Improve your Open Mic Night with This One Simple Tip

This weekend I was at an Open Mic night, some of the performers were great, others…well let’s just say they were less great (a five year old girl did sing let it go though so there’s that). Most of the people there were seasoned pros but I did notice a couple of clearly fresher faces. I knew they hadn’t performed at many open mic nights not by their proficiency on their instrument, nor their singing quality or ability but by one factor which didn’t show off their strengths. They didn’t start the open mic night with the easiest song to play.

One simple tip to improve your open mic night performance ukulele

Why you should start open mic nights with an easy song

Picking songs for open mic night is a tough battle but there is one rule you should almost always obey. Choose the most simple song first. This doesn’t have to be a simple song but it’s usually a good idea to start with your most simple song from your list. The reason? Well, if you suffer from nerves when you play live, you’ll probably shake a bit/a lot. If you’re shaking, it’s more difficult to play a song and if you start to fumble, you’ll probably get more nervous, shake more and make more mistakes.

So I usually just start with a strumming song rather than one with complicated picking, after that song I’ll have calmed my nerves a bit and can move on to more complicated songs. Plus, strumming songs are usually more energetic so you start with a bang.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, if you don’t suffer from nerves or shaking before you go on stage then just go for whatever song you like, and over time it does get easier to play more complicated song. However, I always start with a strumming song and one which is simpler than the others. Getting that one right gives me the confidence for the next songs.

When you play at an open mic, what song do you usually start with?

Review: James Hill The Old Silo

If you’re really into your Ukulele, you’ve probably heard of James Hill. He’s a very skilled musician (perhaps most famous for his version of Billy Jean) and also one of the greatest advocates for recognition of the Ukulele as a legitimate instrument and instruction with his work on “Ukulele in the classroom” and “the ukulele way”. However, he also writes and records his own music using the Ukulele. The latest is James Hill The Old Silo.

Cover art from the old silo by james hill

Basic Facts

The Old Silo is the 7th album from James Hill over a period of 12 years and his first since Man With a Love Song released in 2011. The Old Silo combines elements of traditional Folk, classic rock and modern indie with tracks that would feel at home on a Black keys, White Stripes or … album. The Old Silo isn’t just James with his Uke though, it also features Anne Jannelle on Cello, Bill Stevenson on Piano, Joe Murphy on Harmonica and James Hill also picks up the violin and Drums.

Top Tracks

New Moon

The opening track sets a tone of the album with a rootsy country ting. It’s uplifting and steady rhythm with a strong ukulele sound coming through.


Promenade ads some celtic flare to the mix with great little embellishes across the fretboard, a foot stomping rhythm and chorus that makes you want to get up and find a partner to dance with.

She’s still got it

This track hints at Black keys influences with a rich distorted verse (yes that is a ukulele making that noise) and a chorus which shifts direction from the verses.

Tie one on

Tie one on carries on where She still got it left off…only several songs later. This is the perfect tune to make you want to pick up an electric ukulele. So you’ve been warned if you have issues with U.A.S (ukulele acquisition syndrome)

Overall review of James Hill The old Silo

Let’s ignore the fact that this is a Ukulele album (it’s always good to evaluate an album based on their own merits). If you like classic American roots and folk influenced music then you’ll probably like The Old Silo. If you are looking for loops, traditional singer songwriter or instrumental Ukulele then you’ll be disappointed. Overall I really like how the album is put together effortlessly moving between more agressive and upbeat songs to slower and more downbeat songs. It all fits together well.

Luckily, you can check the album out for yourself on James Hill’s site as he is streaming the whole thing and then make an informed decision whether or not to download it.

Get it from or

A Guide to Set Lists From Brit Rodriguez

Ukulele Gal How To: Set Lists

Some great practical advice from Brit Rodriguez on how to put together a good set list and make the most of it. Including

  • For your own shows
  • For private shows
  • Always have backup songs
  • Give your client a preview
  • Make it look professional

Click the link to check out the full guide to set lists from Brit Rodriguez

Ukulele haters gonna hate

Recently, on my journeys across the interwebs I came across someone with a strong opinion (how unusual!) His main point/complaint was that the Ukulele was the instrument for talentless non musicians who sound terrible. He went on to say that people should stop playing the ukulele (language, grammar and stream of consciousness have all been cleaned up here).

I thought he was being a bit pathetic but this ukulele hater touches upon a real perception, the Ukulele is a joke instrument and “non musicians” play it. This is a big pile of bull poop for a few good reasons.

ignore the ukulele haters play your uke

George Harrison Ukulele Note

George Harrison was a well known Ukulele player, so perhaps it’s not surprising he wrote a letter explaining why you should own one…or more. I love that little picture of a ukulele at the bottom after his final killer point “Get yourself a few and enjoy yourself”.

Why do you tell people to own a ukulele?

Get your free copy of 22 Ukulele songs for Kids

Ukulele songs for kidsIt’s finally getting released! 22 Ukulele songs for kids is out and you can get your copy for free. All you need to do is join our mailing list and we’ll send you a link tomorrow to grab your own copy. Click here to join.

