Fingerpickin Good

It’s week seven and my ukulele and I are at a bit of a stand still. While I was able to make a bit of progress and learn the next part of the song after what I posted in week five, I have not improved much on the strumming pattern. I have been able to remember the chords and am beginning to make smoother transitions, however, the strumming pattern for the majority of the song (DDUUDU) is fairly fast and tricky for me. I got pretty caught up practicing the pattern, taking it very slow for now, but I think it is preventing me from making other progress. Additionally, my brother has lost all faith that I will be able to learn this song. I don’t want to give up learning this song, however, I also don’t want to stop improving so I searched around for some tips on strumming as well as some other songs and lessons. I have already downloaded quite a few apps, some good some bad, so I instead I found a YouTube video here that gave a tutorial on strumming. In this video she explains and demonstrates a strumming technique that may be easier for beginners, as using your whole hand is better for more advanced players. She uses her pointer finger with her thumb pressed to the back of it (picture below) to add more power to the strum. She explains that when strumming down you should be hitting the strings with your nail, and when strumming up you should use the “fleshy tip of your finger”. I had previously been using my whole hand (the more advanced technique) so when I tried this method I was surprised what a difference it made. My strumming was immediately more powerful and accurate which made playing each note much more intelligible. As soon as I noticed the difference I once again attempted the DDUUDU pattern. I definitely need way more practice and this may just be wishful thinking but I do think this method will help me improve.

After practicing strumming a bit more, I decided to revisit an app called “The Ukulele App” to find more song options.

This app has tons of information and tips for beginners and has lessons on getting started, basic chords, and numerous songs at varying difficulty levels. I played around with the app for awhile and tried learning a few more chords. I also took a look at the songs for beginners and watched a few video tutorials. Though I wouldn’t say this week was a huge jump in my journey to learn Ukulele, I found a lot of tips that I think will help me improve on the little things.

(P.s. if anyone has any tips on learning strumming patterns or anything really feel free to share, my brother is already gloating and I’m a sore loser!)

See you next week!

Two for One!

When I first read the prompt for this week I was initially excited that this meant only one blog post. However, my next thought was that I had no idea what tool I was going to use. I have little experience with these types of resources so finding something that I had never used before was not a problem, but finding something I didn’t know I needed was proving to be a struggle. I thought for some time about what type of tool I wanted when finally I realized that this should not have been that hard for me to decide. Early on in my research on learning Ukulele I read that singing along while playing can help both the person playing, and any listeners. That proved to be true as many songs played on the Ukulele, including the song I am trying to learn, are more intelligible when accompanied with words. However, based on my severe lack of vocal skills, I have chosen not to sing along while playing. This is where inspiration struck. I needed an app that would let me play audio/video of me playing Ukulele, with an overlapping audio of the vocals to the song. This would allow both myself and anyone listening to me playing, to hear what song I am playing. Listening to the Ukulele alone does not always mean you will know what song is being played but hearing the words and maybe even the other instruments would be of great use.

Once I had my idea, I needed an app. I searched for quite awhile to find an app that would allow me to do this and initially struggled. Any app I tried that allowed me to do what I wanted, would not let me add the song due to copyright issues. After struggling with this for awhile, I went back and tried the iMovie app again and, after some research, was able to sort it out. I found this app quite easy to navigate and use. I was able to easily add the video from my camera roll, then I simply added the audio and cropped each video so they were more in sync.

Since this week for my learning project I mainly focused on practicing what I have already posted, specifically the strumming pattern, I did not have anything of substance to update on. So instead I have re-posted the video of my brother playing with the audio of the song over top. In this video he is playing a bit fast so the videos do not sync up perfectly, however, I still think it gives a better sense of what song is being played. As I improve I will work on my timing and make sure any future videos I post using iMovie have better timing.

Here is the video:

Until next week!

You’re Going Down… Then Back Up

After last week when I realized what a difference the size of Ukulele makes, I decided to briefly research the different sizes of Ukuleles. For reference, I found the chart attached which helped me to understand the basic sizes.

From this I could tell that the Ukulele I am currently using is a Soprano, which is the smallest size, and my brothers is a Tenor, which is the second largest. This is something I will definitely keep in mind when purchasing my own Ukulele, as I would prefer a Concert or a Tenor.

This week I took a look at strumming patterns. Every song played on the Ukulele has a strumming pattern, some are the same, some are different. When reading a strumming pattern these are the most important things to remember:
D:strum down
U:strum up

The strumming pattern for Little Talks is DDUUDU, played like DDU UDU (there is no pause between the two “up” strums, but it is easier to play DDU then UDU than it is to play DDUUDU. This strumming pattern is something I am struggling with quite a bit. This part of the song is played quite quickly (see the video of my brother playing Little Talks in my second blog), and strumming fast while keeping the pattern is proving to be a big challenge for me. Because of this, I focused a lot on practicing the strumming pattern this week. I also got a little eager and began learning a slower part of the song. Since I felt comfortable playing Am, F, C, and G chords (I am still having a hard time making a quick transition to G, but slowly improving) my brother taught me the part in the song where there is a break in the strumming pattern. This verse only uses Am, F, and C and is quite slow and repetitive which made it easy for me to catch on quickly.

Here is a video of one of my first attempts:

Though I still see room for improvement, it is really encouraging to see progress and I can’t wait to make more.

See you next week!

Pick a chord, any chord

After I realized that playing with long nails was going to be a struggle, I got them shortened and I was finally able to play normally. With that out of the way, I began learning chords. My brother informed me that the chords I would need for Little Talks, and that are common in many other songs, are C, Am (A minor), F, and G, so I started with these. For reference, I used the chart attached that I found on Google to show me the finger placement for each chord.

After running through each chord I found that I feel most comfortable with C, Am, and F as they only require one finger (except for F which is just an Am with one extra finger). G, however, I am still struggling with. I am able to remember finger placement for how to play a G, but, as I predicted in my first blog, I have a hard time transitioning to G. I can move quickly (well, my beginners version of quickly) between the other chords but when it comes to G it takes me a few seconds to place my fingers. Though I find this a bit frustrating, I know that I will improve as I practice more. Learning and practicing these few chords also helped me feel more comfortable with the different frets. When my brother first told me how to play each chord, he would reference which fret each finger should be on (ex. ring finger, third fret). At first I was confused but I quickly learned that each fret is numbered, the first fret being at the far left. Although this may not sound like a huge milestone, it boosted my confidence as one of my main stressors was how many different parts there were to learn. As I slowly learn these little pieces, it all starts to fit together and I get pretty excited over crossing something off the list. I spent a large portion of this week reviewing the chords I will need for this song as that is my goal for the end of the semester. However, I keep needing to remind myself that I want to be able to feel comfortable playing Ukulele, not just Little Talks. With this in mind, my next goal is to learn more basic chords using other resources. I tried out an app called Ukulele, and while it has a variety of lessons and videos for beginners, I am not a huge fan of it. This is mostly personal preference and I still plan on revisiting it later on in my journey so I would encourage others to give it a shot. In the meantime I will continue to use the above chart as well as a website called Coustii. Coustii is a website I found for beginner guitar and Ukulele players and it has given me some great tips for learning chords.

One challenge I had throughout this week was I discovered that I prefer using my brothers new Ukulele to the one he lent me. His new one is slightly bigger which I find easier to play each chord on than mine which is smaller. When I practice with him he lets me use the bigger one which I find I do much better on, however, when I am at home practicing alone, I have to use the smaller one. While I do notice a difference when I switch between the two sizes, I do not find this to be that big of a problem and will likely continue to use the larger one when I can.

Here is a picture of the different sizes:

Until next time!

What we See in SeeSaw

* This conversation takes place during a three-way conference between a parent, student, and teacher to introduce a new tool being used in the classroom. *

Teacher – Welcome, to our Grade 1 classroom. This past week I have introduced SeeSaw to the class to give the students a chance to get familiar using it. I’d like to start this conference by giving you an introduction to how SeeSaw will be used in our classroom. After I have given the introduction, I will give you the opportunity to express any questions or concerns you may have about this new form of technology.

Parent – Sounds great!

