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Posts Tagged ‘ʻukulele’

Strummin’ in the City (#67)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jason Poole, Strummin' in the City, Brooklyn Bridge, ukulele, 'ukulele, NYC

Kamaka 6-string (Lili'u) 'ukulele and the Brooklyn Bridge (NYC, June 2012)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)


Tune ‘Em Up!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

This week I received a question from one of the readers:

Dear Crooner:

What type of tuner do you use when you’re tuning your ʻukulele?

I loved this question.

I mean, we all start out by tuning up our instruments, right?  It’s the foundation!  If we’re in tune, we ready to rock!  And if we’re not all tuned the same way?  Well… let’s just say it can be rough day at the office!  Ha!

There are 2 types of tuners that I use most often:

The clip-on/clamp style:  This is my favorite.  It clips on to the headstock of the ʻukulele and reads the sound vibrations, giving me a really accurate reading.  It’s so great to have one that reads the sounds this closely–directly from the wood, itself–especially when you’re playing in a crowded and/or noisy venue.  You need to have a tuner that’s reading the sound of your instrument–not the pitches in the room.

And because the ʻukulele is an acoustic instrument made of wood, things like temperature and humidity can affect the tone. The clip on style rocks.  I can leave it attached to the headstock while I’m playing, giving me the chance to make tuning adjustments, if necessary.  Right on.

The tuning pitch pipe:  When I’m working with the kids in a school and I’m tuning 25 ukuleles all at once, I don’t have the time to clip/unclip a tuner.  Especially when the kids are excited to start strumming!  So I love the ease of blowing into a pitch pipe.  I have one that’s specifically made for the ʻukulele with four separate pipes.

Instead of blowing each pipe individually, I blow 2 pipes at time.  The interval that’s sounded allows me to tune the strings, making sure they fall “within the spectrum.”

And they are inexpensive, lightweight and super-portable!  (I carry my pitch pipe in my pocket!  Check out the photo below.)

The downside to a pitch pipe is that it forces you to tune by ear. You need to be familiar with the sound that you’re trying to achieve.  And the pitch that is sounded by the pipe can change, depending on how hard you blow.

But once you get the hang of it–you’ll love it!

ukulele pitch pipe, jason poole, ukulele

My first ʻukulele pitch pipe tuner has seen "better days." Itʻs been through the washing machine and lost a pipe and its detailing. But it still works. Right on!

Are these the only methods of tuning and ʻukulele?


You can use a piano or keyboard to help you tune.  You could tune using an electronic tuner that allows you to plug your ʻukulele into the tuner for a super-accurate reading.  You could tune the ʻukulele to itself, using one pitch as guideline.  You could use some of the online tuners available.

In a pinch I sometimes use a ʻukulele tuner app that I have on my iPhone!

It really comes down to personal preference.  Finding one that works for you–the environment you’re playing in, your budget, etc.


P.S.  Please click HERE for a great website dedicated to tuning your instrument.  This page is specifically geared to the ʻukulele.  Cool!

OK Strummers, CHIME IN!  What do YOU use to tune your ʻukulele?  I’d love to hear from you!


Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I’d been noticing my posture and breathing when I was playing the ‘ukulele.

(Please click HERE to read that post.)

And I recognized that my posture and my breathing could use some attention.  In short, I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a stiff neck.

I sat down at the computer and worked for a while.  And instead of subsiding, the headache only got worse.  It felt like it was developing into one of those blinding, migraine-esque headaches that leave me sick and laying in the dark on the bathroom floor.  I couldn’t afford to take the day off.  I needed to press on and work.

So I paused for a moment and observed how I was sitting.

My head and neck were tilted toward my right shoulder.  And my left shoulder was moving closer and closer toward my left ear.  (Note:  This is the position I often find myself in when I’m strumming the ‘ukulele–with the left shoulder raised and the head tilted to the side.)

Um… hello?  Maybe this was ADDING to the headache that I was experiencing!  What a wake up call!

Instead of forcefully correcting my posture, I did something new.

I just said to myself, “I need to give my head, neck and shoulders more space.”  Somehow, that translated to a shift in my body.  Instead of JAMMING my shoulder down, it was like it “let go” of the tension necessary to hold it up by my ear.  Instead of FORCING my head back to a more neutral, centralized position in the middle of body/ribcage, it more or less corrected itself.

It was like my body instinctively knew how to fix the problem–and how to do it without adding to the stress.

And almost instantly, I noticed some of the pain in my head had subsided.  Cool!

I would love to tell you that I’ve maintained this newly adjusted posture ever since that moment.  Ha!  Only a few minutes later, I paused, again, and checked in.  And I had resumed that twisted, contorted posture all over, again.

So, I began–again!–and repeated what I’d said before.

And–once again!–my body responded and shifted to a more neutral position.


I realized that I’m going to need to be persistently gentle in my observations.  And persistently gentle about releasing of tension in my head, neck and shoulder.  Like a child who needs to be reminded.   That’s the key–like a child who needs to be reminded.

Instead of beating myself up and adding to the stress, I’m simply beginning, again.

Starting new.  Observing.  Reminding.  Shifting.