If you are already one of our awesome members and get our newsletter, then you’ll be sent the link tomorrow and again with every new email.

The Top 6 Beginner Ukuleles for 2015

I went to the pub with a couple of colleagues from work last week. Somehow the conversation managed to get onto playing the ukulele (it’s strange how often that happens), it turns out that one of my other colleagues plays the ukulele but the others who were there don’t. A day or two passed and one of the others who had been there came up to me and revealed she had been thinking of taking up the ukulele since our chat in the pub. The only issue was finding a good ukulele to start out on.

Top 6 beginner ukuleles 2015 Uke university

She didn’t want to buy a dud nor did she want to spend lots of money for something she might not really get into. It’s a common problem as there are so many ukulele makes out there, some of them great and other plain bad or over expensive. I offered to take her to a local music shop and help her find a good Ukulele.

However, I can’t do that for you. If you are thinking of starting to play the ukulele then I’m going to do the next best thing. Take you to a virtual music shop and recommend a few Ukuleles that are great for beginners in 2015, 2016 (and beyond).

The following 6 beginner ukuleles (two for each of the main body types) will all be worth purchasing and will insure that you don’t pay over the odds or buying a poorly made budget ukulele. This is not to say that they are the only ukulele’s worth buying for a beginner, but that you won’t go wrong by picking up one of these ones. If you have bought an alternative ukulele and would like to recommend it then leave a comment with its details below.


If you need help deciding between different size ukuleles then check out guide to the differences between different ukulele sizes. A quick summary is a Soprano is the smallest and therefore is going to be the cheapest starting ukulele.


Makala Dolphin Sopranos

Makala dolphine Ukulele light blueMakala are the budget brand of Kala ukuleles (also a great choice). This is probably the cheapest ukulele I’d recommend without getting my hands on it first. They are made of plastic which might put you off straight away but the build quality is good and they can produce an okay sound. Obviously a more expensive solid wood ukulele will sound better but this is a beginners ukulele.

Makala Dolphins also come in a variety of snazzy colours. (Surf green, Mako blue, Red sea, Yellow coral, Great White, Pink Shell, and Black)  Overall this is a great choice for a kid. [UK link]

Lanikai LU-21 Soprano

Lanikai LU-21 Soprano UkuleleUnlike the Makala the lanikai is a ukulele made out of wood. So if plastic puts you off too much then you might want to check out the Lanikai. 

[Extra options to consider: Kala Mahogany Soprano Ukulele and the slightly more expensive Cordoba Mahogany Soprano Ukulele with a natural satin finish )


A concert ukulele is the goldilocks of the ukulele world. Not as small as the Soprano nor as big as the tenor.

Kala Mahogany Concert

Kala KA-C Concert MahoganyI have a soft spot for Kala ukuleles. My first Ukulele was a Kala and it has lasted well. This concert size ukulele is made of solid wood, has a few more frets than the soprano offerings and comes with a nice bag, polish and other useful things. [UK link]

Lanikai CKCGC Concert Ukulele

lanikai concert ukulele koaLanikai make great ukuleles, some Lanikai concert ukulele come in Koa wood (pretty much the Hawaiian wood, and good looking too). This is more expensive than some of their other models using cheaper woods but could be worth the extra money (in my opinion) if that choice of wood is available (if you get the chance, try comparing them and see what you think). [UK link]


Tenor ukuleles are the biggest common size ukuleles (yes there are Baritones but they are much rarer and more akin to a guitar). Tenors can be strung with a low g-string for a deeper sound if you prefer that.

Lanikai Tenor

ALanikai LU-21TE Electro Tenor Ukulelenother Lanikai, this time one which is cheaper than my previous suggestion even though it is bigger. Don’t let that put you off, it is a good solid Ukulele made of Eastern Mahogony. Lanikai do offer more expensive Tenor Ukulele’s but I wanted to show you a cheap tenor options, esepcially considering the next Ukulele I’m going to show you. [UK link]

Kala Koa Cutaway Tenor

kala koa tenor cutaway electro ukuleleIf you are planning on playing live then you will probably want to plugin your Ukulele and boost it’s volume. Luckily this Kala tenor Ukulele comes with a built in pickup so that you can play loud and live. It’s also made of Koa and has great build quality but it does come at a price. This is the most expensive Ukulele on my list and I’d only recommend it for someone who knows they are going to play and play a lot. I do own a Kala cutaway tenor with plugin and I can testify to it’s great quality.  [UK link]

Try one in a store

Although any of these six would be a fine choice for a ukulele, it would probably be a good idea to try one in a store if you can. That will let you get a feel and find the right size for you as well as compare the different sounds of the ukuleles (the choice of wood makes a huge difference).

What Ukulele do you recommend for a beginner?

If you still need a christmas present for that Ukulele enthusiast in your life (or you just want one for yourself) then maybe you should check out this Teespring campaign. If 15 shirts are ordered they’ll be printed, if only 14 are ordered…no one gets one. They only cost $15 so they’ll hardly break the bank.