Mya-Moe

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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 wetakenicepictures.com

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”…

 

 

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!

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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

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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

New CD: My Cup Of Tea

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Ladies and gentelmen…..             Our official release date is September 10!
We have CONCERT DATES to announce, too!
September 6,7,8    WINE COUNTRY UKULELE FESTIVAL
                      Santa Helena, CA
September 22        McCABES GUITAR SHOP
                      11 am    Santa Monica, CA
September 29        ABBOTT KINNEY FESTIVAL
                      3:15 pm    Venice CA
October 13              DRAGONFLY DuLOU
                      11:30 am    Los Angeles
October 19, 20        DESCANSO GARDENS
                       11 am   La Canada Flintridge (Los Angeles)
October 19th          THE TALKING STICK
                                    6 pm         Venice, CA
October 26th           OUTPOST PERFORMANCE SPACE
                                     11 am        Albuquerque, NM
We are absoloutly thrilled with how the CD came out and can’t wait for you to hear it!
Come out and join in on the fun!  We will be offering raffles and prizes and giveaways at all of our shows.
The CD will be available through CDBaby on the 10th, but (shhh! don’t tell) is already available via my website, SukeyJumpMusic.com
Chords and lyrics are available to download by clicking HERE

Into the Eye of the Storm

Truckin

Truckin

We are on the road again!

Before we even left LA we had a VERY IMPORTANT errand to run- We picked up my new Dirndl from Cocoe Voci’s studio. I am thrilled to have a new uniform, so beautifully constructed and lovingly designed by my sweet friend.  THANK YOU, Cocoe!

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Our first stops in NM were fun and chili filled.  Great start in Gallup, NM with a school show and uke workshop at Nizhoi Music, the studio of our  lovely hostess, Antoinette Neff.

 Then on to Albuquerque where we had the BEST DAY EVER!  First, we finished mastering MY CUP OF TEA.  Celebration dinner at Cervantes (hotttest red chili in the Q) and then on to the new Star Trek movie!  Woo HOO!

We brought music to the ACSL family and then on to Santa Fe, where we enjoyed making music for a private party.  The night started with John and Daniel playing flamenco and ended with leading a campfire style sing along.  

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The next morning we took the OhanaMobile to Jeff at Lucky Saab, where we did a ghetto fix on the AC with bread ties and zip ties.

Master mechanic and apprentice

Master mechanic and apprentice

We were tipped off to the storms blowing in and delayed our departure.  We were driving straight towards Oklahoma City as the storms ripped through Moore. The skies were ominous and filled with fear and pain.  We sang the song “Little Birdie” as a prayer for the people in the path, and are going to share that song in our Kickstarter update this week.

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We arrived in Tulsa with heavy hearts at 2 am, but the children who greeted us the next morning at Connors Cove were as audatious and ebulent as children ever are.  We had two bopping shows and look forward to 4 more shows at 4 other libraries in the next two days before we ship off for Kansas City.

We are telling everyone we meet about the new CD and the Kickstarter campaign which has two more weeks to go.  We are getting close to our goal and hope to exceed it handsomly so we can both pay musicians and move forward with PR for the album.  If you have not had a chance please pledge now!  Click here (MY CUP OF TEA) to go to the page where you will be able to hear songs, see art, read about the process and become part of the fun! 

Green Chili: The Final Frontier

Frontieer green on an In-N-Out double-double.  That's livin'!

Frontieer green on an In-N-Out double-double. That’s livin’!

You know your friends love you when they bring you the XL tub of roasted frozen green chili from the Frontieer!  John flew in for the show at McCabes Sunday morning with 56 oz. of love packed in his suitcase. And a special treat for my girls- Cow Patties!

The final Frontier Rolls, aka "Cow Patties"!

The final Frontier Rolls, aka “Cow Patties”!

Our hero, Richard Fultineer had drums to loan John for the show!  Thank you Richard!!!  He needed to drop them off at 9 am, which is  before McCabes opens and right when John’s plane was arriving.  I dropped Daniel off with coffee, a cajon to sit on and his coronet, so he could practice his licks while awaiting hand-off .  Revilee for the neighborhood.

