A Q&A with Mitch Chang, Producer of the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival

A Q&A with Mitch Chang, Producer of the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival

Mitch Chang is an ukulele teacher, an event producer, and the brains behind the the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival. Mitch’s vision for the festival “is to make it as easy as possible for families and ukulele fans of all ages, interest, and ability levels to discover/rediscover the ukulele where they will be supported and encouraged,” and he delivers! It’s an all-day extravaganza of performances, workshops, and fun. I taught beginner’s workshops at this year’s festival, and I was so impressed by what I saw that I wanted to learn more about the man who made it all possible. Thank you, Mitch, for giving me a peek behind the scenes!

Thoughtful Gifts for the Ukulele Player in Your Life

 2018 Gift Guide: What to Buy Your Favorite Ukulele Player

2018 Gift Guide: What to Buy Your Favorite Ukulele Player

 

Wondering what to get for your favorite ukulele players? Choose something that supports their love of music! Here’s a roundup of some practical and thoughtful gifts that do just that. All of these items are available from Amazon Prime (at the time I’m publishing this) for $25 or less!

A Cute Tuner

A digital clip-on tuner is the fastest, most accurate way to tune an ukulele, and every uke player needs at least one! I have several myself, but I might start playing favorites if I had one as adorable as this!

Rock and Roll Tuner

If the owl is too cutesy for your uke player’s tastes, perhaps this glow-in-the-dark rock-and-roll tuner makes more sense? I think it would be perfect for gigs or just jamming with buddies. And btw, these tuners work for most other string instruments, not just ukes!

Felt Picks

Picks are a nice option for guitarists who are used to using picks and for beginners who have difficulty strumming with their fingers and/or thumb. These felt picks come in a variety of color combos and are gentle on ukulele strings.

A Fun Travel Case

I saw so many playful and well-reviewed ukulele cases available on Amazon Prime! A colorful case like this would be such a fun conversation piece at the next uke group meetup!

A Display Stand

I encourage my students to take their ukuleles out of their cases as soon as they get home, because it makes you so much more likely to pick it up and play. An attractive wood stand such as this one turns any bookshelf or table into a uke display center. Stands are perfect for anyone, but especially nice for renters or chronic furniture rearrangers (like me) who can’t commit to the wall-mount hooks!

A Strap

A strap can make a big difference in one’s playing. This option requires no drilling and it fits all ukulele sizes and shapes, including soprano, concert, tenor, baritone, pineapple, and even the UBass.

A Music Stand

It’s common for uke players to bend over their instruments to get a better look at the song they’re playing. Setting the songbook (or iPad) on a proper music stand ensures better posture, which dramatically impacts one’s overall playing (and singing, too).

The ‘Ukulele: A History

Educate your uke player! It’s great to know how to play the uke, but it’s also valuable to know a thing or two about its history. Here’s part of the description from the book’s product page on Amazon: “Since its introduction to Hawai‘i in 1879, the ‘ukulele has been many things: a symbol of an island paradise; a tool of political protest; an instrument central to a rich musical culture; a musical joke; a highly sought-after collectible; a cheap airport souvenir; a lucrative industry; and the product of a remarkable synthesis of western and Pacific cultures. The ‘Ukulele: A History explores all of these facets, placing the instrument for the first time in a broad historical, cultural, and musical context.”

 
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Music plays a joyful role in the Christmas season, and it’s a wonderful time of year to sing, strum, and make merry with friends and family. My new holiday songbook includes an Ukulele Chord Chart for Easy Transposing, tips for singing, strum patterns for playing in 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, and the chords and lyrics for thirteen classic Christmas songs. Available in paperback for $10, and as a digital download for $8. Order by Saturday, 12/15/18 to ensure delivery before Christmas!

 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

A List of Christmas Songs Set in 3/4 Time Signature

If you’re looking up chords and lyrics online, or playing along with Youtube tutorials, the time signature is a piece of information that is frequently left out, so I created the post on Feeling the Difference Between 4/4 and 3/4 Time Signature to help you figure it out on your own. It includes a video tutorial featuring a song that switches between the two time signatures to help you understand how they differ. And in my post from yesterday, I included another video tutorial with three beginner strum patterns for playing in 3/4 time (commonly referred to as waltz rhythm).

