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Music Education

​The Ukulele Kids Teaching Approach

HolyFamilyUkuleleClassUkulele Kids teaches the ukulele primarily as an instrument to accompany singing, although we do some melody work as well. We teach chords from the very beginning and build on the students' knowledge of and facility with them as we progress through song material. Apart from the numbers in the included songbook, we hand out additional song sheets for educational purposes which increase the range of music we can offer - folk, pop, Disney and other musicals, standards, etc. Our goal is to have students playing and singing virtually from the start - by the end of the first class. While we are serious about teaching, we also want their experience with the ukulele to be fun and confidence-building.

Whenever possible we try to form classes by age group. Typical divisions are Primary, Grades 1-3 and Junior, Grades 4-6. At schools covering Grades 1-8 we tend to split the classes based on what makes sense according to the registration levels for each grade. With very large registrations we will tend to have more classes with narrower grade range for each. 

The choice of song material and pace of learning expectations are geared to the ages of the students in a particular class. School concerts are opportunities we embrace as they give the parents a chance to see what we've been teaching to their children as well as a venue in which the students can strut their stuff! They generally approach these events with great excitement and pride.

​The Ukulele Kids Teaching Approach

Pitch Pipes vs. Tuners

The pitch pipe is a little wind instrument that plays the sound for each string which must be matched by the user to tune the ukulele. The digital tuner clips on to the head of the ukulele and reads the vibrations of the string being tuned. As the string is being adjusted it indicates on (yet another) screen whether the pitch is too high or too low. When the pitch for that string is right, the display turns green. It can be used in noisy environments and does not require the user to match the indicated pitch by ear as does the pitch pipe.
Keeping a ukulele in tune is very important in order to make practice meaningful and enjoyable.
In the front of the Ukulele Kids songbook there is a Parent Guide that offers a couple of websites with tuning functions.
These play the actual sound of each ukulele string making it easier to match by ear than matching to a pitch pipe's sound. One is: www.get-tuned.com/ukulele_tuner.php
So if you use the internet, tuner, or pitch pipe, playing a ukulele that is in tune is a happy, rewarding experience.
Pitch Pipes vs. Tuners

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Ukulele Kids curriculum

The songs in the Ukulele Kids songbook are only the beginning. We have a large repertoire of material that we had out as individual song sheets. For the primary grades we start with songs that can be played with two chords and build from there, sometimes with more chords added to the same songs.

Fortunately, an abilty to play 4-06 chords opens up a good range of material to these younger students. Their progress at this stage is very age dependent. Six months can make a big difference. As we urge them ahead, keeping it fun is our priority.

With junior students we are able to progress more quickly and expose them to a wider variety of music. At the same time we provide more advanced teaching materials, additional chord charts for practice, an introduction to bar chords and variations on bar chord structures. With the wider range of song styles come different rhythms and strumming techniques. Juniors particularly enjoy playing fairly current pop songs such as I'm Yours, Stay With Me and Riptide. often with newer pop numbers we have to adjust a few lyrics to make them more appropriate.

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Music education in schools and how it benefits students

Children are very much attracted to music and this can exert various benefits on them.

Geof UkuleleKids PerformanceEvery time we present our program in school gyms we bring in all the ukulele colours, we play and sing happy tunes, the children’s attention immediately goes toward the musician. Children are very much attracted to music and this can exert various benefits on them.

Music is a universal language: every culture in the world sings, dances and plays different instruments. Children have an innate predisposition to music; since they are born they like to listen to music and sing. Music however doesn’t yet have the role it should in our schools and our society, therefore children loose the sense of musicality as they grow up. Ukulele Kids has been playing an important role over the last 8 years in bringing music to the elementary schools to enrich students curriculum and helping children benefit in all other aspects of learning and development.

  • Our music program helps students express themselves better and it stimulates their perceptive capacities
  • Playing the ukulele brings a lot of joy, happiness and movement, at the same time helps students develop emotionally.
  • Playing and singing positively influences language skills and promotes relaxation.

How can parents help at home?

In addition to the music education at school parents at home can also play an important role in encouraging children to listen to music. Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Sing easy songs along with your children
  • Reintroduce the use of the lullaby, which unfortunately has been lost to the benefit of television and cartoons
  • Encourage playing simple musical games with small percussion instruments or even with unstructured instruments: whistles, little bells, empty bottles in which to blow
  • Listen to music with your children even when doing other activities, for example when drawing or doing a chore

Teaching the Reading of Music

Our overall approach focuses on engendering an interest in instrumental music in a  accompaniment context as that is the most common environment for the ukulele and from where most of the enjoyment of the instrument is derived.

We do, however, want the older students to be able to relate it to standard musical notation and elementary theory so that a connection is made with other musical studies. It can be fun to have instrumental-only renditions where some students play melody notes and others accompaniment chords, switching back and forth.

Some students are keen on melody playing and others tolerate it until they can get back to strumming and singing, so we dole it out in appropriate amounts.