Melodic Meditations for Ukulele

It’s HERE!!!!

Daniel Ward’s new book has arrived- and it is glorious! 16 new studies which focus on melody including 6 duets with pieces from Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele, perfect for groups or partner playing.

Additionally, there are two transcriptions of songs performed on his CD El Ukulele, the classical finger style Aire for the Cat Rancher and his flamenco tremolo take on Aloha ‘Oe.

There is plenty for every level of player in this book, whether you are just starting out or you are looking for serious ukulele repertoire. The book includes free audio downloads of Daniel performing the studies. There are also video lessons available for purchase or rental for each piece.

Go to his website, DanielWard.net and order yours today– let him know if you’d like yours signed, he’d be right chuffed!

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MEDITATIONS FOR (and on) UKULELE

UPDATE: Daniel’s book is OUT!!!  And so are the VIDEO TUTORIAL!   Go to www.Danielward.net to get yours.

 

For the last year, Daniel has been writing “studies”.  If you are someone who has dipped their toe into classical music, you know that these can sometimes stand alone as solo performance pieces (think Villalobos) or be exercises to strengthen your playing (like Hanon for piano). Daniel’s split the difference.  They are simple pieces to play in loops, beautiful to listen to, calming and centering to play. Students and festival workshop participants have been enthusiastic about them, so he’s working on putting them together in a book.

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Daniel will be teaching a sampler of studies at U-Space this weekend, and the following weekend he will be joining me teaching ALL AGES- that means kids, adults and in-between.  And then, there’s that Sukey Jump Band show at McCabes the next day.

UKULELE MEDITATIONS WITH DANIEL WARD

This Saturday, March 11 at U-Space: TWO workshops with ukulele master Daniel Ward highlighting pieces from his forthcoming book “Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele”.

Arpeggio Meditations are soothing, rhythmic and melodic instrumental compositions for repeated playing. They teach both right and left hand techniques, and offer a relaxing discipline for improving tone and musicality. The simplest exercises are great for all levels of player, from the novice to the professional, who is ready to focus intently on technical mastery and expression. The more difficult exercises include challenging patterns and Latin styles.

TWO one-hour workshops, $20 for one, $35 for both.         Sandwiches will be available for purchase between classes for attendee convenience.

11:30 am to 12:30 am   All-Level Arpeggio Meditation,

1:00 to 2:00pm     Montuno Arpeggio Meditation

 

Saturday, March 18th at U-Space: TWO workshops for ALL-AGES Active participation in the arts is one of the best ways to inspire creativity and confidence–and the `ukulele is fun to boot!

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Family style!

`UKULELE FOR All-Ages with HEIDI SWEDBERG and DANIEL WARD : A workshop for adults, kids, and families starting on their musical journey. Sing and strum a dozen songs in just one lesson. This class is open to all, ages 5 and up. (Participating parents MUST accompany children between the ages of 5-8. Children 8 and up may come alone, though parental participation is highly recommended)

10:30 am to 11:30 am   $25 includes “Color-Along Ukulele Method Book” and participating parent admission, (or $35 for both classes! Sandwiches will be available for purchase between classes for attendee convenience.)

CONTINUING UKE FOR ALL AGES- Kids, families, adults learn together, adding picking techniques, new chords and rhythms. Increase your skills so your musical enjoyment can grow.

12 noon to 1:00 PM $20

SUKEY JUMP BAND KID’S CONCERT at MCCABES

Sunday, March 19, 10:30 am  $10, kids under 2 FREE

Mccabes will be providing some percussion and kid-friendly instruments for the wee folk participate with.  Come play, sing and have fun with Heidi and the Sukey Jump Band at our favorite LA venue!

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Here are some other events we have scheduled:

April 8  ISLAND SOUL Daniel and I will be teaching FREE classes during the day (more details TBA)   Chapman University, Orange CA

April 29    BLACKBIRD GUITARS

April 30   DaSILVA UKULELE

May 12-14                 MIGHTY UKE DAY, LANSING MI

May 19-21                 LAS CRUCES UKEFEST 2017 Our friends in the southern NM are putting on their first full-on festival- My Mom and I are working up a piece!

