306B Blog 4: The Final product

It’s true what they say, practice does make perfect. The more I played the song the more comfortable I become with the new plucking pattern and the easier the F and G transition became. After I learned the new plucking for the song, I started working on harmonizing my singing. This is still a struggle for me that I am continuing to work on. With this song in particular, my struggle is matching the tune of the ukulele. I used to sing this song while my mother played along with the piano to the chords. Singing this song to the tune of the ukulele is difficult for me because I am so used to singing it in a certain way. This is still something I am working on. However, each time I practice the song I try to sing the last hallelujah different ways to find one that sounds right.

Overall, this experience has been one I will take with me forever. By learning 2 more songs, I became more fluent with how to read sheet music on ukutabs.com, so in the future more songs will be more easily available for me to learn. I also found helpful resources like Youtube channels. Particularly Bernadette Teaches Music and The Ukulele Teacher. The experience of learning songs with more than 3 chords and that have varying sequences of chords helped me to more forward with my playing. My fingers now switch faster between chords and I can begin to play more complex songs. This has made me more confident in my playing abilities.

The skill of learning the ukulele means I can be involved in campfire sing alongs and play for others. For example, I played all the songs I knew for my parents the other night while I was practicing hallelujah. They just sat there and listened, telling me it was like listening to the radio. I played Can’t Help Falling In Love, Hallelujah, and even refreshed my memory on Riptide and played that as well. I was amazed at how quickly Riptide came back once I could look at the sheet music and remember the order of the chords. All the songs I have learned will forever be in my mind to always be able to play, with every new song I learn my ukulele fluency will keep growing.

The password for Hallelujah is: Education

Here is my video of Hallelujah 

306B Blog 3: Plucking Hallelujah

One of the challenges I found was with how quickly my ukulele becomes out of tune. I have noticed because I am constantly going between the C and D scale my strings very quickly change and the tune is off as I start to play. My singing for the song becomes harder to harmonize when this happens. I have tried taping the pegs down but to no avail, it becomes untuned.

In terms of learning the song “Hallelujah”, the chords were easier to remember then “Can’t Help Falling In Love” but plucking a pattern has proven more difficult than strumming. It helped that I could remember the chords and did not have to focus on that as well when trying to pluck. Over time, I became more comfortable with the plucking pattern and eventually was able to play the song as fluently as if I were strumming. However, recently I looked up another video on Youtube and realized my plucking pattern was wrong. When using the previous strumming pattern of G, A, E, C the melody sounded slightly off and when singing I found it hard to harmonize. With the new strumming pattern of G, C, E, A, E, C I have been able to harmonize better. I am new to learning ukulele and this change in strumming has been a difficult adjustment for me. My fingers were getting used to the old pattern and this change will take a while to feel more natural. This version of the song also includes a quick transition from F chord to G chord in one strumming pattern which I am finding difficult as well. In the next few weeks I will focus on mastering the new strumming pattern and smoothing up my transitions.

I also kept working at “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and am now able to play the whole song through until the end. For my mid- semester PLP I was only able to play the first few verses. The password is: “Education”

Here is the link to the video

 

306B Blog 2: Practice Makes Perfect

It took a while to feel comfortable holding the Ukulele and having correct posture but after a few weeks it is beginning to feel more natural. The next thing I had to work on was the chords. I found that although the chords are not hard, there is many of them and I had a hard time remembering them in order. I started by having the sheet music in front of me using this photo and just placing my fingers on the chords in order. I would repeat a line until I felt comfortable with it and move on. I felt confident with the sheet music in front of me but after a while I tried not to look at it and found that all the lines started to get mixed up in my head. I would forget what chord came next. If that happened I would go back to the sheet music and do the line a few more times to make sure I had it. This is a new skill for me because the only song prior to this that I have played contained 3 chords that repeated the entirety of the song. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” requires 6 to 7 different chords per line that have varied transitions. One thing I found to be helpful was finding a Youtube Video online of someone playing the song on the Ukulele. I followed along at first just placing my fingers on the chords and doing the transitions to practice the order of the chords. Then after a few times I started strumming as well. This technique worked well for me because the video is a good tempo to practice and at the end it feels like you are playing for a crowd of people! It was a fantastic confidence booster and way to practice for me to feel competent at this song. Now that I know the order of the chords my next step is to practice not looking at the fret when transitioning. I plan to keep practicing a few times a day to become more fluid with transitions and build muscle memory so I do not have to look by the time I record the video later this week.

