I have already said many, many times that my students did amazing learning how to play the ukuleles this fall. They have made so much progress throughout the year. When we first started lessons we did many reps of playing chords over and over and over again. I will admit that during the first couple of weeks I was questioning why I thought learning to play as a class was a good idea. However, slowly I started to see improvement in myself and my students.
We started to learn the chorus of “Let it Be” by the Beatles and the students were doing good, but I could see that they were starting to get a little bored. I bought myself a Kala ukulele and got access to the Kala app with it. At first, I was using the free functions within the app, but quickly realized that all the good stuff was hidden in the “need to buy” part of the app. I decided to pay for a monthly subscription to see if it was going to be a tool that was useful in the classroom and for myself. Well, it has been worth every penny! My students became so much more engaged when we started using the app. We have been able to project the videos on the whiteboard and follow along to so many songs. Here is a little video of how my students sound playing a couple of songs this week.
When we first started to learn “Satisfaction”, we were not doing the strumming pattern and had to slow the tempo way down on the app. Now, we play the song at full tempo with the strumming pattern! I wish I would have had thought to record them playing these songs for the first time, but alas, I didn’t have that much forethought.
Overall, I have met the goals that I set out for myself. I have learned around 8 chords (some I don’t like) and feel like I have mastered two strumming patterns. I am so glad that I decided to do this project with my students. We were able to set aside time each day to play our ukuleles, which was very helpful when time outside of work became very limited. The one struggle that I faced with my students is trying to motivate anyone that didn’t like the ukulele lessons. We still are trying to get a few of the students to fully buy in, but one thing that has helped is allowing the students to pick a song that they would like to learn. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but I have absolutely loved working on the major learning project!
I am so happy that my teaching partner was open to teaching my students and me how to play the ukulele. It has been so much fun! I have loved watching my students become more comfortable each day and the joy they feel when they have mastered a new chord, new song and new strumming pattern. It has been great working through the learning process with them. Last week we were learning how to play “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, which has a new chord in it, and I was having difficulty with it. One of my students said to me “Just keep practicing Ms. B, you’ll get it!” Not only have the students been encouraging me, but they also have encouraged each other, which is the best part of this whole process. I am amazed at how much we have learned in such a small time and look forward to keeping it up in 2020!
I’m not sure how many chords we learned, but it was quite a few. We also learned how to do two different strumming patterns in some songs. On my own this week, I also learned a song (Cecelia by Simon and Garfunkle) that required me to play two different chords within the strumming pattern. There were definitely times that my brain couldn’t keep up with all of the things that my hands had to do, but I am very proud of my success. I have included a video that has a montage of some of the songs that I learned this term.
I forgot to record audio of my students playing some of the songs, so I will add that in tomorrow!
This is going to be a quick update on how my major learning project is going. My fingers on my left hand are started to build up callouses from the strings on my ukulele. I am starting to be able to switch from chord to chord without looking at my fingers, so I have introduce a few new chords, new strumming pattern and songs into my repertoire. At school, the students and I are still using the app off my phone to play the ukulele. We are playing at least a half an hour a day and are having so much fun!
This week I have added in Em and Dm chords and the Old Faithful strumming pattern. I also started to look at some Christmas songs that my students will start to work on in the next coming weeks. I have continued to work on “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and learned how to play “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, “Jingle Bells” and “Last Christmas” by Wham!.
“Last Christmas” has a new strumming pattern for me. At first I was really struggling with the new strumming pattern. One thing that I really like about the app that I am using is the tutorials on how to do the strumming pattern. Using the tutorial, I was able to handle the strumming pattern using one chord, but switching from chord to chord while keeping the strumming patter going, proved to be a little more difficult. The following video shows me playing “Last Christmas” first with the simple strumming pattern, using the tutorial for the strumming pattern and then doing the strumming pattern with the chords changes in the song. By the end, I was able to work through all four of chords in the song without messing up!
The next couple of weeks my students and I are going to work on learning some Christmas songs. I am still hoping to be able to record them to share with the school, but it is taking a lot of convincing.
There has been a ton of improvement in both my student’s ukulele skills, as well as my own. We are all started to be able to move from one chord to another without having to look at our fingers. It is becoming part of our muscle memory, and it is so cool to see! Most of the students in my class are really enjoying this process and are asking to practice on their ukuleles throughout the day. For the most part, they have been very active in the lessons and are complimenting each other on their successes. In the last 2 weeks, we have had 2 new students start in our class and all of my veteran students have been helping them learn the chords and giving them little tips and feedback to help them catch up to where the rest of us are.
Both my teacher partner and I were a little late to realize that there must be an adapter to use to connect our phones to the classroom projector, but as of today we are now the proud owners of said adapter. I am looking forward to using it tomorrow to introduce my students to more songs on the app. The other awesome thing about using the adapter is the option to slow down or speed up the tempo of the songs. This is going to be very useful now that we are learning about different strumming patterns. I really appreciated the option to slow down the tempo as I was working on the strumming patter in “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. Here is a short clip of me playing the song.
I have been using the app that came with my ukulele a lot to help improve my skills. I was so excited when I was able to receive 2 stars on 2 songs that I played. The app also shows me which chords I am having troubles with. For example, the second picture on the left is how I did after playing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, and I clearly need to practice moving to the F chord. The first time that I tried playing any of the songs on this app, I wasn’t even able to get 1 star, so I am happy with my improvement.
