Closing Time

This is my summary of my 6 week learning project of learning to play the ukulele. I am so grateful to be getting back into playing music and really gaining a new valuable hobby. I have learned so much over the past 6 weeks that have set me up for a life of taking the time out of my busy schedule to focus on my hobbies and what makes me really happy! In this summary, I am first going to go over what I learned each week and the main resources that I found. I will then do an overall conclusion of everything that I learned over the past 6 weeks learning to play the ukulele.

Week 1 (Part 1 and Part 2)

This week was all about figuring out what exactly to do for my learning project. I was torn between many things as all my extra time in quarantine was fuelling my passions and hobbies such as cooking, learning Korean, and learning new instruments. I ending up choosing to learn to play the ukulele since what I really wanted to do was learn to play the guitar, but my new guitar did not come in time and I was able to get my hands on a ukulele fairly easily. I soon realized that this was a happy accident because the ukulele was a smaller (less strings) instrument and would be much easier to learn and progress on over the short 6 weeks that I had to complete this learning project. However, my post this week was entirely guitar oriented so I shared many resources regarding:

What helped me decide what guitar to order:

What guitar I ended up getting:

Apps for learning to play the guitar:

Apps for learning to tune the guitar:

Week 2

This was the week that I finally began actually getting my hands on the ukulele and starting to learn.

The main things that I learned this week included:

  • C major chord
  • G major chord
  • F major chord
  • A minor chord
  • Strumming with thumb
  • Strumming with index finger
  • Strumming on the beat and counting bars (4 beats) as I play
  • You are my Sunshine song

I basically began my searching beginner ukulele videos on YouTube and found a plethora of content and resources on there including:

Week 3

This week I did some more building off of what I started with the week before. I tried out the Yousician app. I began their beginner tutorial and spent a lot of time progressing through this tutorial and practicing the chords and strumming from the week before. I found that a lot of these beginner tutorials begin the same way which gave me a lot of practice on the first 4 chords that I learned and getting more comfortable using those. I also watched some videos about strumming including:

I continued the free 10 day course that I started the week before and kept building off of that. I also found some other resources such as Bernadette Teaches Music on YouTube among others, that I planned on incorporating in the weeks to come.

Week 4

This week was a little different. We were tasked to find a new tool to use to share our learning projects with the class. I used Powtoon. I found that it was a really great tool to create quick and easy animation videos for just about anything that you could think of. It had tons of wonderful templates too so that you did not have to start right from scratch if you preferred not to. I used this tool to create a little video to show the class my goals for my learning project. I also went in depth about my experience using screencastify to share my tutorial on how to use Powtoon. Overall, this week I gained some great sharing tools that had added to my tool box of online resources. I did not do anything new on the ukulele and simply continued practicing everything that I have covered thus far.

Week 5

This week I got back into really practicing the ukulele and improving my skills. I had 4 main focuses for this week:

  1. Practice smooth chord changes (between C, F, G, and A) 
  2. Learn strumming patterns 
  3. Learn a new simple chord song (similar to “You are my Sunshine” from week 1 update)
  4. Find a different resource online (other than YouTube or an App)

As far as the resources I used:

Chord changes:

Strumming:

Overall, I learned the importance of first focusing on developing your finger strength, flexibility, and independence and then using this to improve your smooth chord changes and strumming patterns. This week really taught me the importance of going back to the basics and really developing the basic skills necessary to teach your fingers and hands to move in the way that you want them to.

Week 6

This week I kind of brought my learning to a bit of a conclusion and made some plans moving forward. I realized that throughout the past few weeks I kind of lost my way regarding what I should do next and how to keep improving. In attempting to try out as many different online resources as I could, I often found myself finding them all very valuable, but my skill level just not up to par. This led me to going to back to the 10 day and 30 day beginner courses that I found on YouTube in week 2. These types of free courses are extremely beginner friendly as they start very simple from never having needed to have touched a musical instrument in your life, and gradually progress to more advanced playing. Since they are set up in this way, it makes them really easy to follow along with and gradually improve as you go rather than jumping around never knowing the skill level required for a certain resource until you actually try it out (and can’t do it).

