Disclaimer: This is a free blog that WordPress monetizes by selling ad space. I do not endorse, nor do I make money from any creepy ads you may see lurking in this post.

(Except for my own book, of course! 🙂

Outside of SPELLING ukulele, tuning it is often the most terrifying thing for most beginners. Whether your ukulele (or uke) is brand new or it’s been sitting in a corner for six years, feeling confident about tuning it makes life easier and—needless to say—makes playing songs more enjoyable.

I’ll break down the basic steps of ukulele tuning below, but I’ve also made some videos to help you tune your ukulele if you’re frustrated, scared to try, or just plain mystified.

This one is a relaxed pace overall explanation of ukulele tuning for beginners.
This one is a review of the basics with even more tuning practice for people who really need some help!
This one is a simple step-by-step tuning video. It helps you tune your ukulele in about 3 minutes!

Basic Ukulele Tuning for the Absolute Beginner (or the Frustrated Novice)

Illustrations are from my book “The Easy Illustrated Book of Kids’ Ukulele Folk Songs: A first ukulele book for all ages”

Step 1. Get Out Your Ukulele (touching your instrument is key to tuning AND playing! Congratulate yourself!)

Step 2. Learn the names of your strings (Soprano, concert & tenor ukuleles are tuned GCEA in the U.S.) The G string is closest to your nose when you are holding the uke with the sound hole facing out from your body and the neck resting in your left hand. The A string is closest to your toes. I use the phrase Goats Can Eat Anything to remember string names.

This person is tuning the A string (closest to her toes)

Step 3. Listen to a reference pitch. You can use a piano, phone app, tuning fork, pitch pipe, Youtube video, etc. Even if you have an electronic tuner, listen to a reference pitch as you begin. Soprano ukulele string pitches are G4 (the G above middle C), C4 (middle C), E4 and A4.

Step 4. Hum the reference pitch. If you are starting on your G string, play the G pitch on a reference device and then use your voice to match it. If you are unable to match a pitch with your voice, try anyway, it’s good for you!

Step 5. Pluck the string (in this case, the G string, closest to your nose) and compare it to the reference pitch. Decide if your string sounds higher or lower than the reference pitch.

Step 6. Follow the string with your eyes or fingers to its peg at the head of the ukulele.

Step 7. IMPORTANT! Turn the peg a bit WHILE PLUCKING THE STRING, and notice if it is getting higher or lower.
(KEEP PLUCKING! If you don’t keep plucking, you will not know if it is getting higher or lower, and your electronic tuner will not know either, because it and your ear both use the vibration of the plucked string to detect the pitch.)

Step 8. Listen and notice as you keep plucking/turning, whether your plucked string sounds like it’s getting closer to or further from the reference pitch. If it’s getting further away, turn the peg the opposite direction, but KEEP PLUCKING and LISTENING, so you can tell when it matches the reference pitch.

Step 9. STOP turning the peg when your plucked string sounds like the reference pitch. If you think you are getting close, only turn a wee itsy bit as you pluck the string. If you go past the desired pitch, don’t freak out, just pluck and turn an itsy bit the other way until it matches.

A note on confidence: Just do the best you can. Have a little faith in your ear. If you aren’t perfect at first, don’t beat yourself up about it. People with well trained ears have been practicing their listening skills a lonnnng time. Don’t let being a beginner bum you out. Babies never think, “I should be better at walking, everyone else is one two feet, and here I am clinging to the table.” Just do your thing and try to forget that self judgment exists.

About electronic tuners

It’s fine to use an electronic tuner to help you tune. But be aware that musical pitches go upward in sort of a spiral, e.g., A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A (an octave higher from the first A). Thus, when your tuner displays something like D, you need to have some awareness of whether it’s the D above or below your desired pitch!

By the way, # means sharp, which means higher than. So when you see G# on your tuner it means it’s halfway between G and A (higher than G). Similarly, D# means halfway between D and E, so it’s lower than E. This can be a bit confusing, which is another reason it helps to listen to a reference pitch. (Flat, (b) means lower than.)

