Workshops – Reunion 2023

By no means complete, here are just a few of the workshops we’ll be offering at the 2023 West Coast ‘Ukulele Reunion, November 3 – 6. (Click here for the workshop schedules.)


Playing in an ‘ukulele ensemble is a delightfully different musical experience from strumming in a song circle or playing solo chord/melody, and it is available to a wide range of musical abilities. Not only will you enjoy the satisfaction of contributing to a polished end product, you will develop a variety of new skills and gain confidence in your own playing. Take a chance. Take a part. And perform with the group on Sunday night. (Still confused? Check out Let’s Ensemble! for more information.)

“Glow Worm” w/ Nancy Piver

This delightful and familiar tune can be accomplished as an ensemble in just one session and is a great introduction for those who may want to just dip a toe into the art of playing with an ensemble before going full bore. It’s suitable for ukes with a high or low G, and there are even optional parts for baritone ukuleles and bass.

“Castle Valse Classique (Humoreske)” w/ Nancy Piver

“Castle Valse Classique” is a fancy name for a ragtime-era version of Antonín Dvořák’s famous “Humoresque,” which you’ll likely recognize immediately as soon as you hear the melody. If you don’t, don’t worry. Nancy can provide an MP3 for those who’d like to hear it first. This fun ensemble piece is perfect for “confident” beginners and intermediate players. There is even a part for a baritone ukulele. Again, Nancy can send out the sheet music parts in advance of the workshop for those who might want a jump start. (Please note: this workshop requires two sessions.)

Trés MoutardeToo Much Mustard” w/ Nancy Piver

Intermediate and Advanced players alike, will enjoy the spice of “Trés Moutarde—Too Much Mustard,” a lively ragtime tune with up to six parts, including baritone ukulele and a bass. Check it out and remember, “Yes, you can!”

Nancy’s sheet music has regular musical notes, tablature numbers, and chord diagrams. And, in addition to high or low G tuning, baritone ukulele players are also welcome. (You’ll have to check with Nancy about the cow bell.) And, Nancy will send those interested the sheet music parts in advance of the workshop. Please note: this workshop encompasses 3 sessions.

Band Practice – Rick Zeek

This is a fun and collaborative way to learns the ins and outs of playing with a band and putting on a performance that is fun for everyone. The whole idea of this workshop is to bring whatever skills (and ideas) you may to the table and work with your band leader and crew to create something memorable. And you don’t even have to know how to play the ukulele to join in! All participants are welcome and all instruments will be tolerated. (Well, better check with the and leader before you bring a tambourine!) It’s a great way to meet new people and fill any gaps in your schedule in a fun and enlightened way. Attendance at all three sessions is highly encouraged…and preferred.

Workshops for Players of ALL Abilities

It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, or even how scared you are, these workshops offer a little something for players of all abilities.

Right Hand Rules w/ Dave

So much attention is focused on getting your left hand to finger those darn chords that the even more important right hand is frequently ignored. Your tone, your rhythm, the way that you accent your chord choices is all in your right hand. Finger-picking and strumming are not separate motions, they are related movements. So, let’s get the right hand moving…efficiently and gracefully. In this workshop you will learn how to use your right hand to strum and pick from a single, relaxed position that yields superior tone and arrangement options. No matter what your skill level is, this is the right time to learn this important skill.

Crying in your Cocktails with Hank, Buck, & Jim D’Ville

There’s no better way to get your “yee haws” out than by working with some tunes by Hank Williams and Buck Owens, masters of the three-chord form. In this workshop Jim D’Ville will lead you through a few country standards from each artist including “Jambalaya,’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail,” “Cryin’ Time,” “Together Again,” and more. You’ll not only learn the chord progressions to these classics by ear, you’ll learn about the hooks that made these songs famous. On top of that, Jim will sneak in an introduction to basic song structure and the Nashville Number System. (Companions welcome)

Matthew, Mark, UKE, and John (aka Gospel Ukes) w/ Rick & Rhan

Regardless of your religious persuasion, there’s nothing better on a Sunday Morning than to sing some good ol’ gospel music. Inspired by the gospel sets performed at major jazz and bluegrass festivals, Rhan and Rick have led Sunday morning MMUJ sessions for years, leaving everyone refreshed and inspired. One needn’t be “religious” to appreciate the simplicity and symbolism of these classic songs – just be ready to don a choir robe, play, sing, and listen! Bring your ukes, music stands, and your MMUJ books if you have them.