I have provided the link to my first video down below. The password is “Education”

Here is the link to my video

306B Blog 1: Proper Posture

Previous to this course I had only learned one song on the Ukulele. The song “Riptide” consisted of only 3 chords and was easy to learn. This semester I challenged myself by not only learning more songs but harder ones with different strumming patterns and more chords. I started this project by learning “I can’t help falling in love with you” by Elvis Presley. Before even learning the complex chords I ran into my first challenge, playing with proper positioning. I found holding the Ukulele higher almost impossible without dropping it every time I needed to switch chords. The first few times I tried I remember becoming so frustrated I wanted to throw it across the room. I knew this technique was important if I ever wanted to play the instrument standing up, like I would do if teaching a class. So alas, through more weeks of practice it somehow got easier. Now that I can hold it properly I am focusing on the chords. I found that I can place my fingers on the right chords but remembering them in order is hard. Not only the order but also my fingers do not transition as quickly as they need for the tempo in the song. This is my focus for the next week. My hope is that I can remember the chords in order and create the muscle memory in my fingers to transition smoother.

Final Ukelele Growth

My feedback on my mid-semester video was to find a continuous strumming pattern. At first I thought that although there was a slight pause, my strumming pattern was continuous. It wasn’t until I looked at the video with this in mind and realized there was a noticeable pause.

After that I went in search of new strumming patterns that were more continuous. I came across the “island strum” which is down, down, up, up, down, up. Before I used the strumming pattern of down down, PAUSE, up, down, up. In theory this strumming change was minor, as it only added an up strum where the pause was. However, in practice it felt as though I was starting all over again. I had to relearn the rhythm to find when I could match a word with a strum. Even still with weeks of practicing under my belt I still stumble sometimes because its a lot the be thinking of for such a long period of time. I have to focus on the words, the cords, and the strumming pattern, which are all different, at the same time. I find more and more that memorizing the words has aided me so I don’t have to focus on what I am singing as much. At first especially, I found I was almost singing the strumming pattern while the words seemed to slip out and somehow accompany the tune I was playing. With every day a get a little bit better, my strumming becomes more cohesive, I play faster, and I stumble less. Here is my final video, I am still not perfect as no one is. However, I am proud of what I have accomplished.

The password is: Education (cap sensitive)

Question #9: My greatest professional strength as an educator who will teach music is my ability to stay on the beat and understand rhythm. This is due to my previous experience as a dancer because I always had to make sure I was dancing to the beat of the music. I can use this strength to teach other students how to stay on the beat. I can use my knowledge of dance to creatively integrate rhythm in the classroom in a more expansive way. For example, I could have students make up dances to the rhythm of songs or even show examples of dancers who keep to the beat of the music, as it may be a good visual for some students to understand.

Question #10: When I think about myself as a future educator teaching music, I see myself using some of the songs and activities we learned in class to engage the class in more creative ways. I really enjoyed when we read a picture in class and made a soundboard for it. I always knew music was an important aspect in movies but this was built upon when we had to make up our own music to a static picture or symbol. Another thing I can do to engage students is use a song to hook the class into a topic at the beginning of a unit. For example, before learning about the environment the class could learn an earth day song that teaches about respecting the earth and introduces how to recycle. Likewise, in an earlier class a song about the rainbow can be sung to reinforce which colours are in a rainbow in a way that will stick with the children.

Question #11: My greatest area of growth during this year/course has been in the area of reading to understand notes and note theory. Prior to this class, I had little experience in understanding how notes corresponded with beats and rhythm. Now I am able to read rudimentary sheet music which enables me to know the key that songs are played and sung. This could help me in the classroom by allowing me to find which key to start the song. I can now confidently teach the basics of note theory with phrases like Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and FACE.

Music Lesson Reflection: Rain Unit

Creating this lesson as a group was challenging but rewarding. At first, there were so many different personalities working together that it seemed nothing was getting done. It wasn’t until we figured out that we should be harnessing these differences to find out all the different ways we could teach rain in a unit. The one thing that was unclear was how to present the lesson to the class in a formal 20 minute presentation. This was challenging because we had not created one lesson that we could teach to the class. Instead, we designed a broader view of an entire unit that integrated many different subjects through varying capacities. The presentation itself ended up being broad but cohesive. I think in the future it would be helpful to have written down key notes to say for each lesson in the unit. I found that by having the unit in a big picture it was hard to narrow down important key aspects of each lesson.

Here is the written form describing our lesson presentation:

Our group decided to create an outline for an entire unit around rain and weather. This unit was intended for grade 1’s. It consisted of 5 segments which included reading a book, inventing a rain dance, learning about the weather and making a tornado jar, making a rain stick, and finally, learning the rain song and using body procession and the rain stick for the rhythm. This unit integrates many subjects and is an engaging way to teach about rain. Through these many different approaches to learning the one subject matter, students get a more in-depth learning experience about rain!

We wanted to start with the book the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as a hook to get students engaged in the topic. I like this way of inducing a topic because it is not explicitly said. This way, students discover for themselves that water and rain will be the topic they will learn. Along with the book will also be the hand gestures of the spider climbing up the water spout. For grade 1’s this is a fun and active participation in the reading.

Next would be the invention of the rain dance. This class would integrate language arts into the lesson and help to develop many skills associated with dance such as spatial awareness, body awareness, creativity, rythm and abstract movements. This lesson would be taught by having students join into groups of 5 or 6 and collaborating to create a group rain dance together.

