A Song to Commemorate Juneteenth - Free PDF Download with Ukulele Chord Chart and Lyrics

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In honor of Juneteenth (June 19th, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States), I thought I’d share one of my very favorite American folk songs. “Take This Hammer” is a song to sing when you’re feeling fed up, down and out, or ready to break free from something that’s weighing you down. Lead Belly’s recording is probably the version that’s imitated the most but, like many folk songs, “Take This Hammer” has been covered by hundreds of artists, so it’s always interesting to listen to multiple versions and hear how differently artists can interpret a song.

In the audio clip above, I’m playing “Take This Hammer” on a tenor ukulele with a low-G string in the key of A with A, A7, D, and E7 chords, paired with a strum you can learn from a YouTube video by TenThumbs Productions. How will you play it?

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I’m Melissa Stevenson, an ukulele teacher, and author of Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners. On the Musical Mama blog, I post practical and inspiring tips for beginning ukulele players, free music-themed downloads, and video tutorials to make learning to play the ukulele as straightforward and fun as possible. Let’s play!



A note about my blog:

The content I post is free and available to all, without advertising or paywalls. If you’d like to show your support for what I do, please buy my book! :)

 

Track Your Progress with My Weekly Play Log (Free PDF Download!)

Track Your Progress with My Weekly Play Log (Free PDF Download!)

Even when I’m having a good run of playing my ukulele daily, I can feel a little disorganized. I was pondering this last night, then realized I would feel so much better if I was simply tracking my playing and making notes of what I was working on. It sounds incredibly obvious to me now, but it was a big a-ha moment at the time!

I used to maintain practice logs when I took piano lessons as a kid, but haven’t used one since. And since so many uke players are learning how to play on their own, I thought creating a weekly play log might be a helpful tool for me to share here on the blog. So here it is!

I hope this Weekly Play Log helps you:

My Favorite One-Chord Song for the Ukulele

My Favorite One-Chord Song for the Ukulele

In this video, I share one of my very favorite folk songs, Li’l Liza Jane. It can be played as a one-chord song, and its beautiful melody and playful lyrics make it a really fun one to play and sing. One-chord songs are great for beginning ukulele players who are still getting comfortable making chord shapes, strumming, and singing at the same time, but they're also great if you're working on a new skill such as a more complex strumming pattern, fingerpicking pattern, or riff.

Bring Your Uke On Vacation

Bring Your Uke On Vacation

One of the ukulele's best features is its portability. It's perfect for hotel rooms, the beach, the campground, and almost anywhere else you might be heading to this summer. Road tripping? Perfect. You'll almost certainly have room for it in the car. Traveling by air? Bring it on the plane. Your ukulele qualifies as a carry-on item. 

If you're worried about keeping your uke safe on your adventure, you may wish buy a durable one (affiliate link) to keep as your designated travel uke. You'll enjoy your vacation more if you're not too concerned about keeping the elements (or your children) away from your instrument. Just don't forget to pack your tuner (affiliate link) and copy of Let’s Play! 😃

Jam in the Car

If my husband's driving, sometimes I'll even play as we head down the freeway. We also hold in-car family jam sessions where we take turns picking songs and playlists. Egg shakers and jingle bell bracelets (affiliate links) are easy to pack and a simple way to liven up a long day of driving.

Jam at Your Destination

When you're out of town and away from the usual to-dos and responsibilities, you may find yourself with a bit more free time. Won't it be nice to have your ukulele on hand? Just having that vacation mindset may positively impact your playing.

Even if You're Staying Local...

Bring your uke outside! Play on the front porch, in the backyard, or down at the park. Where will you play your uke this summer?

Habit Hacks is going on summer vacation! While I brave the insanity of MAYcember, I’m brainstorming lots of new content ideas for the blog. Let me know what you’d like to see here!

Operation Sea Turtle

Operation Sea Turtle

Have you listened to the Satellite Sisters podcast? It’s hosted by a trio of real-life sisters who cover a variety of topics, including pop culture, current events, and travel. Their website refers to the show as “a pep talk for modern women,” and it’s a fun blend of news, conversation, and humor. While listening to a recent episode, I laughed out loud when I heard co-host Liz Dolan refer to her physical fitness mantra as being “Operation Sea Turtle,” and I immediately wanted to steal it for myself and my ukulele students! I think it’s such a good mindset for beginning musicians (or anyone learning a new skill). In my book I mention that there is no real mastery of an instrument— no matter how proficient you become at playing the ukulele, there will always be more to learn. Isn’t that liberating?

While I hope you’re finding time to play regularly, there’s no need to rush things or feel frustrated by the rate at which you’re progressing (and there’s certainly no need to compare yourself to others). Play when you can, appreciate all that you’ve learned so far, and—please, oh please—play for the joy of it. This is not a race. This is Operation Sea Turtle!

Know Your Why

Know Your Why

Why do you play ukulele? Is it to fulfill your creative side? Are you role modeling for your children? Is being a musician an important part of your identity? When we fall out of the habit of playing regularly, sometimes we can get motivated to begin again by reminding ourselves of why we started playing in the first place.

