Just a reminder that Flea Jumpers will be gathering this Sunday at the Gordon Huether Studio, though there are a few scheduling changes you should be aware of.

Beginning Workshop This Sunday

From 5:00 – 6:15, I will be teaching a beginning workshop: Movable Chords for Dummies.  This is the first of a 3-part workshop I will be teaching at the West Coast Ukulele Retreat in May.   Here’s the description from the retreat website:

There’s nothing quite like a two-chord song to get your fingers moving in the morning.  And this workshop will do just that….with an eentsy weentsy difference as we take a few baby steps up the ukulele fretboard and learn to play some easy movable chords (and learn what that means) at the same time.  This workshop is definitely geared towards beginners and advanced beginners, but if you’re a more advanced player who wants to hone their skills you are welcome to join us. And, since practice make perfect, we’ll do plenty of practicing with a variety of fun, two-chord songs chosen just for the occasion.  We may even venture into the land of three- and four- chord songs, as well, all the while learning to move our fingers and hone our skills with movable chords.

The cost of the workshop is just $5.00. 

If you don’t want to take the workshop, you don’t need to arrive until 6:15, at which point we will do our usual pupu and happy hour before our regular flea fest.  

Ideally, splitting the meeting up this way will give the beginnners a chance to warm up a bit and learn some new skills before the more advanced players come.  By then we should all be ready to hit the ground running strumming.

I’ll also be bringing a few ukulele wall hangers for you to look at.  I’m guessing that many of your ukuleles don’t see the light of day, unless they come out for Flea Jumpers.  But, I think you’ll find that if you keep your ‘ukulele on the wall, out of harm’s way and within reach, you’ll be much more prone to grab it and play it

between meetings. Anyway, I’ll bring some of the standard wall hangers  plus some that are one-of-kind: hand-painted or carved.  And since some of you expressed interest, I’ll bring a few of the hand-made neck-tie ukulele straps, as well.  If there’s anything else you want me to bring (books, tuners, strings, music stands, etc.), let me know.  You can visit to see what else I have available.  If you want to keep abreast of new things I get in, please subscribe  to that website.

Butter & Eggs

I’m hoping we’ll also get a report from those of you participating in the KALA ukulele parade at Petaluma’s Butter and Egg Days parade on Saturday,  April 28. Don’t forget, they’re having a rehearsal today (Thursday) at 5:30 p.m. at Kala’s new offices at 1105 Industrial Ave., Suite 101, in Petaluma. Please RSVP (707) 775 4073 x 2818  so they no how many to expect. Here are the pieces you’ll be playing at the parade so you can practice ahead of time:

Kala Parade Medley

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Coming to the Napa Valley Opera House

And, I’ve just learned that Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm will be performing together at the Napa Valley Opera House on May 3.  Keola Beamer is a slack key guitar player extraordinaire and personifies aloha. Raiatea Helm is an ‘ukulele player and simply amazing vocalist.  I haven’t heard them together, yet, but I can just imagine what beautiful music they must make. This really is a performance you don’t want to miss.

Keola also puts on the Aloha Music Camp that you have heard me speak so fondly of.  Their next camp is from July 1 – 7.  Lot’s of fun.  Lot’s of music. Lots of aloha. If you want to see Hawai’i beyond the shops of Waikiki,  stops on the standard tours, and massive tourist luaus,  and participate in some real, Hawaiian immersion, this is the place for you.

Stolen ‘Ukulele

And finally,  I went to the Reno Uke Fest a couple of weekends ago and had a very nice (retail $520) all-koa, KoAloha soprano Pikake  (just like the one I play and the one pictured here) stolen while I was there. Neither the festival organizers or security at the Nuggett (the casino where the festival was being held) did anything to try to retrieve it, so I’m just asking everyone to be on the look-out for it–there aren’t a lot of them around.  It has a date, 2011, stamped on the inside. It might’ve shown up on eBay or Craig’s list.

That’s it, except for a reminder, to those of you who haven’t signed up yet for our Yahoo group, here’s the link:  It’s a little more “private” than the website and often has more immediate information.

See you Sunday.



Calling all ukesters:

We (and all aspiring ukulele players have been invited by KALA ukuleles to join the Kala Band (sans marching) for Petaluma’s Butter and Egg Days parade on Saturday,  April 28. This looks like a really fun time, plus Kala will provide T-shirts to all ukulele-playing participants.

