Learn how Jenny adjusts to students and shares how Eminem’s Mockingbird inspires ukulele students to try transposition.
As a General Music Classroom teacher, I am always looking for ways to engage students. What better way, than to teach music they listen to? Rap and hip-hop are genres of choice for today’s youth, but teaching rap in an authentic way can be complicated, due to lots of inappropriate material in many of the hits.
Our book, 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way, has the tune Hush Little Baby presented in two different keys. My students get to learn Hush Little Baby and then transpose the song. Because they physically do the transposing, they actually understand the meaning of the word!
Mockingbird was a hit in 1996, and is still popular. In this rap, Eminem speaks of his feelings of regret from being away from his two daughters as they grew up. There is no profanity in the song, but it is sad. Eminem uses the melody and lyrics of the folk tune Hush Little Baby in a creative and artistic way.
My students sing and play Hush Little Baby in two keys. Then, they get to watch Eminem’s video and reflect on the connections between the folk song and the rap hit. The students learn about transposition and the connections to poetry and literature. They also get to see how modern artists borrow from our shared history and speak to today’s realities. They love the lesson and are very engaged! It was fun to realize that Eminem’s Mockingbird inspires ukulele students to try their hand at transposition.
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