In my job as both a performer and a teacher I am lucky to use a lot of ukulele books and I thought it might be useful to look at ten ukulele books that I think are awesome and would make perfect Christmas presents. They are in no particular order as I love them all. Most of them have links to me playing pieces from them or indeed full reviews of the books. I have purchased all of the books (bar one which I swapped for my book Classical Uke - thanks Heidi !) so my reviews are totally un-biased.
1) Discovering Fingerstyle Ukulele by Colin Tribe. Published by Schott.
If you know omeone who is new to the ukulele and wants a thorough, well written book to get you started, this is perfect. It is a comprehensive book that takes you right from the very beginning, to more advanced pieces. A great tutorial book that teaches you how to play correctly from the beginning. Here is a video review I did of the book : Discovering Fingertsyle Ukulele (Colin Tribe) book review - YouTube
2) Gypsy Jazz. Published by Hal Leonard.
This book really is more of a book of duets - where one player does the rhythm with chords and the other player does the lead part. It comes with downloads though where you can just jam along and play just the lead. I really love all the pieces, they are so well arranged. I often pay the pieces with my students and have performed quite a few of them as duets at concerts. It has Django Rheinhardt classics in it along with plenty of other standards like 'La Vie En Rose'. Here is me playing a piece from the book - Douce ambience (Django Reinhardt) on ukulele with a looper pedal - YouTube
3) Ukulele Jazz by Lyle Ritz. Published by Jumpin Jim's.
Lyle Ritz is my favorite ever ukulele player so I couldnt leave him out. This book is for the more advanced player as some of the chords are very tricky but the songs are so wonderful. It comes with a CD of the tracks though and really will teach you some awesome Jazz chords. Here is an interview I did with Jim Beloff from Jumpin Jim's - The Ukulele Sessions episode 9 Interview with Jim Beloff - YouTube
4) 'Tis the Season for Ukulele by Daniel Ward and Heidi Swedberg.
This is a great book as it features tunes from all over the world. I especially like the fact that you get the melody aswell as the chords - which I feel is very important. Its great fun for playing with students as they can tackle the chords or the melody. A real wide range of pieces feature. Here is an interview with one of the authors Heidi Swedberg - The Ukulele Sessions episode 21 an interview with Heidi Swedberg - YouTube
5) Fingerstyle Etudes by Elisabeth Pfeiffer.
This is a new book released this year and I love it. It features 30 etudes (studies) all with specific learning objectives. Each one is a great learning tool, but also happens to end up being a ovely piece. Great for beginners and intermediate players looking to improve their skills. Here is a review I did of the book - Elisabeth Pfeiffer's Fingerstyle Etudes book review by Paul Mansell - YouTube
6) Jazz Standards by Matt Stead.
This is a clever book. It arranges 15 Jazz standards in a chord melody style. In this style you end up playing the melody and the chords which gives a wonderful full sound. I must say the book is not for beginners in my opinion - intermediate upwards. Its a great book with very clever arrangements. I love the fact that some of the pieces I had never heard of and have to my mind never be done on ukulele before. If you love Jazz, this book is a must. Here is me playing 'Doxy' by Sonny Rollins from the book - Doxy (Sonny Rollins) on Ukulele by Paul Mansell - YouTube
7) English Folk Tunes by Colin Tribe. Published by Schott.
Its no fluke that Colin appears twice on this list as he is a wonderful arranger. This is a great book for all levels of players with some lovely tunes such as Greensleeves, Heart of Oak, Amazing Grace etc. All of the arrangements work well and it comes with a CD of the pieces played by Colin. Here is an interview I did with the author Colin Tribe. The Ukulele Sessions Episode 13 featuring an interview with Colin Tribe. - YouTube
8) Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele by Daniel Ward.
I am relatively new to this book. I had heard a lot of great things about it and I can see why. I have only had it about 3 months but I love it. It is a great book for teaching. It is so cleverly written and I love the way it forces students to focus on specific areas. The piece 'Arepggio Meditatio' is a great example where it forces students to use correct fingerings. All of the pieces are original and really can improve your playing. Each one focuses on a specific skill and teaches you to concentrate on that area - until it is correct. Daniel has a classical background and I love the fingerings and attanetion to detail he has displayed. I intend to do a full review of this book early next year as it is so wonderful.
9) Scotish Folk Songs by Samantha Muir. Published by Schott.
No list of great ukulele books would be complete without one by Sam Muir. I have most of her books and this one, like all of them, is excellent. It features pieces in both the melodic styles (where the melody is usually the top line backed up with chords) and the Campanella style (playing accross strings to creat a 'bell' like sound. Sam is a wonderful player and arranger and this book is great for beginners through to advanced. Here is a video of me playing 'The Blantyre Explosion' from the book.
10) Tony Mizen - From Lute to Uke. Published by Jumpin Jim.
If you play ukulele and dont have this book then you are missing out. One of the first books to really look at Classical (and earlier really) music on the ukulele it is well written, beatifully arranged and it comes with a CD of Tony playing all the pieces wonderfully. It is arranged chronologically with the early pieces nice and accessible for beginners, ranging to some very tricky pieces indeed. Here is a review I did of the book : From lute to uke book review - YouTube
Two other books that I also wanted to give special mention to are Jim Tranquada's wonderful 'Ukulele A History' book. It traces the history of the ukulele right from it's beginning in Madeira through to the currecnt date. any incredible achievement and a wonderful book that I have now read 3 times. A great gift for ukulele fans.
Finally a new book by Roland Prakken called 'A flea or not a flea'. The only reason it is not listed above is that it has only just become available in English. Rolands book looks at many strories assocaited with our favourite little instrument and makes the perfect gift for ukulele lovers.
Happy shopping. I guarantee you will not be disappointed by any of these wonderful ukulele books. www.paulmansell.co.uk For more reviews visit my youtube channel