More tips about electronic tuners:
—Some tuners can pick up other sounds (birds tweeting, people talking) so if your needle is jumping all over the place, that’s probably why. If your tuner has vibration mode, use it to prevent this problem. Or, tune in a quiet room.
—Tuners can be calibrated to different frequency standards. Usually in the U.S. we use the standard where the A4 pitch = 440 Hz (vibration cycles per second). It’s pretty easy, if you’re pressing buttons, to accidentally change your tuner’s calibration, so if your tuner seems way off, double check that it’s set at 440.

What are you waiting for!

Go back to Step 1 (Get out your Ukulele!) and click this link to hear reference pitches for G C E and A, and tune up!

If you have never played ukulele and want an easy starter book, here’s a link to my book. The Easy Illustrated book of Kids’ Ukulele Folk Songs: A first ukulele book for all ages.
I wrote and illustrated it especially for people who really wanted an easy beginning to boost their confidence. It covers holding, strumming, tuning, and playing 12 easy songs that you will most likely be familiar with. Most of the songs only contain two chords, and I drew amazing illustrations and diagrams to help you succeed! The content is written with parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and childcare providers in mind, but it’s also a great book for the adult who wants to start easy, or to teach their child, grandchild or grandparent! 🙂

Disclaimer: This is a free blog that WordPress monetizes by selling ad space. I do not endorse, nor do I make money from any creepy ads you may see lurking in this post.

(Except for my own book, of course! 🙂

Wild Joes Window display, Dec 2020


I created a window display, coloring page and promotional materials to support NAMI-MT’s annual Gifts with a Lift drive to gather gifts for people receiving care at the Montana State Hospital in Warmsprings.

The gifts go to patients at the hospital, to ensure that everyone receives a gift this holiday season.

To download the coloring page and get more info, visit my Gifts with a Lift web page or Facebook event.

December 2-5: Wild Joes Coffee Spot in downtown Bozeman will donate 25% of Cocoa & Candy Cane Cookie proceeds to “Gifts with a Lift” to help buy gifts for people receiving care at Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs this holiday season. Drop GIFT Donations at Bozeman Daily Chronicle thru Dec. 11 (M-F, 8-3). Gifts with a Lift is coordinated by NAMI-MT, Montana’s Voice on Mental Illness. http://www.namimt.org
More info at https://dphhs.mt.gov/aboutus/news/2020/giftswithalift

I have made a video of the Big Brownpaper Christmas Mouse Alphabet Storybook, read by Brownpaper Granny herself, which you are welcome to share if you like. 

Brownpaper Granny reads the Big Brownpaper Christmas Mouse Alphabet Storybook on Youtube

There are two versions: 
One has some “the making of” backstory with Brownpaper Granny (8 minutes total)
https://youtu.be/lGRCZjTnFK8
And one has just the story:

Big Brownpaper Christmas Mouse Alphabet Storybook: (5 minutes total)
https://youtu.be/3IKYb0-w5Lw


I hope you like them!

Find my books on Amazon, Etsy/shop/goodwerks and Ingram!

“Puzzling” Coloring Page, partially colored.

For free coloring page downloads and more, visit my website, Goodwerks.com/books.

My very favorite self-care indulgence is to listen to Audio books while I color. Here is my secret. A wonderful collection of public domain audio books is available, absolutely FREE, at Librivox.org

Here’s how to listen:
On Librivox, you can download the whole book to your device, or stream it chapter by chapter. After following the link to a reader or book, click on the book title to see listening options. (Librivox is a nonprofit: if you wish to help them stay up and running, here’s their donation link.)

The secret is finding the really good readers. My personal favorites:

Youth-appropriate* but still great for adults

*In old books like these, you may encounter attitudes/words that are shockingly, even horrifyingly, offensive to modern ears. I do find some depictions of race, class and gender offensive, but I see it as opportunity to appreciate how much things have changed.

Recommendations that I haven’t tried yet:

Additional Librivox readers recommended by others

More Librivox Tips:

I prefer books read by one reader, rather than a group of volunteers. To find those, go to the author page and filter results by selecting the “solo” link under Project Type (top, left)

You can bookmark a book on your device and stream chapter by chapter or download entire books to your device.

