Lizzie’s Luxury Straps

I love people who make things, I love beautiful things, and I LOVE LIZ!  Elizabeth Olney makes BEAUTIFUL THINGS!    …and Christmas is just around the corner!


Well-worn pieces from Liz- many are more than 10 years old

I have known Liz for years…nearly 30! We met, mere pups, in NYC at a time when every woman I met in Manhattan had an industrial sewing machine in their loft. It was a creative time for me and for NY, when artists could still afford to live there.  Like all the artistic women I know, Liz has done many things, but she is best known for her sought-after creations in leather.

lizzy, back in the day

Lizzy(with Seji and Mika), back-in-the-day

If you know me, or have seen pictures of me performing you have seen Liz’s work.  The flowers in my hair are her leather clips.  The sparkling bracelets I wear are hers. The handbags and wallets, key chains… Liz’s amazing leathers.

She’s put purses on oscar winning shoulders and belted the best of them.  This past year I asked her to make a ukulele strap for Daniel Ward, so he could shine as literally as he does figuratively.  They are EXQUISITE.


Dazzling Daniel teaching a workshop at St Andrew’s Church, UFGB 2016

Like extended versions of her Swarovski Sparkle Bracelets they catch the sun or stage lights and shower a million rainbows around you.  Lined with lambskin, the strap is soft as butter against the skin.  Simple, elegant and dead sexy, this is the ultimate gift (or gift to self) for any ukulele player. She will also make them without the sparkles, if you prefer.

We worked together to make a versatile length strap, that would fit both me and Daniel as we share instruments on stage.  It slips on to either two strap buttons or on an end button and around the headstock. (On his tenor sized KoAlohas, Daniel prefers the strap around the headstock, to balance the length and weight, while on concert Ohanas we like it to go button-to-button, and keep out of the way of the left hand)

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Black-on-black: subtle and sexy

Liz prefers to make things one at a time, special order, and her prices are INCREDIBLY REASONABLE.  Check out her amazing color choices for leathers and stones, check in with her about what is available now, and ORDER NOW for the holidays. (She gets mighty busy from October on)liz purse

Liz’s Travel bag… Don’t leave home without it–  I don’t!


SPIGA! UPGRADED shipping this week!

If you wanted to get a COLOR-ALONG Ukulele book, Cup of Tea CD or PLAY! CD from SukeyJumpMusic as a holiday gift, or to order EL UKULELE from Daniel Ward as a holiday gift…

we want to be sure they get to you ON TIME!  So we are offering UPGRADED shipping until December 19th.  Everything will go out PRIORITY MAIL.

(and as a thank-you for those of you who read this, if you mention the word “SPIGA!” in your order, we will give you a free CD with your order! Just tell us which one you would like added!)

Merry happy merry!

Love, Daniel and Heidi

Jack-of-all (profligate) Trades.

As if “musician” and “actor” weren’t enough improvident career choices I can now add “writer”. What’s next?  Perhaps I will take up landscape painting! Epic poetry! Middle-aged ballet! Or maybe I’ll go back to school and finish a degree … in art history.

me and my big mouth

me and my big mouth

Ukulele Magazine is the first prosecution witness to the newsstand with two pieces of evidence: a short article I wrote for them and an ad for our forthcoming book, COLOR-ALONG UKULELE. Sometime soon Stories of Music will corroborate the evidence, so I admit my guilt and accept the consequences.


I am a little behind on my website update, but very soon there will be a page, a widget, a button a link… all that.  For now, if you want to order you can send me a message here and I will see it through.

Thanks again to James Barnett for the elegant B&W photo, Mark Lerner for the amazing graphic design and El Rey for the Color-Along art

Drum Roll…..

April 1, 8 PM we will raise a glass and toast all the people who have kicked in to make sure COLOR-ALONG Ukulele comes into being!

heidi-daniel-canals 120

Do I wish I could do this without crowd funding? Yes!  But…  I am not saying it is a bad thing. I learn so much about the art of asking, and every time I ask, I clarify what it is I really want to do.

