Ukulele Holiday 2017

 

 

holiday blog shotLights and feasts and family and song- It’s that time of year! We all want to share something meaningful with those we love. This year, why not make it musical? Here are four ways to give gifts to self, gifts to the universe and gifts for all ages on your list this holiday season.

First- why not bring a song to your celebration? How about learning the uke just in time for the season of song? Here are our class listings for December at McCabes:

1-DAY INTRO TO UKULELE (HOLIDAY EDITION) JUST ADDED

Learn the basics of playing ukulele to your favorite holiday tunes! Pick up strumming, plucking, and chording a ukulele while singing along to Christmas, Hanukkah, and secular seasonal songs from many cultures.
Heidi Swedberg 10:30 – 11:30 AM Saturday, Dec 9 (1 session) $40
SIGN UP

HOLIDAY UKULELE JUST ADDED

Follow up Heidi’s one-day ukulele class with this more challenging course. Learn fun tunes that consist of few chords and simple arrangements. You’ll leave with plenty of songs to share with your family and friends this holiday season.
Heidi Swedberg 10:30 – 11:30 AM Saturday, Dec 16 (1 session) $40
SIGN UP

ARPEGGIO MEDITATIONS FOR UKULELE JUST ADDED

Learn a collection of warm-ups and short songs that help develop your tone and dexterity (and sense of rhythm), all while producing beautiful, meditative music. These arpeggio “loop” exercises can help beginning and advanced players develop more expressive playing. Practicing doesn’t have to be a chore. With these tools, you can relax with your ukulele and get better everyday!
Daniel Ward 12:00 – 1:00 PM Saturdays, Dec 9 – Dec 16 (2 sessions) $70

Second, BOOKS!

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Death by G-String C.C. Harrison, a uke pal from Arizona has published a grand ukulele murder mystery. I LOVED the galleys, you’ll LOVE the book

Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele  Daniel’s long-awaited book is out and hot. Already entering it’s second printing, the book is a unique take on the ukulele, offering musical studies which are meditative and beautiful while being educational. (Right now he is offering a special holiday offer- FREE shipping when you buy any 2 or more items, including all our CDs, his book, and Color-Along Ukulele)

arpeggio book cover

Color-Along Ukulele Want to learn ukulele? Like to color? Why not do both at the same time! Download the FREE companion recordings so you can listen and learn. Learn your first twelve chords, play great songs- even one in Hawaiian, and do that doodle that you do so well. FUN FOR ALL AGES.

Ukulele Magazine Daniel and I have been enjoying contributing articles and lessons to Uke Mag, and I think you might like to have it delivered to your mailbox! You could get a digital only subscription, but there is something mighty fine about the definite article and with their Holiday Subscription special it is really affordable! (We are giving more than a few of these to those on our list)

Third- INSTRUMENTS!

Mim’s Ukes Her motto is “Every uke deserves a great set-up!” And when you order a uke from Mim, that is just what you will get!

Ordinarily I tell people to go to their local store, but with big chains eating up local merchants there are few cities lucky enough to have an honest music store with high-end and student models and a luthier willing to stake their reputation on the set-up of every model walking out their door.  Many internet retailers know nothing about ukuleles besides their profit margins, and would never take the time to work on the action of an inexpensive instrument, or guide you to what level ax you should buy.

But then there is Mim. She ushers you into her living room, whether you walk in to her shop through the barn door in Meadows of Dan, VA or the World Wide Web. I have never met anyone so passionate and dedicated as Mim. Whether your needs lead you the most or least expensive instrument in her stock, she will be sure you are well-matched, and your instrument is the best it can be.

Terry Merry CU

TERRY HARRIS If you want a hand built instrument, Terry is your man. Now that he has fully retired from ranching, the instruments he is building are more beautiful than ever- and the sound is… wow.  We visited him at his Kernville, CA ranch over Thanksgiving weekend where he strung up his latest build for us to try out. It blew us away! He has a few more wood sets just like this, and if you are fast and smart, one of them could be yours.

Terry Harris uke 2

Cedar top. Indian rosewood sides and back. Koa binding. Pure gold.

 

 

Fourth and finally- SHARING

PICKLEBERRY PIE   This year, Pickleberry Pie, an organization that sponsors concerts for hospitalized children is raising operating funds. Daniel and I have loved going room-to-room at Cedars Sinai’s pediatric ward, visiting kids and their families, making them laugh or sing a baby to sleep.  The calm that music can give, the bond it creates is no small thing.  Help this organization continue it’s meaningful work.

 

 

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McCabes Kid’s show and COLOR-ALONG Party!!!

The ink is drying and it looks like I will be picking up our newly-minted copies of COLOR-ALONG UKULELE this Saturday.  How prescient that we have a show booked for the NEXT DAY at McCabes.  Although I hadn’t really planned it that way, it looks like we will be having an impromptu release party!

The hills are alive! Cover image by El Rey

The hills are alive! Cover image by El Rey

We will be singing songs featured in the book, as well as playing on the world’s largest twister mat and dancing up a storm in California’s coolest under-age mosh pit.

McCabesHeidiKids

Books will be available and I’d love to sign a copy for you or someone on your holiday shopping list after the show.

The Los Angeles Ukulele Festival (of Torrance)

First but hopefully not the last-

LAuke

Daniel and I will be there teaching kids classes, and Daniel will be doing some flamencasizing as well.  Really excited to be doing what we love in our own back yard.  Check out the schedule HERE.

Hope our SoCal friends can make it! See you there!

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!

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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.

CHEERS!!!!

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-

Uke Songbook Mockup Front Cover only for Kickstarter640 x 480

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?

Ukulear Family returns

The fun four-week family class known as the Ukulear Family returns to McCabes in the month of March.

I loves me the kiddles!

I loves me the kiddles! A backstage lesson…

4 consecutive Saturdays- March 8, 15, 22 and 29 at 10:30.  All ages are welcome- even adults without kids!  $110, Kids under 8 are $50 (with participating adult!)

It’s been an exciting year already- sometimes I just don’t have the time to post great photos of the fun times, so here’s a few.

With Francis England and a tenor recorder at the Kid's Grammy Concert

With Francis England and Daniel Littleton and a (tenor recorder!) at the Kid’s Grammy Concert

The beauty that is You Are My Flower and Elizabeth Mitchell

The beauty that is You Are My Flower and Elizabeth Mitchell

A mezzo with an alto (recorder)

A mezzo with an alto (recorder)