Mark 'Spanky' Gutierrez's Blog

It's Me.. Honest Its Me!!

Archive for the category “Ukulele Playing Tips”

Christmas Music for Ukulele

Merry Christmas!! I’ve been working on a few new Christmas songs… for educational purposes only … of course! I also did a little organizing and put all the Christmas songs under one grouping.


Look Out Below!!!

Christmas Ukulele Song Link

Peace on Earth!

Mark Spanky Gutierrez

Homemade Music….

Is there anything sweeter than having somebody sing you a song? Did you ever have a child sing you a song, a song especially for you? What about a sweetheart? Did you ever have a sweet heart sing you a special song? Has anyone ever crafted a song with you in mind?

Being the recipient of a special song is one of the most wonderful experiences ever. I know many people find it awkward to be sung to, to be the focal point of somebody else’s full attention but if you can put the blush and awkwardness aside and see that somebody else on this planet is trying to reach you on a whole different level… well it’s just pretty amazing.

So, with this in mind my ukulele friends, learn or write a song for your sweetheart, family, or best friend and sing it to them. Let

He looks so smart when he writes music!

He looks so smart when he writes music!

them know you hold them is such high esteem that you would dedicate some hard work, thought and time to only that one person. That you are willing to be totally focused on them.

Give the gift of music …


Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Why all the Frets???

There are at least twelve frets on your ukulele but most people only use the first three or four! My good friend Byron Yasui says “you paid for all those frets you might as well use them!”, and who could disagree with logic like that.

This topic quickly gets us into the discussion of chord inversions or different chord shapes. Let’s take the C chord for example you could play it:

In the first position as 0003C-At-0

or the second position as 3345 C-At-3

or the third position as 9787C-At-7

But why, why would I play those chords up the neck? Well… If I was trying to match the melody the other chords might give me the melody note as the highest note in the chord. Any time that you bring out the melody line in your chord playing the song starts to peek through the chords. People will say your playing “Silent Night” not just a set of chords.

Lets examine the notes of the C major chord. The notes for the C chord are C E G.

In the first position as 0003 = G C E C

or the second position as 3345 = C E G C

or the third position as 9787 = E G C E

So there would be to opportunities to play the C chord with either a C as the highest note or the C chord with the E has the highest note in the chord. I am sure that we if worked at it hard enough we could even come up with a C chord with G as the highest note.

If the melody of the song calls for then notes C and then E but the chord doesn’t change, you could follow the melody by choosing either the first position C or second position and then when the melody gets to E play the C chord  in the third position.

The only trick here is we are following the melody with chord shapes that have the melody note as the highest note.

But there are times when you just can’t… Say a song has a range that just won’t fit. Well then transposing the song to another key is a good idea but there are songs that have more than an octave range. In which case it’s time for you to make some creative decisions. Maybe move in the direction of the melody. Meaning that if the melody goes down in pitch then we can go pick a lower pitched C chord.

This is the basis to creating chord melody transcriptions. I hope that this helps you to understand why all those shapes for the same chord are important and I really encourage you to try making your own arrangements.

Now let’s just make one technical music theory correction. I called these inversions and technically that is not right, just ask Dr, Bales. C E G is the first inversion, the second would be E G C, and the third G C E. Notice on the ukulele we are just taking the next set of C E G notes and calling it the next inversion. It’s actually just the next position in which C E G pops up as a playable form. It’s Just That Easy!

Good luck my friends!!


Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Christmas time is here!!

Time’s fun when you’re having flies! Wow, I am amazed at how quickly time seems to pass. Life has been great for me and my family. We have a beautiful little addition this year and it makes Christmas feel so special. I love the fall, Thanks Giving and Christmas it seems to bring out the best in everybody.

In celebration of Christmas and the Holiday season, I decided to put up two new Christmas Ukulele Transcriptions. White Christmas and Christmas Island, are two great songs for the season. White Christmas is such a classic Christmas song and Christmas Island is just perfect on the ukulele. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

White Christmas – White Christmas
Christmas Island – Christmas Island

Peace to all and to all a good night!
Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez

Spanky Does the Harlem Shake !?!?!?