Just to make sure we don’t embarrass ourselves too much,  they are asking that folks who want to participate attend a rehearsal at 5:30 p.m. on  Thursday, April 26 at Kala’s new offices at 1105 Industrial Ave. , Suite 101, in Petaluma. A head count is also in order for planning purposes, so if you could call (707) 775 4073   Ext. 2818  to RSVP I know it would be appreciated.

If you can’t make it to the rehearsal but still want to participate, I’m sure you won’t be turned away.  Here are the pieces you’ll be playing at the parade so you can practice ahead of time.

Kala Parade Medley

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

This is a great opportunity to meet fellow uke-players, practice playing in public,  and have some fun on what promises to be a bright and sunny day.  Hope to see you there.

Thanks everyone for hanging in there with me at last month’s Flea Fest, while we tried “Makin Whoopie.”  I think we did pretty darn well. I changed it into a format that might be easier to read and added the second half of the lyrics, which some of you might find amusing.  Others not so…….I’ve also added it to our songlist.

There’s also a few video links down at the bottom of this post,  if you’d like to see how it has been “performed” over the years by folks as diverse as Eddie Cantor, Michelle Pfieffer, Diana Krall, Sir Elton John, and Elvis Costello. 

Just got back from the Gorge Uke Fest and had a chance to talk to a couple of pros about uke strings for banjo ukes.  At our last Flea Fest one  of  our Flea Jumpers  was inquiring about what were the best strings to use on a banjo uke.  So, while I was at the Gorge Uke Fest last wekend I asked a couple of the pros.  I wish I had some definitive news, but I asked two different people and got two entirely different answers!

Ralph Shaw (banjo uke player extraordinaire) likes the sound and tone he gets on his banjo uke with nylon strings. If you’re not familiar with Ralph’s portrayal of English super-star (and banjo-uke player) George Formby, you might enjoy this little snip:

I also asked Gordon Mayer, luthier extraordinaire of Mya-Moe ukes (and someone who has researched strings exhaustively),  and he prefers the sound of  fluorocarbon strings.  So there you have it. 

Nylon strings for ukuleles are pretty easy to come by.  Hilo is a popular brand. Fluorocarbon strings are also becoming easier and easier to find and are made by Worth,  DaKine Line, and a few others.  As most of know, the DaKine Line strings are made by my son Taylor, who will be heading off to college in a year and a half  (can you believe it?) and would love to have your business!

Speaking of banjo ukes….I just got one to play around with and am having nothing but fun with it. It’s definitely a smile-maker….and loud. 

I hope to post more about some of the great ukes I saw at the NAMM show in January, but wanted to alert you in the meantime to the March Special on BugsGear ukes being offered by Kani Ka Pila.  These are definitely beginner ukes and can’t compare to a fine, hand-crafted ukulele.  But, if you have  a very young player in mind and are looking for something to put in their Easter basket (besides candy) you might like to consider one of these very racey little cut-aways….


Kani Ka Pila’s March Special includes one of these delighful little ukes, re-strung with DaKine Line fluorocarbon strings (what a difference a string makes), and Ralph Shaw’s The Complete Ukulele Course for Kids! DVD for just $39.95 (a $71.95 value)!  Visit the website  for more information and while there you might want to subscribe so that you’ll be notified whenever we run these specials.

Hope to see you at our monthly gathering on the 25th!


What a fun time we had last night!  Thank you every one for coming, with special thanks to Elaine H. and Mandalyn May for joining us and bringing it up a notch!  I, for one, celebrated last night’s success by having chocolate for breakfast this morning!

For those of you who are interested in learning more about Mandalyn and hearing some more of her music (“lyric-driven folk that pops”), you should pay a visit to her website. And, remember, your purchases and downloads help keep these promising young musicians afloat! (Note, for those of you whe weren’t there last night, the chocolate reference above was on behalf of one of the songs Mandalyn shared with us, “Chocolate for Breakfast.”)

Here, too, is a  link to the ukulele festival Mandalyn is organizing in Chico, Feb. 12:  We (Heart) Ukulele.   A “Uke Walk?”  How much fun is that going to be? Folks who want to carpool might try to organize that through the Flea Jumpers Yahoo Group.  You’ll have to join, if you haven’t already, but once you do you’ll be able to communicate with other Flea Jumpers more easily. 

Speaking of festivals,  the 42nd annual Ukulele Festival of Hawai’i, put on by Roy Sakuma, will be held July 22nd in Kapiolani Park in Honolulu.  So, if you’ve got a hankering to visit the islands this summer, you might want to plan your dates around this.  It  does showcase the best of the best, and it is absolutely free! I don’t know who’ll be there this year, but in the past Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill have graced the stage.  And, I’m pretty sure that Peter Luongo and the amazing Langley Ukulele Ensemble appear there every year as well as all the great ukulele talent in Hawaii.