June 19-July 31        MARLBOROUGH SUMMER SCHOOL I will be teaching early childhood music and ukulele on a beautiful campus in the heart of Los Angeles. If you have little ones needing some summer day care, or older kids wanting enrichment, this is a chance to breathe some rare air at a (somewhat above) ground level price.

June 21    MAKE MUSIC DAY at the SKIRBALL CENTER  we will be teaching a ukulele class at noon.  Come play!

July 30      SUKEY JUMP BAND at the   SKIRBALL CENTER  We loved our Bill Grahm show at the Skirball two years ago, and we are thrilled to return for a show during the Paul Simon exhibit.  Expect songs related to this great artist, from folk, to pop, to world beat. An amazing opportunity to really stretch and shine, teach and jam!

August 11-13           AUBURN GOLD PAN UKULELE FESTIVAL We are thrilled to join Dani Joy at this vibrant new festival in a town we have never experienced! Can’t wait to meet the lovely folks of Auburn!

September 27          PORT TOWNSEND UKULELE FESTIVAL Now that there is an OYSTER BAR on the premices, this event may be unchallengably the tastiest ever! This event sells out shortly after it is announced every year. If you are already signed up- see you there! If not, look into it, and cue up for next year.

October 14                ANTELOPE VALLEY UKULELE FESTIVAL   Honored to be returning to Lancaster to celebrate the love of ukulele and community with our desert ukulele ohana.

 

How Old (or Young) Should a Kid Be to Learn the Ukulele

Ready to play?

Ready to learn? Ready to play? Or both!

UPDATE: COLOR-ALONG UKULELE, our book for young people who want to learn uke is available at www.Danielward.net Be sure to download the FREE SOUNDTRACK!

Is my child old enough to learn ukulele?  At what age is a kid ready?
A friend with twins asked me this question in message.  I started to write. And kept writing.  A few hours later I realized I had written a blog post. This answer pertains not just to our  book, COLOR-ALONG UKULELE  but to all kinds of questions parents have about kids, music and ukulele.
      There is a Long Answer and a short one.
The short answer ….it all depends on the kid, approach and the expectations.
      Here it comes– brace yourself, pour a drink: The Long Answer.
      Kids learn through a feedback loop, and progress is determined by their developmental readiness in response to their environment and their temperament.  When children are given stimulus to emulate, especially stimulus  which relates to them and to which they can relate– they take off in the areas that engage them.  I am sure you have either experienced or heard from parents how much faster younger siblings walk, talk etc… than their older counterparts.  One reason is that they are surrounded by stimulus relating to them, showing them how to be a child.
      Music, like language, is learned initially through a feedback loop.  It is a rare youngster who, at 5, is ready to physically finger chords or is mentally able to sit and play for more than a few moments.  But that does not mean that they are not learning! They are learning all the time, and music is no exception.
      The illustrations in the book, the fun pictures and the chord diagrams, give a visual focal point for the youngest kids.  Many wee folk love to look at pictures.  The recordings create the feedback loop of sound.  Kids learn intervals, melodies, and lyrics with alacrity.  When we know a song a song by heart before we try to learn to play it on an instrument, the outcome can be pure joy (and less frustration).
      Having an instrument on hand which a child can play with, and eventually play, is a great thing at any age.  $50 models are well suited for this.  Instruments, not toys; nothing precious–if they get broken… meh. Here’s my favorite starter: Ohana sk-10 from MIM
Tune them as often as you can.  Write “G” “C” “E” and “A” on the tuning pegs and number the strings with a sharpie!  Put a sticker on the fretboard where a finger should be placed to make a C chord.  Let a kid put stickers on the body with impunity!  Draw a smiley face on the top/side of the instrument to re-enforce “this end up”. Encourage strumming with a steady beat and clap along, saying “one, two, three, four…one, two…”.
      On the whole, I see kids in 3rd and 4th grade  having the motor skills, ability and  developmental maturity to really learn.  That is when I can take a classroom of 30+ kids and, in the course of a few weeks,  get them to play songs with 4 chords.

