Monday, June 7, 2021

Summer Virtual Uke Classes W/Lil Rev @ Mead Library

Howdy Ukulele Pals, 

I'm looking forward to a great summer of learning and study with my ukulele students from all over the world! 

We meet most mondays at 6:30pm CT on Mead Library's Facebook Live Stream {Sheboygan, WI}.

Lil Rev teaches multi-level style. Meaning, everything he teaches is geared towards a variety learning levels. 

The classes are free and open to the public.  

Tips are most appreciated via lilrev's virtual tip jar at: 

Each week we present a different subject relating to the ukulele including: Tunes, Techniques, Traditions, History, and occasionally a special guest. 

We are offering a worldclass schedule of uke classes! 

Hope you'll join us!  


Lil Rev 

                                                        Lil Rev @ Las Cruces Uke Fest 

                                                                Photo Credit: Craig Chee 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Ukulele For All Book Review

Educational Book Review By: Lil Rev

Ukulele For All - Beginning Method For Group of Individual Study 

Ukulele for All, is a 57 page method book written by Jenny Peters and her sister Rebecca Bogart. 

The book was published by Kjos Music Company {KJOS} in 2017, to meet the growing demand for curriculum, that is classroom friendly for kids of all ages.   

What makes this book so special is that author Jenny Peters has been a general music and orchestra teacher in the public schools for many years and her sister Rebecca is a classically trained pianist with a wealth of music theory and performance in her background. 

Jenny leads local ukulele classes for groups and kids in the Chicago area and their many song books like: 21 Songs in 6 Days, Easy Songs, and 21 Easy Songs For Christmas are all Amazon favorites. 

Because there are so many ukulele books on the market, its important to note that these kind of credentials serve to remind us that the authors have a real connection to the ukulele and are intimately involved in community music education. 

The book teaches, tuning, instrument identification, practice tips, basic strumming, and melody playing in both tab and standard music notation.

I particularly like that the authors included finger number positions so that the student knows what finger he or she should use to fret a given note. 

Especially important in this age of visuals, is an interactive video supplement to the book, so you can follow with video to firm up the songs. 

As an author of many ukulele books and as someone who teaches ukulele to private students for over 30 years, I have learned that its always best to have both tab and standard notation. 

If you really want to encourage music reading, you can always cover up the tab line, but the reality is, most kids today are going online to learn the songs they want to learn via chords and lead sheets. This book supplements that inevitable process by teaching ukulele pedagogy so that student can then use this as a springboard into whatever most interests them musically. I say this because there are a number of method books on the market that do not include tab and unsuspecting online purchasers need to be aware of this when looking for a good book. 

Another great feature of this book is the wealth of world music, i.e. songs that are derived from a wide variety of cultural traditions including Germany, Israel, America, Mexico, Korea, Scotland, France, and Morocco. 

The book is nicely rounded out with blues studies, holiday songs and fingerpicking. 

As a former grade school music teacher myself and former college music history lecturer, I give this book an A grade. It's a nice starting point for teaching ukulele privately or in the classroom. 

This book could then be supplemented with any of the authors easy strum books like: 21 Songs in 6 Days

Check out author Jenny Peters in acton playing this cool tune from the book called: Lonely Blues


The Book can be purchased at or Amazon:

Reviewed by-Lil Rev 1/4/21 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Slide Ukulele & Online Learning

{Preview: This is a double-post about both online learning during the pandemic and Slide Ukulele!}

The pandemic brought about a flurry of interest in online studies. 

If you were a ukulele teacher, with an established online curriculum, already up and running pre-covid it was cause to holler hallelujah! 

If you weren't, like me, then you'd better come up with some cool classes and quick! {I'll let you be the judge}. In fact, 2020 will go down as the year I created more content than any other year in my 30 year career as a ukulele player, entertainer and instructor. {Thus my Intro To Slide Ukulele Class on 12/8 via Mead Library FB Live}

Most of my time, I've spent creating physical books, and touring the ukulele superhighway teaching in-person workshops at ukulele clubs and festivals all over North America. So the Covid crisis felt not only like a sucker punch {which I can take} but ultimately, many of us got caught with our pants down, not having an online school, course, or package to market, as folks began looking for places to study while quarantining. So we all jumped on FB live! Then Zoom. 