Teacher – In our classroom, SeeSaw will be used to document and share the progress of your child’s learning journey. You will be able to view pictures of what we are doing in our classroom from any device as well as interact with the posts, including commenting on different posts that your child is involved in. I have a video here that gives a brief overview on what SeeSaw is, after the video is finished, I will open up the floor to you!

Teacher – After viewing the video, what are some questions, concerns, or just general comments that you have about SeeSaw?

Parent – I love how I will be able to see pictures of my child and her progress throughout the day, but I have many concerns being that this is a form of social media. The biggest concern I have would be if I or another parent didn’t want my child to be included in the pictures/videos, how will this impact your use of SeeSaw?

Teacher – In order for a child to be included in any form of media at school, we require their media release form to be signed by a parent/guardian. If that form is not signed, your child will still be included in the process of taking the photos, but she will be “blurred out” so that you can’t tell who it is. Something I want to stress about SeeSaw is that the only people who will be able to see the pictures/videos, are the people within our classroom, as well as their families.

Parent – If only the student’s and their families can see the media, who will be able to post on SeeSaw?

Teacher – The teacher, parents, and students will all be able to post, but the extent to what they are able to post varies. I will be able to post announcements, pictures, etc. to everyone, where as parents are only able to comment on those posts as well as message the teacher directly. Students will also be able to post pictures and comments, but for the most part in our classroom I will do the majority of the posting. Everything posted on SeeSaw must also be approved by me, but I think now would be a good time to focus on your child’s view of SeeSaw.

Teacher (directly to student) – What do you like most about SeeSaw?

Student – I like being able to share my work with my family. It is a lot of fun to take pictures on the iPads.

Parent – Okay, I like how it seems like my child’s privacy will be protected. How do you want me to communicate with you from now on? Should I be using SeeSaw or continue to email you?

Teacher – Personally, I prefer SeeSaw as the line of communication, but you can email me as well. SeeSaw messages go directly to my phone, so I get your message right away. The message you send will be sent directly to me, just like an email. No other parents will see it.

Parent – Will I be able to contact other parents through this app?

Teacher – No, this is specifically for the teacher to be able to share what we are doing at school with families, as well as important announcements. This will help to keep this platform specifically for in school learning, not extra-curricular “chat” between families.

Parent – What type of information will you, as the teacher, post on SeeSaw? Aside from pictures of what my child is doing throughout the day.

Student – I think the teacher should post pictures of her dog!

Teacher – Not necessarily, remember how we talked about making sure that the pictures we post, relate to what we are learning in school. So, do you think we should post pictures of our pets?

Student – No, maybe you should post a picture of something we learned in class.

Teacher – Yeah, that would be a much better idea. I will also post information such as progress updates, classroom celebrations, events that are happening within the school, etc.

Parent – If you are using SeeSaw as a main form of communication, what happens if there is a family that doesn’t have access to the app?

Teacher – Important messages will still be sent home through agenda messages and newsletters, but most families do have access to technology, whether it’s a cellphone, public library computer, home laptop, etc.

Parent – The last question I have is will SeeSaw take away from my child’s learning?

Teacher – If anything, SeeSaw should add to your child’s learning as it will be easier for you to connect with your child about what they are doing at school. I will also use SeeSaw as a way to check in with each child during certain assignments. As for when I will moderate these posts, that will be done during my own time. You and your family will be able to have access to SeeSaw through different accounts, as SeeSaw allows up to ten family members per child.

Student –
Will Grandma be able to join?!
Teacher – Yes! If your parents are willing to set your Grandma up on SeeSaw, Grandma will be able to see everything you’re learning at school.

Parent –
Grandma will love being able to see everything you’re doing at school! I understand now why you want to use SeeSaw in your classroom. Thank you so much for allowing me to address my concerns about this new form of technology.

What is a Twitter?

