Curtis Kamiya Music

Student Video | Fall Student Concert 2015

Hello All,

A few weeks ago our students took the stage at Hard Rock Cafe in Waikiki to show the people how we rock. We had 10 performers doing 15 songs, and the afternoon was full of cheers and great music. If you missed our show, there's still a chance to see it.

You can find video of all the performances here:

Here are a few that went particularly well:

Super Duper Beginner Guitar Lesson

This week we have a guitar lesson for the absolute-total-never-picked-up-a-guitar beginner. This one is simple and easy by design. It will teach you how to hold a pick, how to get good sounding notes out of the guitar, how to use your thumb, and where to place your finger in the fret.

I call it the strength builder exercise. Here's what you do:

1. Place the guitar on your right leg as you're sitting, with the waist of the guitar sitting on your leg.

2. The strings are numbered 1 through 6 with the 1st string closest to the ground. The frets are numbered from 1 to 22 or 24, with the first fret closest to the tuners. The frets are the spaces between the metal wire along the neck of the guitar.

3. Use your index finger on your left hand and press at the 6th string, first fret. With your right hand, use your pick and pluck only the 6th string. You're looking for a tone that is open and clear, with a long sustain. If you get any buzz, or if the note sounds dead, you should press harder and try again.

4. Use your index finger and play the 1st fret, middle finger and play the 2nd fret, ring finger and play the 3rd fret, pinky and play the 4th fret. Play each note one after another on the 6th string. You're going for good tone, using the correct finger, and steady tempo.

5. Repeat this sequence, 1, 2, 3, 4 on each subsequent string until you get to the 1st string.

6. As you play through the exercise, pay attention to a few things:

  • Make sure your thumb is positioned on the back of the neck, squeezing the neck between your fingers and your thumb.
  • Place your fingers towards the "front" of the fret, just behind the fretwire, on the side of the fret closer to your picking hand. It's easier to get a good tone and it takes less force to fret your note.
  • Hold your pick between the thumb and index finger on your right hand. Make sure the pinky, ring, and middle finger are straight and not curled up into a fist as you pick.

7. When you complete the exercise forwards, turn around and do the exercise backwards. Start on the first string and play the 4th fret with your pinky finger, 3rd fret with your ring finger, etc.

8. This is a great exercise to use as a warm up. Play it forwards and backwards. If you can do that without making a mistake, play it 3 times without making a mistake.

3 Tips For Beginning Singers

Today I've got my top 3 tips for beginning singers. These are things that I tell almost every new singer with me that is just starting as a vocal student.

1. Know your vocal range, know where your break is.

Almost everybody has a chest voice and a head voice, and there is a point at which you can't sing any higher in your chest voice. For me that note is around F# above middle C. This knowledge is vital to understanding how best to use your voice, what key is good for your voice, which songs are in your range, etc. I use this little piece of knowledge in considering any song that I sing. You should know where your break is also.

2. Sing songs in the right octave.

Almost never does it sound good to sing a song an octave below where the song is written. Almost never. Certainly if you are singing a song that is written for your gender, then sing the song in it's intended octave. The sooner you get used to doing this, the sooner you'll make progress in your singing.

3. Commit to singing the right note.

You must sing the note that is written, regardless if the note seems too high, is uncomfortable to sing, you sound bad singing the note, etc. You must ask your voice to sing the note that is intended. Only then can you develop your ear accurately. Only then can you make some decisions about key, range, etc. This seems so simple as to be obvious, but I'm going to write it again. Commit to singing the correct note.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you start your journey as a singer. Good luck practicing, and I'll see you all next week!

Strum The Ukulele Like Jack Johnson

Today's lesson will focus on a strum that I hear Jack Johnson do all the time, only adapted to the ukulele.

There are three things you need to be able to do to accomplish this strum:
1. You need to get the stroking right, in other words your right hand needs to go up or down at the right time.
2. You need to be able to execute a muted strum, at first with the free fingers on the left hand muting the strings.
3. You need to be able to make one up stroke a short note.

1. To get the right stroking, I'd recommend saying the down/up pattern first. If you get it in your head by saying it, it becomes much easier to strum. When you've got that down, execute the strum while muting the strings, just to get the rhythm. That way you're just working on the rhythm with the right hand, not worrying about chords or anything else.

2. Try making a muted strum. Strum one down regularly, then with your free fingers, cover all the strings an strum down again. When you mute, you want to touch the strings, don't press down too hard. Just enough to inhibit the strings from vibrating, but not enough to fret a note. You're looking for just a "chuck" sound, no notes. Once you've got that, try it with a Bb chord. Get the mute by lifting up on the strings, just enough to get a "chuck" sound. I think of it as "unsqueezing". Just loosen your hand, but don't take your fingers off the strings.

3. To get the short note just mute the strings immediately after the upstroke. You want that note to be shorter than the rest of the notes.

Here's the strum broken down into beats:

| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
| D
__ D U D U D U_____U___U D U D___|
__________x x x_*___________X X X

The numbers stand for beats, the "+" symbols are the "and" beats. "D" stands for down stroke, "U" stands for up stroke. "X" is a muted strum, and the "*" symbols is to make that up stroke short.

Takes a little getting used to, but if you want to play some Jack Johnson on the 'ukulele, this is the way you do it. Good luck!

Beginner Slack-Key Guitar Lesson #2

Hello folks,

It's been a few years, like maybe 4 or 5, since I put up the Beginner Slack Key Guitar Lesson #1. I put this up because it is the first lesson that I teach anyone who is interested in playing slack-key guitar. It covers the three main skills that you have to learn in order to move forward: alternating bass line played by the thumb, four finger picking assignment, and the different slack key positions up and down the neck.

There have been people asking for a follow up lesson for years, so here it is.

The second thing to learn is playing a Hawaiian vamp, or turnaround. This is a melody and chord movement that is so particular to Hawaiian music that when you hear it you immediately think of palm trees and Diamond Head.

We're going to be in Taro Patch Tuning (Open G). Here's a quick reminder:

6 - E down to D
5 - A down to G
4 - D same D
3 - G same G
2 - B same B
1 - E down to D

Here's some tablature of the melody only. Be able to play this melody first, without any bass notes. This will give your ear and fingers a taste of where you're going. Be sure to start on the "and" of 1.

| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Next up we have that same melody with bass notes coming on 1 and 3. Pay particular attention to the fact that you hammer-on with the melody on beat 3 at the same time as a bass note. That can be a little tricky. Be able to play this and keep repeating through the two measures at a steady tempo to get the hang of it.

| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Lastly we have the melody with bass notes on all 4 beats of the measure. This is what we're trying to master. Everything before is just baby steps. Again, pay attention to notes that line up vertically. There are notes happening on a pinch on beats three and four. These can be landmarks for you to make sure you're on the right track.

| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Here's a link to some sheet music for this lesson if you'd like to print it out. Enjoy your slack key playing! Lesson number three coming soon!