Ready or not.... here she comes! AKA musician's kid having fun in a dressing room.

Ready or not…. here she comes! AKA musician’s kid having fun in a dressing room.

      I have known a few kids- very few- who are really ready to play at 5 or 6.  Often they are kids of musicians who have grown up in households filled with music and experimentation, rehearsing; who have watched their parents sweat and rejoice the same way they do. Kids who are driven to practice, and know how to do it. It is pretty rare. (In fact, just as many musician’s kids are apathetic towards the idea of playing or performing)
      I do know that young kids who learn along side their parents learn better.  Children learn through watching us model behavior far more readily that they do through instruction. Some parents who feel insecure about their musical abilities worry about modeling effectively.  I don’t.  I think kids “ears”  grow irrespective of an adult’s shortcomings in pitch or rhythm.  To see a parent try, struggle, unafraid of failure… that is big. Perhaps even bigger than learning ukulele. Also, kids value what we value, and if they see music is important to you, it will be important to them.
      In private lessons or small groups I see kids at 6-8 able to focus and enjoy their achievements.  I have taught  private lessons for families in their homes.  A parent or two, and a couple of siblings, together sitting on the floor.  Rarely will a child of 5 or younger participate for more than 5 minutes.  Older kids may hang in for 15 or more. The parent will finish up the allotted time …and then some.  When I return the following week, I will often hear that the little kid was singing the song we covered and messing around with their instruments the next day.
      So- for the experience of making music, your kid is ready, regardless of age. They do it every day. Having an instrument to experiment on will give them tools they may be craving. They learn songs by ear fast- and never forget them!
The first 3 songs (in our book)  can be played by very young kids, 3 and up. They are strumming on the open strings of the ukulele, learning basic rhythm. Great developmentally appropriate goal!
But to really be able to play the instrument… probably 7-9 years is a realistic expectation.
They are NEVER too young to see and hear YOU learn to play!
What are you waiting for?!

All for uke and uke for ALL!

As you may know I am a BIG fan of music’s magical power to bring people together.  The songs we know connect us to people and places far and near.  Starting with the bond of lullaby and ending with the bagpipe’s requiem, music is with us all our lives.  I could go on and on… in fact, I do!

Family style!

Family style!  Photo by Jill Richards

I did just the other day to October Crifasi, who is writing an article for Ukulele Magazine about ukulele for kids (that’s the same magazine which had me on their cover last spring!).  We talked, among other things, about family music- how great it is to teach parents and kids together.  The bond it creates within the family, the service it does for both parent and child.  You can read about it in Ukulele Magazine’s next issue (unless they decide to not print it- you never know).

Or you can come and live the experience!  I have two series classes for families starting up:  A four-Saturday session starting February 28th at 10:30 am at Uspace– the new downtown LA ukulele shop-school-venue-cafe located in the Japanese American Cultural Center.  (I am also working on a week long kid’s ukulele summer camp there. More on that soon)

And a 3-Saturday 10:30 am series at McCabes in Santa Monica starting March 28th.

I am also hard at work on a book! If you have taken a class with me before you have probably taken home at least one of my handouts.  I have been illustrating my lessons, and when I teach an all-ages class I always have Art Stix  or crayons on hand to give the kids who get antsy mid lesson.  They can do some coloring while the adults keep playing.  They make their own songbooks, and by the end of a semester or session they have.. a bunch of sheets of paper that all get lost.

So- I decided it’s time to get it together!  Our current project is a ukulele method book with illustrations and companion recordings.  Copies will be available to pre-order through Kickstarter soon.  You will be hearing all about that once the campaign is launched!  The art by El Rey is FANTASTIC!  here is a sneak peek at the cover-

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So much going on! So many festivals coming up, concerts for families… I have not had a chance to post photos from all the great things that have just happened- like the trip to Mexico…. AMAZING!  If I can get the time together to make it back to the computer I will be popping some pictures up here as well as updating our schedule for the spring.  So many great opportunities to share music!  How lucky are we?

Meet McClelland!