The two main videos that I watched this week were: “4 Chords 15 Songs Tutorial” by Lindsey’s Uke and Day 3 of the Andy Guitar course that I started in week 2. Both of these videos did basically the same thing of combining the chord progression of C, G, Am, F and the strumming pattern down, down up, up, down up to create a little tune that can be used to play/sing tons of different songs! I have not gotten to the level of being able to actually play and/or sing these simple songs yet as I am still really trying to perfect my smooth chord transitions and consistent strumming without any mess ups (at least for long enough to play a short little song like the ones in the videos mentioned).

As I really began understanding last week, I learned that there are many more skills necessary to learn besides knowing the different chords, when learning to play the ukulele. This emphasis on practicing the basics until you are really comfortable changing between chords and strumming consistently on the ukulele, as well as staying with the beat of 4 counts, before attempting to play full songs or sing along while you play has given me a lot of guidance on my future plans of improving my ukulele playing!

Conclusion:

I learned that learning to play a new instrument is very difficult. I used to play the piano as child and into my teenage years and as I progressed through my learning project I had a lot of similar feelings coming back to me. In the beginning it is very exciting as you envision all the wonderful songs you are going to play one day and how cool it would be to be really good at playing a musical instrument. However, once you actually get into it, you quickly realize that in order to actually play anything you need to first focus on the basics and practice those for what seems like forever. For it is the basic finger strength, flexibility, and independence that needs to be developed in order to have smooth chord transitions and consistent strumming and eventually having both of your hands working together in unison. I also learned that it is really easy to want to give up immediately when you are not good at something as soon as you try it. However, when you are able to overcome the initial doubt and discouragement, it is this persistence, determination, and dedication that will really show you success in the end. I am very grateful for this class being the force that pushed me to start something that I have always wanted to try. I am looking forward to really committing to learning to play the ukulele in the future – and who knows, I might even post an update on here for y’all to see!

My ukulele sitting in my favourite chair. Lol.

I truly appreciate anyone who has taken the time to follow along on my learning project journey and I hope to hear from you in the comment section here, or on twitter @caitlinrkendall !!

Nearing the End

With my ukulele learning project nearing the end of its course I spent time this week thinking about how I will continue moving forward. I have been very busy with school and work and it has definitely put a damper on my progress lately. This week I definitely experienced feeling like I was not making very much progress or rather, I wasn’t really sure what to do next. I feel like this would come with learning any new instrument. I just do not feel very organized with a clear plan of what to do next. To overcome these feelings, moving forward I am going to go back to the 10 day and 30 day course type of videos that I was following along with on YouTube in the beginning. I strayed away from them as the weeks progressed because I wanted to see what other resources were out there and I definitely did find some other very useful ones as well! However, in doing this I definitely lost my way a little and would come across lots of great resources but feel as though my skill level was never quite there. I know that this will all come with more and more consistent practice. So as this class comes to an end and I continue to learn and improve my ukulele playing on my own, I am going to mainly use free course types of video playlists on YouTube. These have a slow and detailed progression and allow you to gradually improve and build your way up to becoming more advanced. This is why this type of online resource would be my first choice moving forward and what I would recommend to other beginners.

As for what I did do this week:

I tried out SkillShare as recommended by a fellow classmate! This was an amazing online resource that you could use to learn just about anything! It has a free 2 month premium membership trial which is great so you have a lot of time to try it out before committing to a paid membership. There are tons and tons of different classes on this website for you to learn a variety of different skills online. I did not have much time to really search around on it and try it out but for what I did get to check out it seems like a really great online resource!

I also continued practicing my smooth chord transitions and strumming patterns from last week. I combined both of these in the following little tune I play for you. I got this from the YouTube video: “4 Chords 15 Songs Tutorial” by Lindsey’s Uke. The chord progression goes: C, G, Am, F. The strumming pattern goes: down, down up, up, down up. This was a great way to combine what I learned last week. I think I have played this over and over probably 200 times. I plan to continue to repeat tunes such as these to really get my fingers used to moving in these different ways smoothly and get both of my hands working together and moving in sync.

Week 6 Update

I chose to include all of my mess ups in this video. I think it is important to see the negatives as well as the positives to understand that learning an instrument is not easy and takes a lot of determination, persistence, and of course, practice. I was a little disappointed with my video this week as I do not feel as though it demonstrates my improvement as well as I feel like I am improving off camera. I was struggling to play as well as I wanted and I show that in the video! This is just a part of learning something new and I wanted to make sure to share it with you all.

