Review October Ukulele Workshop

Strumming Workshop Season Began October 17

Strumming Workshop Season Began October 17

Eleven people came to my first of the 2015-2016 Ukulele Strumming Workshop season. Of those people, 10 had pre-registered on my website, one was a no show, two canceled last minute, and four walked in the door. We met in the Bailey House Museum’s gallery because the separate building which we usually are in was occupied. The gallery has a cozy feel like being in someone’s living room, and we all fit comfortably. I like it.

Everyone was new to the workshops but two people, one of whom is a part-time Maui resident who just recently arrived back on island. We had some great singers and people were so happy that afterwards I felt like a rock star because they all wanted to take pictures with me. One man commented, “I thought I knew what I was doing until I came here.” I enjoy teaching my method of holding the ‘ukulele without straining, and showing what rhythms are possible to play on the ‘ukulele.

Most people arrived early to the workshop, which was great. As I checked people off my pre-registration list, and added those who had just walked in, I asked each person how they heard about it. I found it was interesting to hear the varied answers from seeing it on an online calendar, to following me on YouTube, to searching on google and finding my website, to hearing us perform at last weekend’s Ukulele Festival where I announced the workshop from the stage. As a new advertising effort this time, I submitted information to a couple of online calendars for Maui events, and am happy that someone actually saw the listing and came to the workshop. Even as we were setting up for the workshop on Saturday morning, I even got a call from someone wanting to know if the workshop would happen again. Next month I plan to do more outreach such as putting up posters where locals gather in addition to submitting articles to our local newspaper, using social media, direct emails, and registering people through my website.

Ukulele Mele teaches workshops at Bailey House Museum

Ukulele Mele Teaches at the Bailey House

New this time, I changed the workshop format slightly per my husband’s comments of not making it boring for people who know how to play. I suggested to beginners that they take private ukulele lessons with me, and just do what they can at the workshop. I started right off the bat with 3-chord songs using C, F, and G7 and showing how changing the strum can affect the feel of a song. In the past, I started with 2-chord songs (for beginners) and then worked our way up to 3-chord songs as we played plenty of different songs. New this time was my focus: I demonstrated “Lion Sleeps Tonight” using 3 different strums, and then demonstrated two songs using 3 different waltz strums plus a picking strum in 6/8 time. I ended up teaching 5 strums in 4/4 time, and 3 strums in ¾ time, to a total of 6 songs within 2 hours. This workshop format was much better – and not boring!

During the first hour, we played:

  1. Lion Sleeps Tonight with chalang-alang strum and then with I Wanna Rest Strum.
  2. Sloop John B and Medley of La Bamba Twist & Shout with Latin Strums.
  3. She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mt. with Hum Ding-Ah Strum.

After a break, we played:

  1. The More We Get Together – with 3 different waltz strums.
  2. Hawaii Aloha – with Morse Code Strum.

In the past when I taught large groups of mixed abilities at ‘Ukulele Mixed Plate events at the Shops at Wailea, I noticed how people have a hard time playing in ¾ time. I am glad I waited until after the break to teach waltz strums to the same song. I also took the opportunity in the second half of the workshop to review my method basics, and how learning the “Ukulele Mele Way” is beneficial.

The October ‘Ukulele Strumming Workshop was great! Come to the next one on Saturday, November 21.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele


Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the 'ukulele. She is an experienced educator with over 50+ years experience playing the 'ukulele and entertaining worldwide. Mele performs with her husband in the duo "The Hawaiian Serenaders" and leads student groups. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawai'i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom were both born and raised on Oahu and now reside in Maui.