the lovely Char and Gordon Mayer at Reno Uke Fest. Photo by Craig Chee.

Daniel Ward and I are thrilled to be playing beautiful instruments hand built for us by Mya-Moe.  Mine is a myrtle wood (from within 50 miles of their shop) and ebony concert with a warm sweet tone, and Daniel’s is a loud and sassy miniature flamenco guitar made from sitka spruce with a rosewood back and sides and bloodwood binding.  The instruments are very different, but suit our playing styles and are especially beautiful played together.  We received them in January and have not put them down since.

For me, having an instrument which is so alive, crafted just for me, has inspired me to work harder- digging deeper into chord inversions and daring to lift a melodic voice.  Daniel’s instrument has allowed his own voice to rise.  Listen HERE to him playing at the Reno Ukulele Festival…(thanks Ivan Olarte for the video!)

We recently enjoyed spending time with Char and Gordon in Reno- sipping cocktails and talking all things uke and culinary, and I thought you might like to be introduced to these two lovely people, so we posed some questions to Mya-Moe:

When you offered to build me an instrument I had NO IDEA what wood to ask for.  My partner Daniel, however, knew EXACTLY what he wanted.  We ended up with instruments that have very different voices, but voices that sound beautiful together and match our needs as players. How did you do that?

Of course, this is the outcome that we’re always hoping for and working towards.  We work with each individual to-be owner to try to understand what they are looking for tonally and aesthetically.  Usually we can get a pretty good idea of what to build.

It’s actually much easier for us to work with someone like you (versus Daniel).  You were very open to a variety of sounds/looks, and I think you went into it with a very open mind.  We think of each instrument like a child–it will have the genes of the parents (our design & building), but it will also be unique.  So, the “easiest” to-be owners are people that understand this.

 Daniel had a pretty fixed idea of what he wanted.  That’s the hardest to deliver–try to make sure we get that right.  We do pretty well with that, but it did cause some restless nights 🙂

It's a love story- we LOVE our instruments!

It’s a love story- we LOVE our instruments! photo by James Barnett

Daniel loves the size of the tenor and I love the concert.  They seem a little smaller then other instruments we have played.  Do tell.

I think of the design of the instrument (size, top/back thickness, bracing, woods, soundhole area) as a “system” where everything works together to produce a given tone.  So it’s impossible to pull out one of those elements from one builder & try to apply it to another builder.  If we decided to build a larger bodied tenor, for instance, we would change many of those other parameters and still try to achieve the tone that we already have.

 When we designed the instruments, as an engineer, I tried to work with a body volume (cubic inches) that would produce the range of tones (low-g to 19th fret of the a-string) that we wanted to produce.  We tweaked it a bit to bring reality in line with theory.

Your string sets are custom and very specific.  Indulge our inner geek.  Tell us more.

Early on, strings were one of our biggest nightmares.  There are so many different types, brands & materials out there (unlike guitars).  In the beginning we stocked and experimented with all of them:  black nylon, clear nylon, fluorocarbon, nylgut.  But, it quickly became clear the the best strings for our instruments are fluorocarbon, with wound string(s) for the bass.  We worked with Worth and D’Addario to figure out the best “sets” for our instruments.

 The most challenging was the baritone set.  For our ears, no existing baritone set came close to the tone & feel we were looking for.  We wanted to bring out the warmth that the baritone is known for without sacrificing the treble.

We laughed at Reno about how the instrument ordering process ought to be like eating at Nobu, a fancy sushi restraunt where the diner trusts the chef.  Would you really like to do just that?

Yes!  We call it “luthier’s choice”.  We’ve now had 3 occasions where owners have given us carte blanche to design and build their next instrument.  It’s where we have the most fun.

A vary happy family of Mya-Moe owners (Craig Chee, photo)

A vary happy family of Mya-Moe owners (Craig Chee, photo)

Your shop is a very intimate operation, with just 3 of you involved from order to delivery.  Who does what over there?