Many popular Christmas songs are set in 3/4 time, and I’ve been compiling this list as we listen to holiday music at home. Whenever I hear a song in 3/4 time, I make a note. Can you think of any I missed? Let me know in the comments!

A List of Christmas Songs Set in 3/4 Time

* indicates a song that is included in my songbook, Oh, What Fun! Christmas Songs for the Ukulele

PS: One of my guilty pleasures is watching old Christmas specials on Youtube. Here’s a gem, featuring Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”:

As always, happy (waltz) strumming!

How to Strum Songs Set in 3/4 Time Signature (With Video Tutorial!)

This post excerpts content from Part Three of my book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners.

Let’s begin by defining some basic music terms:

Time Signature

A symbol used in sheet music to indicate the number of beats per measure of music. A song’s time signature determines which strum patterns you can play.

Measure

One unit of music; one grouping of beats

4/4 Time Signature

The most common time signature for Western music. A song in 4/4 time has four beats per measure and is counted 1 - 2 - 3 - 4, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 . . . 4/4 (“four-four”) time is also referred to as common time because it is the default time signature for pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, country, folk, etc. 4/4 time is the time signature you are most accustomed to hearing and, as a beginning musician, it’s the time signature you are most likely to be playing.

3/4 Time Signature

The second most common time signature for Western music. A song in 3/4 time has three beats per measure and is counted 1 - 2 - 3, 1 - 2 - 3 . . . 3/4 (“three-four”) time signature is the second most popular time signature for Western music and is frequently referred to as waltz rhythm. When we play in 3/4 time, we count in groups of three (not four), meaning we must alter our strum to suit the rhythm.

In the following video, I play through three beginner waltz strums:

Your primary goal in making music is to maintain a steady beat. Start with variation A to create a nice, basic rhythm as you familiarize yourself with the new count. When you’re keeping a steady beat and appropriately managing your chord changes, give variations B and C a try.

One of my favorite things to do is simplify music theory to make it easier to understand, and I hope this post has helped simplify time signatures for some of you! If you’d like to learn more, please check out my book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners. Happy strumming!

Black Friday Sale: Receive 30% Off My Ukulele Handbook!

I’m happy to announce my first-ever sale!

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Use the promo code BLACKFRIDAY to receive 30% off Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners. This offer is valid for both versions of the book—paperback and digital download— and this sale will run all weekend long, expiring Sunday 11/25/18 at 11:59 pm. Happy shopping!

Two Beginner Ukulele Workshops on November 18 in Torrance

My family and I are coming down to Southern California for Thanksgiving, and I’m so happy to announce that I’ll be leading two ukulele workshops while I’m in town! If you live in LA or Orange County, please come join me. The workshops are only $20/person, which is such a good deal! Here are the details:

Let’s Play! Your First Ukulele Lesson — Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 from 2-2:50 pm

AT OPUS MUSIC, 2219 TORRANCE BLVD, TORRANCE, CA 90501

I specialize in teaching people with little to no previous musical experience how to get started playing the ukulele. Regardless of your musical background, I’ll teach you how to play your first three chords and we will play four songs together. Here’s the workshop description:

Experience the fun of playing the ukulele in this workshop designed for brand-new players. Learn the basics of strumming and playing chords and start making music! No previous musical experience required. This lesson will cover the materials and songs from Part One of my book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners (no book purchase is required).

Christmas Songs for Beginners — Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 from 3-3:50 pm

AT OPUS MUSIC, 2219 TORRANCE BLVD, TORRANCE, CA 90501

Does it feel a little bit too soon to be talking about Christmas music? That’s kind of the point! Join me for this festive workshop on the Sunday before Thanksgiving so that you’ll be ready when it’s officially time to trim the tree! Here’s the workshop description:

Get your uke ready for the holidays with this fun and festive workshop. We'll strum and sing several beginner-friendly Christmas songs so you can make merry and fa-la-la all season long! Prior to the workshop, I will email you a PDF of all the songs we’ll play.

No uke? No problem! If you click on the Register Now button, you’ll also be able to pre-order a starter ukulele kit, which includes everything you need to get started: a soprano ukulele, a digital tuner, a gig bag, a strap, and a copy of my book!


Have a question about either workshop? Ask away in the comments.

PS: A big thank you to Mitch Chang for helping me set these up. 

