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The Ukulele Versus the Advanced Beginner

In a recent blog about a unique traveling guitar stand cleverly named “The Pub Prop”, I spoke about my friend Mark Pugh in the UK, his invention and his company Stones-Music. As it turns out his company’s real specialty is an indulgence in the world of ukuleles.

What I found out last fall while touring the UK is that once again I demonstrated how to back myself into a corner. Apparently anything said during a lunch conversation can be taken seriously.

Gilewitz_Mark_PughI think the conversation went something like this:

Mark, “Blah blah blah blah, Ukelele, blah blah blah blah.”

Professor Gilewitz, “Hey, you should hire me to do some seminars for you on the next tour to promote your ukes!”

Mark, “Sounds great. Let’s do it.”

Two hours later in the car. Richard’s wife, “Does Mark realize you don’t know how to play a Ukulele?”

Professor Gilewitz, “Uh, yeah…well, um – no. I guess I should tell him.”

Richard’s wife, “Well, we don’t want to miss this opportunity. Can you learn it by the spring?”

Gilla-dumbo, “Um, yeah –well, I guess I could try. Hey I have an idea!”

Phone call to Mark. “Hi Mark. Um. I don’t know how to play Ukulele, but I have an idea. Since I’ve been playing fingerstyle guitar for forty years including the use of multiple open tunings, know my theory, and have conducted over 2,000 music seminars in 48 states and 12 countries, why don’t we present me as the layman who’s trying to ‘learn’ the ukulele and is doing so by applying all of the appropriate techniques that transfer such as pattern picking, viewing the fingerboard with an open tuning mentality, exploring multiple rhythms, dynamic playing, the art of memorizing a tune, addressing all timing issues one faces when dealing with triplets, dotted notes, and the world of 16th’s without forgetting to address of course syncopation, breath control during performance, posture awareness, the art of visualization, methods of listening to other musicians, how to play with a click track and exploring the art of tuning and the proper use of a capo as well as compositional approaches and considerations billing me as an advanced beginner?”

Mark, “OK”

Gilewitz_Uke_Porch2014Now that I’m backed into my little corner with my little Ukulele here in Florida quivering like protoplasmic mammal dung, thoughts are crossing my mind like, “Wait, where was that G chord again? Oh, isn’t that a D?? No, now it’s a G. Let’s see how this sounds.” Plunk plunk plunk.

And so begins the journey. Hope to see some of you out there in the UK this spring in my first role as “The Frankenstein Monster plays the Ukulele.” Free electrodes at the door.

(Check Richard’s tour schedule for his UK dates.)

About the author

Richard Gilewitz

For over three decades fingerstyle guitarist Richard Gilewitz has charmed audiences with road tales and right-hand wizardry, creating a sparkle of mood mastery and wonderment during each performance. Recognized world wide as a performer who has a quirky take on everything around him, Richard lives up to this depiction with rousing shows filled with offbeat observations and 6 & 12-string gymnastics. As a youngster, Richard Gilewitz embraced such diverse artists as The Beatles, Andres Segovia, Kraftwerk, Leo Kottke, J.S. Bach, Arlo Guthrie, John Fahey and Flatt & Scruggs. With Richard's signature playing style delivering a technical diversity of banjo style picking patterns, classical arpeggios, tapping and harmonics, along with a rhythmic and percussive approach, he shares a fresh impression of sound to the listener during his concert performances and at his annual 2-day GillaCamp Guitar Workshop. Students around the globe also attend Richard's roving GillaCamp Guitar Workshop, a 1 to 4 hour interactive experience that provides players an avenue to renew their love of the guitar. In between touring, Richard conducts private lessons and also teaches students through Skype. Catch Richard's tour schedule at

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