How Can I Keep From Singing? w/ Rick Zeek

There are many reasons why we sing – but the biggest is for the pure joy it brings us. And what we sing depends on our personal experiences, tastes, and desires. Join Rick and explore a number of ways to enjoy singing: alone and/or with a group. There is no experience necessary and all voices are welcome. Yes, we will be singing, because that’s what we do. (Companions are invited to join this one.)

Practical Practice w/ Rhan Wilson

Playing your favorite song over and over may be enjoyable and fun. But if you really want to be a better player, you need to work on the individual elements of playing. In this workshop, Rhan will offer suggestions on how to work on just the left hand, the right hand, and how to combine the two. You’ll even learn how to practice music while walking, driving, or….watching television! You will be amazed at how much better your playing will be after Rhan has helped you “iron out” the musical wrinkles that have been causing you trouble! Bring your ukes, pencil and paper!

Time is On Your Side w/ Dave Egan

Some how keeping time is an after thought for many players. Yet, it is the single most important aspect of music. Melody and harmony are not even preset in many musical traditions. So let’s improve all aspects of your playing and singing and double down on rhythm. In this workshop we will explore ways to make your rhythm drive the song with a bounce and a strong pulse. And you’ll learn to play with a metronome in 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 time and we’ll explore the concept of rhythmic claves.  This class is fun…lots of play…not so much talk!

The Emotional Value of Chords  w/ Jim D’Ville

Music is an emotional experience. So why not use emotion to learn to play the ukulele? It’s easy enough when you learn how each chord in a song is there to evoke a certain emotional response from the listener. And learning these chordal relationships will open your ears to the chord progressions of millions of songs. This is the first step to playing by ear and could change the way you listen to and play music, which, after all, you should be experiencing with your ears and not your eyes. Useful for players of all abilities, knowledge of the finger positions for C, dm, em, F, G, am, will be helpful.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning w/ Rhan

“Doe, a deer, a female deer…” See? You already know more music theory than you thought you did! In this workshop, Rhan will fill in some of the blanks showing you how to the notes in this simple scale (Do, re, me, fa, so, la te, do….) are used to make chords and how they are to modified to make others: majors, and minors, and sevenths, oh my! You’ll also learn what those I, IV, and V’s are all about? It’s a very good place to start: one that that will take you from a very basic vocabulary to a more nuanced understanding of phrases and context. “And that brings us back to doe-oe-oe-oe-oe.”

Chord Progressions & The Circle of 5ths w/ Jim D’Ville

The Circle of 5ths is the road map to the musical universe! And being able to hear and identify chord progressions using the Circle of 5ths will go a long way toward demystifying the basic structure of popular songs. Don’t let the fancy names scare you! Learn this, and before you know it, you’ll be hearing and recognizing “dominant seven” and “diatonic chord progressions” as they make their way around the circle. Among other things, this workshop will open your ears to the logical nature of chord progressions. Open to all levels, however, knowledge of the chords C F G7 A7 D7 E7 Am Dm Em will be most helpful.

The Art of Leading and Following w/ Rhan

Playing together is probably what attracted you to the ukulele in the first place. Indeed, getting together with other players and making music together is a joy. But, to enhance the experience for all involved, there needs to be a strong leader. And that leader needs strong followers, otherwise your beloved tune could turn into a complete train wreck. In this popular and informative workshop, Rhan will help you learn to be a better group player and/or more dynamic group leader…and how to know the difference. Counting in a song, starting together, and ending together – these are simple and effective ways to make your sing-along experiences better than they already are. All it takes is recognition and of a few simple cues and signals and you’ll soon be launched toward a new level of playing and be able to really jam with the pros. (Please note, this workshop will segue into “Now this is a Jam Session,” but is not required.)

