Douglas Reynolds is the driving force behind the Playuke.net empire. Douglas is the organizer of the Tahoe Area Ukulele Fest, invented his PSP ukulele instruction method, inventor of the Ukulele Chord Theory Gizmo and northern Nevada’s go-to uke guy.
1. What is the PSP teaching method and how does it work?
PSP stands for Pick, Strum, Pinch, and it comes from my natural style of guitar playing. I always enjoyed playing and singing, but I wanted to be able to include some sort of melody and harmony in between vocals. I was never very good at playing leads or solos, but I found I had a knack for picking out little runs between chords that continued the melody of a song. One day I started pinching pairs of strings too found I could add some cool harmonies into the mix. People were asking me to teach them what I was doing, but I found it very difficult to chart out on six strings. When I fell for the ukulele, I found that with 4 strings I could communicate it well, both verbally and through printed charts. The uniqueness of the system is that it uses charts similar to standard chord charts, but each chart tells you what to do with both hands rather than just the fretting hand. So I copyrighted the style and am working on a book to go along with my lessons.
2. What prompted you to develop the method?
Two things: I wanted to make PSP accessible and inspirational to beginners to give them an incentive to practice on their own. And I also wanted to avoid what I had experienced with my first guitar teacher, a sense of boredom and a lack of incentive to practice. I can still remember my first guitar lessons over 40 years ago, being forced to pick out My Darlin’ Clementine in single notes. BORING. What incentive was there to practice in between lessons?
While developing PSP I sat in on a couple of beginning uke lessons, just to see what people were teaching. They commonly began with something like, “Strum a one finger C chord.” Again, BORING. So I sat down with a couple of people who had never played any kind of instrument and explained my system. They were playing slowly and having the typical problems of quickly putting their fingers into the proper spots, but they were also hearing a song as they played. It was a very slow song, but it was a song nonetheless, with melody, harmony, and chords. PSP results in the student playing somewhat in the style of Ohta-San, albeit on a very small scale. You pick a few notes, strum a chord, add some picked-pairs of harmony. It doesn’t matter how slow one must play, it still results in them hearing themselves play a full arrangement of a song. People hear something complex sounding coming from their own fingers and they get really excited. And the thing I have found most satisfying is that, the following week, they have actually practiced and improved! What more can a teacher ask for?
3. Is music theory an important aspect of your approach to teaching ukulele?
That’s a great question. I do teach some theory with my other invention, my Chord Theory Tutor Gizmo
, once I get someone past the beginner stage. But in beginning PSP I don’t get into any theory at all. I don’t even address timing because I use familiar tunes that beginners know and enjoy playing. I also don’t care where on the neck a student strums, or how they hold the uke past a few basic pointers. Our entire attention is directed at chasing down the melody and accompaniment of a song. After the student accomplishes a complete song and really believes he or she can go forward, I start easing in theory.