Recap: SF Uke-toberfest 2018

SF Uke-toberfest is an annual ukulele festival in San Francisco, and it consists of a day full of workshops, a marketplace area, and an evening concert. I was there with my fellow uke-mama Ashlee to host a Musical Mama booth in the marketplace. This was my second-ever festival, and I knew the vibe was going to be different from my first festival. For starters, Uke-toberfest is smaller, held indoors, and takes place in a completely different city with a completely different culture.

My day started before dawn, when I woke up to get ready, load up the car, and deal with a few surprises (like my son’s bloody nose!). Once things at home were under control, I drove over to pick up Ashlee, and we made our way up to San Francisco. WHAT. A. FUN. DAY! Most of my time was spent at the MM table, where I got to engage in some really great conversations with some of the workshop leaders, other vendors, and many people attending the event.

At my booth I had my book, free chord charts, free ukulele coloring pages, and a new offering: ukulele starter kits featuring Ohana ukuleles. Two highlights were the man who bought an ukulele starter kit for his sister (I won’t name names, on the off chance I’d blow the surprise, but seriously— what a sweet brother!) and Roxanne, a woodworker who bought the turquoise ukulele starter kit because she had been looking for a new hobby. Other highlights include getting to chat with Craig Chee, Ukulenny, Patrick and Eric from Kala, and the many, many kind folks who stopped by the Musical Mama booth.

I offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone I met with yesterday, and a big hug to all who purchased my book! NB: If you bought my book, please make sure you read the introduction to find the URL for the play-along videos.

PS: We recently set-up our kids with email accounts so they can stay in touch with family members, and that means they can also send a select few of us messages from the family laptop. They kept my spirits up by sending me texts like this throughout the day:

 I’m still waiting for my daughter to explain what the poop-trophy emojis are all about

I’m still waiting for my daughter to explain what the poop-trophy emojis are all about

 More emojis, more sweetness

More emojis, more sweetness

Getting Ready for SF Uke-toberfest 2018

Are you going to Uke-toberfest? The second annual festival, hosted by SF Uke Jam Leaders Cynthia Lin and Ukulenny, is happening this Saturday 9/27/18 in Japantown in San Francisco. The event consists of a full day of workshops covering a wide range of topics targeted for a variety of skill levels, followed by a concert that evening.

I’ll be there with my uke mama friend Ashlee, representing Musical Mama in the marketplace area. The marketplace is free and open to the public, so come check it out!

In the video, I chat a bit about what I’ll have available at my booth. I forgot to mention that I’ll also have free chord charts and ukulele colorings pages, too. If you’ll be there, make sure you come by and say hi!

SF Uke-toberfest at Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Coming Soon: Ukulele Starter Kits!

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Big news! Beginning this November 2018, I’ll be offering ukulele starter kits featuring Ohana Ukuleles! The ukulele kits will include everything a beginner needs to get started making music, including:

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Ohana Ukuleles is a family-owned company based in Long Beach, CA, and I’m thrilled to be working with them. Ohana has a long-standing reputation for building instruments that are both high-quality and affordable. The Musical Mama ukulele starter kits will be available for sale starting in November, just in time for the holidays. I’ll even be offering gift wrapping services, to make giving the gift of music even easier!

Stay tuned for more details…

How to Play Stand By Me in Two Different Keys

In honor of #ukesnotnukes, I’m sharing a free download of the chords and lyrics for Stand By Me in two different keys. I’ve seen a lot of Youtube tutorials for this song in the key of C, but I just can’t hit those high notes! Singing this song in the key of G is much more comfortable for me, especially on days like today when I’m recovering from a cold and shouldn’t really be singing at all!

If you’re a brand new player, first try playing this song in the key of C, simply because the chords are easier. If you’re already comfortable playing the C, F, G, and Am chords, give this song a try in the key of G! Then compare the two. Which key feels better for your voice? Being able to play a song in different keys is a really valuable skill for anyone who likes to sing. So much of being able to sound good as a singer is knowing what keys are comfortable for your vocal range.

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Looking for an easy-to-read guide to the ukulele? Check out my book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners!

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners

I first set out to write a how-to guide for the ukulele when I learned of loved ones— a sister-in-law in Pennsylvania, my BFF in Connecticut, and many others— who were interested in learning to play. I wanted a way to share my beginner’s ukulele course with people who lived outside of Silicon Valley. After two years of writing, editing, and designing, my book is a reality and I’m so thrilled to be able to share it with you!

