I just received an e-mail regarding Roadie tuners…all of them are on sale for Black Friday 2019 at a 20% savings. That’s a pretty good deal. While I prefer the Jowoom T2 Smart Tuner, the Roadie 2 is also an excellent device. See https://www.roadiemusic.com for the Black Friday deal.
I have been in touch with Fret Zealot (the company) for some time. The Fret Zealot is a device that you can put on a guitar–and now a ukulele–to learn how to play the instrument. We decided to wait for a review until the product was released for ukulele. Originally I was hoping to simply review a unit installed on a ukulele, but it made sense for the company to send me a unit to install on one of my ukuleles.
The Fret Zealot is a combination of adhesive strips containing wiring and LED Lights, and a control module that connects to the strips and which gets mounted to the ukulele. The strips (3M) are rather permanent (they can be removed), but the control module can be removed at any time–and is charged by a USB mini plug. The control module interacts with an iOS or Android device, allowing you to interact with the Fret Zealot app.
The app has three basic parts…”Play” “Learn” and “Fun.”
“Play” has a library of songs (more about this in a moment), a tuner, and a metronome. The song list is rather long, but not very useful. The notes or chords that show are not connected to a “real” audio file, and there are no lyrics. So to be honest, I wouldn’t spend much time there.
“Learn” is where the power of the Fret Zealot comes into play. You can have the device show you different chords, scales, and notes. Amazingly, there are a few videos–songs and lessons–from Justin Guitar and The Ukulele Teacher that have been “programmed” to work with the Fret Zealot, and this is simply amazing. This is where the future lies with this technology, and Fret Zealot is on the leading edge. I just hope the library of videos continues to grow. There are also partner apps…Guitar 3D, Uberchord (old acquaintances of mine from techinmusiced.com) and Spark. I do not think that any of these partner apps are ukulele friendly.
“Fun” is, for now, a way to have your Fret Zealot show off rather fun display patterns on the LED strips. You can see examples of this at the start of the YouTube review embedded below.
As for the device itself, it works, and I’m excited about the future for Fret Zealot. The whole idea of the Fret Zealot is that you can turn any ukulele into a learning device, rather than having to buy a specialized ukulele.
I do have some criticism about the device, and I’ll share those thoughts, too. My preference is to have action at the 1st Fret to be .5mm. This was too low for the Fret Zealot and caused buzzing on the dual LED strip in the 1st Fret. I had to find a ukulele that had higher action to avoid the buzz–and had to remove an already installed Fret Zealot to do it. This isn’t the Fret Zealot’s fault, but it isn’t a device to be taken on and off at will–you commit to having it on your device until you take it off.
After installing the Fret Zealot on a different ukulele, I found that I really didn’t like the top row of LEDs, a dual strip. The top row represents an “open string,” and the immediate second row represents the 1st Fret. The diagrams for the Fret Zealot all show installation towards the actual (metal) fret, which placed the indicator for the “nut” in the middle of the 1st Fret–and this really threw me off.
As a result, I uninstalled the Fret Zealot AGAIN and moved it as high as I could on each fret, making the first row of LEDs much closer to the nut. Really, I’d love for that first strip to be above the nut, but I don’t know if that is possible.
And the penalty for a movement of the Fret Zealot a third time was that the top corner of the Fret Zealot (the one with the main cable) no longer sticks like it should, and as a result, there was some buzzing where the G string interacted with the top left corner of the Fret Zealot LED strip. I need to say very clearly that this is my fault and no fault of the Fret Zealot. Adhesive materials simply cannot be removed and replaced over and over again with the same results.
As I previously mentioned, the song library doesn’t seem to be very useful to me, and when installed, the Fret Zealot adds significant weight to the headstock.
That said, this is a product I’m really excited about, because it can help people learn how to play ukulele. The ability to sync videos with the Fret Zealot is a game changer, and the only problem is that videos need to be added one at a time, and that takes hours of labor, and thus lots of money. Perhaps Fret Zealot could make a end-user “video sync” app that would allow end users to make videos that could be added to the Fret Zealot library. I also love the idea of connection with other apps, so it would be fun to see what could be done with some other ukulele apps–anything from Kala’s library (and Musopia/Ukeoke) to Monster Chords (which uses or used to use some functionality with Uberchord).
