Free online tutorials!

You know you have always learn to play the ukulele, and I know I have always wanted to teach YOU how- here is a great way to get started!

Welcome to my on-line uke salon!

Welcome to my on-line uke salon!

I have started posting short ukulele lessons geared towards beginners of all ages on YouTube.  How to hold the uke, your first chords, all of which feature simple and interesting songs.  Check them out and give me some feedback!

Our new CD “My Cup of Tea” is brewing nicely, and we will add final vocal tracks over spring break in Tijeras NM.  It is growing into a wild, genre bending project, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  The photoshoot with ROCKSTAR photographer Joseph Cultice was amazing.  Here are some of the characters who will be featured in the songs and on the packaging

Nobody's business but the Turks...

Nobody’s business but the Turks…

Lastly we are set to announce our SPRING KICKSTARTER TOUR SCHEDULE!

(but that will have to wait for the next post!)


FREE love!


Happy Valentines Day, all!   You are our cup of tea, and we want you to be the first to hear the title track for our next CD!

My daughter and I wrote this little ditty one morning over a cup of tea when I was in need of  a two-chord song for teaching ukulele.  This rough mix will change before the final pressing, but all the zany elements are there.  John Bartlit outdid himself on xylophone, bells and whistles and percussion, not to mention bass.  Daniel Ward picked up a coronet at a yard sale and blasted a boozy tatoo. At it’s heart it is a very simple song just right for beginning uke players.

Jeff Bogle has posted the song and some kind words on his website OWTK, and there is a YouTube tutorial of how to play the song, there are charts available on GoChords, too.  You’ll find an easy and slightly harder version published my group Sukey Jump Songs. Go get your hatchet, learn a few chords and let your sugar know how many lumps you’ll take!

So many exciting things are brewing for the band right now, including a spring tour which will take us to Jiggle Jam in Kansas City for Memorial day.  We will be playing nearly every day for three weeks.  Be sure to check back for official dates and times if you are anywhere between Los Angeles and Kansas City!

And the CD!  We are planning on a late spring release.  But we need a little help from our friends.  We will be launching a Kichstarter campaign to raise the money to pay for the packaging and duplication.  It’s a great way to pre-order a copy, perhaps pick up a special premium and be part of the process, plus earn our eternal gratitude for your love and support.

Until then-   Happy Valentine’s Day and chin-chin!

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!

oh, and the FOOD in Shanghai!

stuffed lotus root. wow.

The food. Oh my god, the food!

We were taken out to so many beautiful meals we couldn’t believe it!  Stanley, our Ohana-rep man in China ordered at this great place right next to the convention center.  The hits kept coming.

lamb chops from heaven

Really, no way to do justice to the insane yumminess of the food!  One of our favorite things was a spice which made our tongue numb.  No idea what it was, but it was used in green beans and some other dishes with chili, including a fish poached in oil.  The fish came to the table in a large bowl filled to the rim with chilis floating on oil.  The waiter skimmed the chilis off the top, and left the floavorful, tender catfish submerged in  warm oil.  The fish was lifted by slotted spoon into serving bowls, and melted in our mouths.

More, please! Stephanie LOVED the soup!

There was an amazing pork dish, and Stanley taught us how to enjoy it best!  Thinly sliced pork  was served draped over a wooden dowel, clothesline style.  Thinly sliced scallions and a spicy chili paste accompanied the meat, to be rolled inside.  Finally, the bundles were to be dipped in  sauce and devoured.   Don’t take my word for it- see Stanley in action!


Ooooohhhh Yeahhhh!

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.