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