What has really stood out to me in learning to play the ukulele (and I did touch on last week) is getting really good at the basics before trying to move onto more advanced chords, patterns, songs, etc. Many of the beginner videos that I watched really reiterated this, but I don’t think that I truly understood it until I had been trying to learn for multiple weeks (often with a lot of discouragement). Learning anything new can be really difficult because I don’t think that any one actually enjoys trying to do something that they are bad at. It is so easy to give up when you cannot catch onto something right away. I feel as though this is why many people struggle with learning new instruments, learning new languages, learning to cook, or learning essentially any new hobby or task. It is so easy to want to be instantly good at whatever chosen activity and not feel like you are making any progress until you are actually “good” at something. For example, in my case, the past few weeks all I wanted was to be able to whip out my ukulele and play a song. However, over the progression of this learning project I have quickly learned that until you really perfect those chords and strumming, your songs will never sound “good enough” to you.

The best way to learn a new instrument, such as the ukulele, is not to try and learn a whole bunch of chords all at the same time but to progressively learn more and more as you go and improve, and as your fingers get used to playing. It is much better to focus on fewer chords and learning how to use them, how they work together, and how songs work in general. There are many other skills that come into play when learning to play the ukulele, other than just knowing the different chords. Day 3 of the Andy Guitar course that I decided to return to and actually complete reiterates this notion. He used the exact same chord progression and strumming pattern from the video mentioned above. This week I used this tune that I played for you above to play some of the easy 4 chord songs he demonstrated in this video, using the 4 chords that I have been focusing on throughout my learning project. I am still working on getting my rhythm right and sticking to counting out the 4 beats as much as I can, before I will ever be able to move onto singing along while I play.

It is exciting to see how I have improved in changing between these chords over my progression of this class and I now feel lot more confident in changing between them and using them to play some easy songs. Especially the G chord. In the very beginning of my learning project I was doing the G chord completely wrong and even once I corrected this, I still struggled to go to and from the G chord. However, this is actually an easier one for me now, especially when C is before it and Am is after it, as demonstrated above. My strumming is still a major work in progress. What I did learn this week regarding my strumming is that it is extremely important to loosen up your wrist when strumming. I noticed that when I put and effort into keeping my wrist loose and able to move freely, my strumming way a lot more smooth. It is very easy to tense up and be very stiff, especially when trying to have a firm, strong finger for your strumming. However, having a loose and smooth moving wrist really helped with my strumming this week.

My post for next week will be my summary of what I have learned over the past 6 weeks of my learning project on the ukulele. I look forward to revisiting everything that I have learned, really being able to see my own progression over the 6 weeks, and bringing it all to a bit of a conclusion. More than ever, I am really looking forward to being finished with my spring classes and being able to really dedicate the time and energy necessary to really improve on playing the ukulele. It’s only up from here!

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Back to the Basics

This week I had four main focuses:

  1. Practice smooth chord changes (between C, F, G, and A)
  2. Learn strumming patterns
  3. Learn a new simple chord song (similar to “You are my Sunshine” from week 1 update)
  4. Find a different resource online (other than YouTube or an App)

The first thing that I focused on this week was practicing smooth chord changes between the chords of C, F, G, and A. I found some short videos on YouTube to help me with this.

The first video that I watched was “How to Practice Chord Changes on the Ukulele” by Elise Euckland. In this video we mostly practiced moving from A minor to G to C. This video was extremely encouraging, reiterating that it doesn’t matter where you are starting from, if it takes you 10 seconds to switch chords or 30 seconds, you just have to keep practicing over and over and with consistent repitition, your fingers will get more used to moving in these different ways. She mentioned to start practicing chord changes with only single down strums to keep it slow and simple. Overall, I would definitely recommend this video for learning chord changes as she went really in depth showing exactly how to move your fingers one by one to change between the chords.