There are actually 5 of us, which is the key to our building.  3 of us (me, Char & Aaron) work out of our main shop and build the final instrument.  But, we have two others:  Kerry Williams and Ben Bonham, who do “parts” that go into the instrument.  So, they do rough necks, fretboards, internal blocks/braces, joining of the top/back, profiling the sides, and “polishing” the top/back.  That allows aaron, char & me to focus on building the final instrument.  Char does all wood selection, thicknessing the top/back, and bending of the sides.  Aaron does all the bracing.  After that, at least two of us are trained on each operation.  

Besides building gorgeous instruments I hear rumors of epicurean delights.  Music be the food of love, and food is love’s music?  What’s on the menu?

Ha!  Cooking is our 2nd passion.  We joke that for Aaron, the greatest benefit of working at Mya-Moe is the lunch we make him everyday.  Lunch is really our dinner, so we go all out for that meal.  I think Aaron would tell you that our cooking has varied depending upon what new kitchen tool/appliance we’ve acquired.  Also, while we eat anything, we have a lot of guests with a variety of eating specificities:  vegan, gluten-free, etc.  So, we’ll vary it up as the needs require.

 A year ago we got an immersion circulator (check out “sous vide cooking”), and love to cook with that.  And then this year we got a smoker, so we’ve done a few briskets and racks of ribs.  Lately we’ve been into cured meats & salamis.

 And just yesterday we had a very successful morel mushroom foraging expedition on the slopes of Mt. Adams, so this week its “all morels, all the time”…




Weekend Ukulele Warriors schedule thru June 21

Every Saturday at NOON it’s a fresh festival-style ukulele workshop on an intimate scale.  After teaching really big classes in Reno it’s great to switch gears and get one-on-one (or two on three) with people.

Todays fresh crop of Warriors

Todays fresh crop of Warriors

Here is the schedule thru the end of June…

5/10 WHAT THE PLUCK?! With Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward All levels are invited to learn plucking patterns. Simple and beautiful ways to give dimension to accompaniments, great tool for songwriting.


 5/17 NO CLASS (We’re gigg’in!)

5/24 Tiptoe Thru the TULIPS It’s the Song that broke the ukulele! We are going crazy and resurrecting the song made tabu in the uke world by Tiny Tim. Not only do we have a heartfelt appreciation for his artistic courage, but we also agree that it’s a GREAT song with really cool changes and takes well to jazzy chord voicings.

5/31 WEST COAST UKULELE RETREAT Come find us in Asilomar! NO CLASS

6/7 UKULELE BUILDING BLOCKS Daniel Ward reprises his ever popular techniques class. If you have taken this before, don’t worry- he will teach you the next level of tricks and exercises to get you playing better, faster and more comfortably.

6/14 Here’s your chance to learn a great jazz number- why not take ALL OF ME ? It’s a great song, for your repertoire. Simple structure and chords that can get as complicated as you are ready for.

6/21 FLAMENC-A-LELE with Daniel Ward Classical Spanish guitar songs and strums for the ukulele

6/28 NO CLASS (We are in Santa Fe for a very special wedding!)

Weekend UKULELE Warriors  Saturdays, 12:00 at Mc Cabes Guitar Shop, $40        Sponsored by KALA Brand

Another fine photo by James Barnett

Another fine photo by James Barnett


Reno Uke Fest and the Ohana Bass

The last song... with everyone on stage!

The last song… with everyone on stage! Photo by Ivan Olarte

“How many instruments do you need?” the flight attendant asked as we boarded the plane with a guitar, the Ohana bass and two ukuleles.  The honest answer was more then we can cary on, as we had an additional re-enterant uke checked as baggage.  And of course my shakers.  If I had hands free I might have snapped a shot of us filling the overhead bin.  But honestly, beats schlepping a cello or two!


