Jolly Roger Ukulele Book 1


Jolly Roger Ukulele Book 1


Foundations for Instrumental Ukulele and Baritone Ukulele

Please read everything on this page and do every lesson before exploring the rest of the website. It's important.

On this website, you will learn to play ukulele at a high level even if you're a total beginner to music or the instrument. You will play with a far more sophisticated musical toolbox than most people ever learn, and you'll learn it using the ukulele. You will also learn how to teach others (the right way) to play ukulele. You'll also learn how to arrange and compose music. You don't need prior knowledge in music, and thankfully you don't need any talent.

You're probably going to scan down this sheet looking for something "cool" to play. That's the wrong thing to do. Music is a vast landscape, and if you're only playing things you think are cool, then you are needlessly limiting yourself to a tiny sliver of the beauty waiting for you. And more importantly, if you can't play a convincing version of Three Blind Mice, how do you suppose Bohemian Rhapsody will go for you? Start at the top and do everything.

Just start! Don't wait to "know more." Stop reading the rest of the internet. Don't wait for everything to be perfect. Artists know they need to learn all of the wrong ways too, so let's get started making mistakes. Here's the good news: There are 30 lessons in this series and 10 of them should take you only a few minutes to do. The other 20 you can have done within a month if you have enough time to practice. Let's get going.

Make it easy on yourself. Start with Lesson #1 and keep going. Play everything in sequential order, and in so doing you will build the proper toolbox of skills. Don't skip around. I put them in this order for a reason and it's a good reason. You'll be amazing in the shortest possible time. Do them all. Frère Jacques ... is the key to everything else.

If you print out the sheet music, punch the left-handed pages on the right side so you can see two pages at once. I am using an iPad these days, so everything is designed with both paper and electronic usability in mind.

Sound Files: The MP3 files are to your right. (Or down below if you're on your phone.) You can and should download them and listen to them one zillion times while reading the sheet music. You should always listen to the recording of a song prior to attempting it. You should also use a tempo slowing app and play along at a slow pace and later try increasing the speed. And, get comfortable with YouTube. You can slow down YouTube videos to play along to them at 75% speed and that's a helpful way to start a song. I would always listen to a few versions on YouTube by other players as well as the MP3s here so you can acquire an idea of how other musicians approach the same song.

Videos: I'm posting multiple videos for everything. If you "get it," there's no need to watch more than one video. If you're struggling, watch a different video and hopefully I'll explain it better. And yes, I suck as a YouTube star. I'm not trying to impress you with my place in the musical world, I am trying to get you further than you already are.

Complete Book: If you want to print everything in one book (and you probably DON'T want to do that ... you should print each sheet as you go) I've compiled them into student editions. Again, you probably do NOT want this, but it's here if you really need a "book." Teacher's editions are available by email.

  • Book 1 Complete Student Edition (everything in the first 30 lessons for students)

    • Ukulele Version PDF
    • Baritone Version PDF (coming soon)
  • "Introduction to Ukulele" Basics (abbreviated version for one-day classes)
    • Ukulele Version PDF
    • Baritone Version PDF (coming soon)

First Hours in Ukulele:

Lesson #1: Introduction to the Program PDF

Lesson #2: Doing Ukulele Right! PDF

Lesson #3: Tuning Your Instrument Ukulele PDF ~ Baritone PDF

Lesson #4: Practice Log PDF

Lesson #5: Progress Tracker PDF

Your First Song -- It's Super Important:

Lesson #6: Frère Jacques


I have never not taught this lesson to every student. It's the most important lesson. Be clear, I don't think you need to be great at this song, but I think you know how to read chord grids, standard notation, and tablature, and you'll be well on your way after you can play this one song. What's the story here? Well, Father John is asleep and the church bells are ringing. That's not good. We need to get him out of bed so he can go preach the sermon and save humanity from its ills. It's in French and English so try singing it both ways using the repeat properly. Also notice, in the lyrics, I told you which left hand finger to use. Make sure you're playing with proper thumb posture, that you've played it one note at a time by reading the tablature, and you have strummed the chord and sang the entire song. Do not play quietly. Be bold, be brave, make mistakes, do the repeats, and share this song with somebody else. When it's in pretty good shape, make a video of it on your phone, and don't look at that video for six months. I promise you'll be way better by then.

We have six expected outcomes for you to master here.

-First, and most importantly, you will learn to read tablature by plucking one note at a time.
-Second, you will learn to read a chord grid and strum the A chord (E chord for baritone)
-Third, you will learn to read first and second repeats.
-Fourth, you will play with another person who is doing the opposite way of you. That is to say, you're strumming the chord while they play the melody, or vice versa.
-Fifth, you will know the difference between an eighth note, quarter note, and half note.
-Sixth, you will memorize the melody and the chord so you can easily teach this system to the next person.

