FITZROY MARKET 1-2pm Saturday 19 November

Hi all,


Come along and join the Yarra Yukers play at the Fitzroy Market (

If you know ANY of these songs, you’re welcome. We reckon we’ll play through them twice anyway!! (We should be sh**hot by the second time!!)   If you don’t know them fully, come and SING ‘EM with us (or just air-uke at the back)! Or just come along and cheer (and throw money!)

EXes and OHs

UKE 2.

Hi all, here’s our nifty new poster.  Share it; download and print; spread it around!!

Sister Kate

Well the lovely Sister Kate has been a hit at the Yarra Yukers.  You can find a tute playalong at

The music is available (lyrics and chords separate) on the MUSIC tab of this site.


Gig on Tuesday 22nd @ Good Shepard Nursing Home

We have a gig on Tuesday! We’ll gather at the Yarra as usual and play a 30 minute practice set of our arrangements of the following songs:

Istanbul not Constantinople (Am & E7)
Jambalaya (C & G7)
You Are My Sunshine (C F & G)
Under the Milky Way Tonight (Am)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (D G & A7)
Put a Little Love in your Heart (C F & G, with a little Dm)
It’s Good To See You (D G A)

(I’ve been fiddling with Dr. Uke’s ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ of late. I thought we might sneak that one into the set somewhere as I reckon it’ll be a sing-a-long piece for our audience. I can play and the rest of us sing it?)

Then we’ll head down to the end of Abbottsford to the…

Good Shepherd Nursing Home, 2 Clarke St, Abbotsford VIC 3067 (Clarke St is down toward the Yarra River from the Yarra Hotel; near the Abbotsford Convent complex).

We’ll replay the set for the benefit of the folks in the home. Then we’re heading back to the Yarra for a drink. I’ll continue with the intermediate’s session ’til 9. smile emoticon

Even if you’re not up to playing the set, the more voices the better, so come along and join in!

Welcome to 2016!!

Happy New Year!

Two quick notes for the start of our year.

  1. Yarra Yukers starts again on 26 January @6 PM @ the Yarra Hotel, Johnston Street, Abbotsford.

2.  If you’ve just got a uke for Xmas and you want a quick starter, consider the beginner’s class I’ll run with Laneway Learning on Wednesday 27th January @ 8 PM @ Little Mule in the CBD. See for details.

3.  This year we’ll build on our stable of songs we used in sets at the end of 2015 with a couple of great oldies and some contemporary songs.  Here are some YouTube links to current candidates:

 Itty Bitty Pretty One from this great scene in Matilda

Gabrielle Alpin’s ‘Panic Chord’

Elle King’s too cute Ex’s and Ohs!

and don’t forget we’ve still got the project of

Venus by Shocking Blue 🙂 for an open mic in a couple of months.

Hope you see you soon!

Three gigs and a video!

First the video.  If you’re learning VENUS, get along to where you’ll find my quick tute.

Second, we will be playing it and Istanbul at the Open Mic @ 303 High Street, Northcote on 1 December, after rehearsal @ the Yarra Hotel 6-7pm.

Third, we’ll be playing two Xmas gigs at Nursing Homes, one in Abbotsford and the second in North Melbourne, on Saturdays the 5th and 12th of December @ 3pm.  More details to follow.   See the MUSIC tab for songs in the set.



10th November session

Great session tonight.  Thanks all!

A little Jingle Bells to start with, particularly focussing on the 1 2 3 … 1 2 3 …  (“Jin-gle-bells”) rhythm.  Then a little Silent Night (in A) thumb picking.  The chords were coming thick and fast but how good were the players, sticking at it and identifying cluey efficient ways to play (thanks Joy!).

Then the main focus: we’re playing at KLUB MUK on Tuesday 1 December and our key song is Venus!  So, we worked our way through the whole thing.  The key is the Em –> A –> Em –> A engine that chugs along through 80% of the song.  I’ll admit it’s a jump up from a C F G7 strum-a-long but boy I was happy with the effort folk put in.  Reuben nailed the strumming of the initial ‘call’ chords like a pro (‘down up, up down, down up, up down, mute’, for those interested).  Nina in the orchestra is on the ball too and looking to provide the riff at the end of verses in support.

Hmm…I can’t really dress as a goddess myself.  I wonder what will be appropriate?  Better check what those dudes in Shocking Blue were wearing again.  Early 70s rock?

PS.  In the orchestra session we went through Venus as well, concentrating on the trickier bits, and then a little Bill Withers with ‘Lean On Me’ and the lovely effects you can get with sliding up and down the neck using major and minor 3rds.

See you all on the 17th!

Time for some Xmas Cheer

Yarra Yukers will spread a little Xmas cheer around on the first two weekends of December.  We will play short sets at two nursing homes on Saturday 5th and 12th (@ 3pm) around the City of Yarra area.

