“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
– Dr. Seuss
There must be hundreds of beginner ukulele books and thousands of free beginner ukulele videos online. Does the world really need another beginner ukulele resource? For years I asked myself this question and for years my answer was a resounding “no.”
However, as I traveled and taught workshops to more and more groups of ukulele players, I began to question the conventional “D, G and A7” approach to teaching beginners. More importantly, I began to find success using what I called “Chord Twins.” Eventually, this approach became the foundation of Booster Uke.
The idea was simple: one shape, two chords. Minimum effort, maximum return. Here’s an example:
It worked like a charm and soon I was teaching Jazz and Blues to absolute beginners.
It wasn’t an entirely new idea. I recalled a conversation with ukulele master Kimo Hussey in which he shared his method of teaching A6 and E7 to students in the first lesson. C#7 and F#m also came to mind as another well-known twin pair. But how many other twins were there on the fretboard? And, once discovered, could they form the basis of a sequential learning method that might help people avoid the “beginner’s plateau”?
Well, it turns out there are at least eight pairs of twins on the uke and this book is proof that they can form the basis of a unique learning method! I should stress that Chord Twins are much more than fretboard novelties. They are very practical tools, enabling beginners to quickly learn songs that might otherwise be beyond their level. In this way, students spend less time finding the right chords and more time working on “the good stuff”: tone, dynamics, expression and creativity. In short, Chord Twins reveal secret passages leading from the beginner’s plateau to new and exciting musical landscapes.
As the graph below suggests, students in the Booster Uke method can make rapid progress at the outset, swiftly covering much more ground than if they’d followed a more conventional approach in which D, G, A7 and Bm are the first chords taught.
The best part, however, isn’t simply the sheer number of chords that can be easily introduced in the early stages. The best part is the diversity of musical genres that are accessible to the beginner. Using Booster Uke, beginners can go beyond the usual Folk, Pop and Country music selections (think “Tom Dooley”) and into Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Hawaiian music.
To be clear, I’m talking here about the diversity of styles accessible to the student in the first few lessons. Of course, with enough curiosity, creativity and hard work it’s possible to play any genre of music on the uke regardless of how you start your journey with the instrument. But in my view the conventional “D, G, A7” approach to teaching places unnecessary limits on the student. At best, it sparks their interest to learn more. At worst, it backs them into a corner from which it can be hard to escape. I have found that an approach like Booster Uke can set students on a longer, richer learning path while increasing their motivation to continue beyond the basics. And let’s not forget: Chord Twins are fun! I always look forward to the way students’ faces light up when they discover that E7 is the twin of A6 and – what’s more – that they can instantly play Aloha ‘Oe in the key of A.
So without further ado, welcome to Booster Uke and the wonderful world of Chord Twins!