With the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival behind us, it’s time to look forward to some terrific events just around the corner. So, save the dates:

Saturday, October 13: Sacramento Aloha Festival, at Cal Expo in Sacramento

Tuesday, October 16: UpValley Strummers.  This is a new group started by Bob Dwyer that will meet the third Tuesday of every month (6:30 pm) at Scarlett’s Country Inn in Calistoga, 3918 Silverado Trail. (You don’t have to join Meetup.com to attend, but it does make it easier to RSVP so folks know how many to expect.)  Bring songs to share & pupus.  All levels welcome.

Saturday, October 27: Fall Kanikapila with Kehaulani Hula Studio.  I am so glad this is happening and that we got invited. It’s from 1 – 5 pm at Rincon Valley Park in Santa Rosa.  Kehaulani Hula Studio is under the direction of our good friend Kumu Pomaika’i and you don’t have to hula to join in the fun.  Bring your ukulele(s) and some songs to share, if you’re so inclined.  If nothing else, it’ll be a great way to connect with our neighbors to the west.  Fun for the whole family!  Here’s a flier if you’d like to help spread the word: Fall Kanikapila

Sunday, October 28: Napa Valley Flea Jumpers at the Gordon Huether Hay Barn in Napa.  I’ll do another “mini-workshop”  at 5 pm, this time on “Messing around with the City of New Orleans,”  where we’ll do a little work with closed chords and chord melody embellishments…suitable for beginning and intermediate players.  We’ll break for pupus at 5:45.  Then on to our regular flea fest!  By the way, if anyone else ever has anything they’d like to share with the group in one of these mini-workshop sessions, just let me or Eva know.

Thursday, November 1: Early Bird Deadline for the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat.  This is the first announcement we’ve made to the general public that registration is now open for the 2013 West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat, May 8 – 12 at Asilomar in Pacific Grove. Past attendees have been signing up in droves and we do have limited space available.  Four days and nights of ‘ukulele instruction, fun, camaraderie, and general mayhem on the beautiful Monterrey Peninsula with Andy Andrews, Gerald Ross, Joel Eckhaus, Kumu Pomaika’i, Sarah Maisel, Jason Arimoto, and Rick Turner….and probably one or two more. Take a peek at what went on last year:

Monday, November 5: Free ‘ukulele workshop with Daniel Ho at the Guitar Center in San Mateo, 53 West Hillsdale Blvd.  This might be well-worth a trip to San Mateo.  Daniel is an extremely knowledgable and generous instructor of the ukulele, among many other things. Call (650) 312-8270 for more info.  The workshop starts at 7pm.

Saturday, November 10: Ukes on the Loose! I went to this last year and had a blast!  A very low-key day. full ukulele playing, learning, and sharing in a stunning location, Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg.  Just plain fun……and super affordable.


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 www.kani-ka-pila.com 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: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/NapaValleyFleaJumpers/  It’s a little more “private” than the website and often has more immediate information.

See you Sunday.


Just came across this little Swing Ukulele tutorial by Gerald Ross.  It is excellent…especially the tip on how to make a barre chord!  Gerald has taught at the Wine Country Ukulele Festival the last two years and will be back with us again this year (September 7, 8, 9).  He is also one of the featured instructors at the West Coast Ukulele Retreat at Asilomar May 16 – 20.  If you can learn this much in just an 8-minute tutorial, imagine what you might pick-up after spending 3 full days with Gerald and the other instructors we have lined up.  In any case….enjoy.

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 Pila.com

He’s Back!

The inimitable Jim D’Ville will be holding center stage at our next flea fest, Sunday, November 20, at the Gordon Huether Studio in Napa, 1821 Monticello Road.  If you missed his Play by Ear workshop last time Jim breezed through, you won’t want to miss this one.  And if you were there,  he’s got even more tips and tricks up his sleeve to keep you rolling on the road to ukulele success, wherever that may be.

The workshop starts at  5:oopm with pupus to follow and is a mere $25.  Those who attend the workshop are also welcome to stay and sing along with Jim, putting into practice what we just learned.  If you’re planning on coming, please RSVP to the yahoo group site so we can have an estimate of the number of chairs to have on hand.

Perfect Presents

Here’s a little something for the uke enthusiast on your holdiay gift list who think he has everything:  Peace, Paradise, and Ukulelia.  One hundred percent plastic with a white styrene top and a clear plastic gig bag, they sound great and are not subject to the rapid humidity changes that impact ukuleles made of wood.  It’s a  great uke to take to the beach, a must-have for the ukulele player who has everything, and an heirloom for the budding ukulele player in your family who needs something they can cut teeth on until they learn how to rip like Jake……Available at Kani-Ka-Pila.com

West Coast Ukulele Retreat

Registration will open this week for the second, annual, West Coast Ukulele Retreat, to be held at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, May 16 – 20.  We fully expect to sell out this year so if you’re at all interested in attending, be sure to subscribe to that website so you get all the latest information as it unfolds.  This is four full days of ukulele bliss.  Here’s a little snippet from last year:


Hey there,

Just wanted to make sure everyone knew about the West Coast Ukulele Retreat, coming up May 18 -22, at Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula. We’ve got the usual great line-up of talent and folks coming from all over the country.  There is still space available but please register soon if you are interested. Four days of Ukulele Bliss on the beautiful California Coast!

Click here for more information.

Hope to see you there!