever used one or known of anyone using one. I would need the marks- painted or depending on cost- inlay but flat. to easily slide. Thanks and wondered if anyone has. I really truly like your books and explained why to the music store owner when she asked me as I ordered others after the purchase of my first of your books. I am intrigued with the idea of a fretless uke or flat fret marked uke neck.

    • Hi Jean. I’ve not played a fretless uke, but have played a couple of fretless banjos, and they are great fun. I think a fretless uke would be a great idea. Let me know if you go ahead. It would be particularly good for my Briggs book and also my Old Time tunes book. The Briggs pieces are among my favourites to play on the uke, and they were originally for fretless, gut-strung banjo. And, of course, many of the Old Time tunes were for fiddle, also fretless. Sounds like a plan!

    • Hi, Rob, I have a suggestion for your correspondent apropos a fretless uke. Buy an inexpensive uke; carefully remove the frets with snub nosed pliers; fill the fret slots with a light coloured wood filler, e.g. plastic wood, using a pallet knife; sand the fretboard and Robert’s your mother’s brother. I believe Jaco Pastorius did something similar to get his first fretless bass. You could get a luthier to do it for you, but it seems like a suitable DIY job to me. You can pass this on if you like. Cheers, Brian Arthur. Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2014 02:55:46 +0000 To: brian.arthur@hotmail.com

  50. I have the Briggs book on order from the music shop here and I am exploring how to get a fretless ukulele or have the technician replace a fretboard on one of my ukes as a possibility. I wondered what you might think would be a good uke shape or characteristics to try for this experiment. I spent hours last evening searching for any kind of fretless ukulele and there’s not one. I emailed a few uke builders/companies to see if they can skip the groves and frets. Want to see what a local luthier would charge to make one or if a company would sell me a blank fretboard that the music shop technician could replace a fret board on a ukulele that is not a banjo uke but sometimes sounds similar to a banjo. I will continue my quest and perhaps someone will. I see Brian Arthur’s commentary and think I may see if the local shop tech would do this. Thanks to both of you!

  51. Hello Rob,

    I appreciate that you have a website, which makes your work warmer and more personal. I’ve been browsing the Web for a fingerstyle ukulele ressources and I definitely wish to buy one of your books. But which one should I get first ? 20 Progressive Fingerstyle Studies or 20 Easy Fingerstyle Studies ?

    • Thanks, Ghislaine. Definitely get the Easy book first. Although there are some easy pieces in it, some are quite testing, and will give you a good grounding in technique.

  52. Wow ! Thank you for your light speed answer !
    Have a nice day.

  53. Rob, I wanted to ask about playing on a Goldtone Banjo Tenor Uke. I am thinking about purchasing one and they are tuned to DGAE. A cello or higher price banjo uke is out of my price range- want to play Bach, Briggs and maybe Bach for cello altho I realize that would not sound the same as a cello banjo. Your Bach on the cello banjo is awesome and some of my uke friends enjoyed it with me! Pals at the music store are rather intrigued with this and also your other books. Also wanted to say I bought the Children’s classical book of yours and it’s a fun warm up- part of my morning routine now- to play through the book! I do recommend this book for beginner adults as well as the audience you wrote it for. Thanks.

    • Hi Jean. The GoldTone Tenor Banjo is tuned like a regular ukulele gCEA, but I suppose you could tune it to DGAE if you can get the right strings. It’s a well-made instrument, and recommended.

      Yes, the cello banjo has an amazing sound! Perfect for Bach, I’d say. You should get one! Everyone should get one 🙂

      Thanks for promoting my ‘Kids” books – they are mostly used by adults. But we are all kids at heart…

      Cheers. Any other questions, just ask.
      Rob

  54. Thanks got it today and it’s great!!! Spent awhile in music shop playing it and it’s currently in DGBE tuning. Thanks for the recommendation! The Briggs book came in and I’ve been playing that with another uke I have- super fun! Thanks again. Music shop people also happy – I must say!

  55. Hi Rob, Have you been hacked? Brian. Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 09:38:47 +0000 To: brian.arthur@hotmail.com

    • Why do you say that, Brian? I get hacked every day. The WordPress team find most of it, but once or twice a week I have to manually remove something. What have you seen?

      • Hi Rob, It seems to be an invitation to indulge in on-line gambling. This is what it said: Hello people if you can’t earn any money online try – bluehand roulette system – it earns me decent money everyday, just google it It didn’t seem to be your style. Cheers, Brian.

        Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:41:59 +0000 To: brian.arthur@hotmail.com

      • Definitely not my style! Sorry you saw it, but it seems to have gone now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Brian.

      • No problem Rob, It reminded me that I hadn’t listened to ‘Flowers of the Forest’ lately and I’ve just remedied that. It’s a lovely and rather different collection of music. It usually gets bypassed lying as it does between my Bream and North lute CDs. Keep plucking, Brian Arthur. BTW, I’m a Northumberland based guitar (etc.) teacher and I’m often in Edinburgh, so if you are performing anywhere between the Humber and the Forth, let me know. I’ll come if I can, and I’ll pass it on to my students. Stick me on your concerts mailing list, I guess. Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 12:08:43 +0000 To: brian.arthur@hotmail.com

  56. Hello Rob,

    I finally got a copy of your Briggs book for uke, so now I have almost all your uke books and play the material with joy. Is it safe to assume that the 50-odd tunes in your copyrighted intabulation of the Briggs Solo Banjo Music 1855 can be transposed to fit well on a re-entrant tuned uke? Also, what kind of banjolele did you use for the Briggs uke book? Can you give a contact for the maker?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  57. Rob, I bought your Scottish guitar book….. did not touch it for awhile and today tried some of the Open D pieces on a National Triollian. No picks etc. Wow, I don’t know if you meant for that to ever happen but what lovely pieces and thanks for the arrangements being simple enough for me to fumble through them! I was surprised as I have never played anything on a resonator till today. ( I play ukulele and thanks to your books also banjo uke ). I was fortunate that the person who let me try their guitar had it in Open D and asked me if I wanted to play something. Loved the deep rich tones from the Scottish guitar tunes. ( person who owns the National plays mostly blues and is quite a player).
    I hope to get to the front 2/3 of the book at sometime and am thinking if Mel Bal still publishes the former version of the book- maybe I can benefit from the more in depth explanations. Thanks for taking your time and energy to do this very wonderful book and CD!

    • Hello Jean, and thanks for your comments. I like the Triolian, but didn’t for a moment imagine playing this music on it. But why not, indeed? Now I want to try!
      I’m glad you find the pieces playable, that was important to me. I don’t like complexity for complexity’s sake. Melody is everything.
      Best wishes with it all. Any questions, just ask.
      Rob

  58. As it happens I have also recently ordered and received both books. I laughed at the Amazon reviews that criticized them for one, “being in DADGAD and not standard tuning” and 2, for being “so simple that one could learn nothing from them”. They are perfectly suited as an incredibly nspiring, and straightforward introduction to the genius and beauty of Scottish guitar music.
    I have also began a study of Hawaiian Slack Key guitar in several tunings that reveal a similar genius for that genre. Both peoples have apparently discovered what exactly makes the guitar sing so well.

    Thank You Rob for being such a masterful teacher

  59. I could not believe how beautiful the music sounded. While I did not wander into alternative tunings till now- I can’t understand why anyone would scoff at alternate tunings or say they were so simple. Sometimes less is more and certainly in my case, with two arthritic fingers on my right hand, I was very happy with what I was able to play and hear. So I should say ” Thanks too, Rob” So now I will wander into the Tenor Banjo book with less trepidation. I wanted to ask if Mel Bay has stopped publishing the first Scottish Guitar book. Seems to not be on their website. Thanks.

    • Jean, I did not know that Mel Bay are not selling it any more (I’m always the last to be told!) but as ElJefe says below it is still available. There is no sound recording with it.

  60. Both Hardie Press & Amazon have it Jean- seems that Mel Bay no longer does. Watching you play John Kings and Weltis arrangements, I would never have guessed that you are impaired in any way. Guess I need to work harder!

  61. Hi Jean Cameron and ELJeve, I am a guitar teacher playing mostly classical music in the wonderfully versatile ‘standard’ tuning.. I would just like to endorse your comments. I like both ‘The Scottish Guitar’ and ‘Scottish and Traditional Music for Guitar’ very much. The CD in the former is a most pleasant listen in its own right.
    So-called ‘alternate’ tunings have a history as long as stringed instruments themselves. ‘Standard’ tuning is merely the most popular ‘alternate’. If music soothes the mind an stirs the soul, it matters not how easy or difficult it is. In fact it is very important to have good quality easier music for learners and those of modest technical facility to enjoy. If I have a student wanting to learn DADGAD, Rob’s books are my first recommendation. If somebody finds them too easy, they can always delve into Pierre Bensusan’s wonderful publications, but they had better be virtuoso players first!
    Continue to enjoy the delights of ‘simple’ music Jean and ElJeve. Simple music well played beats poorly played virtuoso showpieces any day, and gives much more enjoyment to the non-muso listener. Anyone who scoffs at ‘alternate’ tunings or ‘simple’ music has missed the point.

