Published by:
RoySakuma Productions
1 Hour 45 Minutes

  • Ukulele Basics: Introduction, tuning, parts of the ukulele, how to hold the ukulele, how to hold chords.
  • Strumming Patterns: Straight strum, bounce strum, waltz strum, jazz waltz strum, DDUUD strum, vamp strum, scratch strum, knock strum.
  • Songs: "The Quest" "I Am What I Am"
  • About Roy Sakuma
  • Ukulele Makers of Hawaii: Kamaka, KoAloha, Ko'olau, G-String, Sonny D.

Learn to Play the Ukulele
with Roy Sakuma

Review by:

Roy Sakuma must be Hawaii's most prolific ukulele teacher. He counts thousands of students in his 30 years of teaching on Oahu and he's the founder of the grand-daddy four-string event of them all, the "Annual Ukulele Festival" held every July in Honolulu's Kapiolani Park. With this DVD he takes his teaching out of his ukulele teaching studios (he has four!) and makes it accessible to the rest of us.

It doesn't seem that this DVD is readily available many places--yet--but you can find it on the islands at many music stores as well as at RoySakuma.net. I guarantee that if you're a beginner/early intermediate player it's worth the trouble to search it out. Sakuma is a very good teacher, even on DVD. He looks like he's having fun and he inspires a sense of confidence--but he doesn't forget to chide you about doing things the wrong way and the mistake of learning bad habits. For example, I wouldn't want to let him catch me using my third finger for a Dm chord--he taught to use that "bent" second finger instead to cover two strings--and he gives you the reason why!

Sakuma covers a lot of ground in this DVD. He'll take you through how to hold the ukulele (his method is one that is simple yet provides a sure grip) and how to tune it and hold chords. Its strength, though, lies in how Sakuma teaches various strum patterns. He offers a wealth of strums (some unusual names for them, too) and teaches them slowly and carefully. He then gives you plenty of time to practice along with him (which is something I miss in Ralph Shaw's strumming DVD). He also offers several variations of the listed strums and suggestions as to the types of songs you'd use them in.

Sakuma grew up playing ukulele and he shares some of the "fun" strums he and his buddies used to use to add some extra color to their playing. These include percussive techniques using the instrument's body as a drum as well as one in which you run your finger down the fingerboard to give a staccato sound.

There's some fingerpicking instruction, but fingerpicking in most instructional materials seems to be presented in relation to playing a specific song, in this case Sakuma's own composition, "The Quest." He breaks down the specifics for this song but also offers some general fingerpicking information including how to hang on to the uke's body with the remaining part of the hand while fingerpicking. Sakuma refers to a "future" DVD at several times on this CD and infers it may involve more fingerpicking information. If he does make that DVD, I'd certainly buy it!

As with some other instructional DVD's (including Jody Kamisato's), Sakuma offers a behind-the scenes tour of Hawaiian ukulele builders and their shops. The camera work is superb in these tours and, by watching the DVD once, I was finally able to differentiate the strengths/differences between KoAloha and Ko'olau (I'm a little slow sometimes). Sonny D's efforts aren't often chronicled so it was great to see his approach and hear from him, too.

There's very little "paperwork" with this DVD. It includes a song sheet for Sakuma's second song ("I Am What I Am") and an outline of the DVD's contents. I wish there had been a brief thumbnail description (e.g. using the D-U nomenclature) for the various strums since the name alone isn't very descriptive and it would help refresh my memory having it written down. I also longed for a chord progression listing for the play along song, "The Quest." He demonstrates it on the DVD but I had to grab paper and pen and replay it several times to get it written down.

Regardless, the strength of this instructional material is the wealth of information presented in the video format. The presentation is professional, fun and easy to understand while still offering some challenging techniques. I'd give it four strings up!


Contact Ukeland