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May 28, 2024

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June 1, 2024

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June 13, 2024 Portland, Oregon

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June 15, 2024 Woodinville, Washington

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June 18, 2024 Spokane, Washington

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Sorrento Retreat, British Columbia
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Urbandale, Iowa
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Prairie Village, Kansas
July 16, 2024

Normal, Illinois Group
Normal, Illinois
July 20, 2024

Cheezland Ukulele Band
La Crosse, Wisconsin
July 24, 2024

Old Town School of Folk Music
Chicago, Illinois
July 25, 2024

Highland Community Center
Highland, Indiana
July 27, 2024

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August 3, 2024

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October 9-12, 2024

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3 Questions Interview: James Hill (Playing By Ear)

Posted on: August 31st, 2009 by dville

Unknown-3Today we debut a semi-regular Monday feature entitled 3 Questions in which we interview ukulele luminaries with the goal of gaining insights into their approach to learning. Today our guest is Canadian ukulele virtuoso James Hill. Not only is James a great player, he is also a fabulous teacher. Together with Chalmers Doane, James created an entire ukulele curriculum entitled Ukulele In The Classroom.

1. What does the phrase “playing by ear” mean to you?

JH: I’ve learned a lot from Chalmers Doane about playing by ear. I learned that “playing by ear” really means “playing by intelligence” (that’s Chalmers’ terminology) . In other words, “playing by ear” means using everything at one’s disposal (e.g. ears, eyes, experience, intuition, attitude, preferences, etc.) to make musical choices. The phrase “playing it by ear” usually implies that there’s a certain amount of guesswork involved (e.g. “when should we meet for lunch?” “Oh, let’s just play it by ear.”). That’s not what “playing by ear” is in music. “Playing by ear” is a skill that can be developed and refined over time.

2. Where do your ideas for new music come from, experimenting with chord progressions or melody lines?

JH: I get a lot of ideas while I’m out walking. I think it’s the increased blood flow to the brain and the steady rhythm. I’ve decided that whenever I go for walks from now on I’m going to take a soprano uke with me and write music as I walk. For me it’s usually melodic and rhythmic ideas that come first and I experiment with harmony later. If melody and rhythm are the gift then harmony is the wrapping paper… so many colours and patterns to choose from!.

3. Do you have any shortcuts to quickly memorizing new songs?

JH: Look for patterns and group as many things together as you can. For example, don’t think of the opening phrase of “Joy to the World” as eight separate “events” (“Joy to the world, the Lord is come”). Just think of it as one event: a descending major scale. Also, with practise you’ll come to recognize common melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic patterns in the music you play. Once you know the archetypes, you only have to memorize the parts of a song that break from those archetypes.

James Hill Website
Ukulele In The Classroom

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One Response

  1. Ukulele buzz says:

    James Hill is an amazing musician. I always looking for his new cover. The great musician ever I seen.

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