Maybe you’ve heard someone singing My Dog Has Fleas when tuning their Ukulele? But where did that silly little phrase come from?

Music has always been filled with mnemonic devices – remember memorising Every Good Boy Deserves Football for the notes on the five lines of the musical stave (EGBDF)?

So why My Dog Has Fleas?

MDHF do not correspond to notes! The four strings of the Ukulele are actually tuned to GCEA. Maybe it’s one of those questions where we simply don’t know the real reason.

Maybe it’s because the Hawaiian word ‘Ukulele’ means Jumping Flea…?

As far as Richard Durrant is concerned it’s been a very intense, four stringed start to the year with those four strings set, throughout January and February, in standard ukulele tuning gCEA:

Note that the lower case ‘g’ is no typo – it represents the re-entrant, bottom string of the uke. ‘Re-entrant’ meaning the lower string is tuned one octave higher than your ears would expect.

Richard with ukulele

The ukulele has this feature in common with the G Banjo which has a high G string as its bottom string with its own characteristic tuning peg sticking out halfway up the neck.

The baroque guitar would also commonly have not one but two re-entrant, “bottom” strings which could be written in shorthand as adGBE.

Richard is very fond of reminding people to tune their ukes in My Dog Has Fleas tuning.  It’s even the title of a short film which can be seen on Amazon Prime: Richard Durrant – My Dog Has Fleas. This was filmed last year by Peter Lisney during Richard’s orchestral project.

Watch the trailer from ‘My Dog Has Fleas’…

Richard celebrates the completion of his first ukulele quartet with a premiere performance at Ropetackle Arts Centre and the printing of a limited edition, souvenir score which can be ordered from the website.

The premiere will be played by Richard with no less than thirty of his Ukulele Circuit Trainers who have been rehearsing three nights a week for the big day.

‘I love the purity of four ukuleles playing this music – but when my one solo uke is joined by three large groups playing the other parts the effect is rather magical and hypnotic.’

Richard’s ukulele year continues with performances at the Ukulele Festival of Scotland from 24-26 May before travelling to North Wales for the Meet The Ukulele Makers Festival from 31 May to 2 June.

And this article could not be complete without a lovely picture of Richard’s (Flea free) dog, Bollo, chilling out to the sound of the ukulele- courtesy of Peter Lisney…

Richard Durrant

Richard Durrant’s first ukulele quartet ‘Tan y Bwlch’ is soon to receive its first performance given the instrument a new status in the world of classical music…

Pic: Ukulele Quartet Poster

Since producing The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s 2004 album ‘The Secret of Life’, Richard is becoming increasingly influential in the ukulele world. In his 2012 solo tour of Paraguay, he was invited to play unaccompanied Bach on his uke on top of the Itaipu Dam overlooking Brazil, and in 2018 took part in a royal command performance at Buckingham Palace. And his wonderful six-movement ukulele concerto has ‘smuggled the little wooden box into the world of classical music’.

‘Richard’s ukulele compositions are masterful. They’re full of intriguing and catchy musical ideas which transcend the boundaries of academic or popular music – a game changer for the ukulele.’

George Hinchliffe, co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

When Richard was invited to perform at the finale of this summer’s Meet the Ukulele Maker’s Festival he saw it as a great opportunity to write and perform his first ukulele quartet. Set in Plas Tan y Bwlch, a former stately country house in North Wales’s Snowdonia National Park, Richard took its name as the title for his new quartet.

Tan y Bwlch

‘I’ve been visiting Snowdonia for over thirty years and I hope my love for the place comes across in this new music. But you have to understand this is an Englishman’s view – it’s me clutching my uke and gazing in awe at the mountains.’

Richard Durrant


The World Première will take place at Ropetackle Arts Centre on Wednesday 27 February performed as part of a concert featuring Richard playing solo guitar, tenor guitar and ukulele. Tan y Bwlch will be performed by the composer plus thirty two of his Ukulele Circuit Trainers.

The performance at MUMF will be on 1 June. Richard is calling for participants who can download the resources online and watch specially prepared instructional videos to prepare for the workshops and performance at the festival

This three movement work can be performed by either four ukulele players, or three groups of players plus a soloist. The two outer movements are written in a minimalist style with intriguing, repeated patterns that suit the four ukuleles perfectly, conjuring up a beautiful, filmic landscape of sound. 

Snowdon Railway
Snowdon Railway

In Durrant’s ingenious score the four ukes perfectly mimic a Welsh train rushing through Snowdonia and there is even a brief interlude where the train pulls into a misty little station to take on water, coal and sandwiches!

In total contrast the middle movement is set to become a huge hit with uke lovers everywhere – it is the ukulele’s very own ’Orange Blossom Special’. But here Durrant is evoking the sound of the famous narrow gauge  Welsh Mountain Railway instead of the American express locomotive of that famous, bluegrass fiddle tune. 

Have a look at the second movement ‘Cledrau’…