In addition to these recommendations, there’s a TON of other great stuff on Librivox, and you can even volunteer as a reader if you like!

Enjoy!

Please note this is a free blog and WordPress places ads in it that I do not endorse or condone.

public domain image “Sleeping Girl” by Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kuznetsov, 1929


Insomnia started in my early 40s. At 3am on the dot it’s like an alarm goes if in my brain and “ding!” I’m wide awake. Or maybe I’ve gone to bed at 11pm and tossed until midnight, 2am, 3am and by 4am I’ve tried everything and still I can’t sleep. I can’t get my thoughts to slow down after an event or a busy day, I’m worried about the U.S. election, freaking out about global warming, obsessing about what I said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do…

Enter my trusty earbuds and a free audiobook site called LibriVox.org. — Ah, sure, you say, but I need something to put me to sleep NOW! I don’t want to go book shopping.

Never fear. I have right here my favorite soporific selections by the world’s sleepiest reader, Peter Yearsley. A wonderful reader, yet unique in that he’s engaging enough to interrupt obsessive thoughts, but sleepy enough to have you, if you are like me, heartily sawing logs in 10 minutes or less.

I keep these bookmarked and queue them up at bedtime just in case. If you want to know anything about the first half of Chapter 7 of Alice in Wonderland, just ask. But if you want to know how Chapter 7 ends, ask somebody else. I’ve never heard it.

“About Orchids, a Chat” —5 star snooze!

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” —Tell them the door mouse sent you!

“Highways and Byways in Sussex.” —Proven effective as a sleep aid, yet somewhat informative.

“Making a Rock Garden” —Amusingly dull!

“The Natural History of Selborne” — First rate mind numbing!

“Three Men on the Bummel” — Very funny but also very sleepy!

These are just a few tried and true selections, but once you have discovered Yearsley, a trove of beautifully read mundanity awaits you. I can face the 2020 election confident that the next selections on my list, “A Textbook on Assaying” and “Ketchup” will be equally rewarding in terms of snores.

Please note this is a free blog and WordPress places ads in it that I do not endorse or condone.

The Perfect Dress

I took a 2-session stop motion collage animation workshop from Minneapolis based filmmaker, John Akre via St Paul’s film education outreach entity, FilmNorth! I know COVID times suck, but it sure has been a goldmine in online learning opportunities.

We used the free app, Stop Motion Studio, which I found very easy to use. The most difficult thing for me was reining in my inner creative juggernaut. Luckily John is an experienced educator and gave us some brief, solid, no-nonsense guidelines on how to approach a project, so I felt empowered to give it a go. (John is also a walking film knowledge treasury and he shared with us some of his favorite collage animators in a briskly guided “you can look up more info on your own” format which I loved. I want a John Akre podcast where he just tells about cool stuff, but this was the next best thing.)

One of my favorite take-aways was the system of keeping your cuts for your animation between the pages of a book. I know this may sound trivial, but it was the kind of thing that made me less afraid of losing control of the project, my workspace and hey…maybe my life? Here are some pictures of my animation stuff, and see how not scary it looks in its drawer? (I had early on decided that I was not allowed to have any materials that would not fit in this particular drawer.)

I used Scotch restickable glue stick to make my jointed “puppet” (a word I learned in the workshop!) which worked pretty well overall, though I think if I were making a more elaborate animation I’d probably invest the time in making a more durable puppet. I also discovered that there’s no need to create puppets in different positions as long as your main puppet is really nicely jointed. You DO need them in different sizes and facing different directions though. At least to do something narrative along the lines of what I made.

Here’s my one-week animation desk, which is normally my coloring desk. I used a little bluetooth shutter activator that came with an iphone camera tripod adapter that I bought on Amazon and it worked GREAT. (John said you can also use the volume button on your earbuds as a remote shutter release.) For lighting, I used a combination of an Ottlite and a small clip on desk lamp (I used a a hinged photo frame as a stand). Those orange handled Chikamasa scissors are my best friend. They ROCK. I’m not sure how they came into my life, but they are my favorite collage scissors ever.

