Great Lakes Ukulele Gathering with Little Rev

Great Lakes Ukulele Gathering with Little Rev

I just got back from the Great Lakes Ukulele Gathering that was held in Milwaukee, WI yesterday. We were at Anondyne Coffee Roasting Company which was a fun venue for this event.

There were ukulele workshops all day, including an early bird sessions about Ukulele Jug Bands, Ukeing the Beatles, Intro to Fingerpicking, Hawaiian strumming and a great sing-along. At the end was a wonderful concert with MC Petey Mack, The Ukulele Kings, Lanialoha Lee, The Sheboygan Hokum Boys w/Lil Rev and Steven Kanahe Espaniola.


Jenny Peters during RAGBRAI 2019
Here’s me with Kevin Mason, a luthier from Illinois.

I had fun with all the workshops. Here’s a short clip of the Ukulele Jug Band mini-session.


There were a lot of beautiful ukuleles for sale. You might want to check our other recommended ukulele products here

Jenny Peters making music on RAGRBRAI 2019



Here’s a clip from the concert at the end of the day..

I had fun and learned some new tricks at the Great Lakes Ukulele Gathering. I also saw old friends and met some new people. It was really fun singing and strumming together. Ukulele Festivals are a great way to do this!

Have you taken your ukulele or other instrument with you on your travels? Have you had fun experiences making music with fellow travelers?  I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment below! 

Do you want to sound convincing on folk songs? You know basic chords and strumming patterns. And you’re interested in folk music. You’d like to take it to the next level.

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Making Music on RAGBRAI 2019

Making Music on RAGBRAI 2019

I had a great time making music on RAGBRAI 2019 with my fellow cyclists! I just got back from RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across Iowa.

By the way, RAGBRAI stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. More than 10,000 cyclists ride for 7 days the width of the state, camping at night and cycling by day.

Jenny Peters during RAGBRAI 2019

Here’s me on my bike in Iowa.

Along the way, I ran into MANY musicians. John was carrying his tuba behind him in a trailer. Cary had a violin on his back. Alecia had a trumpet strapped to her bicycle. Jim was carrying his banjo. Not to be outdone, I had my ukulele.

I had many chances to play and make people happy. Diane and I sang “This Land is Your Land” and got a three-year-old girl interested in playing ukulele. 


Jim and I played banjo and ukulele at a state park.

Jenny Peters making music on RAGRBRAI 2019



Here’s Jim playing his RAGBRAI banjo ukulele.

We even sang “Happy Birthday” to create a singing telegram for a fellow rider’s father’s birthday!

All in all, I had a great time. It was fun sharing and making music on RAGBRAI 2019 with my fellow cyclists!

Making Music on RAGRBRAI 2019
Jenny shares her ukulele with a young music fan on RAGBRAI 2019

Have you taken your ukulele or other instrument with you on your travels? Have you had fun experiences making music with fellow travelers?  I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment below! 

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How to Make Song Parodies

How to Make Song Parodies

girl-song parodiesAlmost all of us love to listen to parodies of the songs we know, especially those parodies that are humorous. But did you know that parodies can also be used to teach elements of music in the classroom?

In my music classroom at school, I assess students on ukulele songs in groups of 4 or 5. The other 20 students need something to do, and song parodies seem to be the answer!

A parody according to Wikipedia is “a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation.

In music, parodies often modify or copy existing musical ideas, style and lyrics of well-known songs.

Making a parody is fairly simple.

1. Choose the Kind of Parody

song parodiesYou should start off by deciding the type of parody you want to make. In as much as you want the parodies to be educational, they should also be funny. Humor ensures that your audience is intrigued and captivated by the performance. Laughter is always a welcome relief.

2. Pick a Good Song to Parody

It is preferable to pick a song that is well known and also liked by the target audience. Your students will be abuzz when they hear a song they cherish.

3. Write Out the Lyrics

Writing out the lyrics is the hardest part of making the parody. The lyrics carry the message of your parody. You should take a bit of time to write the lyrics. The lyrics obviously will depend on the type of parody you want to make. Try to be as humorous as possible.

Below is an example of a parody of “Are You Sleeping?” where the lyrics have been changed.

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Brother John Brother John

Morning Bells are ringing

Morning Bells are ringing

Ding Dong Ding Ding Dong Ding


Are you hungry? Are you hungry?

Yes I am Yes I am

Eat a burger and french fries

Eat a burger and french fries

Yum  Yum  Yum  Yum Yum Yum

You can watch Jenny play “Are You Sleeping” below.

For more video tutorials, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

song parodies-singing4. Play and Record the Parody

Now you have all you need to perform the parody. You will have to learn the ukulele chords of the music. You can change the musical style, but your audience should be able to instantly identify the original song from which the parody is made.

Recording the parody as the students perform is a good idea as they can watch themselves later or share on YouTube or other media sharing sites.

The students enjoy the creativity and fun involved in coming up with their own lyrics.

Song parodies are a great tool to use in a ukulele classroom. Not only are they an excellent way to build creativity and showcase one’s skills, but they are also fun and satisfying to make. The entertainment involved in creating them ensures students are excited about the ukulele and develop their musical skills in a fun and creative way.

Happy strumming!

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What Is a Chord Progression?

What Is a Chord Progression?

Why learn chord progressions?

Music needs a combination of predictability and unpredictability to sound like music to us. Disorganized sound is noise even if it is pleasant (think of wind chimes.) Music is organized sound. Chord progressions are a way to organize music.

By learning chord progressions you will

  • Be able to predict what is coming next and even feel the next chord shape in your fingers.
  • Know how to practice that unexpected chord progression so that you can play the song smoothly.
  • Become a more polished ukulele player who can play any song that you want to learn.
  • Know how to arrange chords to create your own great sounding music.

What is a chord progression? 

girl-Chord ProgressionAccording to Wikipedia, a chord progression ‘is a series of musical chords that “aims for a definite goal” of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord and that is based upon a succession of root relationships.’

So what on earth does that mean? (We’re going to get pretty technical here for those who are interested.  If you’re NOT one of those folks, go ahead and skip to the next section. You can benefit from practicing chord progressions even if you’re not so sure exactly what they are.)

The Key and Home Chord

To understand chord progressions, we first have to understand what the ‘key’ of a song is, and what a ‘home chord’ is.

All tonal music, including most songs you would play on the ukulele, has a ‘key’. Not an intricately cut piece of metal that opens a door, this kind of ‘key’ is also known as a ‘key signature’. Each key signature defines a specific scale.  There are many flavors of scales, but most ukulele songs are written in major or minor scales.

When we say that a song is in the key of C major, we mean that most if not all of the notes of the song’s melody are members of the scale of C major.  Saying a song is on the scale or key of C major also means that the music has been composed so that the note C will be heard as the most important note. The home note, also known as the ‘tonic’ of a scale or key is the center pitch where all the other notes in the melody are based.

Once the key and the home note of the song have been determined, the home chord is the chord that is built with the home note as its root.  So for a song in the key of C major, the home chord is the C major chord.

The home chord is often the chord that starts a harmonic sequence (chord progression). Most songs visit many other chords before they return to the home chord at the end. And the music is arranged in such a way that the home chord is the most prominent stable chord.

A chord progression, therefore, is a series of chords that lead the listener towards the home chord of the key.

Common Chord Progressions

There is an almost infinite number of ways in which chords can be put together to produce a pleasing, logical musical flow. Let’s take a look at the most common chord progressions. Learning these will help you learn and understand songs more easily and quickly.

Two-Chord Progression

The simplest chord progression is a two-chord progression V7, I. We show below a common form of this sequence on ukulele. Notice how the first chord, the one with the number 7, is always five letters after the home chord in the musical alphabet. In music theory language, we say that the root (name note) of the first chord is a 5th above the root of the second chord.

