Category Archives: Ukulele

Ukulele

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.

Digital natives?

digitalnative

I am not a fan of the term, “Digital Native.”  This implies that today’s students (including college students) are SO familiar with technology that they need no training.  After all, they grew up with the technology, so they know how to use it, right?

Well, they know how to do recreational things.  They know how to use social media and how to play games.  But when you ask students to use technology for academic purposes–they struggle.  They still need to be taught.

A couple of months ago, a very popular technology guru “put down” a teacher because they showed them every step to do something.  “Let them figure it out on their own,” was the sage advice.  I interceded for the teacher, saying that my own students seem to be incapable of following CLEAR directions (written or spoken), and do not have the initiative to figure it out on their own.  The guru then attacked me, saying, “I will believe in your students even if you don’t.”

So I put it to the test.  With the limited time we had with ukuleles, students only learned the C and F chords through late October (10 minutes, maximum, every-other-day).  I decided to test their ability to play these chords by having them make an instructional video to teach others how to play the chord.  To earn a specific grade, they had to complete specific tasks.  One of the tasks at the A Level was to use picture-in-picture or split screen to show a closeup of specific chords when they were teaching how to play those chords.

Every student has access to an iPad and iMovie.  How do you use split screen or picture-in-picture?  Ultimately, you move your cursor in the iMovie project to where you want to add the picture-in-picture or split screen.  Then you choose a second video (or the same video) to drop into place, and a “…” option allows you to choose how you want to embed that video.  After the video is in place, you can reposition a picture-in-picture box, and you can even resize the image to zoom in.

How did I learn this?  A 20 second search in YouTube for “picture in picture iMovie iOS.”

I didn’t give these instructions–these are digital natives, who can read the instructions, and can search using Google and YouTube, right?

I have nearly 400 students in choir.  Do you know how many were able to do picture-in-picture or split screen in iMovie on iOS?  NONE.  I had one student that spent $6 to buy another program that would allow her to do it (and she earned an A). Otherwise, students were quite content to earn a B, as it did not require extra work or effort.  400 digital natives–and not a single one could figure it out.  That educational guru sure was right!

As we continue with the ukulele in the coming months, I will show them how to do picture-in-picture and split screen in iMovie, because I want them to be able to make instructional videos not just for ukulele–but for other things they are passionate about.  And I also want them to know the work that others do to prepare those videos. But I have to SHOW them, because they will not figure it out on their own (or tap into the knowledge of others on their own initiative).

Interested in using the video assessment idea to use with your own classes?  (Ukulele, recorder, playing tests)? Here is a PDF of that assessment.

Note: The photo is of my now 8 year old son, who started using our iPhones in a significant fashion at just over one year (this would be about 2 months after that).  And yes, even my own children struggle to use devices appropriately, particularly in education.

Creating Ukulele Fretboard Chords in Notion

On my ukulele website, ukestuff.info, I created a post showing how to use Notion to create in-line ukulele fretboard symbols to make a lead sheet.

This is really crossover material, as it involved technology and music education, and some of you may want to add other types of chord symbols in-line to your own lead sheets for students.

You can find the article here: https://ukestuff.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/creating-fretboard-chords-for-ukulele-in-notion/

And for those of you who would like to watch the accompanying video without clicking through:

Ukulele Gig Bag (Muxico)

I am going to give away one of my ukuleles and wanted to send it with a gig bag, so I ordered this Muxico gig bag from Amazon. It isn’t heavily padded, but the zipper pulls impressed me. It will do the job of protecting a basic laminate ukulele.

If you are interested, it was $9.79 shipped (Amazon Prime):  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WW1V7HU/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=techinmusiedu-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00WW1V7HU&linkId=76c5dde2e5ae97735700052e729e931b

Another Ukulele…

Last night I ordered another ukulele.  If you start reading about ukuleles, you will find that most ukulele players have UAS, which means “Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome.”  People will collect a large number of ukuleles, and play most of them.

Since I bought my first ukulele in January, we now have six at our home, a seventh on the way, and an eighth planned for the late spring.

