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Plateaus and Polkadots
By James Hill

Has this ever happened to you? One day my ukulele woke up and said, "I have nothing to wear." "What do you mean?" I replied, "You have a whole closet full of beautiful clothes." No consolation. Just like that, my ukulele slipped into a funk.

Imagine my delight, then, when I brought home a bit of clawhammer for it to try on! Clawhammer is old and new at the same time like a great vintage outfit. Stylish yet traditional. Fun but not frilly. Just the right fit.

Plateaus in your (or your students') progress are natural. We've all been there. Frustrating as it is, hitting the occasional plateau is just part of the learning process. Thankfully, there are many "plateau busters" available to both teachers and students alike. A plateau buster is an idea, a technique, an approach... anything that renews a person's love for learning music.

A plateau buster is... anything that renews a person's love for learning music.

For me, jazz ukulele was a plateau buster. Experimental (i.e. "prepared") ukulele was a plateau buster. Teaching itself has, at times, been a plateau buster. Most recently, clawhammer ukulele has been a plateau buster. I've also seen clawhammer re-energize friends who seemed to be slipping off the ukulele wagon.

Clawhammer style is a beautiful combination of driving rhythmic and delicate melody, of rigorous technique and folksy "laissez-fair." In this issue I've put together an introduction to clawhammer ukulele that includes videos and insights from today's best clawhammer ukulele players. The article is nowhere near exhaustive but it will give you a good grounding in the style. Hopefully, it'll help you to discover new sounds, new songs and new sides of this little instrument.

Isn't the ukulele full of surprises?

Uke on!

James Hill
Editor, Ukulele Yes!

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