Classes de Ukulele

Monday – Friday 9:30 – 10:45am

Based on the enormous success of the “track” approach at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat last October, we have decided to repeat that process in Ajijic this year with seperate 5-day “tracks” for Beginners (Level 1 -2), Intermediate (Level 2-3), and Advanced (Level 3 -4) players.  Here are some descriptions to help you figure out where you fit in or what you think you need to work on.


A very good place to start:  mastering two chords at a time; learning to make easy and automatic transitions between them; and learning songs that use those chords so you’ll have something fun to practice while your fingers gain a little muscle memory and your ear starts to hear and learn the changes. This is a great introductory course taught by Elaine de Man, for those just starting out, and the small class size ensures that we will be able take a few musical side-trips, as needed, to enhance our playing and understanding of the little 4-stringed wonder we have chosen to play. (And make sure no one falls behind.) By the end of the week, you should have the 4-chord “do wop” progression under your belts and be able to fly through a multitude of fun songs…..without the paper!


Playing in the key of F has so much going for it; besides being a great vocal key, it sports great passing tones, variety in voicings, and opportunities for modulating and understanding chord shapes in a whole new way. Did you realize that the F shape and the G shape are the same? By the end of this class with Heidi Swedberg, this, and other mysteries, will be revealed! Plus you’ll add a bunch of great songs to your repertoire that you’ll want to sing and share…..and you will have conquered the dreaded Bb.


Join Daniel Ward in this five-day class where you will visit strums, picking, and chords from all over the world and put them right in to your bag of tricks.  Flamenco, bossa nova, and, yes, folk music, and more……Each day will explore a few different styles and techniques that will make a significant difference in how you approach each song in your repertoire, no matter its origin.  Plus you’ll learn multiple layers of things you can do with your right and left hands that will spice up your playing of any tune.  You’ll learn new ways to use the chords you already know, as well as some new, very spicy chords, you might not have seen yet.  With five days and a small class sizes, the class will be able to move along at the pace necessary for the students enrolled.

Monday – Friday 2:00 – 3:15


Playing music with others and stepping out of your comfort zone is absolutely the best way to advance your musical skill and raise the bar on fun. Everyone who signs up will be assigned to a “band,” under the leadership of one of our esteemed instructors, and meet with them every day in anticipation of the “Really Big Show” Friday night. Among other things, you will learn a little song arranging, a smidgen of band dynamics, some new performance skills, and how to play well with others. At the end of the retreat you will have a chance to strut your stuff during our last night’s “Battle of the Ukulele Bands & Student Cabaret.” It’s the most fun you’ll ever have with your ‘ukulele on. Humor, costumes, and props are all encouraged. All levels are welcome to join.

Monday – Thursday 3:30 – 4:45


At some point in your ukulele career you will want to play for others, either in a group, ensemble, or even flying solo!  And the key to any successful performance is to make it as enjoyable an experience for your audience as it is for you–easily accomplished with a few, simple embellishments to the tunes you love and practice. So that’s what we’re going to do: embellish, practice, and perform a few great tunes (something old, something new….maybe even something blue) for the folks in town when we take to the Plaza Band Stand Thursday afternoon. Let’s see how many of them we can get to sing along! Suitable for all levels. Songbook included.

Monday 11:00 – 12:15

COOKING: Salads, Knife Skills, and Food Safety in Mexico 

Anyone who knows Heidi Swedberg knows she’s all about whipping out a great meal with the ingredients at this case some of the lovely fresh produce available in Ajijic.  But, you’ve probably heard that eating salad in Mexico is a dicey business…And it can be, unless you know a few of the local tricks to make your meal safe…and we’re not just talking about some of the knife skills you’ll learn at the same time. Fun in the kitchen with Heidi, followed by a great meal with the rest of the staff–that’s what the Uke-Culinary Fiesta is all about!


Guess what!  You don’t have to be Jake Shimabakuro to impress your family and friends with your skill and verve!  You just need a few good riffs! And we’ve got ’em in two tunes that are both easy-to-learn and fun-to-play:  “Sister Kate” and “Memphis.”  Both tunes provide great left hand practice for beginning and intermediate players and are good launching pads to achieve the next level in skill.  Plus, they are just plain fun and a great addition to your bag of ukulele tricks. (Level 1 – 2)


Finger-picking 101! In this workshop, Daniel Ward will share a number of short songs and warm-ups that you can “loop” over and over. It’s a great way to build even rhythm, tone, and chord changing chops while you float in a warm tub of beautiful, repeating patterns that make you a better player as you soak them in. You’ll come away with productive tools to practice with whenever you pick up your uke and become a much more expressive player in the process. If you’re and intermediate to advanced player, this is a great way to break out of whatever rut you may have fallen in to.  (Level 3 – 4)