The reality is, I love to teach! In fact, I live to teach, so these things really matter to me alongside the fact that I happen to make my living from teaching. 

As for an online Lil Rev Ukulele School, that is about to become a reality in 2021. Stay tuned! 

Back to the story...

Everyone realized that this would be a great time to build their skills while laying low and staying close to home. If ever you wanted to learn finger-style ukulele, improvisation, chord melody, basic skills, strumming or any other facet of study, one things for sure....2020 was the year to do it.

Pros have to keep on upping the ante as well! I chose to woodshed on slide ukulele! 

As an instructor and performer, I've always loved slide guitar. I grew up listening to Duane Allman, John Hammond Jr, Blind Willie Johnson, Bukkah White, Robert Johnson, Ry Cooder, Bob Brozman, Fred McDowell and many others.

Locally, I've spent the better part of 30 years backing some of the best slide players in WI while on harmonica. See pic below of me with my longtime music pal and friend John Nicholson. John and I co-wrote the book: Fiddle Tunes for Ukulele. John is one of my favorite living slide players and his slide influence has really inspired and informed my harp playing and now my own efforts to build a repertoire of slide tunes on the ukulele. 

So you see, it was only a matter of time before I decided to start playing slide on the ukulele. 

Quarantining means more time to watch videos, experiment and work up tunes. 

The person most responsible for my forays into Slide playing, is my wife Jenna, who bought me a National Steel Bodied Ukulele for my birthday this year. Once that happened, I was all over! 

What I'm Doing With The Slide: 

Mostly, I'm arranging pre-war blues stuff, but I'm also playing a lot of bluegrass and old time, with slide as a small added ingredient, or just enough slide to spice it up and make it interesting in a way that the ukulele world isn't likely to of heard all that much. I find that the slide can be used as a condiment would. Not to overpower a tune, but to help dress up the taste a tad. The difference in my approach is this...If I am playing blues, the slide leads the way, if I am playing old time or bluegrass I'm using the slide as an ornament in small doses. For example, there's a big difference between how I use the slide on, The Sky Is Crying by Elmore James, and how I use the slide on Columbus Stockade or Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms. All of this of course, is really evolving fast for me as I'm spending alot of time working on slide styles on the ukulele and am having a blast doing it! 

My favorite players are Paul Rishell, Fred McDowell, Jerry Douglas {dobro} Blind Lemon's Jack Knife Slide, Blind Willie Davis Gospel Blues, All of the preaching Bluesman who used slide, Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor, Lil Ed, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Charlie Patton, local music pal Peter Roller {who plays dobro and lap steel on most of my records, and too many others to list! 

Here's a cool 8 bar blues called Crow Jane Blues that's a good example of how I'm using the slide on the baritone ukulele. {I plan to record a national steel piece soon!}

I digress, as an aside, another thing I'm really digging is playing, clawhammer on the ukulele, usually I do this on the soprano, but lately I've been doing it on the baritone or my new Beansprout Banjo Baritone. Here's a cool example of me doing an old fiddle tune called: Old Molly Hare

Published Resources For Slide Ukulele Studies: 
At present, there isn't alot of instruction on slide ukulele; if you scour You Tube you'll find some, but not a whole lot relating to good bluesy ukulele slide. Fred Sokolow's Slide and Slack Key Book published by Hal Leonard, is a good starting point. The last 3 pages of Dave Rubin's, Hal Leonard Blues Ukulele Method Book is dedicated to slide ukulele, but more as a footnote and not a feature. 

Suffice it to say, someday,  I aim to produce an in-depth primer on slide ukulele that digs in really deep. Right now, I'm earning my slide stamps! 

Teaching Slide
For those who'd like to see what I'm doing with the slide, here's a virtual class I did on December 8th 2020 for Mead Library in Sheboygan. I taught this as an Intro To Slide UkuleleSlide Class 2020

My pal Michael August, attended the class, and says my class on slide ukulele inspired him...I'm not buying it! I think its the other way around...Mike is tearing it up on the slide ukulele, and I cannot wait to jam with him when this pandemic is over! He's sounding really nice on the slide ukulele! 