While you can spend a lot of money on a ukulele (the elite instruments still cost less than my tuba), most people have lower or middle end instruments, and that is where I am at.  My wife would love to return to Hawaii, but I have had no desire to go there.  Now I would go there to hang out at ukulele shops and to buy a “real” Hawaiian ukulele (probably a Kamaka at this point–which is celebrating 100 years right now).

The new ukulele is a “blemished” unit from Butler Music, which has a website and also sells on eBay and Amazon.  Most players would benefit from buying a ukulele from a ukulele specialist store, such as The Ukulele Site, the Uke Republic, or Mim’s Ukes.  These companies make sure that ukuleles are set up properly with good action, and in some cases will replace strings.  Additionally, if your local music store carries ukuleles–and a ukulele brand and model you desire, it is good to support a local store.  I have been flying on the cheap with all of my ukuleles.

On Good Friday, I had the chance to visit one of my local music stores (living in a large metro area, there are a few) and attended a Ukulele Jam.  While there, I saw the Lanikai UkeSB series, and had a chance to interact with those instruments.  These instruments have an electric pick-up with tuner (common in mid-range ukuleles) but also have a USB interface that interacts with computers and iOS devices.  As you can imagine, I was hooked.  The Soprano and Concert (think “Alto” if you don’t know ukuleles) seemed quiet to me, but I really liked the Tenor model.  My local store was willing to give me a decent discount on a full Koa UkeSB, but I don’t want to be spending over $400 on a single ukulele right now.

I have been trying to move on from wanting that instrument, but I have been needing to make some recordings for my classes (rehearsal tracks) for the songs we are singing with ukulele in our spring concert.  I don’t have a connector for my current electro-acoustic ukulele (I would probably buy the IK Multimedia iRig HD, which is $100) and the field audio recordings I have made end up having too much background noise (I’m not recording in a studio). 

So I have been looking for deals on Amazon and eBay.  What I found was the Tenor UkeSB with Spruce top and Koa body.  Normally, this instrument is $399 new (incidentally, that is what my local music store was willing to sell me the full Koa model for–which is a good price). 

  
As I mentioned earlier, Butler Music is a big online reseller, and I have one other instrument from them.  They carry both new and blemished units, and they were offering a Spruce/Koa instrument for $239 on eBay.  I offered $211, making it $225 shipped, basically $174 less than new.  That offer was accepted (I probably should have offered less). 

 It has some reported cosmetic flaws, all which are okay with me as I will be adding flaws of my own:

   
    
 
But it is otherwise new and everything else is supposed to work well.  Butler Music also accepts returns, but I am not expecting to do so.

So that is expected to arrive on Thursday.

What about the other six instruments in our home?

  
This is the Mahalo MK1 that my students are using at school, and we also bought one when they were $24 to let my kids use so that they wouldn’t bother my ukueleles.

  
This is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “Guitar” that my four year old found in the clearance aisle of Wal-Mart.  $20.

 
This is my Makala (made by Kala) Concert Ukulele that was $85 (new) and was my first ukulele.  Most days, this is my daily player at school.

  
This is my Kala Travel Tenor, which is a thin body tenor ukulele.  It lists at $279, I bought it on eBay for $169.

  
This is my Kala Concert Banjo Ukulele.  I played one at a music store and fell in love.  It sells for $299, but I found it online for $199.

  
This is my Kala Ukadelic American Flag Soprano.  It has a plastic body and laminate wood top.  These normally sell for $62 but a local music store sold it to me for $50.

  This is the Butler Music eBay “Gambler Special” baritone ukulele, which I purchased for $40, shipped.  I needed to tighten a loose (buzzing) tuning head and replace the strings.
Just as a tip (from a guitar store in Salt Lake City), Aquilla makes the strings for D’Addario’s ukulele strings, which sell for less cost than Aquilla’s own line…look at the back of these boxes…

  
All six ukuleles total less than $600…which is bargain basement pricing.  And I am using the ukuleles for instruction and recreation.  

The final ukulele that I am going to purchase at this time is the Tenor Outdoor Ukulele, which can be taken just about anywhere.  I plan to use it in all of my camping this summer (That is $145 at a local music store).

If you decide to play ukulele…be careful.  UAS is a real illness (see below)!