For the next couple of weeks, my class is going to work on playing “Jingle Bells”. I would really like to have a recording of them playing the song to use at the Winter concert, so we have around a month to get that done.
I cannot say how much I have loved the Kala app. It was well worth the $5.99 for a month subscription. I have been using it independently and in my classroom. Last post I showed some of the features of the apps, and I think the feature I like the most is the background music that plays during the song. It has really helped me keep time and it makes it sound more like the song since we are just using a simple strumming pattern. My class has absolutely loved playing the songs from the Kala app. We have been spending at least 20-30 minutes a day (sometimes more) playing our ukuleles. The first time we played a song using the video, my students thought it was too fast for them! The beauty of the Kala app is each tutorial video has the option to change the beats per minute. So I recorded a few songs with a slowed down tempo to ease the students into it. By the end of last week, most of my students were saying that the songs were too slow! So, we started to play some songs that have a quicker tempo and they are doing awesome! Here is a short montage of me playing some of the songs.
Unfortunately, this past week was a crappy week for getting anything done outside of school, so I wasn’t able to practice playing songs that use a different strumming pattern. I have been able to practice strumming the “Shoot ‘Em Ups” pattern and feel comfortable with it. The next step will be to start playing different chords while strumming the pattern.
This coming week I am going to make sure I carve out more time to work on my ukulele outside of school. I am also going to look into different apps that may be available on my phone or websites that have songs available on them. So far, I have been relying mostly on the Kala app. I am going to move away from pop music and learn some rock songs! Rolling Stones here I come!
I am not going to lie, over the last couple of weeks I have been having flashbacks to hearing recorders squeaking in the classroom. Some days learning the ukulele with my students has been a little painful. However, each day we are making progress.
I know my students are starting to get sick of playing Let it Be, but there has been quite a bit of improvement. I hope you can hear how well we are doing too! Next week, after Remembrance Day, we are going to move on to learning a Christmas song. I would love to have my students perform for the school, but I know that would be very difficult for my kiddos. So, I am hoping to at least make a video of our class playing songs that I can share with their families on Seesaw, and maybe at the winter concert.
On my own, I have been using the Kala app to learn more chords, songs and about strumming. I downloaded an app on my phone that let me record myself using the app. Here is a short video showing of the options within the app.
Like I said in the video, when you play along to a song, it kind of feels like you are playing a video game, and I thought that my students would really like to try the app. Using the screen cast app on my phone, I recorded a whole song, and projected it on the whiteboard this morning for my students to try. They really loved it! The app allows you to change the tempo of each of the songs, so I am able to slow the tempo down a bit. As we progress, the tempo of the songs can increase. One of the biggest issues that my students have with reading the chords off of paper is they lose where they are in the song. The app makes it easier for them to follow along and pick up where they are in the song if they make a mistake.
We have picked a few other songs that they would like to try. I had a video of me playing my ukulele last night, but realized when I went to upload it that there was no sound. So, a video of me playing my ukulele is still to come. My goal for the next week is to move from simple strumming to using different strumming patterns within songs. I plan to use the Kala app on my phone and a website that I found. Maybe some day I will be able to throw a dance in there as well.
I am not going to lie, life kind of got in the way of working on learning the ukulele this week. My class only had a little bit of time to spend on lessons, but we are showing some progress. We started to sound much better playing Let it Be, and this week we have learned a few more chords. So far we have learned C, G, Am, F, D, A, E and Em. I have decided that I really do not like playing the D and E chords as my fingers seem to not want to cooperate. My teaching partner has been very helpful and patient with me and all of our students. Some students are progressing quicker than others, but they have all been doing really well and the ones that have picked it up really quick have been very patient with the rest of us. Our second song that we have started to learn this week is Monster Mash (a very basic version), which seems very fitting for Halloween next week.
I have also been using the app that came with my ukulele to help me. It has tutorials for each of the chords and different types of strumming. I wasn’t able to find a way to download any of the videos off of my app and wasn’t too sure about the copyright of the videos, so I have included some screenshots of the different videos and features of the app. In the chord tutorials, they show you where each finger should be placed on the ukulele. I haven’t spent much time learning different strumming patterns because I am still trying to master just strumming downwards. The tutorials for strumming show videos and direction arrows to follow (Photos taken from the Kala app). Kala’s website also has a lot of resources for learning how to play the ukulele.
The app also has many different songs that are free and ones that could be downloaded. The format of learning the songs reminds me a lot of playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The chords move up the screen and show when you are to play them. The screen also has shows what frets and strings are required for the different chords. At the end of the song you get a rating out of 3 stars and it shows you how well you were able to strum the correct chords. (Photos taken from the Kala app)
I have also been using some lessons by Andy Guitar that I found on YouTube. He has many beginner lessons and gives suggestions of songs that beginners can practice and play. I really like how he explains the chords, chord changes and timing of the songs. He also talks about how to hold the ukulele and different grips that can be used, especially if you are a child. The series that I have been watching is a how to play in 10 lessons.
All in all, my students and I have been learning how to play the ukulele for two weeks. I can definitely seen and heard improvement in this time. I hope to be able to play one of the songs on the Kala app and receive 3 stars soon!