It’s always crazy at my house. We just shot a silly video of us doing the Harlem Shake.

No, I am not kidding! and NO I it won’t ever get posted!!

But this leads into a great point, its important to let it all hang out!!

So, apply this to your playing. You know let the HAM out!! It needs to see the light of day from time to time. This kind of activity can release the performer in you in such a way that it not only is fun for you but its also entertaining for your audience.

Let a little ham out at home, by yourself and either record or better yet film yourself. This will allow you to temper the performance or it will give you the okay to let MORE OUT. When you are mostly comfortable with what you have come up with, then spring it on a live audience. I would suggest that it NOT be family. It might be way too much for people that are that close to you to make that leap with you. If you break it out at the next open mic then you are going to get responses from folks that are not biased. Chances are that if you like the performance many many others will too!



Mark Spanky Gutierrez

Is it C6 or A minor 7?? and Who is on first base?

Lesson: C6 – A minor 7

So, C6 and A minor 7 … same shape different name. WHY? Context my friend it’s all about the context.

If you move from G7 to C6 it seems like its kind of final. There is a “resolution” about it. Try it, play C6 then G7 then go to C6 again. Play 4 counts each. Did you hear it? It’s like all is well with the world and you can go to sleep now.

C6 - A minor 7

Now for contrast play E minor and change to Amin7, B7 and then go back to E minor. Give each 4 counts each. Hear a difference? Now the Amin7 (or C6) sounds very minor and if you stop on Amin7 it doesn’t seem to be the end at all, not in a strong sense anyway or you might say less “resolution”.

In the first example we are playing squarely in the key of C. The connection between C6 and G7 is very strong. If you play those two chords and end on G7… some one is likely to scream “finish the damn song!”.

In the second example we are in the key of E minor. The A minor 7 is the “fourth” and its relationship is not as strong as the B7 and E minor connection but still has some “resolution” power.

So playing in context is very import to hear the intent of chord. Is it a minor chord? or is it major? If your lucky enough to play with a bass player, he or she will determine the intent of the chord. If they play A you will hear A minor, C then you will hear it as C major 6.

So, for this lesson please be ready to identify the chords by either name A minor 7 (red notes) or C6 (blue notes).

Follow the C7 Lesson instructions to get to the point that your ready to use this shape in any song.



Ukulele C7 lesson:

C7 multiple positions

C7 Multiple Positions

The picture to the left shows C7 in 4 positions up the neck. Each position is identified by a box encompassing the appropriate notes.
Play 4 beats on the first position
Then move to the next position and play another 4 beats
Up the neck and yes, DOWN the neck.
Strive for 80BPM if you do not own a metronome…
Try this online version:
See how fast you can get! but please be careful… Don’t increase the speed too soon in your practice. If you can’t play it slow.. you can’t play it fast. It’s critical that you stay in time. Let me rephrase that, its more IMPORTANT to play “in time” than to play fast with mistakes.
If you are striving to do more… 
Can you see all the dominant 7 shapes? You should recognize them from all the first position dominant 7 chords. Can you transpose this to other keys? A very big clue is that the notes that are in the blue circles are the root note. So, if you move that shape up or down two frets you have “transposed” the chord by one full step. IE.. Move it closer to the body of the ukulele by 2 frets and C7 becomes D7.

Transposing C7 to D7

BEWARE: the major scale has two places that have natural half steps. Between B,C and E,F are half steps. So if you move down two frets from C7 you would get Bb7 (or its other name A#7). Likewise if you move up two frets from E7 you would get F#7. Two tricky places to be aware of.
1/2 step = 1 fret
1 full step = 2 frets
Between B,C and E,F are half steps (one fret)
Move on thru the cycle of fifths but counter clock wise (in fourths)…
Like a so…
C7 up and down the neck
F7 up and down the neck
Bb7 “”
Eb7 “”
Ab7 “”
Db7 “”
Gb7 “”
B7 “”
E7 “”
A7 “”
D7 “”
G7 “”
If this seems too daunting stick with the keys C G D then add some when you feel mo’ bettah go back and add a few more.
Breath, relax, and like Kimo say’s “play without angst!”
You’re body will tell you when your doing this wrong. If your back, neck, wrist, thumb, or elbow hurt after your practice be sure to check your posture and wrists. Sit up straight, fight the natural desire to lean forward out front of the ukulele and try not to twist your back towards the headstock. Wrists, keep them pretty flat. There should not be a bump or a “V” at the wrist. This is true for both left and right hands. Play a tune or two in front of the mirror. That will help you identify an ergonomic problem.
Peace my friend!

