How iOS and Android can Help You Learn Ukulele
What is one piece of technology that most of us have with us all of the time? If you guessed a smartphone, we are accessing the same net.
A smartphone is a great tool for learning music because there are many free and useful musical apps, you can record and critique performances, and you can easily share what you have learned with others.
Here are some of the apps I like to use.
This app provides a steady beat which helps me to keep the tempo consistent throughout the song when I am practicing. A metronome will also make it easier to increase tempo very, very gradually, which is great when you are working on strumming. There are many free metronome apps for both Android and iPhone. For Android, I particularly like Mobile Metronome. My sister/coauthor Rebecca recommends Pro Metronome for iOS.
This app helps me tune my ukulele by giving me a visual representation of when my strings are in or out of tune. The green light goes on when I am in tune, the light is red and shows me if I am sharp or flat when I am not in tune. Again, there are many free tuning apps for both Android and iPhones. One of my favorites for Android is G Strings. For iOS, try Ukulele Tuner by Alvin Yu.
Many apps teach chords, and I will review these apps in a future blog post. Many of these apps are free as introductory offers, so you can see whether the app helps you or not before you spend money. Sometimes you need to buy the app, or sometimes you need to make purchases inside the app to get more data or features.
I find it helpful to listen to a song I am learning before I try to read the lyrics and chord charts and sing and play the song. I use Spotify to play my chosen song many times so that when I start playing and singing, I already know how it goes.
- YouTube has many lessons and artists performing their songs. These videos can be extremely helpful when learning new material.
- Sites for lyrics and chords-The chord changes might often be hard, but you can get lyrics and chords and then simplify the song so that you can play it. I will cover how to simplify songs and choose ukulele-friendly keys in another blog post. Read more about how to convert from guitar chords to ukulele chords here. Sites I frequently use are uketabs.com, ultimate-Guitar.com, doctoruke.com, and azlyrics.com
21 Songs in 6 Days Classroom Edition: Lesson DVD
The smartphone is portable, and the sound and visual quality are surprisingly good. I often record myself or students and then upload the results to YouTube. (I post to protected sites, so that only parents, guardians, and teachers have access to these performances.) It’s a great way to hear both what you are doing well and what you need to improve upon. Parents love to see the progress their children have made, and children are motivated to do their best when they are being recorded.
I also like to invite others to see and hear my work by sharing my recordings on YouTube or Facebook. I find the comments I get, either positive or negative, help me or my students to grow as musicians.
While our high technology world can sometimes seem impersonal, using a smartphone to learn and share music can make us feel happier and more connected with others. So, besides using your voice, brain and hands to make music, download some new apps, and hit ‘record’ and ‘share’. I think you’ll enjoy the results!
Are there any particular apps you’ve discovered that you can’t live without? Have you recorded yourself? Shared your recordings? How was the experience for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.