If you have read every blog post I have ever written you might recognize Craig McClelland as part of the Sukey Jump Band, Vespus and Skumbaag, however I am excited to introduce him in a new light- as a uke teacher and member of the Smoking Jackets.  Craig is, you see, a man of many talents!

Craig has got both ends covered....

Craig has got both ends covered….

We are getting the jackets tailored for some shows at the beginning of November, and Craig will be flying out from his beautiful home in Sturgeon Bay, WI for music making and teaching in California.

First stop- McCabes Weekend Ukulele Warriors, November 1st, noon.

The next day we will be joined by John Bartlit, the forth (and yet unphotographed member) of the Smoking Jackets.  We have two shows on Sunday- the first is and 11 am Sukey Jump show at McCabes, the second is the 3 pm benefit at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena.

He's the good looking one in the fez

He’s the good looking one in the fez

Here is a little about Craig and what he will be teaching at McCabes:

Those Problem Chords – D Major and E Major (and more).

As a beginning ukulele player you find yourself facing many challenges. You find yourself asking how do I tune my uke, do I really look good in a bowtie, and just how do I pronounce ukulele anyway. Playing chords is just another of these challenges and just as you are getting a pretty good handle on how to play such common chords as G Major, C Major, F Major and A Major and are getting pretty good at switching between them, along come two chords that strike fear in the heart of every beginning ukester– D Major and of course, the dreaded E Major. In this workshop Craig McClelland will help you find ways to approach these most feared of chords – fingering variations, different voicings, and even out and out “cheats” that you can use at your next uke jam until you do master the preferred voicings – all while learning a couple of easy songs and having a fun time. If all goes well, we may even examine a few more common problem chords (although the decision to wear a bowtie is left completely to you).

Craig McClelland is a professional musician (bass, guitar, ukulele, and tuba) and instructor with over 30 years’ experience, presently working with the American Folklore Theatre and the Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, Wisconsin. Craig has taught music publicly and privately over the last 20 years after having studied bass at Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, as well as earning a BA in Music at University of New Mexico and an MA in Humanities from California State University – Dominguez Hills. He has been pleased to share his music with students of all levels, having taught in elementary schools, universities and all levels in between.

In addition to his teaching and theatre work, Craig can be seen around the country in such diverse ensembles as the Vespus Marimba Band, the Sukey Jump Band, Crossing 32nd Street, the Links Ensemble, The Gazebo Guys, and America’s only heavy-metal vaudeville troupe, Skumbaag. In 2012, Craig was honored when Skumbaag was chosen as Ensemble in Residence for the University of New Mexico International Composers Symposium, featuring a wide range of his music, including selections from his original musical, The Lubbock Lights.

When not performing, Craig likes to be with his family in Door County and uses the time for songwriting, playwriting as well as substitute teaching band, choir, and theatre in the public schools. He can frequently be found doing workshops such as this one.

Craig would also like to thank the fine folks at McCabe’s for this opportunity to share his love of ukulele with your community.

just don't bring up the bananna

just don’t bring up the bananna suit

Both of the fine photos of Craig were taken in PHX by James Barnett  WeTakeNicePictures.com

This last lousy one was taken by me

A working lunch at our PHX regional office.

A working lunch at our PHX regional office.

A Treat

I do love to cook.  And bake.  And travel .  And make music….

And now that I have been granted my dream job combining my three favorite things- travel, cooking and music I have become a food pornographer.  Every time I cook (which is about 3 times a day) the phone camera comes out.  There have been a stream of shameless posts on the facebook page for the retreat in Mexico coming up in January.

This morning was the first day of school for some in my house.  Occasion enough-  Let’s bake!

Do you know the muffin, man?

Do you know the muffin, man?

