Recommended ʻUkulele Recordings & Books

We all have favorites. These are mine. If you’re looking for something new (or old), check out these links and discover what I think should be on the shelves of every ʻukulele player.

Favorite ʻUkulele Instrumental Albums:

My favorites because of diversity, production, and style. Each is very different, but valuable in its own way. Features prominent ʻukulele as a solo or lead instrument in most songs.

  • Tell U What by Brittni Paiva
  • Eminent ʻUkulele by Kimo Hussey
  • Hawaiian Style ʻUkulele by Troy Fernandez
  • ʻUkulele Journey by Herb Ohta Jr.
  • Live by Jake Shimabukuro
  • ResolUKEtion by Kevin Carroll
  • A Flying Leap by James Hill
  • Jus’ Press Vol. 2 by Ledward Kaapana

Favorite Vocal Albums (Featuring ʻUkulele):

These albums are more “song” oriented featuring mainly vocal tracks, but with ʻukulele as an accompanying/soloing instrument on all songs.

  • Our Fire By Round + Round
  • Man With a Love Song By James Hill
  • The Best Of The Kaʻau Crater Boys by The Kaʻau Crater Boys
  • Facing Future By Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
  • Always Be Mine By Malino

Hawaiian Albums (With ʻUkulele Appearances)

ʻUkulele is a complementary instrument in Hawaiian music. It’s usually not featured quite as blatantly on a traditional Hawaiian album as on an instrumental uke album. But there are legendary records worth a listen, if only just for the scattered solos or instrumentals (or even rhythm playing in context).

  • Guava Jam by The Sunday Manoa
  • Cane Fire, Tropical Storm by Peter Moon Band
  • The Greatest Hits Vol. 1 by Dennis Kamakahi
  • Kahikina by Walter Keale

Inspirational Books:

musiclessonThe Music Lesson By Victor Wooten – Here is a great book about the most important part of music – music. It is written as a novel that follows a young musician’s life over the course of several months as he meets eccentric people that teach him as much about life as they do music. At no point does The Music Lesson tell you what notes to play or how to be a better musician. What it does do is imply many things as Victor weaves a story that covers music as a whole and how it is intertwined with a musician’s life.

This will change your life if music is what you do. If every musical instrument came with this book, music would be a lot more interesting and wholesome.

Instructional Books:

ʻUkulele Chord Shapes by Brad Bordessa – This is my comprehensive ebook on all things chords – charts, theory, information, tips and tricks.

Some nice general book are Herb Ohta Jr. and Daniel Ho’s:

  • Discovering the Ukulele
  • Exploring the Ukulele

They are full of a lot of material, but not much instruction, so it helps to have a bit of an idea what you are doing, or a teacher to guide you.

Some others that are useful are Heeday Kimura’s books. Most are for beginners, but there are two or three that would interest the more advanced. His method of notating music is different, but is fairly easy to learn. Some of his books include:

  • How to Pick and Strum the Ukulele vol. 1 and 2
  • How to Play Ukulele by Ear Hawaiian Style
  • Hints and Tips for Advanced Ukulele Players
  • More Ukulele Solos by Ear
  • Slack Key Ukulele (advanced)
  • (And several songbooks)

Guitar books:

I have yet to find an ukulele book that comes close to imparting the amount of knowledge a guitar book can – hence this list. Keep in mind that these books are written for guitar. Some level of transposing or backwards thinking will be necessary to convert the examples to ukulele.

Click here to read the full reviews

DVDs:

groovyVictor Wooten: Groove Workshop – Based around the ideas presented in The Music Lesson (see below), this DVD is an almost 6 hour jaunt through the never-taught parts of music. Teaching a masterclass to six students, Victor, and his assistant Anthony Wellington, talk about dynamics, feel, technique, rhythm, listening, and more.

Though a bass player, Victor teaches the material in a way that isn’t instrument specific. Even my dad (who only knows a few chords) was interested in the brain-bending concepts Victor was talking about.

By Brad Bordessa

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from a little plantation house in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once borrowed a uke to jam with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me

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