Learn to play "Island Style" by John Cruz

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Check out the Ukulele Lesson for "Island Style" in the original Key of C
Print the Lyrics and Chords for "Island Style" by the John Cruz (link)

Play along with the "Island Style" Ukulele Play-Along performed by John Cruz in the key of Bb. Both our very own Aldrine Guerrero (ukulele) and Mike Odo (bass) were stoked to play "Island Style" right alongside John Cruz, the original composer and performer of the song. And now you can, too! Try playing along with the Play-Along above, and if you need some extra help with the chords, start with STEP 1 below:

STEP 1 - The Chords

Here are all the chords you'll need to play along with the song:

Bb(3211), F(2010), Eb(0331), Bb7(1211)

Practice holding each chord and memorize the names of each chord. When you can see the name of the chord and instantly know how to hold it, you're ready to move on.

*Note* The original recording for this song is in the Key of C. However, on this day John chose to play it in the key of Bb. If you would like to play "Island Style" in the key of C instead and play along with the original recording, be sure to check out the episode of Ukulele Whiteboard Request - Island Style where Aldrine teaches this song in the key of C instead.

STEP 2 - Chord Switching

Next you'll need to be able to switch chords smoothly. Play along with the practice video below and be sure to switch to the next chord right on time with Aldrine.

Once you can hold the chords, switch between them, and strum them at the right times, you're ready to play the song! Go back to the Play-Along video at the top of the page and play through the whole song, holding the chords and strumming them at the right times when they change. Great job, you've just played the beginner version of this song!

STEP 3 - Rhythm?

During the Play-Along video both John and Aldrine are doing a combination of fingerpicking and strumming throughout the song. However, there is no set pattern to their rhythm playing. If you would like to strum along with the song, feel free to use a simple, steady down-up-down-up strum. Use the following video to practice:

When you're able to switch to the correct chords at the right times and do this simple strum along to the song, congratulations! Go back to the Play-Along video at the top of the page and play through the whole song, strumming through it. Awesome, you've just played the intermediate version of this song!

STEP 4 - What's Really Being Played on Ukulele

Watch the video below to get a sense of what Aldrine is doing with his left (fretting) hand. You'll really have to experiment with fingerpicking and strumming different things to figure out what he's doing with his right hand. Aldrine alternates between strumming and fingerpicking, with no set patterns, so we aren't able to offer a rhythm practice for this. You'll have to experiment, play along, find a fingerpicking that works for your own style. For advanced players, this is a great way to observe and learn by doing.

Once you've found the groove and can play something that fits nicely into what John, Aldrine, and Mike are playing, you can now add your own rhythm to the song! Go back to the Play-Along video at the top of the page and play through the whole song, switching through the chords and adding your own rhythm. Great job, you completed the advanced version of this song.

STEP 5 - Improvising a Picking

During the Play-Along, John calls out "Pāʻani!" to Aldrine, indicating that he wants Aldrine to come up with a solo. Aldrine improvises a solo, apparently out of thin air. How did he do it? Check out the video below for some insight into Aldrine's thought process and how you can improvise a solo for "Island Style" on your own.

Using the video below, try your hand at creating your own improvised ukulele solo! We've lowered the audio on Aldrine's ukulele, so you can play right along with John Cruz in the space intended for a solo. Play around with the two "islands" in the key of Bb, the harmony notes, and parallel octaves. Experiment to see which melodies work and which ones don't. Relax and have fun - it's a really easy, no pressure way to play around with soloing on your ukulele.

What an opportunity to jam with one of Hawaii's musical legends! This one is a great practice for ukulele players of all skill levels. For beginners just getting used to playing in the key of Bb, it's a simple song to help get your feet wet. For advanced players who want a challenge or need practice improvising, it's the perfect jam. Have fun & let us know what you think. And as always, if you have any questions send a message, we're here for you!

-UU Staff


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