Music Terms and FAQ

Music is when words aren’t enough

Music TermsMusic. The organization of sounds, with some degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony.
Rhythm. The pattern of long and short note values in music.
Tempo. The pace of a piece of music
Strum. The different ways to stroke a pick or a finger rapidly over the strings of an instrument.
Action. The distance from the strings to the fretboard.
Tuning. The standard tuning for all but baritone ‘ukuleles is GCEA. When using an electronic tuner, make sure it is calibrated to the frequency reference of 440Hz, the general tuning standard for musical pitch.

1. What makes your teaching method unique?
It’s all about the strum. Students learn different strumming styles by watching the teacher’s demonstration and following the visual strum graphic with the catchy name. Mele teaches songs using different strumming patterns, and encourages students to apply their knowledge of these strums to other songs when playing music with others. Visit Benefits of Music with Mele page >>

2. Are your lessons geared to new students, or must I have prior knowledge of playing the ukulele before I can learn your techniques?
Whether you are a beginner OR a more experienced player who wants to learn different strumming techniques, Mele can teach you to play better ‘ukulele while having fun in the process.

3. How can I learn to play your method?
Take Mele’s classes at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better >>, view videos of sample lessons >> or visit Mele’s YouTube Channel at

4. I play a baritone ‘ukulele. Can I learn from you?
Yes! Lessons focus on various strumming techniques which you can play on any ‘ukulele. The baritone is tuned differently from the standard GCEA tuning for soprano, concert or tenor ukuleles, so the chord shapes are different. Keep the chord diagrams for your baritone ‘ukulele handy and you’ll be fine.

5. Where did the ‘ukulele originate?
Three woodcraftsmen from the Portuguese island of Madeira brought their native machete or braguinha with them to Hawaii in 1879, landing on Oahu aboard the ship Ravenscrag. The string instrument evolved in Hawai’i into the ukulele that we play as a rhythm and solo instrument today. Read more >>

6. Why don’t the song arrangements have the musical notes for the melody line written out?
In Hawai’i, we grew up learning to sing and play our instruments by watching and listening to our elders. In the oral tradition, we learned to play by ear, not by reading music (which came later). Thus, many Hawaiian songs don’t have sheet music available. Mele’s lessons are a way to hear the melody and to learn the song without needing to read music. Listen to audio recordings of Mele’s music >>

7. What qualities should I look for in a ‘ukulele?
A good ‘ukulele should have excellent sound and be comfortable and easy to play. It should also have good tone, intonation and resonance. Tone is the overall quality of the sound when a note is plucked, and is a highly subjective criteria from individual to individual. Intonation is the accuracy of the notes along the fret board. Resonance is reflected by the sound of the ‘ukulele. The best way to check for resonance is to have someone play the ‘ukulele while you listen across the room.  Plus, make sure the instrument stays in tune, or is easy to keep in tune while playing. Also, check the action, meaning the ease of pressing down on the strings, which may require a store employee to fix before you purchase your instrument.

8. There are so many instruments today being made by different companies. What is the best ‘ukulele for me?
No matter what anyone tells you, the best ‘ukulele for you is the ‘ukulele you enjoy playing the most. Whatever ‘ukulele you choose, be sure to keep it easily accessible so you’ll want to pick it up and play it!

9. Are there ‘ukulele stores that you recommend? Read more >>

10. How can I learn more about you and your musical background? Visit About Mele page >>