Great Guitar Books for ʻUkulele Study

A lot has changed since I started playing ʻukulele.

In the “old” days, over a decade ago, there were very few uke books. A couple chord books, a couple song books, and a couple method books. Fortunately, some of them were great (like Roy Sakuma’s Treasury of Ukulele Chords), but most weren’t. Some were quite terrible.

So what did you do?

Got hold of a guitar book, of course.

Masses of guitarists have been studying music far longer than ʻukulele players so it makes sense that there are more materials for them. Many of these materials have stood the test of time and are quite fabulous.

Here are some of my favorites.

Keep in mind that some level of transposing or backwards thinking will be necessary to convert these materials to ukulele. This is all part of the learning.

The Advancing Guitarist

By Mick Goodrick – 115 pages.

Aside from Harry Potter, this is my favorite book, period. It’s more than a guitar book. I opened it the other day to read a couple pages out loud to a dear friend when we were having a crisis. Even though music is the focus, the underlying life lessons are obvious.

Don’t expect a method. There isn’t one. But it’s the most useful, practical, inspiring, and funny music book I’ve ever seen.

Mick covers guitar playing in three sections – the approach, materials, and commentaries – with a unique perspective that turns over many interesting stones. It’s formatted essay style and provides suggestions and ideas for more advanced approaches to playing than have ever been explored on the uke.

It is not for the faint at heart. But an advanced musician – of any instrument – shouldn’t be without it.

The Chord Factory

By Jon Damian – 168 pages.

This is a do-it-yourself book.

You can gain a lot by just reading all of the insights and info about chords, but the meat of the content are instructions on how to build your own chord dictionary.

Jon doesn’t give you a chart in the book and say “copy this.” It’s more like: “a major 6/9 chord is made with a root, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 9th. I found X number of fingerings – here is the first one. Use a fingerboard chart and figure out the rest.”

The whole book is really based around intervals and how they fit into each chord. Beyond showing you how to build 7(#9,b13, b9) chords, there are also 4-5 chapters about using the chords, stretches, chord soloing, new ideas, and much more.

This book will probably take the hardest here to adapt to ʻukulele, but the info is top-notch.

Guitar Secrects

By Joe Satriani – 39 pages.

Containing 41 articles from Satriani’s days as a Guitar magazine columnist, this is a book that you can open up and instantly find something interesting in.

The lessons cover everything from scales to chords to ear training and improvisation. It’s not very big, but there are plenty of tidbits to be gained.

Guitar Style

By Joe Pass – 60 pages.

This book covers chords and scales from a jazz perspective.

All examples are in very-easy-to-read standard notation.

Joe covers chord construction, substitution and embellishment, diminished chords, back-cycling, and more. On the scale side: chord scales, ear training, improvising, chord resolutions, altered scales, etc…

Learn more! Play Better!

Check out my ebooks on chords and technique! Learn essential tricks and how to play more confidently with some of the very best uke resources available.

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Brad Bordessa
brad bordessa smiling holding ukulele

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honokaʻa, Hawaiʻi, 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 jammed with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me