30 Song Videos in 30 Days

As with most music educators, the end of the school year, following the last concert, is an easier time of the year.  Not with classroom management, perhaps, but that was particularly true for me this year.  Instead of trying to find worthwhile activities for the last days, we went back to ukuleles and played through various songs.   This worked tremendously well.

 

Brian Ellison, a middle school Band and general music teacher, recently posted this tweet about using ukuleles…

Ultimately, this is what it is all about.  I have up to 60 students at a time on ukulele…but the involvement is the same.  And the bonus is that KIDS SING ALONG.  Watch the video again if you need to…you will see it.  Robin Giebelhausen (https://soundeducators.org) talks about the power of fooling middle school students into singing.

Some people are even using these songs with adult ukulele jam sessions!

If you are going to use these…I suggest planning ahead, downloading the videos you want (www.keepvid.com, but don’t get fooled by the misleading download options) rather than relying on Wi-Fi in a presentation!

About copyright…YouTube notifies us that songs are under copyright, they cannot be monetized (not the goal anyway), and any advertisements you see generate income for the copyright holder.  Only one song that I created (Faith! From “Sing”) was banned…and another educator created a version which is being allowed.  Who knows.

I have made a few of these videos in the past…and have been trying different approaches in doing so.

Early on, I was trying to make scrolling “sheet music” with accompaniments made with iReal Pro and Notion.  Later, I was using lyric videos from YouTube (see Dr. Reese’s “How To” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2n1Lb9TL9Q).

After our concert, I started making a few new songs and then just kept going.  I made videos of songs that my choirs had sung.  I made videos of songs that came to my attention that were fun (and sometimes challenging).  Eventually, I stopped using lyric videos and made my own Keynotes of lyrics and chords.

I have been working with John Baxter from ukefarm.com to develop some ukulele chord resources for music education.  Coming soon: Chordette for Education which is a program that allows you to use ukulele fonts in documents, keynotes, etc.  You can even do this on an iPad!  One of the fonts features colored strings to match the Aquila KIDS strings.

One of the challenges with ukulele is that many songs were written for ease of playing on a guitar.  E is a great key for Guitar.  It is a crummy key for ukulele.  Therefore, a lot of songs need to be “tweaked” up or down a half step or a whole step to be more accessible on ukulele (more than that, and the original audio really starts to suffer).  Sometimes the original key was OKAY, but a transposed key was more accessible.  In those cases, I started making two versions of a play along.

Pretty soon, I had a bunch of songs going with my format, and if the song was easy, I could make a video in an hour.  I had a new goal…make 30 unique videos (not counting multiple keys) in the month of June…one a day.

The songs have different purposes.  Some are standard ukulele jam songs.  One of the benefits of this approach to teaching ukulele is that you can teach kids with THEIR music.  However, they should also learn some of the standard songs used in ukulele jams so they can play along with players in other places (and in other age groups).  And as I said, some are songs that I like.

I wrapped that project up this evening with my 30th unique song of the month (June 22nd…ahead of schedule).   There are some special things in the last 30 days, such as a GREAT song by the Jive Aces called “Bring Me Sunshine,” jeremy messersmith’s “Everybody Gets a Kitten,” “Another Day of Sun,” me singing on a version of “The More We Get Together,” and tonight a very special video using the Bacon Brother’s recent video of a ukulele song they sang on their tour bus (had to figure out all the chords for the song…and included the original video).  The only dud, in my opinion, is Heart and Soul, but even that is okay…and it is interesting to hear the whole song…not just what kids play on the school piano all the time.  As always, if something isn’t of interest to you, don’t spend much time with it.

So, Ukestuff Play Along Songs (some have been around longer than this month).  The titles are clickable links to each of the songs I have created.  In the future, this PDF will be in the “Videos” page and regularly updated.  This version will remain static to 6/22/2017.

I also started another side project, which was to make an index of ALL the ukulele play along songs in this style…168 of them so far.  I am going to share that index as soon as I share it with the creators first.

What other songs are needed?  Religious and non-religious holiday music play alongs.  And then any other songs that you might want created.  Have a suggestion?  E-mail me.  If there is a YouTube video with the music, please reference that video–and of course, chord charts are useful, too.

I am not setting a goal of another 30 songs in July…but I will make some new videos…and there are some other projects that I want to get to.

Some might ask: aren’t you worn out from the year?  The answer is YES, and I will blog about that later.  That said, doing things like this renew my spirit and cause me to think deeper musically than I generally get a chance to do all year.  I have also had a chance to spend time with my kids, play ukulele at a Veteran’s Home, and participate in some local ukulele jam sessions.