Cell Phone star Daniel Ward teaches Sevillanas. 70 cell phones and one still camera- thank you Ivan Olarte

The festival was fabulous.  Smooth organization, happy workshops, collaborations with friends, and a great venue with great sound and a great crew.  Makes life mighty easy and sweet.

DaSilva Flamenca

Michael Da Silva has a little flamenca in him. Literally. Photo by Craig Chee


Flamenquitas Olé! Photo by Deborah Haight


carrot girl

Catskills always kill with Gerald Ross. Photo by Craig Chee

and that theatre…

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Daniel and the Ohana bass were on stage most of the night, doing songs in our set, including “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” ( he would be the boy) and Gerald Ross played it for a few of our songs.  Daniel brought it back out for a bunch of songs in the second set with Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel.   The next night Jason Arimoto played the fretless version for Daniel Ho. Ohanabass Daniel

It’s a sweet axe, and Daniel’s made a video to tell you all about it- click HERE for his review.

Jim D'Ville proves there's no wrong way to play it!  Photo by Craig Chee

Jim D’Ville proves there’s no wrong way to play it! Photo by Craig Chee

This weekend: McCabes for ALL AGES (with DYLAN DUPRE!)

Just back from the PHENOMENAL Reno Ukulele Festival! What a fantastic time we had!  (More on that in the next post)   Now we are all fired up to jump right back in to teaching ukulele to all ages here in Los Angeles at McCabes. (OK, Santa Monica… but close enough!)


We loved working with our friends Craig and Sarah, and we hope to welcome them back to Weekend Ukulele Warriors as soon as they can fit it into their very busy schedules.  I’m still working through the chord substitutions from the handouts in the last workshop they led.  Our new friend and colleague,  Dylan, pictured here in photos from Reno,  is a killer player and has the best Bb you have ever seen. He will teach you how to play it HERE, and you can listen to his first song HERE.   These are AWSOME videos-  Go Dylan GO!  Maybe we can schedule a date for you to teach at McCabes soon!  It is your birthday on Thursday, after all.  Don’t put it off another year!

Because we are bopping around  we will have some rather irregular dates for the new UKULEAR FAMILY class, and a new time to boot!  If you are interested but know you will be unable to attend a class in the series don’t let that deter you- we would be happy to prorate for you.

UKULEAR FAMILY is an all-ages class, 4 Saturdays, May 3, 10, 24th and June 6, 1:30 PM.  Kids under 8 are $50, and require a participating adult.  Adults are $110.  You don’t have to have a kid to attend, but it helps if you can act like one!

The Weekend Ukulele Warriors series continues on Saturdays at noon.  This week Daniel and I teach an intro Nashville System and the following week we teach plucking patterns to juice up your playing.  We are just about to draw the lucky winner of a Kala Travel tenor uke from the names of workshop attendees, so come to class and get your name in- maybe you will be a winner, like Dylan!

Speaking of McCabes and ukulele… in a few weeks the lovely Louise Goffin will be singing and playing her 4 strings at McCabes!  Come catch her show at 8 pm May 17th. Get your tickets HERE



Sevillanas this Saturday!

The Weekend Ukulele Warriors series at McCabes continues this Saturday with a workshop teaching how to transfer a traditional spanish guitar form from guitar to ukulele.  It sounds sexy and difficult, but you’ll be surprised to discover how simple it is!Image

Daniel Ward, our resident flamenco, breaks down the melody and the strum into simple bite sized pieces.  And here’s a shocker- only 2 chords!  Come this Saturday at noon and pick up your own showstopper.

Next week we bring it back to basics with our Play the Ukulele in A Day workshop, designed for the absolute beginner.  If you are new to uke or new to music, this class is for you!  All ages welcome, kids under 8 require participating adult.

AND_ our lovely sponsor, Kala Ukulele has donated another Travel Tenor Uke for us to raffle off!  Your name goes in the hat every class you attend!  Come on down and be a winner in every way!