Here's Michael's take on a tune I taught in my intro to slide class: Elmore James' The Sky is Crying. In my class, my goal was to teach absolute beginners how to find the I, IV, V chords and how to slide into the chords using, 8th note and triplet phrasings; as well as proper slide intonation. Michael took it to the next level with his use of fills, 12th & 14th fret slide embellishments, 7th chord exaggerations,  fretted turnarounds, runs and much more! Thus, I give Michael an A+ grade on his own rendition! Mike's advice to those, wanting to learn to play slide, is to focus on "learning how to mute and putting the right amount  pressure on the strings while fretting with the slide." 

Here's Mr. August doing Howling Wolf's Little Red Rooster

Great Job Michael! Keep it up and Please Post More! 

Tunings: I've been using C tuning alot on the soprano, which is GCEG. That means you only have to re-tune one string! In addition to C tuning, I've been using G tuning {GBDG}. Dig, there are many tunings, like D tuning, F tuning, Bb tuning, and a slew of others are a worth exploring to get to the keys you want to play in. You can also use tune to C for example and then put a capo on the 2nd fret and you're now in D or at the 4th fret, you'd be in E. I advocate having a couple Ukes and keep em in different tunings so you are more amp to learn the scales, positions, and chord shapes that are necessary to master those tunings. Remember, the bar or slide shapes are always gonna be the same in terms of I, IV, V and other open tuned chord positions. If you know how to transpose, then the shapes remain the same, while the keys change. For example in C tuning, the IV chord F, is bar {or slide} on the 5th fret. In G tuning the IV chord is C, and that's also bar or slide on the 5th fret and so on, as you change tunings. 

Same thing for the V chord, in C tuning, the V chord is G which is bar or slide on the 7th fret. In G tuning, the V chord is D, which is bar or slide on the 7th fret. Point being, you only have to remember the fret number and how to transpose the chord names and you can easily change tunings without having to relearn I, IV, V chord shape names. That goes for the II chord and others in the circle of 5th's wheelhouse. 

When using the Baritone to play slide,  the options, for guitar inspired slide tunings open up exponentially.. 

The two tunings I've been using on the baritone are CFAC or DGBD as well as a Banjo Inspired C minor tuning: CGCEb which I use on alot of cool modal Appalachian stuff and my Jewish and Yiddish Repertoire. 

Here are some of the Main Tunings I use on the Baritone Ukulele: 
Open D tuning: DF#AD
Open G Tuning: DGBD
Open Gm Minor Tuning: DGBbD
Open A Tuning: EAC#E
Open E: EG#BE
Open C: CGCE
Open Em: EGBE

Strings as they relate to slide playing on the Ukulele: 
The big conundrum that you'll run into when you start on your slide journey, is that nylon strings and slide  don't really work well together. Wound strings are the way to go! The closer you can get to playing wound/steel/bronze strings is where you need to be. Why? Metals produce slide tone and nylon sucks butt! 
The problem with wound is that they fray and sometimes at the most undesirable times, like on stage! 

For Concert and Tenor Uke, Shoot for a wound G and C and then nylon on the E and A. 

For Baritone, go for a wound D and G string coupled with two nylon strings on the B and E strings.

        I like Aquila Brand Strings  for my concert and tenor ukuleles. 

For baritone, I use wound Guadalupe Brand Strings:  Super cool little family run business in L.A. 

Slides: My favorite slides are from Rocky Mountain Slide Company 
They will customize a slide to fit your finger! 

Bottom line, stay tuned folks, I'm woodshedding slide like madman in 2021 and when this damn pandemic is over, I'm gonna blow the roof off the joint with the some smokey slide, kosher BBQ! 

                                To Close, Dig This Deep Cut:  Son House's Death Letter Blues: 

Here's to more slide on the Ukulele ! 
Lil Rev 

2020 Fades Into 2021

 Howdy Friends, 

As Christmas is upon us and I am looking back on the last 10 months of 2020, I am both humbled and toasted all at once! 

Humbled because of all of the support I have received from my students, fans, friends and family during what has been a very challenging year. Toasted, because of the sheer number of classes and private lessons that I did this year! Content creation this year was off the charts! 

Making ones living as a troubadour, has never been about mining music's monetary goldmine, but rather the love of craft and connection with ones students and fans. But who amongst the legion of professional musicians that I know, was actually ready for what happened around the 2nd week of March 2020? 

The gig economy crashed and while we all jumped onto FB live, it was fine for a month or two, before it became a mess o' madness. 