My goal for Let’s Play! was to create a book that would be approachable for anyone, but especially people with very little or no previous musical experience. Take a peek inside, then read on to learn what steps I took to make the book as user-friendly as possible:

Recap: The 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival

UPDATE: Several people asked when I planned to host another workshop in the area, and I hope to have an answer for them soon! I will likely be back in Southern CA in November and am currently looking into whether I can plan another workshop while I’m in town. I will post about upcoming events on the blog, and you can email me if you’d like to join my mailing list.

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The 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival took place on Saturday, 9/22 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. I drove down from San Jose (leaving my hubby and kids at home) on the Thursday prior, spent some time with my parents in OC on Friday, spent all day at the festival on Saturday, and drove home on Sunday. This event was the first time I’d ever led workshops at a festival and the first time I’d ever operated a vendor booth! I did my best to prepare for both, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of this unique event.

 my only regret for the workshops was not getting more pictures and videos!

my only regret for the workshops was not getting more pictures and videos!

The Workshops

I have to say, teaching brand-new players how to play the ukulele is one of my all-time favorite things. It’s just so darn rewarding to show people that, regardless of their musical experience (or lack of it), they really can learn to play the ukulele. In the 45-minute sessions, I taught the groups three chords and five songs that are fun and easy to sing and play. Groups of friends, young couples, grandparents with their grandkids, parents with young children, tween boys… I think almost every age group was represented!

 Thank you Louis and Ohana Ukuleles for sharing the bongoleles and shakerleles!

Thank you Louis and Ohana Ukuleles for sharing the bongoleles and shakerleles!

For the kiddos who were too little to play ukes, I had some rhythm instruments and trinkets I brought out throughout the workshop. Louis from Ohana Ukuleles very generously provided Shakerleles and Bongoleles for the adults and big kids to try out. Aren’t they beautiful? I’m particularly fond of the shakerleles, which are a more sophisticated take on the egg shaker. They feel so good in the hand and make such a satisfying sound when shaken.

Making music is so much fun when it’s a shared experience, and group jams are hard to beat. Thank you to all who attended my workshops. Thank you for sharing your time, your energy, and your beautiful voices! If you attended the workshop and want a PDF of my handout, please fill out my contact form and I’ll email it to you.

 Jane and Katie. Aren’t they cute?

Jane and Katie. Aren’t they cute?

The Booth

My booth was in the marketplace area, which was open to the public. And conveniently enough for me, my booth was located right next to the room where my workshops were held, so most of my time was spent either in the workshop room or in the marketplace area. At my booth, we sold copies of my book and shared free chord charts and ukulele coloring pages. My friends Katie and Jane (both of whom are Musical Mamas!) helped me out all day, and they were AMAZING. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them, and I feel so grateful for their help.

I did get a few opportunities to wander around the festival and briefly check out the other workshops and performances, and everywhere I looked I saw people having a good time. This was true for the marketplace area as well. So many smiling faces and lovely conversations with folks of all ages and levels of experience.

Thank you to all who took the time to stop by my booth. It was great chatting with you! I hope to see you next year. :)

Getting Ready for the 2018 Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival!

This Saturday, September 22, you can find me at the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center! I’ll be leading three Family Jam workshops and running a booth in the marketplace. This starts a new chapter for me as an ukulele teacher, and I’m excited to be a part of this awesome event. There are going to be so many good workshops and performances throughout the day, featuring Taimane, Aaron and Nicole Keim, Cynthia Lin, Ukulenny, Mitch Chang, and more.

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Jam with Me!

My family-friendly workshop is designed for beginners and brand-new players of all ages. In 45-minutes, I’ll teach you how to play and sing five songs that are fun for everyone! Workshops start at 10 am, 12:30 pm, and 3pm in the (air-conditioned!) Garden Room.

Kala is generously providing loaner ukuleles for anyone who needs one, and I’ll be bringing rhythm instruments for the littlest music-makers who attend. I’ll also be hosting a giveaway at the end of each workshop, meaning there are three chances to win a copy of my new book.

 doing a test-run of my tent, tables, and banners in the backyard

doing a test-run of my tent, tables, and banners in the backyard

Visit the Marketplace

If you’re local and just want to see what all the fuss is about, the marketplace area of the festival is free! To find my booth, just look for the purple pop-up tent with the big banners. :)

At the booth, I’ll be selling my new book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners at a special festival rate of $20 (normally $24), and I’ll also be handing out free chord charts and ukulele coloring pages. Since I’ll be teaching workshops throughout the day, I’ve enlisted the help of my awesome friends (and ukulele players) Katie and Jane to help me run the booth. I’ll be at the booth as much as I can between Family Jams.