I want to share music, and see the positive effects it has on people’s lives.  All ages of people- in as many possible places and situations as I can reach.  I want to see people connect. I am powerless to do more than any other voter in the grand scheme of the world.  I am trapped in the consuming cycle of the society I was fortunate enough to be born into.

I don’t see myself going Ted Kozynsky or Mother Theresa, but I do feel like I am doing what I can to make a difference: teach, laugh, play, share.  That’s what I got, and I am grateful to be recieving the validation and support I need to move forward with my work.

If you have been waiting for the final hours…  they have come!

After I empty that glass in your honor I will probably be even more maudlin than usual, so I will stay away from the computer.



Pre-orders are being taken now through KICKSTARTER for our NEW BOOK:

KSUke Songbookhoriz header640 x 480

UPDATE: Daniel is now offering Pre-Orders for the Arpeggio Meditations book of studies. Print is set for mid September-Oct.

Go to to get yours.


The site is hot and business has been brisk! In less than 24 hours, more than 160 copies have been ordered. We are excited to have been promoted to “staff Pick” on the Kickstarter!

Color-Along Ukulele is a method book with illustrations designed to entice beginning players of all ages, and includes companion recordings– great for use in the classroom or at home.

Fun lessons and illustrations by El Rey with recordings to boot!  Woot!

Fun lessons and illustrations by El Rey with recordings to boot! Woot!

BIG THANKS to all the backers who jumped in on the first day: for believing in this project, for pledging the funds we need to finish.  Your orders will allow us to get to work on the art, recordings and deliver it to the printers.  In plenty time for the holidays. (What? Christmas already?)

And big thanks for your generosity towards others.  At least 100 of the books just bought are being directed to the hands of  kids ready to learn the ukulele in places like Haiti, India, and Mexico where we are partnered with smart organizations.  And we know a bunch of kids stateside, from California to New York who would love books in their schools and libraries.

These girls are in the ukulele program we started in Ajijic last month with the CUL Kids!

These girls are in the ukulele program we started in Ajijic last month with the CUL Kids!

Lalo, el maestro in Mexico, teaching his new class.  He was our second order!

Lalo, el maestro in Mexico, teaching his new class. He was our second order!

Please click on the site, watch the great movie edited with love and skill by Daniel’s niece Kirsten, shot by Lisa Udelson and staring her beautiful son and his friends.  Check out the rewards, which include art by El Rey, our artist.

Who wouldn't want an original by this handsome monkey-squid?

Who wouldn’t want an original by this handsome monkey-squid?

We’ll even make you dinner!

....actual platings may vary...

….actual platings may vary…

We are pleased as punch with this book and we think you will be too!  Hear the whole story on Kickstarter.  Check it out! click here:   COLOR-ALONG UKULELE

And a reminder- if you are in LA we start classes at U-Space TOMORROW! (2/28) at 10:30 am for families!  Hope to see you there!

Life Skills not Land Fill (Holiday shopping guide 2013)

Instead of giving a “thing” this year- how about giving…. permission!  To yourself, first, and then to those you love.

Permission not to follow the rules, to follow your heart.  To share the wealth of love rather than the poverty of obligation.  Or to give the most precious of gifts- your time and affection in a communal act of sharing a meal, a conversation or a song.  The giving of gifts is about connection.  And so is music.


This year Hanukkah came and went mighty early, but we are not slowing down on the Dreidel song.  It is my favorite Holiday party tune.  For one thing it only has 2 chords so even the newest player can join in.  And non- players can get in on the improvising of the verses.  We sing it as a rhyming game-  each “making” our dreidel out of what ever crazy thing we can think of- and then twisting a rhyme. “Dreidel, dreidel , dreidel, I made you out of…sugar! And now my pretty dreidel is a dried up little booger!”   (Highbrow!)

This year we made a dreidel for real. “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, made from a CD!  I like to spin my dreidel- won’t you spin it with me!”

It’s a scratched disc turned upside down, the hebrew characters drawn on in sharpie.  We hot-glued a marble in the middle for the first one, but it fell out after repeated play.  In a moment of crafty inspiration we used an eye– the kind one would use when making a stuffed animal- and it works like a charm! (we do have some of the oddest odds ‘n’ ends around here.)

