Understanding Key Components of Hawaiian Ukulele Playing Technique and its Application in Contemporary Ukulele Music

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About This Project

The research trip to Hawaii will further the knowledge about ukulele playing technique in general and Hawaiian Ukulele Technique in particular. Playing technique of various expert ukulele players will be documented and analyzed, in order to define key components of Hawaiian Playing Technique.

Videos that illustrate Hawaiian Playing Techniques will be published online as a complimentary resource for anyone interested.

Have a ukulele technique named after you!

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What is the context of this research?

The ukulele is still hugely understudied in academic literature and while some research has been done on the historical, educational and psychosocial aspects of the ukulele, its playing technique has been widely disregarded until now. With my thesis I’m planning to shed light on a specific part of ukulele playing technique, namely plucking hand technique, hopefully providing a basis for further study and future discussion.

Being based locally on Oahu will facilitate connecting and making dates with interview partners, as well as allow me to do research at the Hawaiian State Archive and the Hawaiian Music Archive.


What is the significance of this project?

As the ukulele is on the brink of being perceived as a capable and mature instrument, establishing standardized didactics, and consequently instrumental standards in general, is an important next step. A comprehensive canon of ukulele plucking hand techniques across various stylistic traditions will serve as a resource for ukulele teachers and composers alike.

The research trip to Hawaii will provide crucial insight into Hawaiian Ukulele Playing Technique. Findings will be adapted in contemporary compositions for ukulele solo.

What are the goals of the project?

One immediate outcome of the research done on Oahu will be interviews and videos that illustrate Hawaiian Ukulele Playing Technique.

Videos will be published online as a resource for teachers, composers and ukulele players of all levels.

The videos will be accompanied by written data analysis and descriptions.


Budget

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Doing research on Hawaii is inevitably associated with high costs for accommodation, travel and living expenses. While my PhD research is largely self-funded, the contribution you make here will help to cover at least flights and part of the housing expenses.

Reaching the stretch goal would enable me to almost fully fund my confirmed housing at the East West Center, which provides housing for traveling scholars close to the University of Hawai'i Manoa for a comparably reasonable price.

Any surplus funding will go toward my PhD project at the University of Surrey, UK

PhD Thesis "Tradition and Innovation; Affordances in Plucking Hand Technique in Contemporary Ukulele Music" (University of Surrey, UK)

The Publication of a Compendium of Ukulele Playing Technique across various playing traditions is a key component of my PhD project. The Research in Hawaii will cover a crucial part of it.




Endorsed by

As a composer and lecturer in composition at the Zurich University of the Arts, I am delighted that the technical possibilities of the ukulele are finally being explored. For many other instruments, a compositional awareness of old and new playing techniques has long been established. It's great that Elisabeth will make an important contribution to ensuring that many new and musically rich works for ukulele will soon be created! Kurt Widorski, composer from Berlin
Elisabeth is a leading scholar / practitioner of ukulele internationally and is the perfect person to carry out this research. As her PhD supervisor, I can highly recommend her ability to carry out this project with diligence and flair.

Project Timeline

Various interview partners are lined up for my trip to Hawaii from November 5th to December 16th 2024 and I hope to make more connections while on location. Frequent updates will be posted in the lab notes and the website launch and publication of the videos is planned for January 2025.

May 30, 2024

Project Launched

Nov 05, 2024

Travel to Oahu

Dec 15, 2024

Post pictures and reports in lab notes

Jan 19, 2025

Publish Technique Videos on Website

Meet the Team

Elisabeth Pfeiffer
Elisabeth Pfeiffer

Affiliates

University of Surrey
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Elisabeth Pfeiffer

10 years ago, I discovered the ukulele and first started to apply my academic classical guitar background on it. Subsequently, I got more and more intrigued with the wealth of unexplored artistic spaces and started to perform virtuoso solo arrangements of Pop and Rock songs, along with contemporary music for the ukulele. I've been commissioning and composing for the instrument for a few years now and frequently premiere new pieces for ukulele.


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