Ohana Ukuleles, Uke Life, Tyde Music, and Nalu Ukulele are just some of the vendors who will be offering their wares on Saturday. I know that there are going to be so many beautiful instruments on display!

Get Your Tickets!

I love that this is truly a family-friendly event. Tickets are $45/person and kids 12 and under get in free. See the schedule and learn about the events by visiting the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival website.

Ukulele Basics: A Beginner's Guide to the Ukulele

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Ukulele Basics

My new ukulele starter guide includes a free digital download and eleven videos designed for brand new players (or anyone who needs a refresher)! Learn how to play two strums, three chords, and three songs. Ukulele Basics covers all the essentials of getting started, including:

• How to play chords

• How to strum

• How to play Frère Jacques with the C chord

• How to play Shoo, Fly! Don't Bother Me with the F and C chords

• How to play You are My Sunshine with the C, F, and G7 chord

 

A note about the songs: I love sharing folk songs with my students, and I’ve specifically chosen these three well-known songs because they have easy-to-memorize lyrics, common chord arrangements, and singable melodies. All of these qualities make them great songs for new musicians and help make your learning curve a little bit gentler. 

Are you ready to start strumming? Download the PDF and let's play!

Please note: you will have to go through some of the checkout process in order to receive the download link, but you will not need to enter any credit card data. The PDF is free!

 

 

How to Tune Your Ukulele for the First Time

Ukuleles purchased online usually arrive with the strings really loose and very out of tune. And if you're a brand-new player, just getting your strings in tune can feel like a challenge! 

In my latest video I tune up a very affordable and adorable Diamond Head ukulele, which I purchased from Amazon for about $24. The tuner I use in the video the Snark SN5X. There are so many flashy and fancy tuners out there, but I like this one for its simple design and bright display.  

How do you tune up your instrument? I love seeing the tuners my students bring to lessons. Two recent standouts were the Hello Kitty tuner and a flashy contraption that lights up like a pinball machine each time you play a string!   

 

this post contains affiliate links


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Learn to pLay the Ukulele 

Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners is now available in paperback and as a digital download!  

My new how-to guide is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to play the ukulele. Created for absolute beginners, this book was designed to make learning to play the ukulele simple and fun. It’s beautifully organized with easy-to-follow diagrams and is accompanied by dozens of instructional videos to guide you along the way. 


Watch More Video Tutorials:

An Easy Way to Figure Out the Key of a Song

Beginning musicians don't always think about what key a song is in, but it's a valuable piece of information. In this video, I share a really simple way to figure out the key of a song, plus I explain why it's an important thing to know: 

One of my goals as a teacher is to de-mystify music for my students and break down concepts so that they're really easy to understand. I plan to make more videos along this vein, so if you have any topics you'd like me to cover, please let me know in the comments! 

How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

Parents frequently ask me how to get their kids to spend more time playing their instruments. And I have good news! I think there are a lot of things parents can do to support their children's musical development and encourage them to play more. Here are a few of my top tips for parents of elementary school-aged children:

How to Play the Island Strum

Have you heard of the Island Strum? It's a popular and versatile ukulele strum, but it can be a bit of a challenge for beginners. I've created a short video tutorial to help break it down and make it a bit easier to master:

Do you have a favorite strum pattern, or a strum you find yourself defaulting to over and over again? I'd love to hear about it! 


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Learn to pLay the Ukulele 

Let's Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners is now available in paperback and as a digital download!  

My new how-to guide is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to play the ukulele. Created for absolute beginners, this book was designed to make learning to play the ukulele simple and fun. It’s beautifully organized with easy-to-follow diagrams and is accompanied by dozens of instructional videos to guide you along the way. 

Hosting a Music-Themed Playdate

Hosting a Music-Themed Playdate

I recently had a few mom friends and their little ones over for a jam session, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN! The moms brought their ukuleles, I brought out some of our favorite rhythm instruments, and we all had a good time singing, dancing, and playing. The best part is that this is fun for all ages and skill levels. 

Ready to host your own playdate jam? Here are a few tips based on what worked for us: