Kainoa was born and raised in Hawaii, and is the man behind the top-ten ukulele website Easy Ukulele.com.
1. What prompted you to begin your Easy Ukulele website?
When I was in high school in the early 90’s I had a bunch of friends that played “Jawaiian” music. It’s pretty much Hawaii’s version of Reggae music… Jamaican+Hawaiian=Jawaiian. During my sophomore year I enrolled in a Polynesian Music course. I was brought up listening to and trying to play Hawaiian music. As with many Hawaiian kids, I thought it made sense and it was the “in” thing too! So while growing up my ukulele idols were Peter Moon, Moe Keale and Eddie Kamae. During High School it was Kelly Boy Delima, Troy Fernandez and Israel Kamakawiwoole. So now, here I am in high school, listening to my friends play Tropical Baby by Kapena (Kelly Boy ripping up the ‘ukulele solos), Tropical Hawaiian Day by Ka’au Crater Boys (Troy Fernandez shredding his ‘ukulele) and Henehene Kou Aka by Iz. Now I really got the bug. I wanted someone to show me how the heck these guys shred on the uke. So I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could and learned how to play by ear. During my sophomore year I bought Kapena’s, Ka’au Crater Boys and Iz’s CD’s to teach myself by ear. It wasn’t easy in the beginning! But after a year or so, of grueling daily practice, I kind of got it down. After that, I said to myself, “I’m gonna find a way to share the things that I learned, to try and make it easier for other people who are interested in learning how to play the ‘ukulele”. So finally, I decided to put a website together to teach free ‘ukulele lessons.
2. How do you go about teaching someone to play by ear?
Well, you gotta lay down the foundation first. Gotta teach them the basics: tuning, chords, strumming, chord progressions and basic picking scales. When the student feels comfortable enough with the foundation, have them play along with sheet music. Start with easy music and chord progressions. Have them get use to the sound of the chords and familiar with the
fretboard. You can then expose the student to different styles of music…Reggae, Rock, Oldies, Jazz, Blues, etc. They can then hear the different beats, rhythms, chord progressions, and riffs associated with each music style. Usually I find that oldies got easy chord progressions, about four chords. Have them play along with an actual song. They will be able to get the “feeling” and to “tune” their ears into the music. You can have them try to figure out an easy song that’s playing, without a music sheet. The most important equation for a successful student is their own motivation and consistent practice!
3. Do you have any specific practice tips for beginning players?
Practice daily. Go over the foundation of playing and memorize it. After your foundation is memorized, learn different chord shapes (diminished, augmented, etc.), different picking scales (blues, jazz, country fills and riffs) and strumming techniques. You’ll know when you mastered the art of playing ukulele by ear when you can play along with pretty much any song that’s playing on the radio. Playing with the radio is the next best thing to practice with if you have no one else to jam with.
Strumming Tip: To figure out how to strum a song that you’re not familiar with, mute all the strings with your chord playing hand and figure out the rhythm using your strumming hand. To do this listen to the lead rhythm guitar or keyboard. Another way to find out a strum is to listen to the drum and bass line. Follow the beat. You’ll be able to strum open and muted chords at the same time.Tags: 3 Questions Interview, Kainoa