Our other favorite holiday song we are sharing this year is “I Saw Three Ships”.  Sung to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” it is instantly accessible.

“I saw three ships come sailing in, I saw three ships come sailing in, I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day in the Morning” is the best known verse.  In the next verse we ask “What do you think was in those ships, what do you think was in those ships, what do you think was in those ships on Christmas Day in the morning?”

And then the fun part:  following the same form we sing  the answers.  Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, Toys and gifts, Silly kids….

Listen to a gorgeous version of this song (without the silly verses) on Elizabeth Mitchell and You are My Flower’s brand-new holiday album “The Sounding Joy”  .  This is an gorgeous collection of songs played and arranged with so much love you will want to have every one of them in your heart to share forever.  They are old songs with so much connection they resonate long and deep.  Your grandmother might know these songs.  Your children definitely should know them.  When people record music like this they are sharing a huge gift- teaching us the songs we need to know to make our lives better.

I look around at the pain and the troubles in life- my own small problems and those of others who facenfar more difficult circusmtances then I will ever know- sometimes I wonder- what is the point?  What is there to celebrate?  What can we do? What is it that makes it all worthwhile?  The answer always comes back the same: LOVE.  Joining others in song is bringing about peace.  Harmony is harmony.  Connecting to one another, finding and sharing love, making just one sparkling moment of music with one another- that’s all there really is.  And it’s worth it.

Share a song this year.  It is the most beautiful gift in the world.  Here’s a link to a song for you– It’s not a commercial recording- just a rehearsal track I made for the 5th grade girls at one of my schools who wanted a challenge.   I made the arrangement, Daniel recorded it in the bedroom and slapped on a bunch of church-y reverb.  I made it for practical reasons: so they could listen to it over and over and learn their parts.  Do I care whether it’s “good enough” to share?

No.  It is.  It’s good enough because it is full of love.

Now- give yourself permission to share a song, whether or not it is “ready” or “good”.  Give it with love.  You will be giving the greatest gift in the world!  (and if you do- please- write and tell me about it- that will be a gift to me!)

Holiday Ukulele Gift Guide

I am often asked to recommend ukuleles for purchase.  Here is my list for 2012, from the cheapest to the finest and lots inbetween plus the most neccesary accessories.

 very ukulele christmas!

But, let me begin by urging you consider  spending more.

When I turned a certian age I bought myself  what I referred to as my “mid-life crisis present”.  A Kamaka Ota San.  It was waaaay more money then I had.   My teacher, the beloved John Zhender, was dying.  I had been playing the Kamaka weekly, pulling it off the wall at McCabes for several months when I came for my  lesson.  It was made for a low G, (which was how John liked to play), it was beautiful in every way, made of koa with rope binding and a creamy tone.  Fancy.  I wanted it, but I thought I wasn’t a good enough player to warrant such an extravagance.  John encouraged me and in a moment of weakness I put it on lay away.  (and a serious hardshell case for it to travel in!)

Best thing I ever did.  I got it on my birthday, took it to John’s house for a visit when he was in hospice.  Two days later he passed away.  I Played it at his memorial service. Since then I have played it almost every day, and I believe I have grown into it.  I am still not a great player, but it has become my voice.  I don’t know if my journey would have been the same without the inspiration which a beautiful instrument gave me.  Not that you have to go all the way on your first instrument, or on a present for a child.  But if you listen to an instrument, find one with a beautiful voice, you may want to hear that voice all the more often.

The Ohana and the Kamaka at Austin City Limits Festival

The Ohana and the Kamaka at Austin City Limits Festival

So….Let’s start at the middle, and with a full disclosure.  Ohana has been very generous to the Sukey Jump Band this year and even took Daniel and myself to China (see the last few posts).  However,  I played an Ohana for several years before any of this came to pass.  (pause for another personal story)

I wanted a good instrument with a pick up to plug in for stage shows.  I sure didnt want to drill a hole in my Kamaka, so I went with my very small purse to McCabes.  They set me up with an instrument that had been damaged and repaired, putting it in my very meager price range.  I loved it, and have treasured it since, cracks and all.

