Welcoming in summer with some ukulele strummin’

What do lawn chairs, mosquitos, music stands and the summer solstice have in common?

They were all in evidence as members of Ukuleles of Paradise heralded the first day of summer with an evening of “Plunkin’ in the Park.”

More than a dozen of us gathered at Paradise’s Rotary Grove Aquatic Park (aka “the duck pond”) just off Buschmann Road for the fun. While we began the evening with some classic summer tunes (“Yankee Doodle” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) we had plenty of time to strum and sing some of our “old” favorites before the evening was through.

Some interesting findings from that evening:

  • We didn’t appear to scare anyone away who was already enjoying the park.
  • No ducks joined us in a musical chorus.
  • Mosquitoes become more aggressive as the shadows grow longer (but my new OFF! “clip-on mosquito repellant” device seemed to keep the little biting buggers away from those downwind of me—or perhaps it was just something about me???)
  • Collapsible lawn chairs without arms are best because there’s nothing to interfere with energetic ukulele right- and left-hand techniques. Over at Walgreens (corner of Skyway and Bille) they have the perfect outdoor jamming chairs: only $6.99 and they come in turquoise, deep blue, green and PINK!

How about joining us in July? We’ll be at the same place and time (6:30 pm) on Monday, July 19.

(Oh, and if you have great mosquito repellent, I want to sit downwind of you!)

Learn to “Play Ukulele by Ear” in upcoming workshops

Ukulele instructor extraordinaire Jim D’Ville is touring through Northern California in June and has put little old Butte County on his schedule for a pair of info-packed workshops—and, if you’re willing, you might even be part of his newest instructional DVD.

“Play Ukulele by Ear” will be at 11 am on Saturday, June 12. “Chord Progressions and the Circle of Fifths, by Ear” will be at 11 am on Sunday, June 13. The two workshops are for players of all ability levels. Cost is $20 for each and both will be held in Chico, at the studio where he will be recording his next DVD (only the Sunday workshop will be taped).

I’ve taken workshops from Jim, I keep an eye on his blog and I bought his DVD (go here for a detailed review) so I can guarantee from experience that you’ll enjoy—and benefit from—either or both of these learning opportunities.

Here’s a link to a flyer about the workshops—and I’ll include some more information here:

Play Ukulele By Ear: Get off that piece of paper and learn to play the ukulele by ear! Workshop topics will include tuning by ear and tuning your ear, recognizing musical intervals and chord progressions and learning thousands of songs in advance! This workshop will give you the tools you need to tap into all the musical knowledge you already have stored in your head. Playing by ear is easy, it’s fun and it will propel your understanding of how music works to a new level. This workshop will make you a better listener! All skill levels welcome, however, knowledge of basic chord shapes (C F G7) is helpful.

Chord Progressions & The Circle of 5ths By Ear: Take your hearing to the next level by learning to recognize progressions with more that three chords.  You’ll discover how all songs use the same basic structure and how to predict where the music if going to take you.  Why learn one song at a time when you can learn how all songs work at once?  Knowledge of C-Dm-Em-F-G7-Am-Bdim chords required.  This is also a DVD shoot so you must sign a model release to attend.

To register, write to Jim at: dville@teleport.com. And, do register ahead of time as space is limited. This is a workshop you don’t want to miss—Jim travels all around (including Australia for goodness’ sake) teaching these topics; we’re fortunate that his DVD recording is happening in our own backyard so we get the benefit of his teaching talent.

Tahoe Area Uke Fest; March 19-20, 2010

[Note: I wrote this the Monday after returning from the Tahoe Area Ukulele Fest, but it’s taken me until now to get the photos sorted and this posted.


The past few days drained my sleep budget, but I’m not lamenting my recent loss of shut-eye at all.

That’s because I’ve had a good reason for not putting in more pillow time: I’ve been at the Second Annual Tahoe Area Ukulele Festival. For a confirmed uke fest-aholic like me, a festival means squeezing in as much ukulele talk, playing, learning and listening as possible—and this festival experience was no different!

While I only spent one night at the hotel (ninth floor, East Tower—overlooking I-80. Note to self: request the other side of the building next year), I think I was only in the room for 10 minutes to drop off my bag on Friday afternoon, and then hit the pillows from 2:15 to 8:45 am in the wee hours of Saturday. Golly, I snagged a great room rate, but on a per-minute-spent basis, I’ve certainly had better deals. Continue reading Tahoe Area Uke Fest; March 19-20, 2010