1 (2)-Chord Progression

Bb C7 F-Chord Progression

Many songs that use only two chords use this progression. Here is a list of some of these songs:

You can practice these songs in many different keys to get used to this two-chord progression. We’ve included 10 extra two-chord songs in the latest print edition of 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way. Here are some examples of this same progression V7, I progression transposed to a different key (home chord).

2-Chord Progression

c to g 12345-Chord Progression

3-Chord ProgressionG to D 12345-Chord Progression



Three-Chord Progression

“Three chords, and the truth

All I’ve got is a red guitar

The rest is up to you.”

— Bono, freestyling during a cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower

“Three chords and the truth, that’s what a country song is.”

—Willie Nelson

The most common chord progression you will see is called the IV, V7, I progression. Thousands of songs use this chord progression. We show below the simplest ukulele version. We’ve repeated the graphics of the music alphabet so you can see the relationships between the chord roots.
4-Chord Progression

c to g 12345-Chord Progression

This chord progression can also be practiced in different keys (homes). Here are some examples of various forms of this progression:
-Chord Progression

G to D 12345


Bb C7 F

Four-Chord Progression

Another often used progression is I, VI, IV, V7. Jenny has created a video of many popular four-chord songs. You can watch this video below to get an idea of all the songs you will be able to play using this chord progression.

On the ukulele, the easiest version of this four-chord progression is:

CA 123456

Circle of Fifths Progression

A final common chord progression is the Circle of Fifths progression. The Circle of Fifths is a visual representation of the relationships between the 12 tones of the chromatic scale.

It looks like this:

Circle of Fifths

Besides showing how many sharps or flats are in a key signature, the circle of 5ths often guides chord progressions.

Many songs from the 1920’s and jazz standards like Ain’t She Sweet, Five Foot Two and All the Things You Are use this progression. Here it is in ukulele terms:


If you’d like to get better at playing five chord songs, you might enjoy our book Easy Ukulele Songs: Five with Five Chords.  As an added bonus, this book will teach you to read ukulele tablature so you can play melodies on your ukulele. Learn to read ukulele tablature!

In Conclusion

Chord progressions are what gives a piece of music a sense of harmonic movement. From these basic chord progressions, you can play almost any song out there. The idea of chord progressions or harmonic progressions is a general music theory and applies not only to ukuleles but also to guitars, pianos and other musical instruments.

With regular practice, you will be able to arrange chords to make your music have a feeling of movement and direction. You’ll have a critical skill for improvising and composing your own music.

Have fun and happy strumming!

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4 Chord Songs for Ukulele!

4 Chord Songs for Ukulele!

Do you want to learn 4 chord songs for ukulele? Do you love the Axis of Awesome’s Four Chords video? If you haven’t seen the video, check it out! It is hilarious. 

In this video, the Australian Band, Axis of Awesome, creates a parody of 36 pop hits from the 1960’s until today, all using the same chord progression. This progression is called the Pop-Rock Chord Progression and it uses the following chords: I, vi, IV, V. On  the ukulele these four chords are: C, A minor, F and G. For fun, I’ve arranged my own version of Four Chords using the following songs:

  • Heart and Soul
  • Let It Be
  • Take My Home Country Roads
  • Blowin’ in the Wind
  • Y.M.C.A.
  • Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Hey Soul Sister
  • I’m Yours
  • Home


A Popular Progression

This chords progression has been used in many songs. Wikipedia lists over 250 pop hits that have used this progression! Melody, rhythm, voices, instrumentation are all musical elements that make a song sound unique to us. The four chords theme is so funny because such different songs from different eras can be sung next to each other without changing the chords.

For this parody, I keep the chords the same, but occasionally change the tempo and the strumming patterns to fit the songs. Here is my parody of 4 chords.