Check out the MUSIC tab to look for the  songs we’ll play in the set.  During November, we’ll be learning a series of Xmas carols to compliment some of our regular tunes.

#1 Getting the backbeat when you’re a beginner

A great ukulele-playing musicologist commented that the beat in songs often depended on whether the writers were colonisers or colonised. Colonisers march. 1 2 3 4 ! “EINS ZWEI DREI VIER!”, he roared in his best Prussian impression. I thought it was a little unfair to count the time in German given the British Empire was the biggest and implicitly the most aggressive. But he made the point. Play the beat ON the beat.  ONE  TWO  THREE  FOUR! This hasn’t faded with the passing of empires. Listen to the beat in lots of pop music today. It’s often a consistent “doof doof doof doof” on all four beats.

As ukulele players, it is rare that we can get away with the same approach. Jazz can work with almost all downstrokes on the beats, but part of its charm comes by varying the tune’s rhythm: adding little up-strums and spaces and emphasises at key moments.

Looking for a little spice, beginners soon start to add their own up-strums to the “and” between beats: “ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and” to create a straight shuffle strum (NB.  If you don’t know exactly what a ‘straight shuffle’ is, check out Ukulele Mike Lynch on ‘4 very useful strums’ on YouTube).  But, it’s not long before every song sounds curiously similar, if not to say monotonous, and someone mutters “janga janga janga” in a disparaging tone.

So, what’s an accessible way to improve on your first strums?

One answer is to get the backbeat groove.  So much of 20th century music uses the backbeat that it is familiar to audiences and you, even if you can’t name it yet.  It’s brilliant for classic ukulele-beginner tunes like Jambalaya and many of those Hank Williams 1940s-60s country tunes.  You’ll find it in Dixie-land jazz, hand-clapping gospels and even rock and roll.  It can’t be too hard to learn.  And no less an authority than Chuck Berry says “[If] it’s got a backbeat. You can’t lose it!”.

How to start? Please, sit down in an upright chair (a kitchen chair is good). Pick up your uke. Nice slow downstrums thank you.  One  Two  Three  Four.  Once you have a steady rhythm, start to sway forward-backward-forward-backward, like you’re riding a slow-motion trotting horse, bumping the chair with your back on the bolded beat: “one TWO three FOUR one TWO three FOUR”.  Count them out loud.  Voila: you found the backbeat!

Stage two:  You want to accent the backbeat.  No.  Hold it!  Flip this around.  You want to DE-accent the ‘on beat’ (the “one” and the “three”).  So try this:  On the first down strum – the “one” beat – only hit the ‘g’ string, or maybe the ‘g’ and ‘C’ strings:  just a mini downstrum.  On your second down strum – the “TWO” beat – strum down across all strings.  For the “three” beat you’re back to a mini down strum.  And the “four” beat is a full down strum across all the strings.

Let’s call them ‘mini’ and ‘MAX’: part strum and whole strum.  Now the down strumming rhythm you’re playing is ‘mini MAX mini MAX mini MAX mini MAX‘.  It gets a natural swing to it.  If you tap your foot you’ll find it almost irresistible to not tap with a little more oomph on those backbeats!  Or if you tap with alternating feet, you’ll find your dominant side taking the backbeat and you’ll sway side to side in time with a little more commitment to those backbeats.  Like Chuck said, once you got it, you can’t lose it!

So, to recap, you can count ‘one TWO three FOUR’ (yes, a little louder on the bolded beats!).

You can sway forward-backward-forward-backward.

You can mini and MAX.

You can tap your foot or feet and get that crazy backbeat rhythm.

Try it with Jambalaya or Deep in the Heart of Texas.  Once you have it, “you can’t lose it!”

Now, save your back.  I can’t afford to be liable for your physiotherapist bills!




We’re under construction so please be patient with us.  However, we’re keen to have the basics of the website up and running as soon as.

In the meantime, please email us at or ring Harry on 0400 579 192.

If you’re a facebook user, visit us at or check out our page for the new Yarra YUkers ukulele orchestra starting up in Richmond, VIC, Australia in March.  😀

Come along and join us any Tuesday night from 3rd March, upstairs at the wonderful Spread Eagle Hotel, corner Bridge Rd and Coppin St, Richmond.   As a special feature, Harry will teach a FREE beginners class every Tuesday evening 6-7 in March.  And at 7.30-9 we’ll get the uke orchestra running ($15/session or $60 for all five Tuesdays in the month (that’s just $12/session!)).

The much-loved Spreadie gets great reviews for its food and has a really cosy atmosphere, so consider treating yourself and friends!

Come and enjoy the cheer and the music!