I hope that future versions will be able to reduce the size of the controller, the height of the LEDs, and the cost of the device. But if you are looking for a device that can help you learn how to play the ukulele–making your existing ukulele an “intelligent ukulele,” Fret Zealot is worth checking out. And while there are other “intelligent ukuleles” on the market, if you buy one of those ukuleles, you have to choose from those ukuleles. With the Fret Zealot, you can connect any concert or tenor ukulele that you might have.
Many thanks to Fret Zealot for sending me a unit to review!
My video review appears below. Honestly, it’s a little scattered as I was trying to record what I was doing with the Fret Zealot app on my iPad while using the Fret Zealot and making a video at the same time. My iPad wasn’t recording all of the interactions with the app, and the part I wanted to demonstrate most–the syncing with The Ukulele Teacher’s video would not record (perhaps this is an iOS copyright limitation). Therefore, I wrote this more concise blog post, which says everything I say in the video.
If a ukulele was under your tree this morning, or you are buying one tomorrow…I highly recommend Barry Maz’s book, which is on sale right now in the Kindle format for $1.99. Highly recommended.
For anyone interested in the world of technology in music education as it pertains to ukulele, I was given the opportunity to review the Populele, an acoustic ukulele with an LED fretboard that connects via Bluetooth to a mobile app (iOS or Android). That review is on my ukulele blog (link).
NOTE/UPDATE: This package is no longer available. As soon as a review was posted on gotaukulele.com, it sold out in minutes. To those of you who bought one…congratulation…it is a heck of a bargain! If I ever see anything like this again, I will post about it.
Some of my followers are sick of the ukulele posts. I understand that, and I have been attempting to keep those posts on a separate page.
That said, something has come to my attention, and I need to spread the word as it has a deadline.
Here’s the deal…if you have any interest in the ukulele, or are a teacher who wants to order ukuleles, there is a company called Enya (that may be “rebranding” to “Hankey”) that is selling a soprano ukulele package to people in the United States for $28.99 through August 15th. It is normally $129.
Normally, any ukulele under $50 has massive flaws that you have to work around to get them to work. This involves setting up the ukulele, dealing with quality issues, and so on.
Enya is making a high tech product at low costs–and this price is promotion to spread their name.
So…a little bit about this ukulele…it is made of high-pressure laminate (HPL), with the same material as a Martin HPL ukulele. The Martin soprano OX series sells for $339 new. The Enya (its model designation is “EUR-X1”) is a camp-styled ukulele (round) with a radius fretboard, unbelievable setup (great action!), gig bag, tuner, etc. To be honest, you can’t buy a gig bag, tuner, and ukulele strap (and more) for $29. It arrives packaged like an Apple product. The bad parts? The ukulele is a quieter ukulele (still sounds very nice), the bridge is set very low on the small body, and the strings are not great (low tension–I replaced them with Martin 600 strings). I also think the nut is a little sharp, and you need to use the included strap to hold it based on the location of the bridge. But again…$29 for a instrument that is worth more than its usual $129.
I don’t want to say any more, but if you want to read more, head over to my other blog, ukestuff.info. I have videos there, too.
So…here’s the deal…if you have any interest in a ukulele…or think you ever would…this is a ukulele to buy while it is $29. It is a ukulele to consider at its normal price of $129. It is a no-brainer at $28.99 (if you have Prime, it is free shipping). Really….if you ever think you want a ukulele…this is the time to strike. This deal isn’t coming back, and it ends 8/15/17.
If you have been looking for ukuleles for a school…this is a great option. Can you get your school to scramble quickly enough in the summer to order some?
I had some fund raising money available and bought 10 more that arrive today…as HPL instruments (they should not be impacted by weather–although the strings still can suffer), they will be put in our library for students to check out and take home. Oh, and if you order some for a school, remember that you can buy Aquila KIDS strings in bulk sets of 20 at a very affordable price directly from Aquila. Contact them (e-mail) and they will help you.
If you want to buy it yourself (searching through Amazon), you can do so by searching “Enya 21 inch ukulele kit.”
If you would like to buy it through a referral link and send $0.80 my direction (small commission on referral sales!), use this Amazon link. Please spread the word.
(For the record, I have referred 7 of these so far, resulting in a massive payout of $6.50! I’ll try not to spend it in one place).
So…I apologize for the ukulele post…but there are times that you need to spread the word!
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.
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