Tuesday 11:00 – 12:15

3/4 SOLUTIONS with Heidi

What’s the difference between 3/4 and 4/4?  It’s the difference between knowing 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 and a total train wreck.  Otherwise known as “waltz-time,” playing in 3/4 time is a dream with the simple patterns that Heidi will show you to add romance (think “Moon River” or  “Goodnight, Irene”) to your songs and variety to your sound.  This is a  great place for beginners to wrap their heads around rhythm and for intermediate playes to reinforce their ear and strum-sense. (Level 1 -2 )


Strum, strum, strum…….Saddle up and get ready to turn simple strumming into the very thing that drives the song–the rhythm. Whatever style of music you play, the rhythm is the magic spell that keeps the music afloat. A strong but simple strum done with the right bounce will make any song vibrant and alive. In this workshop we will explore a few different styles of strumming and find the common things that make them really work. This workshop is all about taking what you do already, and turning it into what you do BEST. Geared towards folks at level 2 and above, the information offered here will also be invaluable to beginners anxious to get off on the right foot. (Level 3 – 4)

Thursday 11:00 – 12:15


Jan 24 2015_2014 January Ajijic Mexico_0114

What’s that they say about a thousand words? Just look at those beautiful tostada shells we found in Ajijic last year.  And they were every bit as tasty (even more so) as they looked.  So here’s to the few lucky people who’ll get to spend some time in the kitchen with Daniel and learn how to gild these crunchy lillies with delicious, nutritious, and spicy toppings, perfect for a lazy lunch in Ajijic. And here’s to the rest of us staying at the Casa del Sol, who’ll get to enjoy the products of their labor!


You’ve probably heard of them: barre chords or closed position chords.  But there’s no reason to panic and run….if you can pay a C-chord, you already know more about them than you think! So, what we’re going to do here is take what you already know and expand on it to make you an expert. And we’ll explore a few fun tunes that will help it all make sense.  Be sure to bring your sunglasses because it’ll get a little bright with all the light bulbs popping over your heads. (Level 1 – 2)

TOO DARN HOT with Heidi

Cole Porter’s witty tune from Kiss me, Kate, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, is a must in any warm climate. And who could be better to help you pick it up while it’s still cool than the ultimate hipster, Heidi Swedberg? It’s always great to come away from a workshop with at least one tune to to work on and perfect in the weeks to come, and this is clearly one of those. And, it’s one of those tunes that those who have their ukes strung with a low-G will really get a chance to shine.   (Level 3 -4)

Friday 11:00 – 12:15

COOKING: Mastering the French Omelette with Heidi

Yum!  Heidi is such a fabulous cook, it’s hard to pin down her tastiest dish……but forced to name something, it would have to be her omelettes, prepared in the classic French style. So, if making the perfect omelette has eluded you, or you’d simply like to join us for lunch, this is a workshop you don’t want to miss.


Are you ready to get away from the ho-um strum, strum, strum? Besides being a great tune to play and sing, “City of New Orleans,” offers a great opportunity to explore some of the other simple options available on your ukulele that will not only increase your understanding of music, but make the song sound better, as well!  We’ll take a peek at how using a couple of barre chords, different fingering patterns, and alternate chords can make chord changes simpler and/or enhance the melody.  You’ll come away with ideas you can apply to other songs and a great sing-along tune to add to your repertoire.


And you thought the ukulele was such a happy, perky instrument!  Well, here’s a chance to explore its blue side and learn a little about what the blues is all about then apply that to your ukulele.  Hey, it has those days, too!

Friday 3:30 – 4:45

This will be our last “official” ukulele workshop session for this retreat and we each have a parting gift for you…..workshops that will give you something to practice, learn from, and  enjoy, until we meet again.

DOO WOP with Elaine
Four simple chords, one chord progression, and countless songs to play and enjoy. Get your head wrapped around this, let your fingers do the work, and all you have to do is remember the words; you’ll never be songless, again. (Level 1 -2)
Just like the rest of your body, your hands need to . . . . ahhhhhh . . . . stretch.  It’s not only good for you physically, it will enhance your abilities at the same time. Join Heidi and learn some great exercises on the fretboard that will get your fingers working in a new way and some gentle stretches that will make your tendons happier along the journey. (Level 2 – 3)
This beautiful Beatles tune is not heard often enough, but Daniel is about to change all that when he teaches this classic tune in a variety of layers that include chords, vocals, and chord melody. (Level 3 – 4)