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, January 29, 2010

Magnitude of Rhyme

I noticed a post from Ukulele Perspective about FAWM.org and checked it out because I am out-of-the-loop on a majority of topics that have to do with music. Then I signed up because I was captured by the quote from Jack London that sums up the purpose: "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." I've just been reading recently about Jack's love for surfing and the ukulele and his connection with Hawaii and I thought it was an interesting coincidence; but some would say their are no coincidences, so here I go.

What I have found is a community of wonderful people all working towards the common goal of writing fourteen songs in the shortest month of the year. I've written about three in the past year so this should pick up the pace a bit.

Two of the songs I wrote I posted to YouTube, and I listened to them and thought, if it wasn't me singing and playing them, would I ever listen to them more than once. This is a very hard question. It is difficult trying to not be yourself with a critical ear for music written by... yourself.

The Wordle above was created from a lengthy thread on a FAWM post about whether or not rhyme was important in song writing. If you're into song writing, sign up the conversation is wonderful.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Aquila Effect

When I first thought that I might like to play the ukulele I found myself searching the web for information, and somehow I kept missing the fact that there was such a thing as re-entrant tuning. When I pulled the ukulele out of the closet at my parents' cottage, I thought that whoever had strung it was somewhat confused. The bridge was detached and hanging free while still attached to the strings, but clearly the string size seemed intuitively in the wrong order.
After a while I somehow figured out what was going on - I pieced the uke back together and fell in love with the sound it/I made.

Back then, in 2005, Flea Market Music Bulletin Board was the place to be for uke-talk and I became an addict. I kept reading about how great Aquila strings were; I had to get a set so I could experience what others were talking about. I found I could get them shipped to me for about $10 from Hana-Lima 'Ia in Honolulu. The envelope arrived within a week with postmarks from paradise. I was in awe of the beautiful packaging from Italy - from Italy to Hawaii to me... I had a hard time getting the number of windings on the tuning pegs right - I had no idea they would stretch that much. I was really not fully prepared for sound that came out of that Roy Smeck. I would play it for a few seconds and it would go flat. I'd tune it back up and it would go flat again - over and over. And then it stopped, they didn't stretch anymore. It was one of those moments when you want to run and tell somebody, but you realize that the best you'll get is insincere interest.

Every once in a while one of my students will get a set of Aquilas to put on a Mahalo and I'll get a chance to relive the experience, "I told you... didn't I... didn't I tell you these things are great?". And we'll both kind-of nod in quiet amazment. The Aquila Effect.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Danielle Live

Danielle Anderson on beauty:

Beauty, to me, can be anything. Things that make me happy or that make me sad.  Anything that brings about strong and powerful emotions can be really lovely. It's simple and complicated, obviously. I like a good song during the sunset on a summer day.  I like beer with chinese food.  I like laughing at an inside joke that doesn't make any sense to anyone else, but me and the people laughing. I like watching giraffes run in slow motion. I think that is really beautiful.

For those interested, a new YouTube channel DeanRichards44 has live video from L.A. of Danielle performing some of her popular ukulele songs.

Link to article from Denver Music

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our Time

And the week has slowly continued as I think about all that is important to me. I type this post on my iPhone as I hold my daughter while she sleeps and watch my son as he plays with his trucks. I've seen the pictures this week and I can't turn away, not out of some grim curiosity, but out of the strong feeling that I need to look at the faces and feel, and connect. I'm never going to make sense out of disaster and don't try. I find that my hopes, for all I hold dear, are held fast by the outpouring from the better angles of our nature.

Thank you Photocritic.org for the beautiful photo and Mr. Lincoln for the clarity of your words.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Record

When I first started the Cal-Mum Uke Club it was a small group of about eight students and myself just having fun learning songs like Five Foot Two and plucking Wipe Out. But, as things go, the idea of a fifth grader with a uke looked pretty cool to anyone in a younger grade. So, the next year kids wanted to be in my class because it was cool-uke-school. I had parents asking how their child could get into uke class. Today I look at my teaching career as life before the uke and life after.

I really think a lot of the fun came from the purchase of one item for our club, and lead to the creation of a recording studio in my classroom that began to motivated kids to sing and play.

I was so surprised by the effect of this microphone - even with quiet kids. I keep the mic out at all times on a boom-stand ready to record the impromptu songs that happen during breaks in lessons. The Samson Q1U Dynamic USB Microphone, a $69.95 mic I purchased from Zzounds, changed the club forever. Since the purchase three years ago I've recorded all the songs on our page with this mic along with my songs Simple Life and Garden Rambles. I just plugged the USB right into my computer at school and began recording - so simple. With free Audacity recording software and a subscription to Box.net I've recorded and stored tons of kid's songs on our web page  - all for $69.95.

If you're not recording yourself - you don't know what your missing.

Friday, January 8, 2010


As a school teacher I try to make sure that I notice things that my students do that makes them who they are, and makes the world a little better. If they do something that would make their parents proud - I stop and try to point out what it is and why it is appreciated. I know that being noticed for even little things is very important for every individual.

So, I just want to say thank you Ukulelia, it means a lot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jacob Borshard

I started playing in 2005 and while putting a website together for my ukulele club I discovered one of the great ukulele stories of our time. If you have been a fan of the ukulele for a while you will probably recognize Jacob Borshard. But, back in 2007 when the whole uke scene was new to me I tripped across his story and his affection for Drew Barrymore. I knew I would like this guy if I ever had the chance to meet him. He really comes across a very genuine person.

Jacob in his own words from an interview on Indieblips 

"I was obsessed with Drew Barrymore starting in about 10th grade when she was a Guess Jeans model.  One of my early songs was called 'Drew' and was about her kissing E.T.  I went to see all her bad movies and let it be known that I would one day meet her. Fast forward to 2007 - I was watching TV with Sarah (girlfriend?) and we saw a commercial advertising a songwriting/music video contest where the winner would be flown to Hollywood to walk the red carpet for Drew's new movie. It seemed like the contest was made for me. I went back to Portland and got to work on a video for 'Grass Stains'. At the end of the shoot, I was getting some shots outside a seafoam colored elementary school in Portland when the cops showed up. They believed that I was trying to lure children, and it didn't help that I was wearing a cape and filming video with a webcam. They abused me a bit and gave me a trespass warning which banned me from Portland Public School property for a year. Of course I ended up winning the video contest. Sarah and I flew to Hollywood and walked the red carpet. I finally met Drew at the cast and crew after-party and she was a total sweetheart. She graciously carved her name into my uke, and that was that."

The Artist:
Jacob is not confined to music as his only artistic outlet. You can see some of his colection on his website www.creebody.com . Here is a peek inside his head with a piece entitled: Clans of the Great Pony Rebellion: