Category Archives: Ukulele

Ukulele

A quick mention about my ukulele efforts…

If you are interested in ukulele, and aren’t yet following my blog at ukestuff.info, or my YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6jZYLoYuV1CxY4Stzm6mgg (I cannot register a unique URL until the channel has 100 followers), please consider doing so.  I have been attempting to limit my ukulele talk on techinmusiced.com unless I am doing something that also coincides with technology or could be useful in other areas.

I am nearing the end of my main summer video projects, as I have created all of the videos that I HAD to make, and now am just making videos for things I want to create.  Ultimately, I am creating resources for myself, or for others who have asked–and sharing those with the larger population.  That includes a list of all the extant similar videos for ukulele instruction.

I will be updating my (ukulele) play along list on the ukestuff.info play along site, and will probably not mention this again on techinmusiced.com.  So…if you are finding any use for these videos, please check out my Video Play Alongs page from time to time and see what is new.

https://ukestuff.wordpress.com/video-play-alongs/

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

 

 

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.

The Ukulele App On Sale (IAP)

 

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If you play popular music on the ukulele, and you have any exposure to ukulele on YouTube, you know The Ukulele Teacher.  The Ukulele Teacher creates weekly (or more) instruction tutorials on how to play songs of all kinds.  Chances are that students in your music ensembles are watching his videos to learn how to play music they want to learn on the ukulele.  He was recently named a Kala artist.

I adore his work for a number of reasons–but above all others, he is not a fantastic singer-but he sings all the time.  I love that, and I love the message that it sends to kids.  You don’t have to be a high school choir dramatic soprano to enjoy singing and to enjoy making music.

The Ukulele Teacher earns a living a number of ways–some advertising in YouTube, a Patreon account, some limited “gear”, some product placement, and his relatively new iPhone App, which is called The Ukulele App.  It runs on iPad, but has not been made a universal binary to run on all the sides.

The app has a number of functions, including links to all of the Ukulele Teacher’s videos on YouTube, a tuner (more of a pitch generator), and a chord library.  They are going to be adding a number of features to the app this year, and for the month of June, the in-app purchase is only $0.99.  The app itself is free, but this is a cost savings.

I bought the IAP at full price–I want to support what John Atkins (the real name of the Ukulele Teacher) is doing, and I see the app becoming even more useful in time.  If you play ukulele (or want to play ukulele), I recommend the purchase–particularly at the reduce price for June 2017.

This post will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info and techinmusiced.com, and is NOT a paid ad.

Chordette: Chord Charts for Ukulele (and other instruments)

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While I now host most of my ukulele posts at my ukulele site (ukestuff.info), there are times where music education technology and ukulele interact with each other.  Today’s focus is an example of that interaction.  This post will be double posted (on techinmusiced and ukestuff) for that reason.

As I have written about in the past, I have incorporated ukulele into my choir program–both as a way to accompany choirs and also to have choirs learn how to accompany themselves.  There is a legitimate use of the ukulele as a melody (or chord melody instrument), but that has not been my focus, and to be honest, instructional time is limited.

This year, I used a number of videos (YouTube) from Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way to have my students learn how to play chords along with “real” music, including very current pop music.  Generally, I would teach a chord, and then we would play songs that incorporated that chord as well as other songs that they already knew (it was a fun experiment in scope and sequence).  As I introduced chords, I needed a way to show the ukulele chord that was being taught…but it was difficult to find a consistent fingering graphic to use on the web (I also liked putting a picture of a real hand making the chord shape on a fretboard as well).

There was a program, by John Baxter, called Chordette, which allows you to enter ukulele chords as a font.  There was an old version that was no longer available, but when I reached out to John at his website (ukefarm.com), he was incredibly kind and shared a beta version with me, and was also open to feedback and special requests for chords.

As a result of using Chordette, I could have a consistent chord chart across all of my resources, and I was even able to use the font to make my own instructional ukulele play alongs like Dr. Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way using the Chordette Font.

The new version of Chordette is now available, and while no longer free, is a great resource if you teach ukulele or if you make ukulele resources.  Furthermore, Chordette comes in a number of formats, including Soprano Ukulele (which is really ADF#B tuning–and not common in education settings), Standard GCEA ukulele tuning, Baritone Ukulele (DGBE), Mandolin, Tenor Banjo, and Guitar.  So really, if you do any work on any of these instruments…Chordette is a good investment.  If you buy more than one instrument, there are ways to get a multi-program discount.  And if you order in May (2017) using the discount “ukefarm” (no quotation marks) you will get another 30% off.  Let’s be honest here.  If you teach or use ukulele, even the full price is worth every penny.

For the record, I am not receiving any referral bonus for mentioning this app, and while I did receive a beta for free, I have purchased Chordette for myself, too.

I’m not going to lie…I love this Mac/Windows application, and highly recommend it.  Additionally, if you have suggestions, or even a special request…contact Mr. Baxter at UkeFarm and see what he can do.  Again, you can find Chordette at www.ukefarm.com.