For those of you who've been around awhile:
-Can you play this without the sheet music?
-Can you make an A chord and an E chord on both ukulele and baritone (without looking it up!)?
-Can you play one way while somebody nearby plays the other way?

If you want to read the teacher's guide about this lesson, it is on the Teaching Ukulele page.

Introduction to Strumming:

Lesson #7: Key of A Strummers Ukulele Ensemble PDFBaritone Ensemble PDF

Lesson #8: Key of C Strummers Ukulele Ensemble PDF ~ Baritone Ensemble PDF

Lesson #9: Chord Charts Ukulele PDF ~ Baritone PDF Coming Soon

Advancing Players:

Lesson #10: Make a Better Bar Worksheet Ukulele Solo PDFBaritone Solo PDF

Lesson #11: Major Scales Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #12: Getting to Know Your Fretboard Ukulele PDF ~ Baritone PDF

Songs in the Key of C (G for Baritone):

Lesson #13: My Spaghetti Monster

MySpaghettiMonsterThis is it! It's time to become a fingerstyle chord-melody TuffUke player. This is the greatest song ever written and I cannot believe you don't know it. 😉 Here's the truth. We've done a lot of work on chords, and with this song, we'll barely acknowledge they're on the page, because we're going to use tablature to modify the chords as we play the melody to get a complete and sophisticated sound without being expert players, and without needing an orchestra to help us get the job done.

Years ago, I wrote the single worst novel of all time. My wife said she hated every character. In that novel, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which is a jokey internet thing) played a plastic ukulele on account of the spaghetti sauce, and I needed to give her a theme song. I wrote this never intending to share it. Later, when I began teaching, I realized it can help you become a TuffUke player quickly and will teach you to bring to life a song you only know through the sheet music itself with a reasonably sophisticated chord palette. So Here we go.

Play the melody a zillion times until you figure it out. Make sure you're still listening to the MP3 on this site first so you know what you're getting into and then try like heck to make your version sound similar, even if it is a lot slower. Once you've done that, you will begin reading the TuffUke line and using your right-hand thumb in a downward fashion to include other strings at the same time. One of the more important things is to pay attention to your rest stroke. Your thumb should come to rest on the string you're not going to play.

This is the third of four things I ask you to memorize in this program. Here's the list:

1. The piano keyboard (so you know how notes are arranged in order).
2. Frère Jacques (so you can teach tablature to somebody else).
3. My Spaghetti Monster (so you have one song that makes you sound fancy and nobody can sing along).
4. Happy Birthday's chords (so you don't need paper to sing that song when it comes up).

Lesson #14: Three Blind Mice

ThreeBlindMiceHere's a chance to get better at rest strokes while dealing with the murder and mayhem of a farmer's wife gone insane. This entire song uses only one chord and in the TuffUke version, I'm asking you to play that chord under every single melody note. This can start to sound monotonous if you're not paying attention to what your ukulele is telling you. You need to hit the melody string with a little more oomph to bring out the tune. Make sure you're playing loudly and boldly without fear of mistakes, because there are no mistakes in music. If you're timid, the farmers wife may come after you with her carving knife and you don't want that as she seems to be challenged with appropriate problem solving.

By the way, I know an advanced jazz musician who does a five minute riff on Three Blind Mice and it's amazing.

On this piece, look at all those zeros! You're still using only your right thumb to play the TuffUke. In the next lesson, you'll be playing the chord-melody arrangement in two different ways.

Lesson #15: Brahms' Lullaby Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #16: Yankee Doodle Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #17: Key of C Arpeggio (G for Baritone) Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Songs in the Key of G (D for Baritone):

Lesson #18: Amazing Grace Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #19: Happy Birthday Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #20: La Cucaracha Ukulele Solo PDFBaritone Solo PDF

Lesson #21: All Through the Night Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #22: Home on the Range Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #23: Key of G Arpeggio (D for Baritone) Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Songs in the Key of F (C for Baritone):

Lesson #24: Simple Gifts Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #25: Carnival of Venice Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #26: Daisy Bell: Bicycle Built for Two Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #27: Key of F Arpeggio (C for Baritone) Ukulele Solo PDFBaritone Solo PDF

Stretch Pieces (to prepare you for Book 2):

Lesson #28: Aloha 'Oe Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Lesson #29: Scarborough Fair Ukulele Solo PDF ~ Baritone Solo PDF

Final Written and Performance Exam

Lesson #30: Final Exam

    • Send me an email when you've completed lesson #29 and I will send you your final exam.