This video will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info

 

 

You Better Have an Answer…

I’m fired up right now.  Every now and then, the educational gurus on Twitter post statements that are detached from reality, throw blame (and guilt) at teachers, and offer an over-simplistic solution to a complicated issue.

This morning, a well-meaning educator reposted a statement from a conference they are attending.  They wrote:

If a student asks, “When am I ever going to use this?” we better have a legitimate answer.

On the surface, this is a wonderful statement.  Shouldn’t every activity we do in school have a legitimate purpose for and direct impact on our lives?

There is a problem that exists here, which is that we use this reasoning to punish teachers and to falsely enable students.  Punish teachers?  Oh, yes.  These statements are of hidden as “statements of encouragement,” but in reality are meant to move those “stubborn” teachers off their mark.

Back to the idea of having a legitimate reason/use for learning anything, we have all seen the statement about, “Why I teach music” (nod to Katie Wardrobe at http://midnightmusic.com.au who created this graphic):

Why I teach music

What do we do if a student says that they don’t care about being human, recognizing beauty, being closer to an infinite, having something to cling to, having more love, having more compassion, having more gentleness, or having more good?  Or that they can learn these things elsewhere? (reality check: they can–in lots of places).

I have to admit: this strikes close to home.  I have three school age students, and my oldest is failing classes with the reasoning, “When am I ever going to use this?”  We have empowered students to think that if something they are doing does not have a direct impact on their future lives, they shouldn’t have to learn it.  Adding to this, every adolescent knows everything (so did I, and so did you), and it doesn’t matter if you talk about the value of learning how to think, how to approach problems, or how to handle situations in life where you have to do something you don’t want to do.  Logic from my oldest: “That is AWFUL.  Why would I do something I don’t want to do as an adult?

I hated changing diapers.  I still had to do it.  There are lots of things that fall into this category for me…even going to school some days!  If I stop doing them…we’ll be on the streets as a family with no roof over our heads, no food, and no possessions.

This style of thinking also creates a false form of logic that says that only my happiness is important.  In terms of philosophy and religion, this is called hedonism.  At some point, this form of reasoning becomes hurtful to others, as we put ourselves and our own pursuit of pleasure above all else.

I don’t know about you, but I find my greatest meaning in life when I am doing things to help others.  Truthfully, that is one of the reasons why I write this blog and the other vocational (profession related but not a part of my paid job) tasks that I pursue on my free time.

As students are empowered to only do tasks that matter to their interests, it is any wonder that business owners talk about how hard it is to find workers with strong work ethics these days?

A good percentage of parents believe this way of thinking, too.  They don’t think their students should have to learn anything that they don’t want to, or that they shouldn’t have to learn anything that doesn’t have a direct impact on their future lives.

I don’t know about you, but I learned all kinds of things that have had no direct impact on my life today…but I don’t mind that I learned them.  I was forced into honors classes in high school (I tried to register for “standard” classes, but school counselors wouldn’t let me) and I learned plenty of things that I have never used in my adult life.

This thinking also strikes close to home in my profession where 50% of my students are forced into my class having to take a music class.  It doesn’t matter if I try to give them broad experiences in music beyond singing (ukulele, GarageBand) or even make the case that I want them to be able to sing in public (church, karaoke) or private (lullabies) at any point in the future with confidence and accuracy to pitch and rhythm.

With all sincerity, I can’t look at a student and say that their life will be a failure if they can’t sing a note, sight read (talk about an important skill in music that has limited impact outside of music making), or play chords on a ukulele.  I can’t say that they will use any of those topics as an adult.  I can tell you the benefits of all of them–but I can’t promise that you will use them as an adult.

I think a more reasoned approach is to make sure that we talk to our students about learning and how ALL learning molds us and shapes us, even if specific tasks are never used in adulthood.  Teachers used to talk about this all the time.  Parents (generally) held their kids accountable to behave decently and to make an effort to learn things.  And students (generally) respected the role of the teacher and tried to learn.  Sure…there were exceptions.  And the majority of teachers aren’t “super teachers” (there is another myth that every teacher has to be a super teacher).  Most teachers loved the subjects they are teaching, and wanted to invest in the next generations of humanity, so that those students could be human, recognize beauty, be closer to an infinite, have something to cling to, have more love, have more compassion, have more gentleness, and have more good.

Regardless of your political stance–the world desperately needs these things–which was true even before the most recent presidential election in the United States.

Please…be careful with those words of sage advice on Twitter.

A few days with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro


As I mentioned in a previous post, when Apple announced the new iPad Pro (there is a 10″ version) they also announced the same updates to the 12.9″ model.