When Corona hit I lost a years salary in under 8 weeks, via cancelled gigs, classes, festivals, concerts, as well as royalties from book sales that crashed when brick and mortar music stores closed shop, curtailed hours or patrons put off in-store shopping trips. 

They say that when one door closes another opens...

Much to my surprise, Brass Bell Music of Milwaukee agreed to host a once a month class on their FB page and Mead Library of Sheboygan agreed to have me on Mondays.

To supplement these classes I took on a dozen private students and created a Zoom Webinar schedule for more in-depth, theme based classes like my Uke n The Blues Series {1920's, 30's and 50's} 

Here's a sample of what's to come {plus 6 more on my website!} You can register for these via Zoom links are sent out 3 to 4 days prior to the class. Most classes are $35.00 unless its a two part class. 

Now, back to Mead Library....

Pre-Corona, you could find me leading regular ukulele courses at the library as well as one off performances and our monthly ukulele club meeting. 

Mead has been a huge supporter of community education, makers space classes and my local music escapades. I am most grateful to them. A finer library, you won't find in all of the America's! 

So after 10 busy months of teaching ukulele, Mead has recently agreed to continue my Monday 6:30pm  CT Virtual Ukulele Classes Streaming Live on their FB page thru 2021 {or until its safe to return to the in-person classes at the library.} 

Here's the schedule for January 2021. The classes are free, though tips are appreciated. Music is posted for each class on The Sheboygan Ukulele Club Google Drive, which you can access on the home page of my website:  {scroll down and look for the brown tab that says Sheboygan Uke Club, click on it and look for the name and or date of class}. 

I love you like a ukulele!

I hope to see you online in 2021! 

Lil Rev

Monday, July 6, 2020

12 Essential Strums Virtual Class w/ Lil Rev

12 Essential Strums Class w/Lil Rev: 

Sponsored by The Tampa Bay Ukulele Society 

Learn to strum an authentic strum for each style that you encounter at club meetings and jams! 
Open to all levels! Learn a strum, practice with a song sample! 

Announcing a virtual Class w/ Uke Master Lil Rev this Friday July 10th 7pm Eastern Time

Music for the class is available on the TBUS site. 

Hope you can join us! 

Lil Rev 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Lil Rev's 2020 Florida WinterUke Tour

                                           Lil Rev announces "killer" Florida Uke Tour 2020

                           Lil Rev will be touring Florida in late January and into February 2020

                                       Classes and Concert info @
                              -Lil Rev will make a stop at the Brown County Uke Fest in Nashville, IN
                              en route to his FL tour. He'll be vending and teaching harmonica

                                      1/28/2020      Citrus Park, FL {Class and concert}
                                      1/31/2020      The Rhythm Inlet, Nokomis, FL
                                      2/1/2020 World Ukulele Day    Dunedin, FL
                                      2/3/2020 Valencia Lakes Heritage Club {concert}
                                      2/4/2020 Penny Lane Music Emporium -Intro to Harmonica Class
                                      2/6/2020 Penny Lane Music Emporium- Triplets Made Easy Class
                                      2/8/2020 Florida State Fair   Ukeapolooza
                                      2/12/2020 Boynton Uke Society - Workshop
                                      2/13/2020 Boynton Uke Society - Concert
                                      2/15/2020  TBA ....and more shows being added.

                             Lil Rev's FL tour will offer a variety of ukulele and harmonica classes
                  as well as a host of concerts on uke, harmonica, tenor guitar, banjo, dulcimer and
                  more. check his website.  for more details.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ben Carr's New CD: A River's View of Sunrise

On Meeting Ben Carr...
When i first met Ben Carr a few years back, i was immediately impressed
with his style and humble demeanor. He had just finished a really cool set of 
instrumentals that ran the gamut from down-home fiddle tune-esq, to finger picking 
bluesy stuff as well as highly percussive-alternate tuned, groove based jams.

It was obvious to me that Ben had a very wide range of influences and the 
sincerity of his approach came off as very authentic at time when 10,000 guitar 
inspired posers are plying their trade on the ukulele. 

A Wee Bit About This Lad...
Ben grew up in the farm-laden, Philadelphia suburbs
blowing an alto-sax, which was soon supplanted by
bongos and a full drum set.

