Welcome to Ukulelear

Back in 2005 I brought a Roy Smeck ukulele to school. Kids were intrigued and wanted to try to play it themselves. The sound was pretty cool with just a few simple chords. Within a few weeks kids had bought their own Mahalo ukes and started to really enjoy playing.

Since that first ukulele group the Cal-Mum Uke club has had about forty students join-up every year. It has been a joy to teach in a school that is filled with the plinkety-plunk of the uke music.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wipe Out by the Safaris on Ukulele by Cal-Mum Uke Club

So, the Safaris needed a b-side to their hit song Surfer Joe. They threw this one together in the recording studio in a hurry. Pressure makes diamonds...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jake Shimabukuro's "1-2-3" at Cal-Mum

One of the coolest little songs written for ukulele came from the effort of Leo Daquioag of the Music for Life Foundation and Jake Shimabukuro. Back in 2011 Leo and Jake headlined the effort to break the Guinness Book of Records for largest ensemble of ukulele players playing a specific piece of music. Jake wrote the music for the song that only requires three fingers to play. Instruction of how to play the song and videos are on the Go For Da Record site. Students from Iliahi Elementary School in Wahiawa wrote the song that goes with the music.

Here are students at Cal-Mum Elementary School performing the song at 2012 Christmas Concert.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crazy G

Okay, "Crazy G" has a 20s or 30s sound, but I can't seem to find out where it came from. I can't say I really did any exhaustive research - I tend to peter-out at about 5 minutes on most of my Google searches, so there may be some information.

Anyway, this is a quick tutorial I took on my iPhone of our own Mr. T. playing a snippet of Crazy G. I think kids would love to play it as it picks up the speed of a runaway train.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Starting Up at Cal-Mum

Well, the shipment of Kala Ukes came in at Bernunzio's Uptown Music in Rochester, NY. Over 40 ukuleles, tuners, and gig bags are in boxes pictured here in the back of our Band Director's car. As you might expect, the students have worked themselves into a frenzy over the delivery date. Today will be like Christmas in October for many kids.

This year will be the first year that students will work to achieve "levels" of mastery in the ukulele. It should be a fun way to get a little better on the uke while making it easier for me to see what students have progressed through the ranks.

The ranking system will be through songs that students have mastered. As they work through levels they will be given a ribbon to display on the head of their ukulele as a badge of honor, and a clear signal to me as to the level they are working on. With only 45 minutes to meet 40 kids once a week, it is a challenge to help struggling students while getting the better one s to take chances on tougher songs. We will see if this can mitigate some of the difficulties.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tenor - Soprano Trade

I worked on restoring my 1920s Supertone soprano during the winter. I rebuilt one of the braces and replaced the bridge back plate and french polished it with a dark shellac. It is really pretty, but I've wanted a tenor uke for a while and asked my sister-in-law Lisa if she would like to trade for her Bushman tenor.
Video of finished Supertone:


The Bushman has a couple cracks in the lower bout that need to be repaired, but the sound is still nice. I would have to say that the Bushman does not have a lot of sound projection for the size of the body. It seems rather quiet, and I'm not sure if this is due to the crack or the thick layer of lacquer. The lacquer looks very nice but must have some effect on the natural mahogany tonewood. I'm thinking of removing all that plastic and repairing the cracks. A french polish would really be beautiful...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Christmas Waltz" sung by Nellie McKay on Mad Men

On the Mad Men season 5 episode (May 20, 2012) called Christmas Waltz we are treated to a song made famous by Doris Day. During the credits, singer Nellie McKay's recording of "Christmas Waltz" plays soothingly as we are returned to reality. For those avid watchers of the show we are left wondering if Don Drapper has returned, and for those of us who are Mad Men and ukulele addicts this was a real bonus.

"I don’t know too much about Nellie McKay other than the fact that she’s amazing. I think I heard some buzzings about her in 2002 but it was mostly from women that touted her as some sort of girl power act and I wasn’t sure if I was invited to the party... I’ve made a promise to myself: Never, ever miss a Nellie McKay show. I recommend you follow suit"  By Jon, LA Snark

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cal-Mum Ukulele Club Spring Concert

Well, Tom Toyama found us a great little tune with "Count on Me" by Bruno Mars. It was such a catchy sweet tune that we all latched onto it and loved playing it. Tom's wife was in the audience and caught the concert on video. We will have to search again next year for another viral tune that will make kids want to practice, practice, practice...

Here is the ukulele club playing and singing along with our 4th and 5th grade chorus.
Never hurts to have a good drummer...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bruno Mars - Count on Me

Here's a fun song that our elementary school will be playing in our annual Spring Concert. This video has been a huge help for our ukulele kids while trying to practice the song.

The video can be found on YouTube at:

331 Guitar Club - a cool YouTube channel that can be used by ukulele players. 331 Guitar Club is a middle school guitar club in the Bronx. This site features moving chord charts that they use to learn and master new songs.