On another note, some of you already know I was at the NAMM show in Anaheim last weekend where ‘ukuleles are clearly gaining momentum. In addition to exploring all the new ‘ukuleles on the market,  I found myself spending quite a bit of time at the huge Hal Leonard and Alfred Music Publishing booths, skimming through what has grown to be a massive array of song and instruction books for ukulele.  The ones I liked (and I didn’t like all of them) I ordered for Kani-Ka-Pila. But, while there, I realized what a bonus it was to actually be able to hold the book in my hands and really see what it had to offer before making a decision to buy. So, I am going to be reviewing each one in some depth before putting all these new ones up for sale on the website.  This is a work in progress, and I’ll be adding to it in the days and weeks to come.  So, if you’d like to stay updated on reviews as they are posted and new books as they become available, you should subscribe to the Kani-Ka-Pila blog. In the meantime, here is my take on Ukulele Fretboard Roadmaps: The Essential Patterns that all the Pros Know and Use, by Fred Sokolow and Jim Beloff. 

As a performer in the 1970s, Fred Sokolow played with the likes of John Herald, Frank Wakefield, and Jerry Garcia and opened for the Grateful Dead, the Doors, B.B. King, and Country Joe and the Fish. He has written more than one hundred  instructional books for guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. Today Fred lives in Santa Monica where he performs retro jazz guitar, often with the former British rock star, Ian Whitcomb (now known as America’s Foremost Tin Pan Alley Man), and the legendary folk singer Tom Paxton. He also continues to produce instructional books, including three for the ‘ukulele (Fretboard Roadmaps,  Blues Ukulele,  and Bluegrass Ukulele, and to teach. In fact, Fred is one of our featured instructors at the West Coast Ukulele Retreat.

In this, his first book for ukulele, Fred reveals a few tricks of the trade in a logical, easy-to-use manner, starting with a few strumming and picking patterns you’ll use throughout the book. Then he dives into the fretboard, uncharted territory for so many of us, yet with lots of important real estate we need to explore if we’re ever going to move ahead in our playing.  You don’t have to memorize every note on every string, but a few basic principles will help you figure it out, if you need to, and Fred offers them here.

The real meat in the book, however, are the chapters on movable chords, the ones that contain no open, or unfretted, strings.  Of course it’s a little challenging when the first chord he offers is an E (a tricky proposition for many of us) but it’s like doing the dishes or swimming laps.  “It has to be done.”  And the good news is, once you’ve mastered this, the fretboard is, essentially, yours.  By page 28 it all comes together—the closed chords and the finger-picking patterns—in the old folk song, Sloop John B (I’ll bet you thought the Beach Boys wrote that) in the key of Eb! And, because of the way the material is presented you can make it as challenging for yourself as you need to. In fact, that’s what I like about all of Fred’s books for ukulele: you can keep it simple, just playing the chords and strumming, or you can take it up a notch or two at your own speed and eventially a little light bulb will go on over your head and….you get it!

Fretboard Roadmaps is packed with good stuff, including a chapter on chord soloing, something we are always asked about, and ideas for improvisation…so you’ll have some notion about what to do the next time some nods at you and says “take it away.” The icing on the cake, however, is the tunes you’ll learn along the way with the skills you’ve just been taught.  And, if there’s any confusion as to what they’re supposed to sound like, the book comes with a CD so you can listen to (or try to play along with) Fred.

I would say that if you are serious about understanding your instrument and how it works, and you are committed to getting better at it in a focused, disciplined manner, this is the book for you. It could well be the best $15 you ever spent. You can order this and Fred’s other ukulele books online from Kani Ka

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick reminder that we will be gathering at NapAloha in St. Helena, this Sunday, November 29, for our monthly flea fest!  If you’re bringing a new song, please bring enough copies for eveyone.  And don’t forget the pupus! RSVP with Diana: 707-967-9700.

And don’t forget the Big Ukulele Event coming up December 3 hosted by Kala Brand ‘Ukuleles to benefit the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. There will be free ‘ukulele lessons and a concert by the “Ukalaliens.”  Tickets are available online at or can be purchased in advance at Tall Toad Music in Petaluma. The fun begins at 7:00. I do believe our good friends the Petalukes are also performing.