Now this is a Jam Session w/ Rhan

Getting together to “jam” usually means simply showing up with your instrument and just playing. There are no music sheets, no organized songs, and often, little or no conversation. The idea is to improvise “on the spot” by listening and suggesting rhythms and tempos – often to very simple chord sequences. Sound intimidating? Well, it doesn’t have to be. In this workshop, Rhan will make it easy to “jam” by calling out chords and leading you through some dynamic changes that will help you feel comfortable practicing rhythmic strumming patterns and “letting go.” So, the next time you find yourself in a jam and someone gives you “the nod” you don’t have to shrink away in terror.

Creating a Song Melody w/ Rick

Using lyrics provided by Rick, or your own, over two sessions each student will write his or her own melody, experimenting with the many variations possible when writing a song. During the first session, we will review: Basic chord progressions (l, IV, V etc.); Choosing the appropriate key; Tempo and phrasing, working with the lyrics and, as time allows; Begin creating your melody. In the second session we will listen to each other’s versions and discuss the differences. Rick will be available at any time to answer questions, help get you started, and help you finish a memorable tune. This can be (and has been) a game changer for many. (Companions welcome)


Moving on Up – Two Chords at a Time w/ Elaine

There’s no better way to learn to transition quickly and smoothly from one chord to the next than to practice, practice, practice. But constant drilling can get old pretty fast. So we’re going to practice moving from chord to chord while learning a few simple two-chord songs. And as an added bonus, we’ll  learn to play by ear at the same time! 

Pocket Songs w/ Elaine

Even beginning players should have one or two “pocket songs,” tunes they can whip out at a moment’s notice and…play by heart. In this workshop we’ll learn a few and you can decide which ones you want to keep in your pocket!

Transitioning from Beginner to Intermediate

Crazy G!

Armed with a few basic chords and some clever left-hand technique, you’ll amaze your family and friends with this fun and flashy piece, made famous by Jake Shimabakuro. And, you’ll be surprised at how some simple sleight of hand-work can create a complex rhythmic melody. All the keiki in Hawai’i know this showpiece. You should, too!

Rhythm and Strumming w/ Rhan

‘Ukulele players are often so obsessed with learning chords that they often overlook the importance of rhythm. This leads us to strumming. Once you get a handle on rhythm, you will be able to create more strums than you ever thought possible. Down, down-up, down-up, down etc. is fine for a while. But you really need to know why that works before you will be able to settle into a song with confidence and feel. In this workshop you will not only gain a basic understanding of how time is counted while playing, you will begin to understand the architecture behind the music you are playing and become a better player overall. “We’ll focus on two basic rhythm groups,” says Rhan, “swing, and straight 8ths. And we’ll learn some new “strums,” as well, that will add depth and character to every song we play.”

You Can Uke It If You Really Want w/ Gary

Come jam with us on this classic Jimmy Cliff tune,  “You Can Get it if You Really Want” and let’s put together something to perform with pride and gusto at *Margarita D’Ville! No worries, mon! With just 4 chords, this song is accessible to everyone. And we’ll learn some easy “noodles” that make this infectious tune super fun to play. Though suitable for beginners and up, Gary has a few tricks for more advanced players to try, as well.

Music as a Second Language w/ Rhan

As with any language, becoming fluent in the language of music takes time and commitment. But one doesn’t need to be fluent to enjoy the many riches Musicland has to offer. All those symbols, dots, and letters might seem intimidating. But in this workshop, Rhan will introduce the casual music traveler to the basics: how to read/say common symbols; understand the difference between notes and chords, sharps and flats; and how to navigate through Musicland without getting lost. At the end of the workshop you will have your own list of common words and “sentences” to accompany you on your musical journey. Please bring a pencil and some paper!

For Intermediate Players

Charts & Lead Sheets w/ Dave Egan

Yes, Playing by Ear is highly recommended, as is Learning to Jam. But what if you want to play a tune with the band…perhaps a band you’ve never played with before…like the Flea by Night Band, Saturday night? Then you are going to need to know how to read and play a “lead sheet,” and how to prepare your own. Here Dave will show you a simple way to write a quick chart with bar lines and chord names that most musicians can easily follow. Not only will it help you deliver an excellent performance…your jams will go a little more smoothly if you have a road map of the song to pass around.