The next lesson is intended to learn about other types of weather. For example, thunder and tornados would also be covered. In this lesson science can be integrated. It is enhanced by having students create their own tornado jar. This is done by putting water in a mason jar (or other jars that include lids). For creative fun, things can be added to the jar to make it more exciting. This could include glitter, food colouring, or sequins. This is a great craft to do with students because not only is it an informational project, but doubles as a stress reliever for the future. These jars are great tools in the classroom for students that need some time to take a mental break.

Here is one example I found online for a way to make an authentic sounding rain stick. There are many variations for creating a rain stick. It can be done by attaching a slinky to the inside or putting nails through a cardboard tube, then either putting duct tape or paper mâché around it and lastly filling it with either corn, rice, or sticks before decorating. I think this aspect of the unit is amazing because students would be so proud to use their own instruments. Moreover, these can continue to be used for lots of other things inside and out of the classroom!

Last in the unit we decided to teach the rain song to the class. After learning the words and the rhythm with their “hand drum” (pointer and middle finger tapping palm to the beat) they can use their rain sticks to create the music for the song. The rain sticks can also be accompanied by body procession such as clacking with their mouths, rubbing hands together in a circular motion, patting on their legs, and stomping their feet. The class can then be divided into groups to perform various processions for an intricate song to be formed. Another part of this lesson would be asking students to created 1 or 2 more lines to the song.

Rain Song

Split-ter, Splat-ter, Pit-ter, Pat-ter

Rain drops fall, what does it mat-ter?

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop

Rain-ing, rain-ing, my it’s rain-ing!

Rain-ing, rain-ing, my it’s rain-ing!

Campbell, P. S., Kassner, K., & Scott-Kassner, C. (2017). Music for Elementary Classroom Teachers (1st ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.

The placement behind the progression of the lessons was intentional. We first brainstormed all the things we could do to learn about rain, then we narrowed down our choices to grade 1 appropriate lessons. Structurally, we sorted the ideas into a pattern where one lesson would be more information driven, then the following will be active and more exploratory. For example, first a book is read where the students are sitting, next they move around to create dances, then they are back to learning about whether, after that they do an art project and make rain sticks, then at the end there is active participation while learning how to follow the rhythm of the song with words as well as body. The placement was also important so the students were engaged the entire unit. The book, as mentioned above, is a great hook that allows for the discovery of the upcoming topic. Following this, is a series of activities that build up to the final fun product of playing a song with perviously created materials.

Mid Semester Ukelele

It’s been a few weeks and I have been able to practice the ukulele to achieve my overall goal of playing Vance Joy’s song Riptide while singing. Firstly, I learned that the grade 4’s ukulele’s are tuned higher to A,D,F,B whereas a regular tuning is G,C,E,A. So I had to do a bit of research on my own to see which cords are which. The information that I originally had from my grade 4 student was inaccurate for me with regular tuning. For example a Bm (B minor) in their tune of A,D,F,B is actually an A in the tune of G,C,E,A.

I felt passionate about learning so I bought my own ukulele off amazon and seem to be tuning it very often. I have read online that the first while of playing requires lots of tuning while the new strings stretch out. I have tried many different tuning apps but my favourite one is “GuitarTuna.”

The first time I picked up the ukulele I had no idea where any of the cords were. I worked with a friend that showed me the cords I needed to play riptide and away I went. The reason I picked riptide was because it is one of the easier songs to learn on ukulele and for my first song I wanted something that I could learn quick so I could pair singing with the cords. The three main cords needed for this song are Am, G, and C. I got the hang of the rhythm pretty fast but when I started singing my fingers forgot where to go next and my strumming pattern stopped. It took a few days but I finally got the rhythm and figured out which words go on the down strums. Even today, I play the song a bit slower because I am still fairly new to the experience. However, I am practicing a bit every day and can see the results. Below is a video of me playing Riptide while singing. It is meant as a midway point to me being able to play this song without errors and faster.

Below is a video of my mid semester progress for Riptide

The password is: Education

During this process I originally thought that I could pick up the ukulele a few days before and learn to play the song. Although that may have still worked it would have been a lot more worked crammed into a shorter period of time. Likewise, once I actually picked up the ukeklele for the first time I realized it was a lot harder then I had thought. Personally, in this process I found I am a quick learner. Once I learned which cords to use I could easily remember them. One great thing that I had not anticipated was that I knew most of the words from Riptide already from listening to it on the radio. It worked out very well because I found that having the words memorized helped a lot when trying to match the strumming pattered to them. Most importantly though I learned that practice makes perfect!

Now that I have a more realistic idea of what I can achieve and what I need to work on, my goals for the weeks to come are most specific. I plan to not need to look down at my hands as I change cords, play continuously through the whole song with no stutters, and speed up the song.

I will do this by practicing a little every day. By doing this my speed will increase as will my skill for playing the ukelele. For the cords, I will practice having my fingers in place already for the next cord so I do not stutter or have to look. I am very proud of what I have achieved thus far and am looking forward to what I can do with this skill in the future!