How to Play Stand By Me in Two Different Keys

In honor of #ukesnotnukes, I’m sharing a free download of the chords and lyrics for Stand By Me in two different keys. I’ve seen a lot of Youtube tutorials for this song in the key of C, but I just can’t hit those high notes! Singing this song in the key of G is much more comfortable for me, especially on days like today when I’m recovering from a cold and shouldn’t really be singing at all!

If you’re a brand new player, first try playing this song in the key of C, simply because the chords are easier. If you’re already comfortable playing the C, F, G, and Am chords, give this song a try in the key of G! Then compare the two. Which key feels better for your voice? Being able to play a song in different keys is a really valuable skill for anyone who likes to sing. So much of being able to sound good as a singer is knowing what keys are comfortable for your vocal range.

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Looking for an easy-to-read guide to the ukulele? Check out my book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners!

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners

I first set out to write a how-to guide for the ukulele when I learned of loved ones— a sister-in-law in Pennsylvania, my BFF in Connecticut, and many others— who were interested in learning to play. I wanted a way to share my beginner’s ukulele course with people who lived outside of Silicon Valley. After two years of writing, editing, and designing, my book is a reality and I’m so thrilled to be able to share it with you!

My goal for Let’s Play! was to create a book that would be approachable for anyone, but especially people with very little or no previous musical experience. Take a peek inside, then read on to learn what steps I took to make the book as user-friendly as possible:

Recap: The 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival

UPDATE: Several people asked when I planned to host another workshop in the area, and I hope to have an answer for them soon! I will likely be back in Southern CA in November and am currently looking into whether I can plan another workshop while I’m in town. I will post about upcoming events on the blog, and you can email me if you’d like to join my mailing list.


The 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival took place on Saturday, 9/22 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. I drove down from San Jose (leaving my hubby and kids at home) on the Thursday prior, spent some time with my parents in OC on Friday, spent all day at the festival on Saturday, and drove home on Sunday. This event was the first time I’d ever led workshops at a festival and the first time I’d ever operated a vendor booth! I did my best to prepare for both, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of this unique event.

 my only regret for the workshops was not getting more pictures and videos!

my only regret for the workshops was not getting more pictures and videos!

The Workshops

I have to say, teaching brand-new players how to play the ukulele is one of my all-time favorite things. It’s just so darn rewarding to show people that, regardless of their musical experience (or lack of it), they really can learn to play the ukulele. In the 45-minute sessions, I taught the groups three chords and five songs that are fun and easy to sing and play. Groups of friends, young couples, grandparents with their grandkids, parents with young children, tween boys… I think almost every age group was represented!

 Thank you Louis and Ohana Ukuleles for sharing the bongoleles and shakerleles!

Thank you Louis and Ohana Ukuleles for sharing the bongoleles and shakerleles!

For the kiddos who were too little to play ukes, I had some rhythm instruments and trinkets I brought out throughout the workshop. Louis from Ohana Ukuleles very generously provided Shakerleles and Bongoleles for the adults and big kids to try out. Aren’t they beautiful? I’m particularly fond of the shakerleles, which are a more sophisticated take on the egg shaker. They feel so good in the hand and make such a satisfying sound when shaken.

Making music is so much fun when it’s a shared experience, and group jams are hard to beat. Thank you to all who attended my workshops. Thank you for sharing your time, your energy, and your beautiful voices! If you attended the workshop and want a PDF of my handout, please fill out my contact form and I’ll email it to you.

 Jane and Katie. Aren’t they cute?

Jane and Katie. Aren’t they cute?

The Booth

My booth was in the marketplace area, which was open to the public. And conveniently enough for me, my booth was located right next to the room where my workshops were held, so most of my time was spent either in the workshop room or in the marketplace area. At my booth, we sold copies of my book and shared free chord charts and ukulele coloring pages. My friends Katie and Jane (both of whom are Musical Mamas!) helped me out all day, and they were AMAZING. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them, and I feel so grateful for their help.

I did get a few opportunities to wander around the festival and briefly check out the other workshops and performances, and everywhere I looked I saw people having a good time. This was true for the marketplace area as well. So many smiling faces and lovely conversations with folks of all ages and levels of experience.