    • Thanks, Brian. Much appreciated comments. I’ve been away for a few days, off radar. Just got back to all the comments, and about four hundred emails!

  62. Right on- and I’d have to say that the California Guitar Trio is a brilliant example of virtuosity in any tuning and proves your point exactly.

  63. Thanks Brian for the kind and encouraging words. I am enjoying my adventures in music.

  64. I found the older version of the Scottish Guitar book through an Amazon connection to the Book Connection in Oregon so ordered it from them. Thanks and I look forward to reading more in depth about the Scottish Guitar. I am now quite interested in the history and continuing playing ( attempting to play). I am in DADGAD portion of the book now. This has really gotten me less timid about alternative tunings and I am enjoying this so much. I am also waiting for the Back Cello – for Tenor Banjo book to come in at the local music store for my Goldtone. I was so lucky to have been able to first play the Scottish Guitar in Open D on a friend’s Triollian. That was a nice intro! I am truly enjoying this and my friend played some of the DADGAD tunes today on my guitar so great fun and happy listening. Thanks!

  65. Rob, on pg 6 of Scottish Tradtional music I have an obtuse question regarding the exercise for both hands together.
    Is the L hand only fretting the note while the R is using the different paired combinations of i, m, and a to pluck the string together?

    Please tell me if I am missing something. Also, while I have sometimes wished your other books had more regarding technique, I can see why you possibly mostly have left it up to the player to work it out. Words can be difficult to convey what experimenting, watching and listening make immediately apparent.

    Thanks, Jeff

  66. Hi Rob,
    Wantede to write and say thanks for another good lesson. I’m starting to enjoy the Briggs Banjo book more and remembering what you said about each bar or two being its own little lick helps me see how those songs or that style relate to more familiar popular music.
    Sincerely,
    Jamey

  67. Hello Rob,

    I’ve also been enjoying your Briggs book arranged for uke. So much so that I’ve been transcribing all the other pieces from the original book for the uke. Like you said, they fit so well on the uke it is as if they were written upon it. That got me wondering whether there are other 19th century banjo books with material that fits well on the ukulele. I found a free copy of Frank Converse’s Analytical Banjo Method on the web, but at first glance, they seem too complex. Do you have any advice?

  68. Thanks, Rob!
    Yes, Baur and Buckley look much more do-able!

  69. hi rob,working my way through your easy fingerpicking book,and enjoying it.looking to buy new uke and cannot decide between kremona mari or pono mt.Any thoughts. Thanks Nigel t

    • Hi Nigel. Nice to hear from you. I don’t know either uke, but have heard nothing but good things about Pono ukes. Ask around on the various online uke community groups. Best of luck!

  70. Thanks for immediate response Rob-appreciate your comments.

  71. Hi, the books you’re selling with cd’s. Does it show step by step? Or is it only in the books as tabs?

  72. Hi Rob, thanks for another great lesson. I’m thinking about three songs to play together and wondered what you thought about Bar Two, Tears for Amalia and Sea Blues for next time. Sea Blues will be the hardest but I have it mostly memorized and I’m trying to come up with turnarounds for the other two so they’re a little longer. And I want to challenge myself a little without having to stress over it.

  73. Wishing you all the best for Scotland’s future!

  74. Hi Rob, Just thought I’d let you know- bought Pono mt off e-bay.Very pleased,superb instrument.

  75. Hi Rob, Lately my left wrist has started hurting a little bit; I try stretching it forward and back when I feel it and it isn’t debilitating or anything but wonder if you had any advice?

    • Is your wrist almost straight when playing? I keep my wrist quite straight, maybe just a little arch. If you bend it a lot, then the tendons get bent, which might cause problems. If you keep it straight but still have pain then something else might be the problem. Do you place your little finger on the soundboard? I often do. It helps stabilise the hand. But many students of mine press too hard with the pinkie. Mine just rests lightly, not pressing at all.
      Another consideration, maybe a different-sized uke would be better for you. Try playing a larger one or smaller one for a while in a store, and see if the problem persists. Without seeing you in action, there’s not much more I can say. When it comes to the hands, always try to work with nature than against it. I hope something I’ve said is of benefit to you…

