Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Gawasiman, a ukulele arranger from Japan

19 2010

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.

El Condor Pasa – Step One

And then, under initial melodies in each bars, add chord notes.

El Condor Pasa – Step Two

Finally, pluck chords with the index finger in the space between melody note and melody note.

El Condor Pasa – Step Three

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.

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