Thank you to all who took the time to stop by my booth. It was great chatting with you! I hope to see you next year. :)

Getting Ready for the 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival!

This Saturday, September 22, you can find me at the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center! I’ll be leading three Family Jam workshops and running a booth in the marketplace. This starts a new chapter for me as an ukulele teacher, and I’m excited to be a part of this awesome event. There are going to be so many good workshops and performances throughout the day, featuring Taimane, Aaron and Nicole Keim, Cynthia Lin, Ukulenny, Mitch Chang, and more.


Jam with Me!

My family-friendly workshop is designed for beginners and brand-new players of all ages. In 45-minutes, I’ll teach you how to play and sing five songs that are fun for everyone! Workshops start at 10 am, 12:30 pm, and 3pm in the (air-conditioned!) Garden Room.

Kala is generously providing loaner ukuleles for anyone who needs one, and I’ll be bringing rhythm instruments for the littlest music-makers who attend. I’ll also be hosting a giveaway at the end of each workshop, meaning there are three chances to win a copy of my new book.

 doing a test-run of my tent, tables, and banners in the backyard

doing a test-run of my tent, tables, and banners in the backyard

Visit the Marketplace

If you’re local and just want to see what all the fuss is about, the marketplace area of the festival is free! To find my booth, just look for the purple pop-up tent with the big banners. :)

At the booth, I’ll be selling my new book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners at a special festival rate of $20 (normally $24), and I’ll also be handing out free chord charts and ukulele coloring pages. Since I’ll be teaching workshops throughout the day, I’ve enlisted the help of my awesome friends (and ukulele players) Katie and Jane to help me run the booth. I’ll be at the booth as much as I can between Family Jams.

Ohana Ukuleles, Uke Life, Tyde Music, and Nalu Ukulele are just some of the vendors who will be offering their wares on Saturday. I know that there are going to be so many beautiful instruments on display!

Get Your Tickets!

I love that this is truly a family-friendly event. Tickets are $45/person and kids 12 and under get in free. See the schedule and learn about the events by visiting the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival website.

Ukulele Basics: A Beginner's Guide to the Ukulele

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Ukulele Basics

My new ukulele starter guide includes a free digital download and eleven videos designed for brand new players (or anyone who needs a refresher)! Learn how to play two strums, three chords, and three songs. Ukulele Basics covers all the essentials of getting started, including:

• How to play chords

• How to strum

• How to play Frère Jacques with the C chord

• How to play Shoo, Fly! Don't Bother Me with the F and C chords

• How to play You are My Sunshine with the C, F, and G7 chord


A note about the songs: I love sharing folk songs with my students, and I’ve specifically chosen these three well-known songs because they have easy-to-memorize lyrics, common chord arrangements, and singable melodies. All of these qualities make them great songs for new musicians and help make your learning curve a little bit gentler. 

Are you ready to start strumming? Download the PDF and let's play!

Please note: you will have to go through some of the checkout process in order to receive the download link, but you will not need to enter any credit card data. The PDF is free!



How to Tune Your Ukulele for the First Time

Ukuleles purchased online usually arrive with the strings really loose and very out of tune. And if you're a brand-new player, just getting your strings in tune can feel like a challenge! 

In my latest video I tune up a very affordable and adorable Diamond Head ukulele, which I purchased from Amazon for about $24. The tuner I use in the video the Snark SN5X. There are so many flashy and fancy tuners out there, but I like this one for its simple design and bright display.  

How do you tune up your instrument? I love seeing the tuners my students bring to lessons. Two recent standouts were the Hello Kitty tuner and a flashy contraption that lights up like a pinball machine each time you play a string!   


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Learn to pLay the Ukulele 

Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners is now available in paperback and as a digital download!  

My new how-to guide is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to play the ukulele. Created for absolute beginners, this book was designed to make learning to play the ukulele simple and fun. It’s beautifully organized with easy-to-follow diagrams and is accompanied by dozens of instructional videos to guide you along the way. 

