So, I finally took my first ukulele lesson today at the Ukulele Puapua shop located at the Sheraton Waikiki. It was a lesson with Bruce Shimabukuro and the lesson costs $45 for about 45 minutes. I had to travel quite a ways to make it to Waikiki, so I budgeted about an hour driving time thinking that I would arrive in plenty of time. Well, for some reason, there was some serious traffic jam around Waikiki around noon so it took all of the time I had budgeted for driving and then some, and I was late to the lesson by about 5 minutes.
Bruce was at the shop tuning up a bunch of Kala sopranos as I arrived. He greeted me and finished up the tuning of those ukes before we began the lesson. It turned out that I was the only one who signed up for his lesson today, so it was more or less a private lesson. He asked me what kind of music I played and how I learned to play in general. I told him I liked to play his brother's music and had learned a lot of songs from Dominator's tabs. He asked me to play a little bit of what I currently play so I played a little bit of Piano Forte. He pointed out that I can make the notes come out more by playing near the sound hole instead of around the neck-joint as I usually pick or strum. He went on to share some thoughts on different picking positions and why it is important to make each note mean something. While this does not teach me how to fast pick 3rd Stream, I thought it was very helpful and enlightening. I'm sure picking at different positions isn't anything special, but it is something I have not given any thought to, so it was great to have it pointed out to me.
He went on to go through a song called Cognito Town with me, starting with the picking parts and then the chord strumming. While leaning the picking and strumming parts, he talked about knowing the individual notes on the fretboard and how knowing some music theory could help me being able to play with others just by knowing what key they're playing in. Throughout the process he discussed how the things I learned during this lesson should be applied to everything I played.
One thing kind of funny happened during the middle of the lesson. Tyler Gilman, who is a manager at Ukulele Puapua (and a friggin awesome uke player himself, just look at this video, he's the one on the left), stopped by and asked what kind of ukulele I had. He asked to look at it and remarked that it was from Bill King (aka William King). He played it for a minute and then asked me if he could take some pictures of it. I said yes and he handed me a glossy Kanile'a to continue the lesson. (I think it was a super-concert, but not sure) I thought it was pretty amusing that someone wanted to take pictures of my ukulele. I guess Mr. King builds rock star ukuleles or something. LOL! As an aside, when I resumed the lesson with the Kanile'a, it was immediately obvious what an awesome uke the King LS-concert is. The Kanile'a sounded really nice, but it was very obvious that it wasn't in the same class as the King. Well, at least to me. It could be that I was biased, but I was assured once again that the King was a sound investment.
I think the lesson actually lasted a full hour, so I guess I got my money's worth. I thought it was very enjoyable, and Bruce is truly a great ukulele teacher. It's too bad I can't take his lessons on a regular basis. I'm sure that would do wonders for my ukulele playing skills. If you are visiting Oahu, I would highly recommend taking a lesson with Bruce. I'm sure you will pickup something worthwhile.