Ukulele Underground is my absolute favorite ukulele site, and singer, ukulele performer, and teacher Aldrine Guerrero’s “Uke Minutes” are one of its best features. Although each video is only two or three minutes long, Aldrine takes some really complex concepts and makes them easy for everyone, regardless of skill level, to understand – the mark of a great teacher!
While many of the "Uke Minutes” involve strumming, strings, technique, and tablature reading, several deal with music theory, chord formation and scale practice. I spent quite a few minutes with the “Minutes” last evening and compiled a list of videos useful to those wanting to know a little more about what’s behind the patterns and shapes of their sounds.
To get a basic idea of musical scales and how chords and runs are built, check out Aldrine’s videos covering Major Scales, Major Chords, Minor Scales and Chords and Chord Families. The one on Chord Families is particularly helpful as it not only shows how chords of a key go together, but how one is to play those chords—major, minor or diminished. By the way, when you get to the video on Minor Scales and Chords, keep in mind that you can form a minor chord by flattening the third of the major scale as opposed to playing the third of the minor scale (it’s a lot easier to remember your major scale as that’s the one that coincides with the famous “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.”
There’s more theory with Harmony Thirds, which includes a cool quoting of the Rugrats theme. Aldrine also has videos on Suspended Chords, showing how to form sus-2 and sus-4 chords, Diminished Chords, Augmented Chords, and Arpeggios. The arpeggio video pages also has a link to an extended live lesson on arpeggios and 50s music.
Rounding out basic theory are “Uke Minutes” devoted to Power Chords, Harmonies on the A and C Strings, Relative Major Substitutions (useful when you do forget your minor scales), and the latest “Uke Minute” (as of this writing) which shows how to build Add9 Chords.
If you are into rock and blues, Aldrine’s lessons on Blues Chords, Major Pentatonic and Minor Pentatonic Scales, and the Blues Scale are essential.
Scale Exercies I and Scale Exercise II, along with Left Hand Exercise I and Left Hand Exercise II, show you how to gain increased mastery over the fretboard you now know so well.
Putting theory into action, Aldrine explains some of the essential Moveable Chord Forms, from the basic shapes, Seventh Chord Shapes, and Major Seventh Shapes (and, yes, there is a difference between a seventh and a major seventh). Aldrine also covers Alternate Chord Positions, or inversions as they are also called, Added Octave Chords, and a really cool lesson on a Diminished Run that takes advantage of how diminished chords on the ukulele repeat themselves every four frets.
Three additional videos that deal somewhat with theory include one on Ghost Notes and one on Muted Ghost Notes, both of which are used to make your solos stand out. There is also a cool video on Slack Key or Drop G tuning, which, by tuning the A string to a G, allows you to more easily play major and minor chord forms up and down the neck.
I loved watching these videos and really appreciate Aldrine’s easy-going, very informative style. It would be wonderful if we could all get private lessons with such an excellent teacher, but until finances and time allow such luxuries, we are very lucky to have these and all the other “Uke Minutes” just a mouse click away.