The second video that I watched was “How to Practice Chord Changes” by Cynthia Lin Music. In this video we first practiced moving back and forth from G to C and then from G to F. This video was even more in depth, slow paced and step by step than the one above. It was an amazing tutorial to show exactly how to move your fingers one by one from one chord to the other. She emphasized to practice very, very slowly and focus on improving finger strength, finger flexibility, and finger independence. I did not understand what she meant by finger independence until she was trying to get me to move my middle finger while holding my ring finger down and it seemed nearly impossible. She talked about your fingers wanting to fly away in between chords and during different chords even without you noticing. I found that this was definitely an issue for me in my Week 1 Update Video as I had very little control of my fingers that weren’t being used in the chord in the beginning (still working on this). She demonstrated a good chord switching method of focusing on moving your finger for the next chord, then lifting the fingers from the previous chord, just a little so they are still hovering over the fret board. She explained how there should never be a time when you have no fingers on the fret board as you should not have lifted all of your fingers from the last chord until at least one of your fingers (depending on the chord and number of fingers in it) are moved into position for the next chord. It sounds really confusing in words, but in this video she explained it really well, demonstrating exactly how to go finger by finger then finally lifting fingers you aren’t using before strumming for these chords specifically. She also mentioned how you can apply this process to any chord changes by moving one finger at a time, leaving leftover fingers in place until last minute, then slightly lifting, and strumming. You do not just take your entire hand off then place them down into the net chord. Once I started practicing these movements I found myself improving even in a short period of time. When I was very first trying to use her method of moving one finger at a time it seemed literally impossible like I would never be able to do that. But with a lot of practice, repetition and concentration, you can train your fingers to do exactly what you want them to when you improve their strength, flexibility, and independence.

Chord Transitions Week 5

The next thing that I focused on this week was practicing some next strumming patterns. I found one video on YouTube that taught me a lot all about doing this. It also taught me aspects of strumming that I didn’t even know that I needed to know such as exactly how to strum to the beat and stay in rhythm. This video also directed me towards a website that I will mention later in this post that had a lot of great information as well.

The video that I watched to learn strumming patterns was “5 Effective Strumming Patterns for Beginners” by Ukulele Tricks. The 5 strumming patters mentioned in this video can be used to play thousands of different songs on the Ukulele. He gave a great background all about strumming. He mentioned that strumming is a form of rhythm and that rhythm is all about keeping a steady beat/count that listeners can follow along with. So he said that when practicing these strumming patterns, it is important to count out loud to a beat of four. He demonstrated exactly what this should sound and look like very well. As far as a video to learn some different basic strumming patterns, and how to strum to the beat, this video was fantastic! I would highly, highly recommend.

The 5 strumming patterns are as follows:

  1. down, down, down, down (“1, 2, 3, 4”)
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2. down up, down up, down up, down up (“1 and, 2 and, 3 and, 4 and”)

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3. down, down up, down, down up (“1, 2 and, 3, 4 and”)

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4. down up, down, down up, down (“1 and, 2, 3 and, 4)

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5. down, down up, up, down up (“1, 2 and, and, 4 and”)

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Strumming Patterns Week 5

I decided to hold off on learning a new easy song until next week. Between practicing smooth chord changes and these 5 strumming patterns to the beat, I had enough on my plate this week. The website that was linked in the strumming pattern video was also extremely useful and expanded on this video a little bit with pictures and examples of how to take your practicing of this a little further. In the video we stuck to a simple C chord the whole time, but the website mentions practicing moving between different chords as well, while practicing the strumming patterns. I am going to continue with this website next week and read his next section on “Knowing when to Change Chord when Strumming a Song”. There were also a few easy songs mentioned on this website, that I want to try out next week to utilize this different resource some more. I am really glad I found such a useful website as my last focus this week was to find a resource other than YouTube or an App, and I was successful!

Here is a little bonus of some progress on the song “Riptide”, as well as my final remarks about this week!

*BONUS* Week 5

I also continued Andy Guitar’s “FREE 10 day ukulele starter course” and Bernadette Teaches Music’s “30 Day Ukulele Challenge on YouTube, and the app Youcisian’s daily Ukulele course as well. I have not been as consistent with these course type of resources as I want to be but I have been continuing them slowly as I find the time to, and I know that these online resources are something that I will definitely get more into once I have more time and am not taking 3 Spring Courses online which require a lot of time and effort. Course type of resources are super handy for beginners because they often take you from a very beginner level of just learning basic chords and strumming and then keep building slowly each lesson until you are much more advanced than you once were, without even realizing it along the way! I would highly recommend all of the courses mentioned above, as well as the resources for learning smooth chord changes and strumming patters that I mentioned this week! There are so many amazing resources to be found online, to learn just about anything! If anyone has any suggestions for other resources to use or ways that I can improve my chord changes and strumming (in videos above), please let me know below! Thanks!

New Tools!

