The last 18 months of Chicks with Picks Melbourne has been a challenge. But, we’ve made it through four lockdowns and into our fifth. I’ve learned to change tack really quickly and can now offer classes online via Zoom as well as live – when we can. Lately we’ve been diving into quiet folk songs such as At 17 by Janis Ian, Let her Go by Passenger and a lovely version of Daydream Believer arranged by Renee and Jeremy.This week, I thought I’d mix it up with a kooky sidetrack into an old TV Theme song called The Fishin’ Hole. It’s a little bluegrassy and great for guitars and ukuleles.

I’ve been busy creating new online short courses – stay tuned for that – and have applied for the Melbourne ukulele festival – fingers crossed.

If you’re stuck in lockdown and would like to sign up for a few classes email Helen at chickswithpicksmelbourne@gmail.com The beauty of online learning is that you can be anywhere in the world. I hope you’re somewhere beautiful.

Yours in strumming,



 Chicks with Picks Melbourne is now offering guitar, ukulele and songwriting lessons online.

If you’re stuck at home looking at that neglected instrument in the corner and thinking, it might be time to while away some hours learning to strum some songs, drop us a line on our contact page.  We’re here to get you picking and strumming to your favourite songs from the comfort of your own home. 

Guitars Forever. Jenny Barrett, 2019

Guitars Forever. Jenny Barrett, 2019

I’m currently enjoying a Chicks with Picks time, but I first heard guitar at home in the 1950s when I was just 4 years old. I was transported by the sounds. My mother, Alice, had played electric guitar in dance bands and at parties in Melbourne during WW2.  When raising us three kids and running a business with Dad, she often played at home – for her own fun as well as for parties. Alice had great musical intuition and loved making music all her life. I recall the lazy Sunday afternoons in the warmth of the loungeroom … the sounds her picks and slide made on that ‘steel guitar’ on her lap with its electric pick-up and her sturdy little amplifier by her side are keys in the original soundscape of my childhood.  

No prizes for guessing who bought me my first guitar for my 17th birthday, a ¾ Yamaha acoustic. I still have that guitar and always will, although it suffers from too many parties, multiple house moves and camping trips and the wrong (steel) strings. But strumming away on that guitar with my high school friend Sally on her bongos with her magical singing voice … that was the best! We did stuff like Dinah Lees’ “I’m Walkin’” and “Don’t Ya Know Yockomo” and early Beatles. Later I had a nice Epiphone that was a real friend for strumming and crooning old and new American folk songs during an alone period in my 20s, the guitar and the Collie dog my cosy companions. I have bought and sold or lost other guitars (and dogs) along the way and now play a comfortable small-body acoustic Blueridge.

I’m now retired and having confronted the limitations of the C/F/G/Am strumming that I learned from my teenage rock star boyfriend, I’m taking lessons. I love that Helen Begley offers Chicks with Picks for women to enjoy the guitar together. We cover an eclectic range of pieces and techniques and can choose to pursue pieces of interest. I’ve given up trying to play barre chords and regret not having worked harder to master the technique when my fingers were stronger and nimble. But I love that the guitar is so forgiving.  

I play just for myself, often losing myself in the pleasure and the satisfaction of making music and making progress. Still, during my guitar practice sessions, I treasure an occasional cheer from my husband in appreciation of the musical accompaniment to his writing sessions. Most reliable though is during my usual late afternoon practice sessions, my otherwise busy young Australian Terrier reclines with head rested on the carpeted first stair near by, a perfectly contented and uncritical audience. 

Jenny Barrett, 2019

Melbourne Ukulele Festival

We are excited to announce that we will be playing at the Melbourne Ukulele Festival on Saturday 14th March. We will be presenting a performance at 3.30pm. Then at 4.15pm we will invite everyone to join us for a Jam session. Bring your ukulele to play along with us! https://www.muf.org.au

End of Year Jam Sessions- All Welcome!

Chicks with Picks Melbourne are pleased to open our doors to newcomers and those thinking about learning ukulele or guitar in a fun and supportive learning environment with other music loving women.

Beginners to advanced welcome. It’s fun, it’s friendly and it’s free!

We have two sessions on offer! Come and try out some guitar or ukulele, learn a chord or two and brush up on some new songs.

Date: Tuesday 17th December

Time: 7pm

Location: Location available on request

Date: Wednesday 18th December 

Time: 7pm

Location: Siteworks, 33 Saxon Street

If you’re new to ukulele or guitar or have a banjo or mandolin lurking in the cupboard, we’ll get you playing a coupla chords and you can join the strumming throng.

Contact Kathleen or Helen at chickswithpicksmelbourne@gmail.com for more details and to register your interest.