Scale Lesson

Scale lesson:
Playing scales on a ukulele is like being introduced to your best friend’s girl friend’s best friend that has a “great” personality.
Why? Well because you can so rarely pull off all 8 tones from lowest to highest. You can always find all eight tones but you can rarely play them all from root to root in a ascending or descending pattern IN ONE HAND POSITION (Think Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do).
Whats a hand position? It’s usually a section of the neck that you can get your hand on and stretch your fingers out comfortably. I usually shoot for a max of 5 frets. So, on a 12 fret instrument we only really have about 3 hand positions maybe four with a cut away, maybe 5 with a cut away long scale baritone!
I have attached my Scale work chart to this lesson. It will be important for you be able to play all of the scales listed on this page. No ANGST.. take a close look Spanky is being real good to you! I am sure you will figure out why I think this is easy.
Okay real important steps about practicing scales.
1 Practice the scales at first in one position at a time. They are marked by a red or blue box
2 Be sure that you know where the root of the scale is. Marked by a blue dot with the letter in the middle. You should actually start with this note.
3 Practice in TIME… Use a metronome .. Tick Tock
4 Practice with good form, be ergonomicaly responsible. Keep straight wrists, and good posture
When have you mastered it?
When you can easily see where the positions connect and you can navigate thru the positions with out getting lost. No… I am not kidding!
Here is a link to the a few scales written in C major and A minor:
Wanna do more?
Practice two or more positions at the same time. Go up thru the two positions one way then work yourself back down another way.
Each scale can be transposed by moving the hand position or pattern up or down frets. Move it up two and C becomes D move it down two and C becomes Bb.
Maybe its a good time for you to be able to identify where all the notes are on the ukulele. It sounds daunting doesn’t it? but its not! Here is a cool trick that got me thru it. First know the note names of the open strings. Then just move up the neck and label each fret with the next possible name. Skip the flats and sharps at first.
So if your on the G string two frets up and you have A, another two frets and you have B another two frets and you have…. C SHARP!
Oh dude classic blunder! You have to remember that between B and C and E and F there is only one fret (half step) not two frets (hole step) but knowing this little rule and you’re set. You can start with the open string (be sure to count the nut as your first fret) and rock right up the fret board.
Here is a little check for yourself.
Open    G  C  E  A
Fret 2    A  D  F#  B
Fret 5    C F A D
Fret 7    D  G      B E
Fret 12  G C E A
Other than Fret 5 do recognize those collections of notes?
Fret 2 is the D tuning for the ukulele,
Fret 7 is Barri tuning,
Fret 12 is the octave (so C tuning)
Cool huh.. Easy sha..meeeeazy…
Here is blank fret board paper for GCEA tuning:
Here is some blank fret board paper for DGBE tuning:
Peace, Love and the sound of the Ukulele!!

Spanky’s Ukulele DVD

The production company put together a behind the scenes view of my Ukulele Finger Picking DVD …

Spanky DVD

Hey... talk louder Spanky!

Check it out:

If you are interested in buying it… click on the following link and go to the  “store”.


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

Ukulele Lessons Village Point 9/18 and 9/19

Drop on out to Village Point’s Art Fair this weekend 9/18 or 9/19.

Carmel 'Ukulele Group

I will be giving ‘ukulele lessons:

Saturday 9/18 at High Noon

Sunday 9/19 at 2PM

You don’t even have to have a ukulele, I will bring some loaners!! Hope to see ya there!!


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

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