This week I chose to learn how to use Powtoon to present my learning project goals for this semester! Powtoon is an extremely useful tool to make quick animation videos for a variety of different uses and/or topics. The free version definitely offers enough features to meet your needs and get you a great animated video, but there is also a premium version with many more options as well, if you so desire. There are many different type of videos that you can create such as for student projects, teachers and faculty, administrative staff, training, announcements, etc. There are tons of different templates that you can use as a basis to create any video that you might need such as information summaries, lessons, personal/company goals, resumes, project pitches, reports, safety/protocol training, skills training, etc. You name it, you can probably find a perfect template for it on Powtoon. Once you choose a template, Powtoon is extremely user friendly and easy to use. There are tons of options for backgrounds, images, transitions, animations, etc. so that you can customize your video to look exactly the way that you want it to look! If you would rather start from scratch than use a template, this is also an option. There are many different options and features that you can play around with to create the video that you desire. After watching just a couple short tutorial videos on youtube about how to use Powtoon, it was smooth sailing for me, and I am no tech person at all!

The tutorial videos that I watched on youtube to learn how to use Powtoon included:

Both of these resources are really great in depth tutorials all about how to use Powtoon. They have great step by step explanations of everything you might need to know as far as downloading, using the different features, finding different options, transitions, and animations, sharing, etc. They demonstrate everything that you could need to know to start a video from scratch or use the templates for some guidance. They both show a ton of different free features that you can use to create a quick, easy, and shareable, animation.

I also created my own screencast to make a quick tutorial of how I used Powtoon for the purpose of presenting my goals for my learning project this semester! The tutorials that I mentioned above go a lot more in depth than I do and are also a lot more articulate than I am. This was my first time making a screencast, so it is a bit rough. I used screencastify to create my screencast, which is a top rated and extremely user friendly screen casting tool, that even amateurs like me can use. I found a few tutorial videos on youtube to give me a rundown of what screen casting was all about and specifically, how to use screencastify. All the tutorial videos that I watched were super useful and gave me a good idea of what I had to do regarding downloading and using the screencastify extension on chrome, creating the actual screencast, editing it, and sharing it for my chosen audience: you! There were also a few very quick tutorial videos on the screencastify website once you download the tool, that are super useful as well!

The tutorial videos that I watched on youtube included:

  1. Easy Screen Recording with Screencastify: great in depth, step by step tutorial of the whole process from how to get the extension in the first place, all the way to sharing your own.
  2. How to use Screencastify: quick and thorough tutorial, very helpful if you do not have a lot of time and want to get straight to the point.
  3. 5 Screencastify Tools you Should be Using: also very short and to the point, pointing out some interesting additional options that are good to know, without going too in depth.
  4. Screencastify Website: 3 short informational videos including, overview video, how to make your first recording, and screencastify knowledge base.

My screencast of a quick tutorial about how I used Powtoon:

Screencastify is a great tool to use to create a screencast. It is extremely simple and easy to use. I totally understand why it would be a top rated extension on chrome and why I have heard so much about it regarding creating screencasts. The only things that I struggled with regarding creating a screencast were I was super rushed because the free version only allowed me to make a 5 minute video at the maximum and also I had to redo it about 15 times because I kept stumbling over my words and not saying everything that I wanted to. I am sure that I could have done more editing to fix these problems, if I had more time than 5 minutes. In my case, I had to do it effectively in one go, as I did not have any extra time to cut down/edit. These issues are less of a complaint about screencastify as a tool and more about utilizing free versions and clearly needing more practice in creating tutorial types of videos!

My Powtoon about my Learning Project goals for this semester:

Overall, I am so glad that I tried out Powtoon for this assignment and have added it to my toolbox to use in the future. As I mentioned, it is extremely user friendly and if you use one of the many template options, you can create a great animation video, in no time at all! It is so easy to use, has so many free features/options, and is shareable to tons of different platforms (or you can just download it as well). I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to try it out! I wish I had known about something like this sooner as it totally would have come in handy when I was in high school working on BOSS (Board of School Spirit), SRC, and Yearbook. Powtoon is such a fun to use and extremely useful tool in making engaging animation videos for so many different purposes!

As for my learning project and actually ukulele playing, regular scheduled programming will resume next week. I dedicated this week to learning to use a few new presentation tools that I will definitely be using in my future as an educator. I definitely neglected playing my ukulele this past week. I cannot wait to get back into it this week and make some more progress in my chord changes and strumming patterns. Since I did something a little different this week, my plan moving forward from last week still stands. Hopefully by next week I will be able to share another new little song (maybe with some more advanced strumming?). And I will definitely have some new great resources to share with you next week that helped me get better at playing the ukulele. Thanks for your time!