IMG_E8841

I fell in love with my puppet and all her little arms and legs:

IMG_E8844

Another interesting thing I learned in the workshop is that that in stop motion, scans printed on matte paper are preferable to original magazine photos, since they don’t present a glare problem (to save time I shot pics with my phone instead of scanning, and sized/printed them using desktop publishing software). This freed me up to use my most precious images. I normally shrink from doing collage with magazine images because I can’t bear to use up/destroy the originals.

I created my soundtrack live on my Moog Etherwave Standard Theremin, and added some pitch-shifted harmony layers in Garageband (I was shooting for kind of a siren song feeling) and edited a bit in the desktop version of iMovie. I’d estimate that the 2.25 minute animation took me 15-25 hours to create, which includes sourcing images and some photoshop work to “empty” backgrounds of unwanted objects and size/flip/etc. my puppets, backgrounds and props.

Thanks, John, this workshop was great!

Here’s my finished project, which first premiered during the Minnanimate Film Festival, Sept, 2020.

musical-counting

I’m pretty new to reading music, so I spend time thinking of ways to make it easier for people to learn. Today I was explaining dotted notes to someone, and I thought maybe a graphical treatment of it might help. I like to imagine that the dotted note “steals” from the following beat. Somehow that helps me understand how to count it. This graphic may or may not be helpful, but I made it anyway! If you like this graphic you can download the PDF here.

I’m a graphic designer, illustrator. Find my illustrated books at goodwerks.com/books

 

thanks for caring-full

Download Thanks for Caring full-page PDF

thanks for caring-2up

Download Thanks for Caring 2-per-page PDF

 

I feel so grateful to people who take precautions to protect others by wearing a face covering in indoor settings and outdoor settings where social distancing isn’t possible. They understand that even though they feel fine, they might unknowingly be carrying a virus that can threaten someone else’s life. I drew this art to express that gratitude.

 

I’m a graphic designer, illustrator. Find my illustrated books at goodwerks.com/books

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Say what you will about me, I make a hell of a paper doll.

I thought I’d draw up some fun bonus items for friends who preordered my new Brownpaper Mouse Springtime Alphabet Storybook Look & Find book.  
I drew a pair of round glasses for this guy and it reminded me so much of Harold Lloyd, I just ran with it and based the whole wardrobe on Lloyd’s hilarious 1925 comedy, “The Freshman.”
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As kids, my sisters and I took our paper doll cutting pretty seriously. It was always a bit perplexing trying to figure out how to play with them once they were cut out. Often there were little accessories that were not only quite difficult to cut out, but easily lost and hard to play with.
So in that time honored tradition I added lots of tiny, perplexing accessories.

As an adult I think nothing of putting a  dab of adhesive on the back of an accessory to make it stay put.
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We can all use something to look forward to, so during the March-May 2020 COVID lockdown I invited my friends & family (and their friends & family… and theirs!) to enjoy pictures from my new Brownpaper Mouse Springtime Alphabet Look & Find Book, for free, as I drew them. The book is now complete and will be available on Amazon this June!

Pre-order now! For a limited time, I’m offering a pre-order discount. Visit my Etsy shop to order your copy/ies of the book and save! (I benefit too, because even at a reduced price, I make more from books I sell myself as I do from Amazon-fulfilled orders—and I have to pay for those pencils somehow!) Preordering also give me the chance to inspect and pack each book by hand, and who knows, you might even get a bonus surprise! This discounted preorder link will be live until mid-June, when I expect to receive my first book shipment. (Also, it’s a way to sidestep Amazon if you don’t wish to order from them.)

Thanks again for your support and encouragement! Your help in spreading the word makes a big difference!

To get my (rare but wonderful) emails, just fill out this form. I will not share your email address and I only intend to use it to 1) send you fun free stuff or 2) notify you when new books are available. There’s no obligation to buy the book, and you can always unsubscribe.

Feel free to share this post with anyone who might enjoy looking for the alphabet words that I’ve hidden in each picture Find more of my illustrated books at my Amazon Author Page, or my Etsy shop, Goodwerks.

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My Brownpaper Granny Youtube Channel

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