I have featured quite a few videos of Gawasiman, a ukulelist from Japan who has the knack for arranging Japanese pop music as well as classical pieces for the ukulele.
I have therefore decided to find out a bit more about him and his ukulele arranging. Gawasiman has been most helpful and has even offered to write a lesson for ukulele beginners which you will read about further in this post.
Let’s first get acquainted with his ukulele style with his arrangement of a famous Japanese song called Oyome Samba (お嫁サンバ ):
U&L : I read on your blog that you were playing the guitar, ukulele and bass. How did you discover the ukulele ?
Gawasiman : Since 2000, I’ve been teaching how to play the electric-guitar at YAMAHA POPULAR MUSIC SCOOL. And about after 2years, my coworkers recommended me to play the ukulele.
U&L : I can see from your videos that you have mastered a lot of ukulele techniques, how did you learn to play the ukulele ?
Gawasiman : When I started playing ukulele, I also started playing classical guitar. One day I tried classical guitar’s techniques I just learnt, like tremolo or plucking strings by 5 fingers like flamenco, on ukulele, and to me it sounded very cool . So I think some of my ukulele techniques come from my guitar’s ones.
Here is Gawasiman displaying his fingerpicking and strumming ukulele skills in a great ukulele/guitar duo playing Diamond Head by The Ventures.
U&L : You write a lot of arrangements for the ukulele in very different styles. What steps do you go through to create an arrangement? Do you have any tips you can give to a ukulele beginner or exercises you can recommend ?
Gawasiman : At first, I arranged only pop music. But after I learnt new techniques as mentioned above, I started some classical guitar pieces on ukulele.
Here is an example, Venezuelan Waltzes n. 3, composed by Antonio Lauro
I’d like to give a short lesson for beginners, because some textbooks are too difficult for beginners.
This is El Cóndor Pasa (For Low G ukulele). This is the best tune for beginners, I think.
At first, just play the melody with the thumb.
And then, under initial melodies in each bars, add chord notes.
Finally, pluck chords with the index finger in the space between melody note and melody note.
These are my 3 steps to arrange.
Here is the result :
U&L : How is the ukulele perceived in Japan ? Are there many ukulele players ?
Gawasiman : There are lots of ukulele players in Japan , especially elderly people.
U&L : What is your favourite ukulele ?
Gawasiman : I got a Martin ukulele a half year ago. I like it very much!
Many thanks to Gawasiman for doing this interview !
Subscribe to his YouTube channel here.