Practice makes… Semi-Decent?

This is my week 2 update for my learning project. Learning the ukulele has been easier than I imagined in some ways, but also more difficult than I imagined at the same time. It is amazing to me all of the popular songs that you can play by knowing just the four chords that I mentioned in my week 1 update that I posted last week. However, some aspects of playing the ukulele that seem so simple when you are watching other people do it such as strumming, switching chords or singing along as you strum, have proved to be much more difficult than it looks. In the multitudes of videos that I have watched, people make it look so easy! I have definitely made some progress in all of these areas this week, but I had some health conditions which limited me from filming a good update video of my progress. Next week I will be sure to include a thorough video of my progress, but for now a written version will have to do. I struggled with really bad migraines and vertigo this week among other things which kept me fairly immobile, but I still found some great resources for learning to play the ukulele that I cannot wait to share with you! I also realized I never showed you the ukulele I am using so here it is!

Hankey KUS-70

The first thing that I did this week was tune my guitar once again using the guitar tuna app. This app is great and totally does the job that I need it to. It is quick, straightforward, easy to use, and most importantly, free! After making sure that my guitar was all tuned up, I decided to try out the Yousician app. This app has a very thorough beginner tutorial that walks you through step by step of everything you need to know to get started playing the ukulele. This was extremely useful! With the free program you are only allowed to do one lesson per day, but there’s a lot of information in each lesson so this did not bother me at all. I started with lesson 1: Intro to the Ukulele. This lesson started with tuning your ukulele and I learned that turning the peg towards you loosens the string making the note lower and turning the peg away from you tightens the string making the note higher. This was very useful information as before this I was just turning them randomly until my tuning app told me that it was right. Next was learning to strum which is an essential skill to playing the ukulele that I definitely need to work on. The video showed how to use one index finger or multiple fingers to strum. For now I still prefer the single index finger method. This app includes a really great summary after each part of the lesson so you can review what you went over, which helps a lot with taking in all the information. The next video of this lesson was playing along to a song called banana boats to practice chords (the ones I learned last week). This video was great as it waited for you to strum so you had time to switch chords to play along. The best part of this app is that it listens to you as you play so you get constant reassurance that you are doing it right, which I really enjoyed. This lesson also went over the chords again and finished with learning the song row, row, row your boat. You could strum along with the video and it was really great for learning the right timing as there is a little ball on the screen that bounces along with you so you know exactly when to strum and have time to prepare before it happens. In comparison to videos where you are playing along with a real person, you have less time as a warning for when they are going to strum if you are not as confident with your timing yet. That was a recap of the “Play your First Songs” Lesson 1 on the Yousician app. It was a great step by step lesson and I definitely plan to continue to these lessons for their beginner tutorial. They also had many popular songs that you can play along with that I definitely hope to get to one day!

The next skill that I decided to focus on (as mentioned last week) was my strumming. I chose a few videos that focused specifically on strumming. I watched “Your First Ukulele Lesson: How to Strum your Ukulele” by Ten Thumbs Productions. This video showed where exactly on the instrument to strum, which was between the fret board and the head of the ukulele. This was really interesting because it was not where I saw the instructors strumming in other videos that I had watched, but it worked so much better for strumming upwards because your fingers do not get caught on the strings as easily. This helped a lot with my strumming! The video was overall really short and to the point, and extremely helpful. It also went over many different ways to strum such as using your thumb, index finger, multiple fingers or multiple fingers and thumb. I also checked out his website tenthumbspro.com that had many super useful video tutorials as well. I will definitely be referring back to that website for more resources to use. I also checked out another video specifically dedicated to strumming called “How to Strum the Ukulele//Beginner Uke Tutorial” by Cynthia Lin Music. This video focused on you wanting your strum to be clear, articulated, where you hear every note and are in total control of your strum. She started with plucking your strings one by one and building up until you get to a complete strum where you can still hear every note. This really helped me get familiar with how hard to pluck and the power that you should have in your strum. She went through the notes and plucking/strumming extremely slow and thoroughly so you really could understand how to get a nice, clear strum. I also learned to use my thumb at the back of my index finger for support and more power while strumming. This video really helped with gaining control over your strumming by first focusing on plucking each single string to get a good grip on each string and then a clean strum after that. This is extremely important for clear notes/sounds while playing the ukulele. She went over strumming down and up as well, which I mentioned I need more practice on. She also went over the strumming pattern that goes: down, down, up, up, down, up, which I learned is called the “Island Strum”.