  76. Rob, yea, helpful: it sounds like maybe I’m bending it too much in trying to get my fingers over the fretboard. I’ll try playing with it straighter and see how it goes. Maybe next lesson we can look at it.
    Thank You.
    JT

  77. Oh, it’s you, Jamey. 🙂 And I was thinking you meant your right hand! Doh. We’ll have a look at it soon.

  78. Hello Again Rob,

    I’ve transposed 20 other pieces from Briggs and made them available weeks ago to members of Ukulele Underground. They’re only in notes for gcea tuning, no tabs, no CD. Sorry it took me so long to get around to informing your readers here. They can be found at:
    https://www.mediafire.com/?s273n5cyv1llgx0

    Now, I’ve been working on transposing for gbdg uke some of the Scottish lute music you have transcibed for DADF#AD guitar. A few of them work well IMHO. In your Scottish Guitar book you mention the manuscripts of some 500 Scottish lute works of the 17th century. Is any more of that available to the public? I’d like to try to find more pieces that might work on uke.

    Bill

    • Good for you, Bob.
      The arrangements in my Scottish Guitar book are copyrighted by Mel Bay. You should not use them. They are also my arrangements. If you really care about the music, and I’m sure you do, then you should track down copies of the original lute tablatures and transcribe them before arranging them for ukulele. That’s what I would do. My arrangements are adaptations for the guitar in Open D tuning, necessitating a few changes from the originals. Any new arrangements must come from the original lute tabs. Some of the Scottish lute mss are turning up on Scribd. Good luck!

  79. Hello Rob
    I have recently bought your book of 20 old time american tunes for the ukulele, and have been thoroughly loving it, I’ve found as a 3 finger scruggs style banjo player, your tablature is very easy to read and play. Thank you so much for putting these books out, giving me the chance to enjoy another instrument, without a ton of extra work! I do have a question for you, if you don’t mind. Quite a few of your songs have the use of a pick, could you tell me what finger pick you like to use when playing on your ukulele, or would you have a suggestion on what type to use? Please keeping making more books, and videos, it’s a joy to watch you play, and to see the enjoyment you get from it, very inspirational.

    • Hi Ben. Nice to hear from you. I just use a flat pick on those tunes, a regular Gibson Extra Heavy. They could be played fingerstyle, without picks, but I found the flat pick helps bring an incisiveness to the rhythms, and would help the ukulele cut through in a band setting. I hope that helps.
      Cheers,
      Rob

  80. Thanks Rob, that helps a bunch, hope you have a great day!

  81. Dear Rob MacKillop,

    First, please excuse my bad english. This is not my usual language.
    I just received your book, ordered online, ” 20 progressive fingerstyle studie for Uke (Mel Bay) “. The same as first cover image shown upper, on this page.
    I just listened to the CD that accompanies the book and reading the sheet music, to get an idea.
    As beginner, it promises long hours of ( hard ) study with pleasant melodies. Nice. :o)
    But I notice one thing; the book contains 20 partitions ( as the title suggests ), but the CD itself contains : 23 songs.
    Where are the corresponding scores (21, 22, 23), please ? online ?
    Best regards.
    Eric

    • Hi Eric. Thanks for your message. I do hope you get a lot out of the book. There are twenty pieces, and I record each one. But after that I just experimented with slowing the recording down, speeding it up, etc. There are no scores for those tracks.
      Cheers,
      Rob

  82. OK then. It is like a bonus.
    So, I will try, if I reach the sufficient level, in a (distant) future, to play them by ear.
    And if I can not, I will be back here, with the eyes of the Puss in Boots from Shrek, to begging you to do the partitions ;o)
    Anyway, thanks a lot for your didactic works. That open new creative worlds for people.
    best regards.
    Eric

  83. Hi Rob,

    I just bought the Celtic Uke Tunes book from Amazon but it did my arrive with a CD. I sent a note to Amazon but I’m wondering if you have these tracks available online.

    Thanks! Looking forward to learning these tunes.

  84. Hi Rob,
    I just bought 20 Celt Uke Tunes but it did not arrive with a CD. I sent a note to Amazon.com but I’m wondering if the tracks are available online somewhere.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  85. Dear Rob, I’ve just started to play the Ukulele 3 weeks ago and found by chance your easy fingerstyle studies at amazon. The songs are so easy to play (well – I’ve to improve my speed..) and they sound wonderful. I enjoy my everyday timeout with your music and want to send you big thanks for your work!
    Best regards
    Alexandra from Munich

    • Dear Alexandra, I am so pleased to hear from you, and that although are just a beginner you are finding my studies to be useful and entertaining. If you ever have a problem with any part of my books, just ask me a question. Best wishes! Rob

  86. Dear Rob, just wonderful Rob. very inspiring. In the progressive Fingerst. book, i wondered why you changed the pitch in the 251 song.
    Thanks
    telemachos

    • Hi telemachos. Thanks. There is of course no rule saying you can’t tune lower or higher. I put on heavy strings, deliberately to tune a tone lower. I like the sound. I recorded the way I like to hear this music, and wasn’t thinking that people would play along. I hope it hasn’t spoiled the book for you?