Watch More Video Tutorials:

An Easy Way to Figure Out the Key of a Song

Beginning musicians don't always think about what key a song is in, but it's a valuable piece of information. In this video, I share a really simple way to figure out the key of a song, plus I explain why it's an important thing to know: 

One of my goals as a teacher is to de-mystify music for my students and break down concepts so that they're really easy to understand. I plan to make more videos along this vein, so if you have any topics you'd like me to cover, please let me know in the comments! 

How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

Parents frequently ask me how to get their kids to spend more time playing their instruments. And I have good news! I think there are a lot of things parents can do to support their children's musical development and encourage them to play more. Here are a few of my top tips for parents of elementary school-aged children:

How to Play the Island Strum

Have you heard of the Island Strum? It's a popular and versatile ukulele strum, but it can be a bit of a challenge for beginners. I've created a short video tutorial to help break it down and make it a bit easier to master:

Do you have a favorite strum pattern, or a strum you find yourself defaulting to over and over again? I'd love to hear about it! 

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Learn to pLay the Ukulele 

Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners is now available in paperback and as a digital download!  

My new how-to guide is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to play the ukulele. Created for absolute beginners, this book was designed to make learning to play the ukulele simple and fun. It’s beautifully organized with easy-to-follow diagrams and is accompanied by dozens of instructional videos to guide you along the way. 

Hosting a Music-Themed Playdate

Hosting a Music-Themed Playdate

I recently had a few mom friends and their little ones over for a jam session, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN! The moms brought their ukuleles, I brought out some of our favorite rhythm instruments, and we all had a good time singing, dancing, and playing. The best part is that this is fun for all ages and skill levels. 

Ready to host your own playdate jam? Here are a few tips based on what worked for us:  

The Surprising Impact Yoga Has Had On My Playing

The Surprising Impact Yoga Has Had On My Playing

Yoga was something I enjoyed in my life before children, but when I became pregnant with my first kid I developed awful carpal tunnel that made many yoga poses impossible. That carpal tunnel morphed into really painful tendonitis after my son was born, and my weak wrists and hands never fully recovered. For the past seven+ years, I would experience intermittent pain and/or tingling when I would play my ukulele which, as you can imagine, was frustrating and limiting. 

My Number One Tip for Beginning Musicians

My Number One Tip for Beginning Musicians

I've noticed that the most important part of music making tends to get overlooked by new players. And I get it. Beginning musicians have a lot to keep track of. It's a challenge to learn how to play chords, strum, and sing all at the same time! But if you want your playing to sound smooth and skilled, you will have to . . .

Keep a Steady Beat!

Many beginning musicians start strumming a song at a moderate tempo, then speed up as they play. Another common mistake is to play quickly but slow down for chord changes, zig-zagging the tempo up and down for the duration of a song. These are dead giveaways that you are a new player! So what can you do about it? Here are five tips to help you improve your ability to strum at an a consistent speed, no metronome required: 

Free Printable: A New Ukulele Coloring Page for the New Year

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Happy 2018!

The original ukulele coloring page has been getting a lot of traffic lately, so for my first post of the year I thought it would be fun to share a new free printable. Shawna created this super cute coloring page based on the photo used on my homepage. Just a dinosaur chilling with a ukulele, no biggie. 

My kids received some new art supplies for Christmas, and this coloring page feels like the perfect excuse to get them out. I'll be printing out at least one copy for myself, too. How many will you print? :) 

A Lovely Gift

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I'm lucky to live in musical neighborhood. Within the span of just a few blocks, there are several choir members, band members, a piano teacher, and many instrumentalists. One of these neighbors is a woman named Judy, a guitar player and retired teacher. She said she had a binder full of kid songs, which she used when she would play guitar to her students. She no longer needed it. Was I was interested? YES!!!!  

The binder looks well-loved. Many chord sheets have been typed on a typewriter, some pages are old Xeroxes that remind me of my elementary school worksheets, and there are handwritten notes all throughout. It's the perfect representation of what I love most about folk music— there's magic in making music with others and sharing songs that have been sung throughout multiple generations. As I play through the songs (many are familiar but happily there are a lot of new-to-me songs, too), I can't help but imagine Judy singing to her students. It's a lovely thought, and now I get to share these songs with my loved ones. 

