Port Townsend Ukulele Festival Class Descriptions


What about Class Levels?

The workshop is open to everyone, and differing levels of ability are expected. However, it’s sometimes helpful to know at what level the instruction will be. We’ve assigned level numbers to class descriptions to help you make decisions about the classes and get the most out of your time here. The teachers will describe their classes on the first evening and you’ll have an opportunity to talk to them before making your class selection. One strategy might be to select one class where you’ll be challenged, because that’s where the learning occurs, and one class where you already have an established level of comfort.

LEVEL 1 beginner: This level of beginner has been playing for 3-6 months and has learned 3-4 chords but hesitates in-between chord changes to move the fingers to the next location.

LEVEL 2 advanced beginner: This player knows a handful of chords and can move from one chord to another without pausing. May have trouble with barre chords, and has developed a strum or two or a finger pattern for picking.

LEVEL 3 intermediate: This player can hold a steady rhythm, and is competent with a variety of basic chords (for example: A, Am, B7, C, C7, D, Dm, E7, Em, G, and G7). Understands simple chord progressions (such as I, IV, V chords), can sing and strum at the same time, and learns chords to simple tunes fairly quickly.

LEVEL 4 advanced: This player can hear I, IV, and V chords, has mastered some chord inversions, knows there is life above the fifth fret, and has been there with barre or 4-fingered movable chords. Plays lead and backup easily with others and keeps steady rhythm.

PACING: Classes usually pace themselves to match the participants’ abilities. Classes designated LEVEL 1 proceed at the pace of the slowest student in the class, i.e., no one gets left behind. Classes designated LEVEL 4 move at the pace of the most capable student in the class, i.e., no one gets bored. LEVEL 2 and 3 classes try to follow the pace of the majority of students in the class.

You’ll notice, in addition to class levels, that we’re offering two kinds of classes.

DROP IN CLASSES: Drop in classes are for anyone at any time.

THREE-DAY CLASSES: The three-day classes are progressive and incremental; that is, the day 2 session will be based upon the day 1 session, etc. We ask that you do not drop in to three-day classes unless you participate in day 1.


2016 CLASSES (We’ll be posting 2017 classes once 2017 faculty is finalized):

Pineapple Mango – Daniel Ho
I’ll teach many different things you can do with three simple chords – G, C, and D – like emulating bass parts, guitar parts, marimba, Latin piano, harmonics, and playing bass and percussion at the same time using the Afro-Cuban Mozambique rhythm. I will also go over how to sing the Hawaiian lyrics to the song and the translations. Level 4, three-day class.

An Introduction to Compositional Improvisation – Daniel Ho
I will introduce the concept of improvising by starting with just one note, then two, three, etc. The idea is to form a connection with your ukulele, so you can instantly play whatever you hear in your head. Using compositional techniques like diatonic transposition, inversion, inversion retrograde, augmentation, and diminution to compose solos rather than depending on familiar phrases or “licks.” There are no materials for this class. Level 4, three-day class.

Musical Alchemy: From Folk to Blues to Jazz – Kevin Carroll
This class is designed for the advanced beginner, intermediate and advanced player.  It’s a 3-day journey that unlocks the basics of music – melody, harmony & rhythm – and explores 3 distinctly different approaches to transforming a song from a folk song to a blues song and finally into a jazz song. This will be a fun, in-depth and hands-on way to develop your ukulele musicianship. There will be many stops along the way in the journey to notice how certain musical elements can be altered to deliver vastly different results. We will explore 1-2 songs and dress them in the musical elements of Folk, Blues and Jazz. All levels, three-day class.

Making Music  – Kevin Carroll
This is an intuitive, guided approach to exploring sounds in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental space. Students will explore improvising, playing by feel and by ear, spontaneous composing and many ways to simply “make music.”  As a teacher, this is one of my favorite ways to help students become more comfortable in their own musical skin while having a chance to discover their own unique musical voices. No visual materials will be used in class. All levels welcome, three-day class.

Moving With Chords – Del Rey    Chord practice for blues and jazz tunes.
Just four first position chord shapes can move you all around the fretboard, make your chord accompaniments lively and help find the melodies lurking in the chords. We’ll memorize a set of chord shapes using a blues progression and we’ll do some “hillbilly” theory-by that, I mean theory that’s in your fingers and ears, not on a piece of paper. We’ll also learn look at some ways to make interesting connections between the chord shapes. Be comfortable with first position chords, be able to hold a bar chord and be able to change the fingerings of chords you already know without freaking out. For strummers or pickers. Three-day class.

Ukulele Parlor Orchestra – Del Rey
Parlor music is something interesting and important from our musical past. Getting together to play beautiful songs was a favorite musical activity. There will be 3 parts, melody, harmony and chord chart, taught by ear, music and tablature and we’ll work on listening and playing with one another as a group.  Recorders encouraged. Level 3-4, three-day class.