I start with Heart and Soul, which has more than four chords if you include the bridge of the song (middle part) This song is iconoclastic for me. As a child growing up in the 1960’s everyone I knew would play Heart and Soul on every piano they could find everywhere. It was a way for the kids who did not take piano lessons to still show off.

Nowadays children no longer know these two songs and are excited to learn them in a General Music keyboard class. They are still extremely surprised (as I was) to learn that Heart and Soul is a real song. The progression is iconoclastic and if you’ve ever played it on a keyboard, Heart and Soul will help you to get a handle on the I, vi, IV, V chord progression. For more about chord progressions check out “What is a Chord Progression?” 

By the way, I also simplified a few of the songs, to make the 4 chords progression work. I wanted to choose songs I know and are likely to be familiar to you.

Enjoy my parody of 4 Chord Songs and happy strumming!

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What Is the 12-Bar Blues?

What Is the 12-Bar Blues?

Do you want to play the 12-bar blues on ukulele? Here’s your chance to learn what the 12-bar blues is.

According to Wikipedia:

The 12-bar blues or blues changes is one of the most prominent chord progressions in popular music. The blues progression has a distinctive form in lyrics, phrase, chord structure, and duration. In its basic form, it is predominantly based on the I-IV-V chords of a key.



12 bar blues

The Blues uses both European and African musical elements. With its combination of European harmony and the African heritage of call and response, rhythmic complexity, and blues notes, the 12-bar blues gave the world a new form of music from America, a style of music that has revolutionized the world.

Most American popular music grew out of the 12-bar blues. The first rock songs (Johnny B. Goode, Rock Around the Clock, Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog) were blues songs. Try to pay attention to the chord changes. Once you learn the Blues changes, you have the skill to play all these songs! Check out our lesson videos below on Johnny B. Goode and Rock around the Clock.

The easiest version of the 12-bar blues on ukulele is the chord progression shown above. Each chord stamp stands for a measure of music.

blues scale for ukulele

Musical improvisation means to make up music as you are playing. Songs that use the 12-bar blues often have a section where one musician makes up new melodies. The music above shows an example of the blues scale for ukulele.

Here’s a video to help you learn how to do some easy improvisation using the 12-bar blues on ukulele.

You may notice that there are flats in the music. Those flats are called blue notes.


This is a note or group of notes that are different than the notes used in Western folk music. Usually, in the blues, we play the different note near its next-door note so our ears can imagine the note that belongs on the African scale. In staff notation, a blue note will have a flat, sharp or natural in front of it.


The blues scale is a group of musical sounds that are spaced in the specific way that is used in blues music. The blues scale probably came with African people to the United States. In the key of C, which is the same as all the white keys on the piano, a blues note will be a flat or sharp next to a white key. When we add a black key to the white key scale, the music sounds different. The black key, for example, E flat, added in on top of the white key, such as E, gives the music a bluesy feel.

The added black keynotes are an attempt to approximate African scales. Western folk music tends to use 8 notes per octave, while African folk music tends to use 5 notes equally spaced per octave. Some of these African scale notes do not exist in Western musical instruments. For example, if you look at a piano keyboard, you can see that there ARE five black keys but the spaces between them are not equal. Thus, when you sing or play a flat note and somebody else is playing a regular note, your ear hears the sound the flat note and the regular note make together as bluesy.


Blues lyrics will often take on a recognizable form as well. Because there are three groups of four measures, the phrasing often works like this:

  1. The lyrics in the first phrase state some kind of problem.
  2. The lyrics in the second phrase restate the same problem in stronger language.
  3. The third line of lyrics will resolve the problem state in the first line.

Anthropologists and ethnomusicologists believe that the blues grew out of African American work songs. A leader of a group of workers would call out to all the other workers, who would then sing a response. This form of music is called “call and response” and is common in a lot of African Music.

The 12-bar blues with its European harmony and African heritage of call and response, rhythmic complexity and blues notes offers a completely new form of music from America, a style of music that has revolutionized the world. 

Happy Strumming!

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