Judy, thank you for this special gift! Happy holidays, everyone!

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The Christmas Gift I Give Myself

The Christmas Gift I Give Myself

About five years ago my husband surprised me with a piano for Christmas (big surprises are kind of his thing). We had talked about wanting one for our family, and I had visions of listening to our children sit down to play and sing for us. Of course, our son was only two at the time and I was very pregnant with my daughter, so no one really had much time or ability to play it. The piano mostly collected dust that first year.

My Musical Gift Guide for Preschoolers

  My son, Christmas 2013

My son, Christmas 2013

Here's a collection of instruments that range from happy little stocking stuffers to big gifts that create a real "wow" factor for your kids on Christmas morning.  My selections may skew toward the noisy side, but there's nothing quite as joyful as a preschooler feeling empowered buy the big sounds they can make! 



You can find packs of cheap kazoos at any party store, though I find this whimsical set to be particularly irresistible!  

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This pair of Hohner maracas is sized just right for the preschooler's grip. 





It's shiny, it makes a big sound, and it comes with its own case. I think that checks all of the boxes! Just make sure to buy one in a key that makes sense for you. If you or a family member play the ukulele or piano, you may want to buy a harmonica in the key of C. If you play the guitar or other string instruments, you may prefer a harmonica that is set in the key of G.  

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B. Toys Symphony in B

This toy is SO. COOL. Your child is the conductor of this orchestra and can mix and match the musical arrangements for fifteen different songs.

I love that this toy exposes kids to such a variety of instruments and encourages them to be more active listeners. Anecdote: after having the toy for a while my then-two year old son and I were listening to music and he was having fun identifying all the different instruments he heard, saying, "Mama, that violin is so pretty!" 

You can find Symphony in B on Amazon and on eBay. You might be able to find the new version of the toy in-store at Target, but it's no longer listed on their website. 

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Junior Drum Set

This last item is not for the faint of heart! Square footage is at a premium here in the Bay Area, so I understand not everyone has the space for one of these babies. But if you do, I highly recommend one of these babies. Rhythm and tempo are the foundation for music, and drums are a terrific first "real" instrument for kiddos. Plus, it looks stunning under the tree and is such a hit when friends come over for playdates! Just make sure to include a pair of noise-reduction earphones and kid-sized drumsticks! 

Three-piece drum sets are another option, but I'm partial to the five-piece sets that include high hats. The kids and I had fun learning how to play by watching thislisa's drum lesson tutorials on Youtube.  


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My Musical Gift Guide for Babies and Toddlers

  my daughter at 7 months old

my daughter at 7 months old


Here are a few of my favorite instruments designed for the littlest musicians:  



Egg Shakers

Baby's first instrument! These Nino egg shakers can be grasped by even the tiniest of hands and are so satisfying to shake that even big kids and adults enjoy playing with them. In fact, we bring them on our road trips so we can jam in the car! 


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Hohner's Baby Band 

This cute set of rattles includes a mini rainbow shaker, a maraca, a rattle, and a cage bell. Hohner's Baby Band is well constructed and is listed as safe for ages 3 months and up.  



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So many parents are drum-averse, as if not having them will somehow make their children less noisy. I say, it's better to have them banging on a drum than on their siblings, or any of the other things I don't want them thrashing! These bongos from Remo are a fun option that also work for preschoolers and older kids. 

In my experience, kids don't get quieter with age, so if your kids make too much noise, drums or no drums, a pair of these may save your sanity— try a pair for each noise-maker in your house, plus a pair for you (they say they're kid-sized but they fit my adult-sized head just fine). 


Pots, Pans, and Anything Else that Makes Noise

Remember banging on old Tupperware containers and pots and pans as a kid? Those still work! This cute play set of pots and pans from IKEA works in a play kitchen or in the family band. Pair it with a wooden spoon or wooden mallets plus any plastic food storage containers, bowls, lids, pots, or pans you may have floating around the kitchen. And if you don't want to share your real stuff with your little one, a quick trip to the thrift store is all it takes to supply your toddler with an entire kitchen-themed orchestra!  

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