Old Time Uke Stringband – Jere and Greg Canote
Appalachian Songs and tunes about rural life – from chickens to drinking, and everything in between. These are mostly 3 and 4 chord songs. We’ll learn the strums to give them the proper feel, and even pick some melody! Possible songs include: “Goin’ Down the River”, “I Took my Gal A Walkin’ “, and  ” I’ll Rise When the Rooster Crows!”  Levels 2 – 4, drop on in!

Novelty Song Uke Orchestra! – Jere and Greg Canote
We’ll work on Funny Songs from Tin Pan Alley to Western Swing,  songs from Ukulele Ike, and hits from Milton Brown and his Brownies! We’ll learn some up the neck chords, and some curious chord progressions. Songs will include:  “My Dog Loves Your Dog” and “What did I Do with That Thinga-ma-jig.”   Levels 2 – 4, drop on in!

Use Your Voice – Nicole Keim
Join Nicole as you explore the basics of singing and playing!  All of us have a singing voice inside and we deserve to find it and use it.  We’ll use several folk songs to practice harmony singing, proper vocal production and using expression. We’ll also explore strategies for singing while playing your uke. All levels welcome, drop in.

Reggaefy Your Uke – Jason Arimoto
This drop in class will explore the sounds of Hawaiian style reggae. Strums will be taught that highlight the syncopated rhythmic style of reggae music and how it was adapted into ukulele music, like that of Isreal Kamakawiwo‘ole. Participants will learn how to blend these techniques into their existing strums to evoke a more “island style” strum. Level 2-3, drop-in class.

Kī Hō‘alu “Slack Key” – Jason Arimoto
Kī Hō‘alu or “Slack Key” is a guitar style endemic to Hawaii using open tunings to “slack” the strings of the guitar. The resulting music produced by these tunings is distinctly Hawaiian in sound.  This progressive workshop explores Kī Hō‘alu on the ukulele and will highlight common techniques and licks to evoke the “slack key” style, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs and use of 6ths. In addition major and minor chord shapes in “C” taro patch tuning will be explored so participants can play along with non-Hawaiian songs using “slack key” tuning. Level 3, three-day class.

Intro to Ukulele Chord Melody – Gerald Ross
Chord Melody is a solo approach to ukulele playing where both the chord and melody line are played at the same time. This is a very popular style in the guitar world where many virtuoso players exist. Can this solo style of playing be achieved on the tiny ukulele with its four strings and very short scale? Yes it can! Have no fear, this class should actually be titled “Four strings are plenty enough!” This fingerstyle technique will use familiar chords, chord substitutions and single-note lines to craft complete, stand-alone arrangements. Familiar, popular songs will be used as tools to learn this very rewarding technique.  A concert or tenor sized uke tuned GCEA is recommended (high or low G). Some basic right-hand fingerpicking skills under your belt will speed you along as well. No music theory needed and no music reading required. No knuckle-busting chord shapes to learn. Class level: Confident beginner to intermediate, three-day class. Please contact Gerald with any questions at: gerald@geraldross.com.

Intro to Swing Ukulele – Gerald Ross
The 1930s and 40s were a magical time in the history of popular music. Swing was mainstream. The ukulele was made for swing music! Any uke song can swing and sound jazzy. It’s easy to make your instrumental accompaniment more interesting through chord substitutions and strumming patterns. The material covered in this class is not exclusive to the jazz/swing world  it can be used for all styles of music. No music theory needed. no music reading required. No knuckle-busting chord shapes to learn. Just fun! A concert or tenor sized uke tuned GCEA is recommended (high or low G). Class level: Confident beginner to intermediate, three-day class. Please contact Gerald with any questions at: gerald@geraldross.com.

Loop Station – Daniel Ward
This is a new workshop that Daniel Ward has spun off from his very popular “uke meditations” track that some of you may remember. But for this one, Daniel has written some new material specifically meant for “looping” over and over while blending tone, rhythm, and right hand patterns with new chords, melodies, and musical dynamics. This workshop will follow the model of playing slowly through the material over and over until it starts to sink into your bones, so you can use it for warm-ups and to “center” yourself on the instrument. One of the most valuable tools you can have in your ukulele tool box. Three day class, level 2–4.

VIP World Tour – Daniel Ward
In this fiery workshop you will visit strums, picking, and chords from all over the world and put them right into your bag of tricks. Flamenco, bossa nova, and, yes, folk music, and more… We will explore a few different styles and techniques that will  make a significant difference in how you approach each song in your repertoire, no matter its origin. Included is the “Montuno,” a great Latin rhythm that cycles over and over and is characterized by a happy syncopated arpeggio. It is found in Salsa music, but can also be plugged into any song to give it that special Latin feel that makes people jump up and dance. Plus you’ll learn multiple layers of things you can do with your right and left hands that will spice up your playing of any tune. Learn new ways to use the chords you already know, as well as some new, very spicy chords you might not have seen yet. Three day class, level 3-4.