Social media and I have never really gotten along, so when I found out we needed to use Twitter for this course, I admit I was not too excited. I have never had Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other form of social media (other than a Twitter account for a high school course that was barely used). This is usually pretty shocking to most people and their first question is always “why not”. To that, I don’t really have an answer, I have just never had an interest in social media and I find it to be quite overwhelming. This is especially true for Twitter. While I can certainly see how it can be a great tool to make connections and share resources, I have never been able to fully wrap my head around it. Even thinking about Twitter sends me into a spiral of thoughts about never ending notifications, celebrity drama, and countless hashtag choices. Because of this, I have never put much thought into using Twitter in the classroom. Had you asked me before this course started I would assume it had no use in the classroom as I viewed it as more of a platform to share personal thoughts rather than useful materials. Now, however, I have begun to see its potential. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in the Twitter chat, but as I reflected on it afterwards I can see the benefits (full disclosure it also confirmed my opinion on how fast-paced and overwhelming it is, but I saw benefits as well).

Going forward, while my opinion on it has already altered and I am certain that it will continue to change throughout the semester, at this point I still am not sure I would use Twitter beyond this course. If anything, I think in the future I may use it more from a “watcher” perspective rather than making posts myself. I am not one to turn away from a platform that can share resources and opinions from fellow educators, so as I see what has been shared throughout the class so far I can see the impact it can make. For now, I will remain open minded and optimistic that this course will change my perspective on social media use in the classroom.

Stay Tuned

I started off this week eager to get started, however, it turned out to be pretty overwhelming. My first lesson made me realize exactly how much I need to do/learn which was slightly discouraging. Nevertheless, I carried on and just tried to remind myself to focus on small milestones rather than looking at everything at once.

To begin, I briefly skimmed a couple of videos on how to properly hold a Ukulele. I was not sure if I would actually need this step as I assumed it would be common sense, however, the video I found here, had some helpful tips. She also mentioned a few issues that could arise from holding the Ukulele incorrectly such as wrist strains and calluses. These are things I never thought of so the video was definitely beneficial to watch before starting, to prevent me from developing bad habits. Next, I tackled tuning the Ukulele. This is something I left out of my first blog, however, it is something you cannot forget to do when actually playing. My brother first taught me which note each string needs to be. From top to bottom the strings are G, C, E, and A. He recommended using an acronym to remember the order. I have been using “Ghosts Can’t Eat Anything” to remember and so far I have not forgotten. My brother quickly showed me how to tune but I was in need of a more in-depth explanation so I found a video here. In this video, he explains that by tightening the peg, the note will go higher, and loosening it will make the note go lower. He also showed an electronic tuner that can be used. It attaches to the instrument and when you strum a note, it shows what you played. Lucky for me, the Ukulele my brother lent me has a tuner built into it. It works the same as the electronic tuner shown in the video, the only difference being that it is built into the Ukulele. After strumming a string, it displays which note it is and whether or not it is in tune. As shown in the attached pictures, it will display if the note is too high or too low so you can adjust accordingly until it is perfect and lights up green.

Since I still wanted to use electronic resources, I used this opportunity to test out a couple of tuning apps to see how accurate both the apps,and the built in tuner are. The first app I downloaded is called “Ukulele Tuner”. I think this app would work well for people who are able to tune by ear as all the app is is a picture of a Ukulele with buttons for each note. When I tested each note with my tuner, they were the same, however, since I am unable to tune by ear I continued my search for a different app. The next app I downloaded is called “Tune for Ukulele tuner & chords”. This app worked much better for my needs. It lays everything out nicely and it works the same as the built-in tuner I have. I tested it out and it showed the same results as the tuner on my Ukulele. I will definitely use this app in the future when using a Ukulele without a tuner. Between this app and the tuner on my Ukulele, I was able to tune the instrument. I practiced this a few times, changing the tune and re-tuning it until I felt comfortable doing it on my own.

Once I got the hang of tuning, the next step was to start learning chords. This is where I encountered my first problem. My nails are too long. It sounds like a silly problem to have but I actually struggled quite a bit trying to play each note. Strumming the Ukulele with my right hand is easy to do with long nails, however, when I tried to hold a note with my left hand I kept hitting other strings. This made it impossible to play a note correctly as I was always touching the wrong strings. I am sure that long nails would not be as big of an issue for experienced players, but while I am learning I think it adds an unnecessary complication. I will be getting my nails shorter so that I can play without a problem and in the meantime I will master my tuning.

Next week I hope to learn some basic chords and start playing!

Stay tuned!

P.s. Please enjoy this clip of my brother playing the song I hope to learn by the end of the semester… He learned it overnight.