I first started playing the uke because it was a creative outlet I could enjoy while hanging out with my young children. Now I play for a whole host of reasons, but I’m curious— What’s your reason for playing?

Do Something Scary

Do Something Scary

There’s a lot of tedious work involved in running a small business, and it can be easy for me to let the mundane administrative and bookkeeping tasks take up all the real estate in my brain. I sometimes need to remind myself to tend to my creative side. I think musicians can fall into similar ruts, so today’s Habit Hack is your reminder to not get stuck playing the stuff you’re always playing. Sometimes we need to up the ante. What sounds totally scary to you? I dare you to do it!

Here are some ideas to inspire you to be bolder with your uke practice:

The Bollywood Song I Can't Get Out of My Head

The Bollywood Song I Can't Get Out of My Head

Have you been to a BollyX class? BollyX is a high energy, Bollywood-inspired cardio dance workout (similar to Zumba) and, at my age, these classes are the closest I get to a night out at the club. I found the music video for my favorite BollyX song on YouTube, which has over 122 million views. “Gallan Goodiyaan,” from the movie Dil Dhadakne Do, was shot in one take (!) and features an all-star cast, including an adorable and captivating Priyanka Chopra. Please watch it:

Habit Hack: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Habit Hack: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I had quite the a-ha moment when I heard the saying comparison is the thief of joy for the first time. I was a new mom feeling envious of all my mom friends who seemed to have their acts together better than I did, and it became a maxim I repeated to myself often. I still sometimes need to remind myself of the perils of comparing myself to others, and occasionally I find myself sharing this piece of wisdom with my students (usually in group lesson settings!).

Habit Hack: Schedule Time to Play

Habit Hack: Schedule Time to Play

Today’s habit hack will work well for folks who enjoy using a calendar to manage their productivity— Schedule time to play! Make room for fun, and make sure you’re not letting your week get swallowed up by work, chores, errands, and other obligations. Ensure your progress as a musician by setting aside time to play your ukulele regularly, whether it’s by setting up recurring “dates” or by finding windows of time between the more mundane moments in your week. Then send me a video of what you played over on Instagram. You can find me @musicalmamasv. :)

Free Printable: Ukulele Binder Cover Pages

Free Printable: Ukulele Binder Cover Pages

Yesterday I suggested you put all of your song printouts and handouts into sheet protectors and stick them in a three-ring binder. Today I’m offering four free printables to help you keep your music organized and looking pretty. There’s a beach scene (for your island music), a geometric option (for your modern tastes) , a watercolor floral design (for pop music), and a beautiful meadow (for your folk tunes).

How to Organize Your Chord Sheets and Songbooks

How to Organize Your Chord Sheets and Songbooks

Close friends and family members know that I love to tidy. I read organizing books for fun, I enjoy cleaning out closets, and I get energized by finding new homes for the things my family no longer needs or uses. An organized life makes for an easier life, and an organized music system makes for easier playing. There’s nothing more annoying that trying to find a lost song sheet or not being able to find your beginner’s handbook!

Make playing your ukulele easier by taking a little time to organize your materials with these tips for organizing your printed chord sheets, songbooks, and digital files…

Habit Hack: Use Music to Improve Your Mood

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This week’s habit hack is one I use a lot. If I’m feeling grumpy, annoyed, or sad, I can usually lift my spirits by playing my ukulele or listening to some of my favorite songs. Music’s ability to impact our emotions is one of its most magical properties— why not take advantage of its power? The next time you’re feeling low, pick up your uke and play (and sing) for a few minutes. Or listen to some of your all-time favorite songs (maybe even a guilty pleasure or two!). Dance or sing along, and see how you’re feeling after a few songs. I’m willing to bet you’ll perk up a little bit!

PS: This also works as a parenting hack! I will have my kids choose songs for us to listen to when they need a mood boost, and it never fails to cheer them up. (Will it still work when they’re teenagers? 🤷🏻‍♀️ Parents of older kids, let me know!)

Guilty Pleasures Part 2: A Mashup Video of "YMCA" and Justin Bieber's "Baby"

Guilty Pleasures Part 2: A Mashup Video of "YMCA" and Justin Bieber's "Baby"

As I was compiling a list of some of my favorite guilty pleasure songs, I realized that “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “YMCA” by the Village People have the exact same chord progressions. So I made a mashup video because why not? Here’s how you can play along with me. . .

What Are Your Musical Guilty Pleasures?

What Are Your Musical Guilty Pleasures?

A guilty pleasure is something you enjoy against your better judgment. I started thinking about songs that fit into this category after hearing a Fergie song while I was in the grocery store. It took all of my self control to continue shopping like a normal person and not start crooning in the cereal aisle! I’m trying to embrace my musical tastes a bit more these days, and that—for better or worse—includes the awful songs I’m ashamed to admit I love.

Here’s a round up of five of my guilty pleasures, including the original music videos—all of which are special in their own right— plus links to uke tutorials and/or chords and lyrics in case you want to play along. Are you ready to cringe? :)