I must be honest- I lost my taste for sweet things long ago:  I am nonplussed by pies,  I scoff at scones, cake and candy leaves me cold.  But these blueberry muffins are different.  Although the recipe card modestly bears another woman’s name, these are My Mother’s Muffins and these are my madelines.  When the smell wafts into my memory I am filled with a sense of well being.  All is right with the world.  They were made when we had sleepover guests, or church functions, or on special mornings.  There were never any leftovers.  The tops, sugar crusted and golden brown were glorious.  The bottoms of each muffin would be examined thru their festive paper cups to determine which had the most blueberries.  Steaming hot halves were smeared with margarine from the little yellow tub.  Greedy stacks of empty muffin papers grew along side our breakfast plates, three or four pastel circles high, stained with fragrant crumbs and purple juice, attested to the muffin’s  irresistible powers.

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There was a time when I would substitute whole grain flower for the white stuff and reduce the sugar.  Meh.  These days I go all the way.  This morning I was out of oil and used softened butter instead,  (Margarine never made the journey from my mother’s pantry to mine) and I think that change may be a keeper.

Try these for a brunch or a gift if you are looking to increase your popularity.  They are simple, fast and easy.  You may have to double- or triple – the recipe.

1/3 cup oil (or softened butter)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup blueberries

Beat oil, milk, egg, vanilla and sugar together.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir into egg mixture.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Line cupcake tins with papers or grease tins.  Fill each with 1/4 cup batter.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon sugar over each muffin.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden topped.  Serve warm or cold, with or without butter.  Makes 10-12 muffins.

NEW Workshops at Wine Country

 

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Last year Wine Country Ukulele Festival was a wild and busy experience!  I was filling in for Andy Andrews as MC who was helping his son Eli recover from a terrible car crash. This year we have something to celebrate- their incredible success!  Eli is now back in his life surrounded by love in full bloom, love made stronger and richer by the ordeal and trials it passed through.

Between teaching classes, performing, doing a kid’s show and introducing all the incredible performers I met the lovely folks from UKULELE MAGAZINE who did a short interview with me and took a few pictures.  I was VERY surprised to see my face on the cover of the magazine four months later!  It’s like the cover of the Rolling Stone for uke players!

I am very happy to be returning this year as just a teacher and performer.  Andy’s shoes were a little too big for me, and I am relieved to be handing them back!

I will be teaching a bunch of new workshops and am working on my materials now, with Daniel’s help.  Yes, not only can he play, he can TRANSCRIBE!  Daniel’s got an all new curriculum as well.  I have copied the class descriptions below to give you an idea of what  you can sign up for- and I urge you to do it soon!  Some of the workshops are filling up already.  I must admit that I am particularly excited about the lyrical improv class, “Me and my Big Mouth”!  That one doesn’t even require you to play a uke!

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Learn to Play in a Day

Heidi Swedberg LOVES to teach absolute beginners. The more absolute, the better.  And by the end of one session, she guarantees you will be singing and playing songs on your uke and  laughing a heck of a lot.  While anyone, of any age, is welcome to attend this workshop, we ask that kids under 8 be accompanied by a participating adult.

 

Me and My Big Mouth

There’s a knack to thinking on your feet with your uke in your hand and being the life of the party. And one of the sure fire ways to make sure you, and your uke are invited back, is with this  little repertoire of fun songs  that allow you to make up the lyrics as you go along and throw in a punchline or two. Under the direction (and whacky inspiration) of Heidi Swedberg, who is a master of lyrical improvisation, you will learn how to use a couple of classic tunes to be as bawdy (or not) as you wish. It’s a terrific way to connect with your audience in a timely fashion and bring a smile to more faces than just your own. If you’ve ever seen Heidi in action and wondered “how does she do it?” come to this workshop and find out.

 

If You Had a Hammer

If you had a hammer, you’d probably hammer in the morning…..and all over this land.  But first you’d need to know how to swing it, and that’s what this workshop is all about. Here, Heidi Swedberg will work with you on a couple of popular tunes that you probably already know, but, with the addition of a few simple left-hand techniques, known as  hammers and pull-offs, you will be able to add  “grace” or melody notes  that will add piles of pizzazz to these, otherwise, very simple tunes. Not only that, you’ll come away with some fun songs to practice with, that will  help your left hand move confidently and powerfully across each of the strings and along the entire fretboard.