Each time.  Every time.

In my last post, I used the words sad, shocked, horrified, and hopeful.

Now the words I’d add are curious, persistent and gentle..

Observing my posture with curiosity.  What IS my body’s position?  Why do I keep going back to a posture that adds to the stress?

And I’m curious to see what happens with persistant and gentle reminders instead of forceful and demanding gestures.

I’m reframing how I look at things.  Even the language that I use with myself.

And it’s helping.  Slowly.

Awareness.  Curiosity.  Gentle persistence.

Right on.

How about you?  Have you taken notice of your posture and breathing?  What have your experiences been like?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.


It’s been a long afternoon of work.  Sitting in silence at my desk, concentrating on getting the job done.  But it’s time for a much needed strum break!   The sound of those four simple strings can take away so much of the stress that’s been building up all day.

I reach over for my ʻukulele (Yes… I like to keep one within arm’s reach!) and get ready to strum.  I hold the ʻukulele against my body.

And then I stop.

I notice my body’s position.  My shoulders are crooked.  The left shoulder is pressed up toward my ear and then juts away from my body at a strange angle.  My feet are not planted evenly on the ground. The right knee is raised, the ankle is rolled toward the floor and the right foot balances on the side of the ball and the big toe.  My hips are crooked.  My neck is tight.

I notice the quality of my breath.  Instead of being steady and even, I see that it comes in short bursts.  Gasps.  My ribs are concave, compressing my lungs and diaphragm.  I couldn’t take a deep, well-supported breath if I tried.

I’m a mess.

But this isn’t unusual.  In fact, this is the position that I can be found in quite often when I’m playing.  How sad is that?

And you know the saddest part?  I’ve only recently realized this.

A strange (and wonderful!) series of events and coincidences over the past two weeks have given me the opportunity to step back and view my body and breath–two things I rarely think about.  Ok… maybe I haven’t thought about either of them in a long, long time.

Except for the times that my body has “failed me” by being in pain or having something SO WRONG that it prevented me from doing what I wanted to to do.

So when I remember, I stop.  I notice.

And I’m shocked.  And horrified.

These are my “habits” and my body has grown used to them.  Was I aware of body placement in the early days, when I was just beginning to strum and sing?  Maybe… But it’s been so long that I’ve grown lazy and complacent  and my playing/singing has surely suffered from it.

And I’m hopeful.

Because now that I’m aware of them, I can do something about it.  I can make changes.  I can take a moment to relax and breathe deeply for a few conscious breaths.  I can remind myself to “let go” in the shoulders.  To plant my feet on the ground. To open my chest with ease.

I wasn’t aware of my “unsupportive habits” before.  And so I continued to reinforce them–allowing them to grow stronger every day.  Every time I picked up the ʻukulele to strum.  Every time I opened my mouth to sing.

It has taken a long time to build those habits that don’t support a healthy body or sound.

It will probably take a long time to get used to building new, more supportive habits.

It will probably take a long time to build the habit of simply stopping and noticing the quality of the body and the quality of the breath before I begin to play.

But that’s ok.  I’m in this for the long run.

It’s a process.

One step at a time.

Awareness is a good first step.

Right on.

Are YOU aware of your the quality of your body and your breath throughout the day? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you!


Strummin’ in the City (#47)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kamaka, Kamaka 'ukulele, Kamaka ukulele, soprano ukulele, accidental hawaiian crooner, strummin' in the city

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele at the Pittsburgh International Airport: pre-dawn strumming! (Pittsburgh, PA 12.27.11)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)


Still “on holiday”

Monday, December 26, 2011

nene, nēnē

A Christmas Nēnē at my folks' house.

Aloha, gang!

I’m still hanging out with the family today.  Lots of wonderful chaos for the holidays.  Young kids.  New folks added to the family.  Lots of food (ok, too much food!) and, thankfully, lots of laughter.

I’ve been writing with my niece while on this trip.  She’s going to be a great writer when she grows up.  I know it.  And it’s fun to encourage her and cheer her on.  We’ve been talking about  writing songs.  She’s also been a great cheerleader for me.  Who knows… maybe I’ll have something cool to share soon!

And my young nephews have reminded me how important it is to be silly and roll around on the floor and play with action figures.  And most importantly, not to take myself so seriously.

I had the chance to strum and sing with my uncle at Christmas dinner.  He’s an ‘ukukele newbie.  So cool to be able to share some Hawaiian-style strumming with someone in my family!  He played guitar years ago so he’s quick to learn chord shapes.  (True Story: I had one of his guitars for years–even brought it with me to New York City when I moved!  And in all of those years, I never learned to play it.  Maybe I was just waiting for the ‘ukulele to come into my world?)  We rocked out for a little while after dinner.  It was great to have the sound of the ‘ukulele ringing thru the air in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

We will travel back to the Big Apple tomorrow.  I’ll be coming home with lots of stories and new inspiration–the best gifts in the world. And the gifts that money can’t buy.  Cool, right?

How are YOU all doing during this holiday season? 

P. S. Remember to take strum breaks, as needed!  (I am!  Ha!)