Kid’s Shows Ahead

concert series v2

This weekend the Sukey Jump Band is excited to be playing a new family music concert series in Venice CA.  There just is not enough of these events in LA!  The Ecole Fontaine at 1047 Abbott Kinney has a cool thing going- they are hosting family concerts with a drum circle afterwards lead by the Sandra Sandia, a performer known for sharing latin influenced music with LA Kids and adults for 20 years.

We are also excited to be partying with the Big Bunny over Easter Weekend at the LA Zoo.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday we will be doing shows in “The Treetops” at the zoo from 11 am to 3 pm.  There will be crafts, a Big Bunny and… ANIMALS, natch!

Hope to see you there!

Also this weekend- the Weekend Ukulele Warriors continues, with Daniel Ward teaching Sevillanas, traditional Spanish Guitar for the ukulele!


The Lovely Lilly!

You never know who you are going to meet when you take (or teach) a class at McCabes.  Lilly came to Daniel’s Bossa Nova workshop last month, and may have passed out of our lives had she not WON THE KALA UKULELE!  I asked her a little about herself- and what a great musical story she had to share.  I wanted to pass it on to you.  We have serious designs on drafting her for the band now.

Ladies and gentlemen, LILLY (in her own words) AYCUD!

with her sleek new Kala Travel Tenor!

with her sleek new Kala Travel Tenor!

“I’ve been playing trumpet since the age of 12.  I moved to LA in 2003 from Virginia and have had the great opportunity to play trumpet with various artists and groups, most notably Ben E. King, Julian Casablancas (from the Strokes), and Matt Nathanson.  Currently, I sing and play trumpet, percussion, and ukulele with Mexican Alternative singer, Ceci Bastida. 

I got a degree in music education so I also teach general music and orchestra at a private elementary school here in Los Angeles. I enjoy learning how to play instruments.  At home, I have a piano, electric piano, trombone, flugelhorn, several trumpets, flute, theremin, guitars, bass, and drums, and a marching glockenspiel.  I’m obsessed with instruments! My students get my passion, so I have students, who, by the time they graduate in sixth grade, will know how to play 3 or 4 instruments.  I just had a 10th grader come back to play some double bass for my music classes today.  She sings and plays piano, clarinet, double bass, and bassoon.  I love that!

As far as the ukulele, I bought one two years ago because I wanted to make a recording of “Tonight You Belong to Me” for my future step-mother-in-law.  She loves that movie, The Jerk. I love how Bernadette Peters plays the trumpet at the end and Steve Martin, of course, plays the ukulele.  So, I went to McCabe’s and bought my first ukulele.  I taught myself how to play ukulele from watching Ukulele Underground videos and printing out songs from
I’ve started teaching ukulele at my school, too.  I have an after school ukulele club.  We just bought 6 Ohana sopranos so I can also teach some ukulele during school.  Everyone here thinks I’m the nutty uke lady, but the kids love it!
Last year, I went to Menucha Ukulele Camp in Oregon for a week-long workshop.  I was so impressed by the teachers there.  James Hill and Paul Hemmings really showed me the possibilities of using the ukulele as a solo instrument.  Last summer, I began taking private lessons with Abe Lagrimas.  He’s been showing me how to create chord melodies for jazz standards, improvise, and other cool things.  He’s so great!
Now, I am devoting way more time to the ukulele.  It is so different than the trumpet.  I really enjoy being able to sing and accompany myself.  I can entertain myself for hours and I can do it almost anywhere.  And now that I have a new travel ukulele, I really can take it anywhere and play!”
Thanks, Lilly!  And thanks Kala, for providing the instrument that helped bring us all together.  Learn more about Lilly at her website,
And please, come join the fun.  This Saturday I am teaching a tidy closed chord family which travels up the neck and gives players superpowers.  Lots of fun and singing, and you never know who you might sit next to!