You Can Duet: Classic Songs Built for Two (Remember I have enough material to do two sessions of these)

You Can Duet: Classic Songs Built for Two w/ Gary

Think singing a duet requires years of ear training? Think again! Discover the world of “Double Songs”—tunes where the composer wrote not one, but two melodies to the same set of chords. In each workshop you will learn three different songs built around these “counterpoint” melodies from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway. And, it will be offered twice…with different songs in each session. Double your pleasure. Double your fun! What a great way to step up at open mic with a partner for moral support!

Picking Ukulele By Ear w/ Jim D’Ville

Jim D’Ville and Del Rey’s online finger-picking classes have helped hundreds of students learn the joy of using their thumb as a “timekeeper” for adding enticing rhythms to bluesy melodies. In this class, Jim will cover two techniques: the dead thumb and drop thumb (aka Travis style).  In it you will also learn a number of great tunes—“Spoonful,” “Kentucky Blues,” and “Nine Pound Hammer.” You’ll also come away with a practice that you can readily apply to other tunes.

The Rest of the Neck w/ Dave

You paid good money for all those frets on your ukulele. So why aren’t you using more of them? There is no good reason for you to be stuck in first position, “open” chords which give you so few options. The things is, you already know everything you need to know to learn the rest of the fretboard, you just need a little help unlocking a few not-so-obvious patterns. In this workshop, Dave will help you unlock the fretboard with some basic chord shapes that are not difficult to learn and help you get “unstuck.”

Mastering the Triple Strum

Are you ready to move beyond your basic Down-Up or the old “Island Strum?” The it might be time to learn, and master, the Triple Strum, a must-have skill for any ukulele player. In this workshop Gary will teach you the basic mechanics for the most common Triple Strum forms and show you how you can use them to enhance—and simplify!—your rhythms in a variety of musical styles. Once you have it down, you’ll want to try it with many of your favorite tunes.

For Intermediate and Advanced Players (and those who can’t quite figure out if they’ve made the leap)

Glissando Basics and Beyond…w/ Gary

Looking for ways add interest and spice to songs you already learn to play? Then, perhaps it’s time you learned how to “glissando” – or glide – from one chord to another…all the way up the neck. Think Roy Smeck and Ukulele Ike. In this workshop we’ll learn the basics and practice using the 1934 classic “All I Do is Dream of You.” But it doesn’t end there. Once you have this simple skill under your belt, the sky’s the limit.

Jazz Standards w/ Dave

As most of you know, Dave Egan is a huge fan of jazz standards and the American Song Book. For years he has focused on arranging and playing these timeless wonders on the ukulele…without dumbing them down. And that is the key to taking them, and your playing, to the next level. The beautiful chord progressions of these tunes translate perfectly to the ukulele, and yet they are often overlooked. In this class, you will be learning and playing some of these timeless tunes from Dave’s own arrangements. You’ll not only enjoy the music, but also spend a little time studying a few standard chord shapes and progressions so you can use them for your own arrangements.

Fab Four 1962-’64 w/Jim D’Ville

Why were the Beatles the greatest band ever? It was the chord progressions! The songs written by the Beatles in the breakout years of 1963 and ’64 showcase John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s exciting use of cadence and colorful extended chords. Hold on to your panty hose, ladies, while we learn to play some of the immortal pop classics that got you all screaming and crying so many years ago: “Love Me Do;” “I Want to Hold your Hand;” “I Saw Her Standing There;” “Please, Please Me;” and more…all by ear!

Soloing with Chord Shapes w/ Dave

There you are, strumming happily in your song circle and the leader asks someone if they want to take a solo…and they do! How do they do it? Indeed, taking a solo on the ‘ukulele can be be a challenge. But, by using specific chord shapes, which cover the entire neck of the ukulele, you can start building some respectable solos. In this workshop we will take turns playing solos over a couple of easy-to-learn chord progressions using movable chord shapes, which is where all the sweet and juicy notes lie. You will learn some great chord options for playing rhythm, too!

Click here for workshop schedules.