Aloha mai,

As part of our cultural mission, Kapalakiko I Ke Aloha offers ‘ukulele instruction, Hawaiian style. Visit us at our website at to see what we’re all about. The following is our class syllabus. Please read it completely and if you like what we have to offer please contact us, immediately.

At Kapalakiko, we direct our classes to na haumana hula of Hālau Hula Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu, Hālau Hula ‘O Keikiali’i, Hālau Hula ‘O Keikiali’i, Sacramento, Me Ke Aloha, Hālau Hula Kaiāulu, Māhealani Uchiyama Center For International Dance (MUCID), Hālau Hula Na Wai Ola, Halau Hula Ka Pā Hula Kanoelehuaokahalema’uma’u O Kalama, & Hālau Hula Ke Aolani O Kamaile. But classes are open to any hālau, organization or any individual who is searching for Hawaiian ‘ukulele instruction.

Our classes are open to all. We do not discriminate re: gender, age, physicality, IQ, sexual preference, age, religion, race, class, etc., etc. All we ask of you is to have an intense desire to learn about the ‘ukulele and Hawaiian music. If you have a negative self image of “not being a musician,” or “lack of musical talent,” or “two left hands and two left feet,” please, don’t let it prevent you from this nifty musical experience. Previous musical experience is not necessary but if you have it, it is a plus. The ingredient that will guarantee success in our classes is your sweat, because we are firm adherents of the slogan “practice, practice, practice.” If you don’t want to, don’t have the time to, or are too lazy to practice, please go elsewhere. Don’t waste your money or our time. Simple, yeah?

The chief instructor of our classes is Saichi Kawahara, leader and founder of the Kapalakiko Hawaiian Band whose musical background spans over sixty years in the business. He is not an ‘ukulele virtuoso nor does he hold any musical degrees. He is simply a down home, hands on instructor that passes on the experiences and tricks he has gleaned from years of performing and observation. People are attracted to our classes because our ‘ukulele style is distinctly Hawaiian as it is related to Hawaiian music, poetry and hula.. He is assisted in applying the Kapalakiko system by advanced students.

The singular goal of the basic class is to teach you how to play the ‘ukulele while singing Hawaiian songs with correct pronunciation, enunciation and phrasing of Hawaiian lyrics. That’s because our approach to ‘ukulele instruction is linked to the hula. Make sense to you? We’ll also teach you practical things like how to tune the instrument and also how to change strings. If you are (or want to be) a student of Hawaiian songs and it’s link to hula, then this class is definitely a must for you.
In all our classes, we stress the fundamentals. Without this understanding, you can’t go anywhere or do anything. In eight sessions we will teach you how to perform at least two Hawaiian mele (Auntie Irmgard Aluli’s “Puamana” and John Pi’ilani Watkins’ “Waikaloa”), in four basic Major keys (“C”, “F”, “G”, and “A”), with four strums. We will also instruct you in basic music theory in a way that is easily understood and applied. Our classes will cover the soprano, concert, and tenor ‘ukulele. We discourage the basic student from bringing a baritone ‘ukulele to class because it is tuned, and consequently, chorded differently. However, if it is the only instrument you have, go ahead and bring it and we’ll show you a few tricks you can use. This class can be repeated as many times as you like.

The eight session intermediate class, continues to apply the fundamentals and lessons learned in the basic section by playing and singing “Puamana” and “Waikaloa” in the eleven remaining Major keys, by installing our concept of pattern playing using different inversions of bar chords. That means you can perform these songs in any of the 15 Major keys, with your four basic strums. Other songs will be added to the training repertoire where we will apply more complex chords such as the augmented, diminished, and 6/9 chords and show you techniques of basic chord substitution, different turnarounds and elementary improvisation. You will also be introduced to our “inside-outside” (2 finger arpeggio) picking technique that you can apply to songs like “He Aloha Mele,” “Makee Ailana,” and “Aloha Ka Manini”. This class can be repeated as many times as you like. Prerequisite: student must take the basic class before the intermediate class so don’t even ask to bypass our basic class.

It is of concern to us at Kapalakiko that you not only learn how to play the instrument, but that you also keep enjoying playing for the rest of your life because one of the great joys is to share with others what you’ve learned. Here are some suggestions for you:

  • After completing the basic course to one’s satisfaction, we offer an intermediate class for more advanced performing techniques and theory, so that students can play the chord progressions of any mele in any of the 15 Major keys. Anything beyond that is strictly a private affair. We can send you to Hiram Bell, Brian Tolentino or Jake Shimabukuro, if you like. All are excellent teachers of advanced ‘ukulele techniques.
  • We are definitely training people to musically help out with their respective hālau/organizations. One nice thing to do is to form an ‘ukulele/singing group within your halau/organization. You’ll be surprised at the rapid improvement you’ll make as a result of sharing, playing and singing together.
  • For those interested, Kapalakiko I Ke Aloha conducts a once a month Hawaiian music workshop to learn to perform Hawaiian mele. As a student of the Kapalakiko ‘ukulele classes, you are automatically extended an invitation to join our sessions. It is open by invitation only because of size constraints. This is a good place to apply your ‘ukulele technique, to further your understanding and appreciation of the Hawaiian language and poetry, to start building your own performing library of Hawaiian songs, to build your own CD and recording library of Hawaiian songs, and to start learning about what it takes to set up a musical group. We learn to perform the many genres that define Hawaiian music. But most important, it teaches students to perform in a group setting where we can all develop and interact with others.
  • Several current and former front line musicians of the Kapalakiko Hawaiian Band got their start in Hawaiian music as members of Kapalakiko’s basic ‘ukulele class: Rose Baker Jason & Sherry Chin, Randee Chin, Steve Chipp; Teresa Cooper Sam Ka’ai, Barb Plank, Lola Tortolero, Tessie Francisco, Frank Vernon, Lillian Fujimoto, Karen Gehrman, and Hofer Wong. as are current and former apprentices Jake Shimada, Lee Cooper, Dan Dao, Jim Kabage, Ralph Loen, Alan Nakasato, Jay Pagaduan, Tina Urata, & Cathy Wong. Nā kumu hula Kawika Alfiche, Waianuhea Cid-Iulio, Keali’i Ellis, Kau’i Isa Kahaku, Patrick Makuakāne, and Mike Yamashita were all members of our basic ‘ukulele classes just a short time ago & currently, nā kumu hula Ke‘alaanuhea Toyama & Nohealuni Macugay are students of our system in Sacramento.