  87. hi Rob, Thanks for the fast answer. NO how could it spoil the book. I am enjoying my daily practise a lot. your books has also a good pedagogic concept.
    Thanks again.
    Telemachos

  88. Rob,
    I’m hoping you come out with a Vol. 2 of Baroque Spanish pieces for uke….
    Also, I want to recommend you to friends and don’t know how to pronounce your name.
    mac-LOP? MAC-illop? ma-KILL-op?
    Thanks,
    robert in n.c., usa

    • Hi Robert. There are no plans for a Volume II, but I’ll keep it in mind. I’m pleased you like that book – it’s also my fav.
      Pronunciation: macKILLop – emphasis on the kill, I’m afraid! It’s the Scottish version of Phillips. Phillips became MacPhillips, then the P became silent – Machillip – MacKillop – there are a few variants.
      Cheers,
      Rob

  89. Hi Rob, i just started playing the uke and discovert you wonderful books. Very inspiring, i learned a lot and the most importand i have a lot of joy playing the uke and discovering Music step by step. i finished more or less the beginner studies and the progressive ones and started now with las hachas, spanisch Baroque. Can you give me some tips how i can get faster i. e. when i play the second part of the piece.

    In the progressive book i have troubles paying that fast in the second part of 9.C and the Blue uke i did not start now, but i think it would be the same problem that i am not getting fast enough.

    My approach to play the peaces first on 1/2 speed then on 3/4 and am trying to get full speed.

    It would be great if you have some tips how to get faster and how to improve constantly practicing

    Thank you very much

    regards

    Del Madu

    • Hi Del. Nice to hear from you, and I’m pleased you like my books!

      Playing slow, of course, is important. But sometimes I just practice the right hand on open strings. Sometimes if this is too complicated, you could write out on TAB what that would be – just zeros for frets, and some right-hand indications. Then practice it as a new exercise. That often helps.
      Also, break it down in to groups of two notes, then three, then four. Each time play each group over and over, maybe a dozen times before moving on to the next group. Small chunks, or links in a chain.
      Remember, I’ve been playing for decades, and it has been a long slow process. Be easy on yourself. The speed will come if you go slowly enough.

      Good luck!

      Rob

  90. Hi Rob, thanks for the fast answer. The Tip of writing out on TAB the parts to practice them on the right hand on open strings, sounds like a good plan, but what to do when i have to create the notes by hammering with the left hand finger on the string. i. e. Las hachas or Zarabanda…..? Could you recommend also any kind approach of deeper understanding of the pieces in order to being able to improvise on the uke. Any recommendation on Music theorie for uke. I just ordered the “Understanding Chords” Published at Melbay and the your celtic tunes. Thanks a lot Rob.
    Del Madu

  91. That’s a good idea, i thought about it already. Will conntet you to a later date.
    Thanks again.
    Del Madu

  92. Hi Rob,

    I just bought your “20 Spanish Baroque Pieces” ebook from MelBay. I bought the book mainly for the song “Espanoleta” because I loved it instantly when I watched your video on it. But how come the arrangement in the book is different from what you play (including the audio track that comes with the book)? I really want to play the version you’re playing instead of the version in the book.

    Thanks,
    Antony Chan

    • See link to lessons and you will be happy to find out!

    • Hi Anthony. Nice to hear from you. The video is from seven years ago, a year or so before the book came out. When I came to do the book, I felt I should give exactly what Gaspar Sanz wrote. To be honest, I rarely, if ever, play it the same way twice. It is baroque music, and performers during that period were expected to add their own flourishes, much like playing blues or jazz today. The good news from your perspective is that 90% of the book version and the video version agree, they really are not so different. So, I suggest you learn the book version well, then try to figure out the small changes I made. That would be great for your ear training. When I was a teenager, we couldn’t afford a teacher, so I transcribed everything from records and the radio – the best education I ever had. As I said, in this instance, the changes are not extensive at all. Good luck!

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