And this just in:  An ‘ukulele showdown (of sorts) has been scheduled for the weekend of March 19-21 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Reno/Sparks when James Hill and Jake Shimubakuro headline twin concerts in the Nugget’s Celebrity Showroom in conjunction with the Tahoe Area Uke Fest. Not sure if the two ‘ukulele superstars will be on stage toether, but at least it’s nice to see James Hill getting the billing he so deserves.  It’s kind of like Bruce Lee meets the Royal Canadian Mounties……

In the meantime, James and his partner Anne Davison just won the “Traditional Abum of the Year” award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards for their CD, True Love Don’t Weep.  Here’s what they’re saying about it: 

For starters, True Love Don’t Weep, his first full-length collaboration with cellist Anne Davison, abandons the “bet-you-didn’t-think-I-could-do-that” subtext of his earlier work to follow a muse that seems unfettered by supply and demand and uninterested in ukulele evangelicalism. Cello, banjo, bouzouki, fiddle, voices, winds, brass, bells and music boxes entwine with ukuleles of all shapes and sizes through twelve tracks that resonate with folk, old-time, gospel and blues influences. True Love Don’t Weep isn’t a campaign for the ukulele, just an offering of beautiful, sweetly sorrowful music. From the heart-rending Ev’ry Night to the cathartic Obedience Blues to the slightly demented Duke’s Alley Rag, the duo – assisted by a handful of talented friends – weaves a broad tapestry of vivid colour and emotion. Fret-burning, uptempo cuts like Ode to a Frozen Boot, Richard’s Reel, and One More Lie to Love show why Canadian Folk Music calls James “truly amazing… a serious virtuoso upon the instrument.” But it’s the meditative introduction to Sakura, Sakura, the sweet vocal harmonies of Because, and the haunting chorus of Oh! Susanna that explain the three-year gap between True Love Don’t Weep and James’ “tour de force” third album A Flying Leap. After all, it takes time to dig deeper and True Love Don’t Weep certainly comes from a deeper – often darker – place.

I can still hear that very haunting rendition of “Oh! Susanna” that James played at the first Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival.  To hear some of the songs and order the CD directly from James you can visit his website: James Hill: Ukulele…Seriously.  Otherwise you can download the entire CD (highy recommended) or just individual songs on iTunes to the right.

And now for something entirely different, I’ve posted a new copy of “On a Coconut Island” under the Song Files.  It’s the Louis Armstrong version (you can also download it from iTunes on the right) …wonderful.


And, finally, since it is Black Friday, don’t forget to do your ‘ukulele holiday shopping soon: Send me an email if you’d like me to bring anything to Flea Jumpers on Sunday.  I can keep it a secret if you want…..


Aloha Flea Jumpers

Don’t forget we’re getting together this Wednesday at 6:00 pm at NapAloha in St. Helena for a little kanikapila and rehearsal.  I hope those of you who haven’t been able to join us for our Sunday evening flea fests will be able to come to this one.   We’ll also be working on a couple of songs for the festival.  Erich has suggested we work on “Hanalei Moon” (in F) as presented on the Berkeley Uke Group’s website.  It is now posted on our Song Files page, as well.  Please print it out and add it to your book. By the way, Mike DaSilva has added some great songs to that site, so if you haven’t visited it lately, you should.

Play Uke By Ear Artwork Speaking of which, their regular Wednesday class (6:30 – 8:30) will be replaced this Wednesday (September 16) with a workshop by Jim DeVille, the genius behind the “Play ‘Ukulele by Ear” DVD.  The cost for the workshop is $20,  You can learn more about Jim by visiting his website, well worth the visit as he has lots of great tips for ‘ukulele players there.  The workshop will be held at DaSilva Ukulele Company (2547 8th Street, #28, Berkeley, CA), another place well worth visiting. 

luau_singalong01You’ve probably heard by now that Aldrinne Guerrero, of Ukulele Underground fame will be joining us at the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival.  Aldrinne and the other folks at Ukulele Underground have done  an amazing job of pulling ‘ukulele players together from all over the world and have created an invaluable online resource–including songs, tutorials, tips, and tons more–that is absolutely free.  That’s where I found this  little Luau Song Booklet created by graphic designer Stacey George that she created for a luau-themed BBQ she was attending. If you print it on letterhead-sized paper, in landscape orientation, and can print on both sides, it folds up into a sweet little booklet. It’s very, very nice.

And, as summer winds down, here’s a little something to keep you in the mood (and another great source of online tutorials, to boot):

Creator Michael Lynch has also posted the .pdf files for his great collection of songs on Media Fire. That should keep you busy for awhile! 

Hope to see you Wednesday!