  • You must come to class with your own ‘ukulele. If you already have an ‘ukulele, that’s a plus. If you don’t, please refrain from panicking and running out to a music store to buy the first “genuine” ‘ukulele, you see. For one thing, there are many types, brands, sizes of ‘ukulele out there in the market. For another, they can be very expensive. And yet, perhaps the best reason, picking an ‘ukulele (or any musical instrument) is an extremely personal decision. So it would be sheer folly to buy a “family heirloom” before you even know how to play the damned thing. For your basic class don’t buy a “toy” ‘ukulele because the string action is usually too high and the fret ratios are not conducive to proper ‘ukulele instruction. A better idea is to go to a music store and buy a “Hula,” “Lanikai,” “Kala,” or “Mahalo” brand ‘ukulele. Some students are pleased with their “Fleck” or “Flea” which costs about $75. Go see my friends Dean Kamei at Guitar Solo, 230 Townsend Street, between 3rd & 4th Streets, (415) 896-1922; or at Aloha Warehouse. 1731 Buchanan Mall, (415) 346-7553, in San Francisco; or Duane and Joanne Wong at Music Works, 11225 San Pablo Avenue (510) 232-1026, in El Cerrito; or Smiley Kai at ‘Ukulele Source, 599 North 5th Street, (408) 998-2640 in San Jose. Remember to say hi! for me. Also, be prepared to purchase some kind of tuner or pitch pipe for tuning your ‘ukulele. We have other contacts in San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose where you can purchase these low-cost ‘ukulele and accessories. Then, after learning how to play an ‘ukulele, gaining experience in how the different sizes, types and brands sound and fit your own anatomy, then you’ll have a better idea of what to buy for the long term. Believe me, this is good, sound advice. For those who eventually want a quality ‘ukulele, we have a great contacts In Chris Kamaka of Kamaka ‘Ukulele and Alvin Okami of Koaloha ‘Ukulele, both in Honolulu as well as custom ‘ukulele makers and dealers in Hawai’i and on the mainland.
  • I discourage people from enrolling in our class if they have to miss the first session of the basic class because we start playing on the get-go and experience shows that too much is missed and it’s very difficult to catch up. Make sure you come to class with a 1 & 1/2 inch, 3 holed binder, to hold this syllabus, your class notes, charts and music. Students should always try to bring a working tape recorder to class. You’ll be surprised how much this will aid you. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions and to take notes. My 3 demands:
    1. Don’t be late for or miss class;
    2. Turn off all cell phones; and
    3. Never fail to stay in open communication with me. Make sure that you stay informed by reading our timely notes and announcements and our quarterly newsletter.

Fee is $80 per eight session class, payable in full at the beginning of the 2nd classMake all checks payable to Kapalakiko I Ke Aloha. That’s to give the student a free first class to decide if they want to continue the whole course. All fees paid are not refundable should you drop the course for any reason. But if you have already paid for one basic or intermediate course and want to repeat it for whatever reason, there is no charge for the repeated courses no matter how many times you want to repeat it. Fair enough?

There are four class sections: two meets once a week and two meets once a month.

  • An 8 week basic ‘ukulele course, 6-7:30PM, & an 8 week intermediate ‘ukulele course, 7:45-9PM, Monday nights, in San Francisco; a new class cycle will begin 11 January 2016.
  •  An 8 week basic ‘ukulele course, 6-7:30PM & an 8 week intermediate ‘ukulele course, 7:45-9PM, Thursday nights, in Cupertino; a new class cycle will begin 14 January 2016.
  • Serving the East Bay, an eight session once a month basic ‘ukulele class, 8-9:30AM, and an eight session, once a month intermediate class, 10-11:30AM, the 1st Saturday of each month (unless otherwise notified) will begin 9 January 2016.
  • Serving the Sacramento Valley and Foothills area, an eight session once a month basic ‘ukulele class, 8-9:30AM, and a once a month, free Hawaiian music workshop, 9:45-11:45AM, the 2nd Saturday of each month (unless otherwise notified) will begin 16 January 2016.

Directions to class locations will be sent to you if and as you need them.

  • San Francisco classes will be held at my home, Halemele 2, in the Visitacion Valley area of San Francisco at 330 Leland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94134.
  • The South Bay classes will be held at the Crystal Room, Union Church of Cupertno, 20900 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Cupertino CA 95014.
  • The East Bay classes will be held at the Berkeley Yacht Club, 1 Seawall Drive, Berkeley, CA 94710.
  • The Sacramento basic ‘ukulele class and Hawaiian music workshop will be held at the Aviator’s Restaurant, Executive Airport. 6151 Freeport Boulevard. Sacramento, CA 95822,

All classes have been full of creative energy. This coming period is no exception. A lot of people want to learn how to play this wonderful instrument, so if you want to hold a spot in the next round of classes, start clearing your schedules and contact me as soon as you can. Please, let me know which class you would like to attend. New classes will start sooner than you think.

We’ll have a real nice time learning, playing and singing together. Come join us! Me ke aloha pumehana. Saichi Kawahara, Winter 2016.