I also continued the free 10-day tutorial that I started last week by Andy Guitar on YouTube. I went over Day 2 again and continued practicing the two strumming patterns which included: down, down, up, down, up and down, down, up, up, down. He goes over these strumming patterns at a very slow pace with very in-depth instruction so that you can play along as he goes over the patterns. I continued to practice the strumming pattern for the song riptide, and I will continue to refer back to this video as it goes over the whole song in depth, step by step. Day 3 went over the four chords that I learned last week and how to use them in different ways. He demonstrated how so many popular songs can be played with just these four chords (c major, g major, f major, and a minor) and how so many more can be played just by switching up the order that you play them in, which was really cool. I continued to practice the two strumming patterns mentioned above.

I also checked out the app Tabs (the new ultimate guitar). It definitely seemed a little too advanced for me but it did have tons and tons of popular songs with the notes to play above the lyrics which will be super useful once I am better at switching chords quickly and strumming to the beat. As for my plan for the next week, there are a few things that I plan on covering. Firstly, next week I will be sure to include a video of the plucking, strumming and switching chords that I learned this week and will continue to practice into next week. I will also include a video of another one of the easy songs (similar to “You are my Sunshine”) mentioned last week, with some undoubtable improvements in my strumming and chord switching. Aside from this, I plan to do a lot more practice with switching chords. I am pretty comfortable with continuing using the first four chords that I learned as you can play so many songs using just these four chords, but I want to get really comfortable with switching between all of them and changing up the order of the chords as well. I also plan to start another free course that I found on YouTube by Bernadette Teaches Music. Each of these courses start with the super basics that I have probably already covered in other videos, but it definitely does not hurt to continue practicing these fundamental skills. Lastly, I found a common ukulele mistake video by Uke like the Pros that seemed interesting and I might look into some more videos of that nature. I plan on finding some other resources aside from primarily YouTube and Apps next week if I can, as well. If you have any suggestions for other resources for learning to play the ukulele, please send them my way!

“Catnip14_05_31” by Catnip Cat by Jeff Hoyle is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Room for Improvement

This is my post for my week 1 update of my learning project for EDTC 300. I had a little change of plans since due to COVID-19 my guitar will not make it here in time. Instead, I decided to borrow a ukulele from the school I volunteer at and will be doing my learning project on the ukulele instead. I quickly realized that this was kind of a happy accident as this is only a six-week learning project and I imagine I will be able to make a lot more progress on a ukulele in six weeks, than on a guitar. Since they are pretty similar instruments, my original plan will still stay the same for the most part. For week one I only had my ukulele for about four days, so I did not have time to make too much progress, but even over the course of just a few days I definitely saw improvement in my skills. 

The main things that I learned this week included:

  • C major chord
  • G major chord
  • F major chord
  • A minor chord
  • Strumming with thumb
  • Strumming with index finger
  • Strumming on the beat and counting bars (4 beats) as I play
  • You are my Sunshine song

When I first got the ukulele, I knew that I had to tune it. Before I started to tune it, I quickly went on youtube for a beginner tutorial to the parts of the ukulele, specifically what note the 4 strings were, just to get a little more familiar with the instrument. The video I used was called, “HOW TO TUNE YOUR UKULELE AND USE A CLIP ON TUNER”. I learned that the four strings on the ukulele were G, C, E, and A. After gaining a basic understanding of the ukulele, I was ready to tune it. I used the guitar tuna app, as recommended by a classmate. It was free, super easy to use and worked just as good as the clip-on tuner that I also used to test the accuracy of the app. 