Freight Train, Freight Train

You, too, will be “going so fast,” once you have learned a few second-position chords and the simple, Travis picking pattern offered in this workshop by Heidi Swedberg. And what better song to practice it on than Elizabeth Cotton’s iconic song, Freight Train, Freight Train, a tune written more than 100 years ago and a great song to have in your quiver.  Plus, once you get this technique down, you’ll realize there are more tunes in your repertoire you can use this classic picking pattern with.  All aboard for the ride of your life!

Heart and Soul

No need to lose control, though, because Heidi Swedberg will guide you every step of the way as you navigate the Circle of Fifths, exploring the lovely chord progression in this great American standard.  And, as a bonus, you’ll learn the bridge!  (Nobody knows the bridge!)  Not only that, this workshop will open up a whole new world of musical insight that will carry over into just about every tune you’ll ever play on your ‘ukulele. Believe me; we all need a little heart and soul.

DANIEL”S WORKSHOPS

The Old Switcheroo

One of the biggest challenges facing any beginning player (and a number of more advanced players, as well) is switching the fingers on your left hand from one chord to another in a seamless and timely fashion. It’s hard!  But, it doesn’t have to be. In this workshop Daniel Ward will show you how to make those changes with little, or no, effort at all through a series of easy exercises and some expert advice that will let you relax and enjoy the music, without any pain or frustration.

Ethno-Ukeology

Take one tune and put it through several different style changes with your right hand and what have you got?  Ethno-ukeolgy.  From the friendly Travis pick to the more complex strums of  Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Ward will teach you how to  “cook” on the strings with some tasty spices, including (but not limited to) calypso, salsa, reggae, and country! Slow practice in class will make sure that you get it all under your skin before trying this at home, and handouts will make sure you get it right. Sounds like a hoot and necessary information to have under your belt. Plus you can have a little fun with it.   How about “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with a calypso beat?

Stormy Weekend Part 1

Actually, the title of the song is “Stormy Monday,” the blues classic that will serve as the foundation for this 2-part workshop by Daniel Ward. Learning to play the blues provides such a solid foundation for any player’s repertoire, that we recommend you take at least one of our blues workshops, even if you don’t take anything else.  In this one, developed for more experienced players, Daniel will cover both familiar and advanced chord shapes in time with the changes, as well as the pentatonic and blues scales in major and minor for soloing.  You can count on some good right hand attention too, exploring the strengths of finger-style, strumming, and using a pick.  By the end of the second workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. Part 1 is highly recommended if you want to take Part 2.

Stormy Weekend Part 2

This is an extension, primarily for more advanced players of Stormy Weekend, Part 1, focusing on the more advanced chord shapes and right hand technique, including  finger-style, strumming, and using a pick.  The blues classic “Stormy Monday” will serve as the foundation.  By the end of this workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. To get the most out of this workshop, you should take Stormy Weekend, Part 1.

All of Me!

Why not take all of me?  It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore and learn this iconic tune with Daniel Ward and discover all its lovely jazz changes without getting lost! And, since the tune itself travels through several different keys, you’ll start to get a feel for how the dominant chord can take you places you didn’t know you wanted to go!  And you’ll be learning some basic jazz strumming techniques at the same time. By the end of the session, you’ll not only have a new tune under your belt, you’ll also have a pocketful of tricks to apply to other songs of the genre. Can’t you see?  You’re no good without this.

Do the Fandango!

  1. 1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine, or 2. a foolish or useless act or thing. For our purposes, we’ll go with the first definition, a 12-count rhythm that requires some thumb work and fancy strumming, with temolo,  scales, and rageuados for the right hand, to get that traditional flamenco sound. And who better to give it to you than Daniel Ward, a professional flamenco guitarist for the past 30 years? With a traditional flamenco fandango under your belt, you’ll be set to play on your own for hours and sound simply amazing…not a foolish or useless thing at all. A low G is a plus if you have one, but skills and techniques learned here will work well with re-entrant tuning, as well.

(Heidi and Daniel don’t always refer to themselves in the third person, but when Heidi and Daniel do….  Thanks, Elaine DeMann for writing up such lively course descriptions!  Too good not to steal!)