Alley Cat

Alley Cat

We had a great show, and are happy to report that the Kickstarter campaign is now in full swing!  You can pre-order the CD or book us for a kid’s party with your pledge… even download a single song!  Check it out HERE!  I am touched by the first donors who have jumped in.  So many folks from the Kindie world are showing support, and it means the world to me.  Every  pledge brings me a smile of gratitude and gets us that much closer to getting this baby pressed.

We had some crazy rehearsals for the tour (FYI- the canjo will be in heavy rotation this spring) and ate through the whole tub of chili in under 4 days.  We visited preschools, saw the ocean, walked the Venice canals, visited LACMA, drank beer and cooked amazing meals.  Now I can’t wait till the tour starts in 2 weeks!

But first I will be taking a detour up to Northern Cal for the West Coast Ukulele retreat, teaching and playing for a week at Asilomar State Beach.  Lots of work, but also kind of a vacation.

I’ll tell you all about it, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Shanghai After Hours

Where all the hip kids go!

One night after the trade show we were taken to dinner by Jian and Kelly, Ohana’s distributors.  We had amazing food, including freshwater crabs, and delightful company including Kimo Hussey, David and Sissy Chen and 10 year old wonder Brian Fu.  We passed David’s uke around the table and everyone played a song.  Then we were all wisked across the river from Pudong to Shanghai to play a couple of songs to young uke crazy hipsters in a cafe.  Here is a link to hear Daniel play his Istanbul in Shanghai!

Friends in Shanghai- what is the name of this club?!

Heading to CHINA!

Not in a slow boat, or a beautiful pea green one, but economy class.  The Ohanamobile goes transpacific!

Mug Shots!

Daniel and I are joining Louis Wu (owner) and Stephanie Turkal (office manager) of the Ohana Ukulele Co. at Music China Shanghai, the big trade show in China.  We will be playing in their booth and teaching workshops.  And, no doubt, EATING.  Man, I can’t wait to share the feasts in store!

Our teaching will focus on teaching teachers in China, where ukulele is a very new phenomenom.  We hope that the joy and ease of the little hatchet is not lost in translation!

Last week we stopped in to the Ohana HQ (warehouse) down in Long Beach to drop off our passports and fill out paperwork.  While we were there we made a little music video of  THE OWL & THE PUSSYCAT.  With a little help from our friends… Steph operated my IPhone while everyone else (Louis, Daniel Serna, head tech and Shannan Brown, asst. tech) kept on with their work and were unwitting extras.  Can I tell you one of the things I love about Ohana?  Watch the first few moments of the video and see the Owner, Louis, setting up instruments alongside his techs.  The simplest entry level ukes get a going over.  Everyone there works side by side.  Every time I go there we all sit down and eat lunch together.  It’s like the healthy family.  I guess that’s why Louis named the company “Ohana”, which means “family” in Hawaiian.

In preparation for the show we took some promo pics for a poster.

This time, with a paddle

We met up with John Nyboer  pre-dawn on foggy Sunday morning at a friend’s boat launch on the Venice canals.  John looked at me, incredulous.  “Is that a DIRNDL?” he asked.  To which I countered: “are those WATER SHOES and BOARD SHORTS?”.  Next thing you know I am punting the skiff down the drink and he’s in up to his knees.  If you’ve been to Venice (CA) and seen the canals first hand you are already impressed.  I only wish I had turned the camera around on him! (John also did great pics of our last big McCabes uke workshop in May!)

Speaking of McCabes- Daniel’s got a workshop there scheduled for when we return.  He will be sharing some of his crazy flamenco technique  in a 90 minute clinic called “Rock Your Right Hand” on October 20th at 2 pm.  Ukueles and guitars welcome!  These techniques can be used for all styles of playing, not just flamenco.  Check it out: here is a link to Daniel playing a folk song on ukulele.