After stints in numerous east coast bands and a foray
into full-time music hood a la New Orleans, Ben
finally relocated to Southern Vermont where he currently resides with his family.

As a certified graduate of James Hill's Ukulele Initiative,
Ben is presently a full time ukulele instructor, recording
artist and performer. His commitment and love of music
finds him teaching both privately and in schools. 
To learn more about Ben Carr visit: 
Let me digress for a moment here....
As Ben and i talked and got to know each
other a bit, i thought he'd be a great artist to
bring to Wisconsin for our Ukulele festival,
so he sent me home with some of his music
and that's when it really dawned on me that
more folks in the ukulele stratosphere need
to hear Ben Carr.

If the ukulele world is going to grow, prosper, inspire our youth and morph into a sustainable community, ukulele camps, festivals and clubs need to do more to inspire the next class of teachers and performers...and i count Ben amongst the best and brightest of this next class of players. My mission as director of the Milwaukee Ukulele Festival (now The Great Lakes Ukulele Festival) has always been to showcase as much "emerging talent" as we could get away with presenting and so i aim to make good on my word and bring Ben to WI.

A River's View of Sunrise CD Review:
I would describe Ben's new record as imaginative, and filled with all the emotion
of one's natural surroundings. This record is obviously inspired by Ben's natural 
world via his rural Vermont home. It has a deep sense of humanity, and the sheer variety 
of 10 tracks takes the listener on a rollicking ride of joy, self contemplation, and quiet 
determination. Ultimately... its a breath of fresh air! 

His style shines thru on this record, as Ben combines fluid finger picking,
harmonically vibrant themes, layered with chordal flourishes and ample single string
lead style playing. I couldn't help but wonder if Ben had spent any time listening to
the likes of guitar gods like John Fahey, Preston Reed or Micheal Hedges, as there's a
real maturity to his arrangements both rhythmically and melodically.

The CD opens with the tune Leap Frog, a super-uplifting,
toe-tapping fiddle tune inspired creation which Ben says started 
on the guitar and morphed into a tour de force picking piece 
a la the looper, used to great effect. Song For Teeny with gentle hints of broadway
reads like classic Carr again combining a nice mix of chordal and single string

Hinting at Ben's ukulele roots and appreciation for tradition,
Galope is an old Manuel Cabral composition that Ben says
John King pointed him to. (All ukulele players would do well
to read, listen to and study the legacy of John King, whom i regard
as one of the greatest finger style/ Campanella players to ever walk 
the earth.)  

The records title track #4, is a River's View of Sunrise, 
an open A tuned piece, combines classic picking, delay, reverb infused 
pattern playingand Ben's signature use of harmonics. Sultry, sweet and superbly crafted 
music, proudly wearing the banner of Made in Vermont! 

Nate and Leah's Song is a heartfelt ode Ben wrote to accompany a 
requested Wedding March at a friends wedding. Other highlights include the playful
Sugar Shack a strum/picked tune with vocals and kazoo, as well as the delicately
picked Johannes Brahms classic Wiegenlied.

All in all, this is a fine collection for Ben's first full length, all-uke-album debut into
the ukulele world. I look forward to watching this fella grow and evolve as he carries
his songbag far and wide. To purchase this record visit
Ben's site at: 

Ben's Own Equipment Notes For The Record:
Effects used:
My pedal board set up for this album was a Boss compression/sustain, TC Electronics distortion, 
TC Electronics delay, Boss loop station. Then through an ART Tube Preamp.
Aside from the DI each uke was also captured with two different Blue Microphones. 
One was a Bluebird and unfortunately I don't recall the second. This second mic was also used for 
voice and kazoo.

Style notes:
Two tracks are in open A tuning - the title song and Leap Frog. The others were in C6 tuning, 
some with low G. My style on this album truly blends and blurs the lines with fingerpicking, looping, 
harmonic tapping, jazzy strumming, and beatboxing. To further confuse it I throw in a kazoo and vocal tune. 

Where to find Benn Carr online:
Here's a newer version of an old song. 

Here's a duo version of A Song For Teeny from a live show.

                                Ben Carr's 2016 Release

Summer Virtual Uke Classes W/Lil Rev @ Mead Library

Howdy Ukulele Pals,  I'm looking forward to a great summer of learning and study with my ukulele students from all over the world!  We m...