I have been putting off the purchase of a new iPad for some time–and it was time to upgrade.  This was facilitated with 0% financing from Apple for 18 months.  

That iPad arrived on Tuesday, and I have been using the iPad Pro in my daily life for the past three days.  I have been reading a lot about the iPad Pro models on all of the technology news outlets.  The general consensus is that the iPad Pro is wonderful, but it costs a lot.  This sounds like typical Apple to me.  That said, my 2008 MacBook (which I am still using) was pretty expensive ($1500 if memory serves), but it is still working for me nearly 9 years later.  

I have been integrating the iPad Pro into my life, and for the most part, what I have to say is this: it is a big iPad that does what iPads do.  I am able to do some more split screen activities as the size better allows for it, and it is wonderful for reading music.  I have now attended two ukulele functions with my iPad Pro, my PageFlip Dragonfly, and my AirTurn GoStand/Manos Mount.  Music reading on a digital device doesn’t get any better (although I would recommend Michelle Mastin’s thoughts on using Samsung Chromebook Plus as a music reader...she prefers the Chromebook–which can run Android Apps–to a Windows Surface!).

My iPad is used as a tool to run my class (everything is organized in Keynote), as well as a music reader.  The primary reason that I wanted the 12.9″ iPad was to read music, so it is doing exactly what I want it to do.  Did I need the latest version of the 12.9″ iPad to read music?  No!  I could buy a used model for that task.  But when buying an iPad or iPhone, I do believe in buying the latest version so as to give it the longest possible shelf life.  

The pencil is a fantastic tool…I love it.  I hope they make the iPhone a pencil-friendly device this fall.  I don’t have an Apple keyboard…I just have the keyboard from a very inexpensive New Trent iPad case (previous model) that I use, and that works for what I need.  My iPad/Tablet stand is from IKEA and cost $3.  I will say that I have spent some time with drawing music into the iPad, and I am amazed at how well Notion’s handwriting works for a $7 in-app purchase.  I don’t see handwriting as a great way to enter a lot of music into an iPad, but if you need to write something quickly and have an iPad Pro–and are not overly familiar with technology–handwriting is an amazing solution.

The limitations of the 12.9″ are its size and weight…which aren’t really limitations.  They are the reality of the device.  The limitations of the iPad Pro are found in the operating system and the available apps.  Don’t get me wrong…and iPad can do more things than a computer used to be able to do.  Apple is addressing the operating system with new iPad features this fall; and chances are that apps will continue to develop as the operating system changes.

For example, I have been doing a lot of work on my MacBook creating ukulele play along videos.  I use these videos in my classes, and they are fun to make.  I also know that some ukulele groups use these videos.  Here is my latest effort: 

I simply can’t do all of the steps to make these videos on an iPad.  Currently, I cannot save a YouTube video from iOS (Even the Workflow App is broken in that regard), I cannot open that video as an audio file and make changes to it, and I cannot use the timeline to make a “Picture-In-Picture” bouncing ball icon to follow chords.  In regards to the initial creation in Keynote, I cannot attach an audio recording to the entire document, record timings, and export as a video file.

In the long run, I CAN do some of this on the iPad, but I cannot do all of it.  I might be able to do some hacked things, such as opening a video in Explain Everything and using the “pointer” to show chords…this last part might be easier, but one of the fun things to do is to make the “bouncing ball” into something that relates to the song.  One of my favorite such icons was using a VW Beetle for the Beatles’ “All My Loving.”

All that said, my new iPad Pro has a much faster processor and a much more advanced graphics processor than my old 2008 MacBook.  It could handle everything that my MacBook could do…but the apps have to allow for it.  Hopefully that will come!

As for the speed on the iPad…the iPad Pro runs everything that I ran before at the same perceptible speed…so I wouldn’t upgrade for that reason.  I would say that if you have an iPad older than the original iPad Air, it is probably time to upgrade.  There are three new iPads…the $329 9.7″ iPad, the new 10″ iPad Pro, and the updated 12.9″ iPad.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them.

Technology in Action: Pano Tuner


Several years ago, my respect for technology in music education experienced a quantum leap.

After a presentation, a person who attended the session e-mailed and asked, “If I had a student with no arms…she could use forScore and a bluetooth pedal to gain independence in choir, couldn’t she?”

The answer, of course, is YES.  

I never thought about this, as I have two arms, and every student in my program–every student I have ever had–has had two arms.

We don’t think about the life changing impact of technology for people with disabilities, until we have to, or someone else brings it to our attention.  An iPad that is just used for watching Netflix could be changing someone else’s life.