For mid-range instruments, even starter mid-range I recommend Ohana.  This is not just an endorsement talking,  I really do like their stuff.  I also love their company.  Small and sweet, a more decent crew you never met.  The owner, Louis Wu, personally rolls his sleves up to do set up on even the least expensive models.  That’s him in our Owl and the Pussycat video shot in the warehouse.

Of the starter soprano models I like the pineapple uke, pk-10s.  This shape is not usually my first choice, but it’s got a great sound, a little fuller then the standard shape. I use their concert model ck 10 as my “kit”, and if you have borrowed an instrument from me in the last year that would be it.  They do well with a Low G, which, as you may know, is the way I roll.  Even beginners deserve a good instrument.  Trust me, it is well worth a little extra to have a pleasant tone and good action.

My main axe is a CK 50G.  It rocks.  In this video Daniel plays the tenor version and I play my concert at radio station KDHX in St Louis durring spin around the  Musical Merry Go Round with  Grandpa Paul Stark.  I also like their willow-sided ones and I really like the Martin-inspired soprano I noodled around with in China.  (but I don’t know the stock number)

If you want better you gotta go handmade.  BIG price jump.

Elevator up…..

All the way to Michael DaSilva.

Michael making something beautiful

Michael making something beautiful

Really, go all the way.  Go meet him, hang in his shop. Once you do you will never want a factory instrument again.  You will pine for the hand made beauty of his instruments.  I LOVED the one he made for James hill.  It has the sexiest cutaway I have ever caressed.  His shop is a beautiful home for the heart of a musician and he is the dearest man you will ever meet.  Not that Michael’s are the most expensive instruments out there.  He is probably overly modest in his pricing.  I do think they are among the sweetest.  They are alive.  They sing.  It is a joy to hold them in your arms.

The James hill model.   Tasty.

The James hill model. Tasty.

Elevator down….

The best of the bottom.

Buying something for a 2 year old?  Want something to keep in the back of your car?  Take to the beach?  First timer wanting to try it out, no risk?  Want to buy 20 ukes to give as gifts to all you know?   Diamond head.  Get it on Amazon.  CHEEP.  Like around 30 bucks.Oddly, I have foundthe shiny painted ones to have a better sound then the “natural” wood.  Remember, you get what you pay for,but this time around you get a playable instrument, cheerful and fun.  These used to be my “kit” before I upgraded to Ohana concert ukes.  Change the strings and they are better then most instruments costing twice that. Here is a video of a young man playing one to great effect.  (and I am poud to say, covering one of my songs!)

at $30 bucks nobody gets hurt

at $30 bucks nobody gets hurt


Tuner    the Snark.

chord book        The Alfred Handy Guide

instructional CDs   Jim deVille  or Fred Sokolow

and of course, I would be remiss not to indulge in a moment of SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION not to recommend my CD PLAY, which is comprised of many of the simple songs I  use to teach ukulele to all ages.  The included booklet has all the chords and lyrics, and it’s a good time for the youngest of kids and even grandparents.  It has a wacky edge and adults dig it too.  At least the cool ones.

The ultimate gift for any ukulele player is lessons!

I still take lessons whenever I can, either with Fred Sokolow or Daniel Ward.  He taught traditional sevillanas for ukulele at a recent workshop at McCabes, and I really dug being introduced to that!  Lots of teachers, like Jim, Daniel and myself are available to teach via skype, so you are never too far away.  And you don’t have to smell us!

More affordable are workshops and group lessons.  Great music shops, like McCabes in Santa Monica often host them.  I will be leading one there on February 2nd, the lovely Jim Beloff has one there in January.  Check in with your local ukulele club and see if they know what’s going on in your area.

A fun way to give a gift without spending a dime is to share your songs on    I will be making my friends and family some charts for lullabies and putting them up as a Holiday gift, and then sending them home-recorded MP3s.  Ain’t technology wonderful?

So, what are you doing sitting around reading this?  Go buy a uke and download a chart (maybe buy my CD) and MAKE SOME MUSIC!