Watching Babe Ruth o’er the Landmarks…

Kids say the darndest things sometimes. Every year, my school has a National Anthem Assembly with students from Pre-K to 5th grade. They sing three songs in a clump on the lawn and wear red, white and blue. It’s an easy and great community builder for the start of the school year.

For the older students, they already know the words to all the songs, and can actually read them now. Two of my students told me that i had the wrong words up for the Star Spangled Banner. One told me that the word should be “Landmarks” instead of “Ramparts.”

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts (landmarks) we watched were so gallantly streaming?stock-footage-geronimo-native-american-flag-flies-at-monument-valley-arizona-landmark

I guess landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon are a lot less violent, than hiding behind a rampart when someone is shooting at you. This boy assured me that landmarks was the correct word, because that is the way he sings the song in the Cub Scouts!
babe-ruth-255x300.jpgAnother boy told me that when he was little, he did not understand the words “Gave proof through the night,” so he sang “Babe Ruth through the night.” After all, he had heard of Babe Ruth and all his legendary home runs as an American Baseball icon.

I went home laughing, happy to begin the school year with such delightful students, who like to make our National Anthem more child friendly!

Students are Learning the Blues

computer-clip-art-10Students are learning the blues! Because many lyrics are inappropriate for children, I have composed three original songs, one for each grade that I teach. 3rd graders are singing “Recorder Blues,” 4th graders are singing “Immigration Blues and 5th graders are singing “Lonely Blues.” They are also playing ukulele over the chord changes and taking solos as they improvise. Some classes have written their own lyrics. Such creativity is important for everyone, because it keeps us open to new ideas. Change is the only constant of our era, so creativity is a must!

4 Chords Open the Door to Modern Songs for 5th graders

My students are adept at four chords: C, F, G7 and A Minor. With these four chords, they can sight-read and jam songs like: The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Y.M.C.A., and Good Riddance: the Time of Your Life. They like singing songs from their own century and like jamming over a Band In a Box beat. Band and orchestra students join in, playing by ear. Students are learning life-long music skills and enjoying themselves at the same time

Changing Popular Music Styles

6506985445_a9ab9be500Music styles have changed in the 21st century! Popular music seems to be more rhythmically complicated, but less complicated harmonically. What that means, is that there are fewer chords to learn, but that your strumming and counting patterns need to be more intricate to play and sing today’s songs.

As a music teacher,  I have found that the music of today is highly syncopated. That means that both the melodies and the harmonies are off the beat and complicated to learn. Drummers have added a second pedal to their bass drums to make their parts more intricate. DJ’s layer pattern upon pattern in their electronic music covers. Rap artists almost get rid of melody and harmony, but their music is adored by today’s youth. The lyrics are often the most important part of today’s music.

Last year, my orchestra wanted to play something from this century, so I purchased Lady Gaga Hit Mix. Even though this was today’s music, it took my students a long time to learn, because the rhythm was so complicated. This year, the orchestra voted again and is going to learn Roar by Katy Perry. I think it will be a great learning experience to play today’s music in orchestra!

I look forward to choosing something from today in ukulele class as well. Some ideas include: Firework by Katy Perry, Good Feeling by Flo Rida and Lights by Ellie Goulding. I welcome any suggestions for clean pop songs to motivate today’s students.

New Media is Available

amazing graceAmazing GraceI have been spending a lot of time with new software: Band In A Box, Finale and GoChords. In the process, I have created new MP3’s for some of the songs in 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele The Easy Way! These new MP3’s include the melody in the recording and are easier to work with. There are also lead sheets, which show the notes, chords and lyrics. Even if you don’t read music, having the notes and listening to the recording, will give you a basic understanding of traditional music notation. The MP3’s are downloadable to an ipod or MP3 player, so you can listen to the music when you are not anywhere near your computer. That will help you to learn the songs by ear, so that when you do get to practice your ukulele, you will already know how the songs go.

Hush Little Baby in C

Hush Little Baby in F

Amazing Grace

Are You Sleeping?

Ghost of John

Song list for Book 2

hula dancerI’ve been busy learning new software to get ready to release our new ukulele book. We are thinking of including 20 or so more songs, that are slightly more difficult than in our first book. We will include lesson videos, song accompaniments and lead sheets to aid in learning the songs. Here are some links to examples of this material. Let us know what you think; thanks in advance!

I’m also thinking of possible songs to include in Book 2. Here is a potential list. Please let us know what you think.

  • Aloha Oe
  • Amazing Grace
  • Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home
  • E Huli Makou
  • Heart and Soul
  • La Bamba
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,
  • The Drunken Sailor
  • Oh Susanna
  • Home on the Range
  • Happy Birthday
  • You are My Sunshine
  • Let It Snow
  • Lonely Blues