At any rate, a deaf person competed on America’s Got Talent a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Mandy Harvey, and various YouTube links show that she has been performing as a singer for the past years, even though she is deaf.  How does she sing on pitch?  She uses a tuner app (Which appears to be Pano Tuner) while she is learning her music, and then memorizes the feeling of that pitch to be able to recreate the music away from the tuner.  I was initially interested in the video because she plays the ukulele (another Kala player).

Incidentally, this is the first time I have seen people ignore the ukulele (e.g. Last year, Grace VanderWaal was the kid with a ukulele).

While Mandy acknowledges in other interviews that she always had a strong sense of pitch–I can’t imagine doing what she is doing.  I shared the video with my students before the end of the year.  I can’t help but think about the challenges she is facing in this industry, and how hard it must be for your entire future career to disappear as an option…yet she continues on.

Most of us would listen to Mandy having no idea she was deaf.  It would have been better for AGT if they would have had her sing and THEN let everyone know she was deaf.

And how wonderful is it that she can continue her singing career, in part, due to an inexpensive tuning app?

We truly live in amazing times.  The AGT video follows:

Migrating to a new iOS device


I have subscribed to Apple’s $9.99 highest-level storage plan for a couple of years, not being convinced of Dropbox’s lasting power (although I love Dropbox), data security (I have had to change my Dropbox password due to a data breach), and of course, improvements with iCloud.  This means that I can store my most valuable data in Apple’s cloud system without worrying about failing drives or even stolen equipment.  My most important documents, my music library (scanned and audio), and photos are all safely in the cloud for $120 a year, and Apple keeps increasing the amount of storage included in that pricing (now 2TB of data).  Apple doesn’t seem to hold audio files or pictures against that total storage…although I do pay $25 a year of Apple Match (it takes all of your music and puts it in the cloud, also allowing you to re-download) and have not yet subscribed to Apple Music, although I think that subscription is coming, too.

With that online storage, I am able to backup my personal devices without any fear of running out of room.  Sadly, the minimal 5GB that Apple allows for every iTunes account does not help much, and you end up buying storage for devices.  I wish there was a way my family could tap into my 2TB of data, as I pay $0.99 for my wife’s devices and really should upgrade to $0.99 for our children’s iPads.  We do use family sharing…but I wish there was family sharing for device backups.

Well, my new iPad Pro arrived yesterday afternoon–the afternoon of my last contract day (students were done on Friday), so receiving the iPad felt like a bonus for surviving the year.  I will blog more about the year later–but I need to distance myself from it for a while before I do so.

What you read about the iPad Pro (12.9″) is true.  It is huge, it is fast, and it has the potential to change your workflow.  This morning, as I did my daily routine of having breakfast, doing devotions, and reading the news, my workflow was modified by having my journaling app (Day One) and my Bible reader of choice (Olive Tree) up at the same time.  I could do this on my iPad Air, but doing so makes the split screen of limited use as space is minimal.  I am learning how to utilize the new screen space, and am really looking forward to reading music on it.  I get my first opportunity to do so this afternoon as a small group of ukulele players are playing for a Veteran’s retirement home–unintentionally on Flag Day (incidentally, happy Flag Day!).

I am figuring out how to integrate the Apple Pencil into my work flow.  I have used a stylus before, but this device changes many interactions with the iPad Pro (and yes, with the latest iPad Pro, there is no perceived lag or latency).  I just wish there was an “eraser” on the end of the Pencil for apps like forScore.

Back to the topic at hand…as my devices are set (in Settings) to back up when “sleeping” and plugged in, I am basically ready to upgrade or migrate at any time.

All I have to do is open a new device, go through the starting menus, tell the new device to restore from a backup, and then Apple restores the data.  Apple doesn’t store the Apps with your backup–those download directly from Apple.  All that downloads from your backup file is app data–which is relatively small (most of the time–there are exceptions, such as video files).  Then, over time, Apple restores all of the apps you had on your device, and for the most part, you are ready to use your new device.  Occasionally you will need to enter a password (such as with WordPress, which I use to blog), but that is a minor inconvenience.

I think a larger task would be the challenge of migrating from iOS to Android or Android to iOS…and even then, the carriers and companies have tools to help you migrate.

If you have been putting off the purchase of a new device because of the challenge of setting it up, and you want to use the existing setup on your current device–simply use iCloud Backup and the migration is pretty painless…it just takes a while to download everything.

One other tip: don’t erase your old device until you know that you have restored everything to your new device (or until you know that you will keep your new device)–just in case.