Video: Jake Shimabukuro Teaches "Eleanor Rigby" and Basic Ukulele Rhythm Techniques

One of Reverb's brightest highlights from the 2017 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim was when Jake Shimabukuro stopped by our booth. Though the official purpose of his visit was to discuss his signature Kamaka ukulele, Jake also took the time to talk about his philosophy of music as a universal language and to perform a beautiful rendition of the Beatles' classic "Eleanor Rigby."

Jake's performance was mesmerizing, with a unique arrangement that hasn't strayed far from our minds since. That's why we jumped at the chance to hear more about how it was put together. In the video above, Jake teaches a stripped-down version of the classic song on the ukulele—an arrangement he was inspired to put together so that his son (who didn't yet have the strength to fret all of the strings) could strum the chords along with Jake, who played the melody.

Jake's promise is that even those who have not ever picked up a uke before will be able to get the hang of this song with enough practice. He starts by teaching the E minor (the hardest chord you'll have to play), before progressing into mostly single-string chords. Grab your uke and follow along.

In this second video, Jake picks up where he left off in his lessons from earlier this summer, when he taught standard ukulele tuning and basic strumming techniques. Now, he's back to teach us a bit more about some ukulele rhythm patterns and particularly strumming speed. "The trick for me," Jake starts, "is in the wrist."

When Jake started playing in his high school's marching band, he noticed how much faster he was at playing rolls on a snare (gripping his sticks traditionally) versus strumming his uke, though the right hand positions were similar. When he realized that it was all in his wrists, he stopped using his whole arm to the elbow to strum and instead relied on his wrist and twisting forearm.

Check out the full lesson above to watch Jake teach a few exercises that new players can use to help develop their own strumming speed.


Jake Shimabukuro's brand-new album, The Greatest Day, is out now, which you can order on his website. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to learn more about him and see upcoming tour dates.


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