Introduction to Line Clichés – Victoria Vox
A line cliché is a descending or ascending line that moves against a single stationary chord. Famous line cliché tunes include the James Bond theme song,  “Michelle” (McCartney / Lennon), “Blue Skies” (Irving Berlin), “One” (Harry Nilsson), and Victoria’s own “Mon Coeur Vide”. We can alter the harmony of a song to incorporate the use of line clichés, in both major and minor keys. It’s a great way to embellish a chord (or simply understand those seemingly complicated chord progressions) and it’s not as hard as it sounds! Basic chord knowledge (with bar chords / further up the neck) is helpful and we’ll also get into a bit of music theory. Drop-in class, level 2–3.

Songwriting – Victoria Vox
There are many ticking parts in getting a song to work. Melodies, rhythms, chords, and lyrics… Which chords will work? What notes will work? In this interactive workshop we can look at a tune you have written, or are working on, and we’ll take a look at what works or . . . doesn’t! Learn about songwriting techniques to get you out of a rut, or to perhaps inspire new ideas. There is no right or wrong answer here. All levels welcomed. Three day class.

Ukulele Boot Camp 101 – Craig Chee
Craig’s most popular workshop! Craig’s ever adapting Boot Camp will dive into a ton of exercises that will help strengthen and quicken your fingers as well as focus on your tone. We will then show how these exercises are applied to intermediate and even advanced techniques to take you to the next level! ‘Ukulele beginners to intermediates will have lots to chew on as there are many variations for all levels. High G tuning recommended. *There will be a follow up video that will be created to go over the important elements as well as expand on some of the ideas brought up during the workshop. Three day class, level 2-4.

Intro to Soloing – Craig Chee
Ever wondered how the pros do it? Craig will show you the tricks to starting your solos. Whether it’s playing solo, or jamming with others, he will get you feeling confident about your skills. He will utilize drills and exercises that are fun and easy to practice. Get out of your strumming rut and start soloing! Level 2-3 confident beginner to intermediate, Drop-In any day.

Chord Theory/Arranging – Sarah Maisel
This three day class is going to discuss how chords are created. We will start with the basics- What makes a Major Chord, and by the end of day one, we will know how to find or create most chords you will come across (m7b5, m7, MAJ7, etc). During day two, we will then focus on how to use this knowledge to create more musical interest in song arrangements. We will cover some popular Jazz Progressions and discuss some of the “rules” and how and why we break them. We will continue on to day three with more song arrangements, focusing on creating more movement in songs. This class is intended to give you the tools you need to understand the chords you are playing and to add to the songs you already know and love. Three day class, level 3-4.

Doo-Wop Till You Drop – Sarah Maisel
This class focuses on popular progressions, including Doo-Wop, Blues, and Pop. With those we will also discuss holding the instrument, barre chords, and creating efficiency while playing. It’s a perfect class for the beginner ‘ukulele player, through experienced. By the end of the class you’ll be a walking Juke Box! Level 1-2, drop-in class.

My Three Strums – Casey MacGill
The three strums I use regularly are THE SWING STRUM, THE SHUFFLE STRUM, and THE RUMBA STRUM. We will spend the most time learning the swing strum technique I use to create a danceable rhythm feel with the ukulele. We will learn the damping technique that is essential to creating the swing rhythm. Damping the strings is also important in the shuffle strum, which comes from the rhythm feel of the classic rhythm n’ blues records of Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, up to and including Elvis Presley. Last but not least the rumba strum is a bit more complex, but we break it down to three bite-sized morsels, and learn to count and play it together. It comes in handy with 1950’s anthems like “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Under the Boardwalk.” Level 2-3, drop-in class.

Connective Tissue/Song Class – Casey MacGill
This is a repertoire class that examines songs with similar chord progressions.

Example: You Took Advantage of Me and Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; same bridge.
Example: Jeepers Creepers and Cheerful Little Earful, same exact chord progression; two fun songs.
Example: Ain’t Misbehaving’, Birth of the Blues, What Goes Up Must Come Down; first 4 bars.

When we learn a song, we’re actually learning more than one song at a time. Recognizing recurring chord progressions (patterns) speeds our learning curve. We get to experience the cumulative learning effect by studying material that overlaps.  Level 3/4, drop in class.


Jug Band Songs – Aaron Keim
Jug band music is a unique mix of blues, jazz and country music, often played on simple homemade instruments.  We will learn how to strum and sing two classic songs, along with some licks, fills and solos for more advanced players.  This music is fun and challenging and great for your ukulele repertoire!  Level 2-3, drop-in anyday.

Everyday Music Theory – Aaron Keim
Are you curious about music theory and how to use it to improve your musicianship?  This workshop will show you how to practically apply it to your every day music making. Topics will include transposition to other keys, substituting chords, playing up the neck and building scales and melodies.  Three day class, level 3-4.