DSC08680Quick reminder:  Flea Jumpers will be gathering at the new NapAloha Store at 1428 Main Street, St. Helena, at 6pm, Sunday, July 26.  Steve and Diana will be digging up some wine from their personal cellar, but we need to bring the pupus and other beverages.  If you haven’t visited NapAloha already, you’re in for a treat: in addition to very cool, colorful clothes, she’s selling ‘ukuleles AND raffle tickets for a koa concert Ohana ‘ukulele, on behalf of the festival.  We  had a ball celebrating Cheers at NapAloha a couple of Friday’s ago (great poke, Steve!) and Diana will be making the store available for other ‘ukulele and Flea Jumper events (including, maybe, hula!)  in the future  Anyway, be sure to bring any new songs you might be working on and about 12 copies.  If you have a music stand, please bring that as well.  I have one extra Flea Jumper Songbook if anyone wants to buy it ($14).

I understand you all worked on a “new” song in my absence: Bye Bye Birdie.  If you missed the meeting, you can download it from the Song Files.  I’ve also added a different version of Moon Glow…such a great song…it’s one of the ones James Hill uses in his “Swing, ‘Ukulele, Swing” workshops. Remember, the Song Files page only has a few of the songs (mostly the new ones) from the Flea Jumper Songbook.

Speaking of James Hill, (nice segue, eh?) don’t forget that you will be able to take one or two workshops from him AND hear him play at the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival.  If you haven’t already subscribed to that weblog, you should do so now.  (Click here.)  Registration has not opened yet but we are accepting vendor applications for the part of the festival taking place at Beringer Vineyards, Saturday October 10.  And, we’re still looking for sponsors; if you know of anyone or have any ideas, please let me know.  We’re particularly looking for individuals, groups, or organizations that would be willing to underwrite concerts and workshops for public school kids and/or the Boys and Girls club.  Our good friends from Petaluma, the  Petalukes, have already signed on to sponsor a performance by Ralph Shaw for the vets at the California Veteran’s Home in Yountville. To raise funds for this they’re all busy planning a lu’au to be held at the Moose, Saturday August 29

It’s a busy week for ukesters.  We’ve got the Santa Cruz ‘Ukulele Club meeting with Bob Brozman this Thursday, and the first of  Bob’s ‘ukulele workshops starting this Saturday.  We’ve got FleaFest on Sunday, PLUS… 


You can go to the audition and still make it back to NapAloha in St. Helena in time for Flea Jumpers! Click here for more information.

And, this just in from Ross Randrup at Verdant Motors in Sebastopol:

Led Flyer for email

Ledward Kaapana (also known as “Led”) is one of the most respected slack key guitarists in the world, and he plays a mean ‘ukulele. He will have you laughing before he plucks a single string, crying with his tender rendition of Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly’, then on the edge of your seat with his antics and guitar tricks ala Uncle Fred Punahoa. His mastery of stringed instruments–`ukulele, autoharp, and especially slack key guitar–and his extraordinary baritone and leo ki`eki`e (falsetto) voices, have made him a musical legend. His easy-going style and kolohe (rascal) charm, have created a loyal corps of “Led Heads” from Brussels to his birthplace on the Big Island of Hawaii. Here’s your chance to become a “Led Hed,” too. 
Here’s a  little sample of what’s in store:

Wow! He makes it look so easy! To purchase tickets for what looks a very special evening, please visit An Intimate Evening with Ledward Kaapana

And then, head on down to the Presidio in San Francisco for the 15th Annual San Francisco Aloha Festival, August 1 & 2, for two full days of Hawaiian Food, Art, Music, and Dance. The festival is free, but there’s a $7.00 fee to park at the Presidio. 

Lark CampI’d be there in a heartbeat, but it’s the same time as Lark Camp, where (wonder of wonders) registration is still open!  This will be our third year there!  Can’t wait! I plan on figuring out how to join Rebecca King’s “Bolero” group with my ‘ukulele and dancing ’til dawn!  If you’re looking for something to do in August, I highly recommend it! 

And, on the chance you’re planning a trip to the Reno area any time soon, you might want to schedule it around an opportunity to join Doug Reynolds and company at 88 Cups in Minden.


That’s it for now, except that it’s time to start thinking about what you all want to perform at the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival. (“Comments” would be a good place to get a dialogue going about this.) I’ve left a 10 – 15 minute tme slot open for us to razzle and dazzle ’em. So, pull out your favorite songs and PRACTICE so we can end up sounding as good as this guy:

And don’t forget to order your Jake Shimabukuro tickets for his October 21 concert at the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

Next Page »