Once my ukulele was tuned and ready to go, I first turned to YouTube to find some beginner ukulele videos. I watched a quick video called, “How to strum a ukulele for beginners- 3 different methods!”, which showed three different ways to strum the ukulele, using your thumb, index finger, and then using a pick. I then found a really great free 10 day course offered by Andy Guitar on YouTube. This first video that I watched was 10 one of the course I found called “Ukulele Lesson 1- Absolute Beginner? Start Here [Free 10 Day Course]. I learned 3 chords from this video: C major, F major, and G major. According to this video there are hundreds of songs that you can learn to play with just these three chords so I was pretty excited about that! Learning three chords seemed easy enough to me. I also learned how to strum better using my pointer finger and how to hold the ukulele. Holding the neck with my thumb resting on the back was the most comfortable for me. I also learned that a bar is a count of four beats and how to strum on the beat and count along as I play to keep the song sounding more cohesive. Lastly, this video showed me how to play the song “You are my Sunshine”, and with lots of repetition, I got decently good at strumming along with the person in the video, as we played and sang the song. My next goal for this one is to be able to sing along and play, but for now I need to count the beats in my head, so I know when to switch chords. The person in the video also mentioned some other easy level songs using these chords which included: Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace, Lean on Me, and Twist and Shout. I am definitely going to download the chord sheets and try some of these next week!

The next video I came across in my search for beginner ukulele videos on YouTube was called “Riptide- Vance Joy | Easy Ukulele Tutorial”. This one pulled me in very quickly as Vance Joy is one of my favourite artists, if not my top favourite and I absolutely love this song. Watching this video, I very quickly learned that I really need to work on my strumming before I move only anything more advanced. However, I learned that this song uses the same three chords that I learned before, as well as one additional chord, A minor. This was an extremely easy chord to add to my repertoire as it only used one finger and was half of the F major chord I had already learned. After realizing the strumming for this one was a little too advanced, I decided I better calm down and head back to my 10-day course that seemed much more beginner friendly. The next video of this course was “Ukulele Lesson 2- FREE 10 Day Ukulele Starter Course”. And to my surprise… this video was also a tutorial of Riptide by Vance Joy. I took this as a sign and decided that this song would be my goal to be able to play by the end of this learning project. I imagine once I practice my strumming and learn this strumming pattern really good, the rest of the song will come easily as it is actually pretty simple! I will also have to practice switch chords faster as this is definitely needed for this one as well. Both of these skills will definitely come with time and just take some practice. I learned the strumming pattern for this song. It is essentially: down, down, up, down, up. And repeat. I am currently very bad at this strumming pattern as it is much faster than anything I have done before. What I struggle with the most though, is definitely the “up” part. Strumming upwards is a lot more difficult than strumming down. Next week I am going to find some resources to help with strumming alone, specifically in the upwards motion. 

Week 1 Learning Project Update

Please don’t mind my facial expressions while playing haha. This video shows you most of what I learned this week in a quick recap. It was pretty rough but definitely a great starting point for me. I am excited to be able to look back on this video at the end of this learning project and see how far I have come! If you have any suggestions for videos to watch or resources to take a look at, please leave them below! I am opening to trying anything and really looking forward to seeing where this learning project journey takes me!

The Plan

Prior to deciding what guitar to buy I did a lot of research online. I searched many websites to find the best beginner guitar for an affordable price. I wanted to get something that was easy to use for beginners but was still a good guitar overall that would last me a long time as I improve. I also wanted to get something that wouldn’t break the bank, as there’s no way to know that this is something I will enjoy doing until I try, and because of this, an affordable option is always a good choice for beginners. I read many online reviews to ensure that my choice was a good guitar overall, reasonable for the price, and would be everything that I needed for my new hobby. Websites like guitar fella and guitar habits helped a lot provided all the information that a beginner would need to know purchasing their first guitar and everything that you would need to know to have the best experience possible. Other similar websites that provided lots of information were music radar, music critic, guitar world and guitar habits. All of these websites combined gave me a very thorough basic understanding of everything I would need to know as a beginner guitar player. After decided on a guitar I of course, read many, many google reviews from real people, just to be sure. I decided on the Ibanez AW54OPN and put an order in on Red One Music, with much anticipation. I plan on using a variety of online sources to learn the basics of playing the guitar. I imagine I will primarily be using YouTube as the options are truly endless when it comes to beginner guitar videos on there. I also downloaded a few apps to help me as well such as Yousician, ultimate guitar, simply guitar and fender play, all of which I will update you on regarding usability, helpfulness and affordability. I also downloaded the apps fender tune and guitar tuner pro, to help me with tuning my guitar. It is amazing to me all of the resources out there that are solely online and often free, to help you learn a new hobby, as opposed to taking guitar lessons in person, purchasing add on items such as guitar tuners, buying physical books for instruction, etc. The internet is truly amazing!

I plan to do weekly updates on my blog and on twitter with my progress, what I am learning/have learned, and my feelings about the whole experience. I will include a video update of my progress and also mention and review all online sources that I use each week. I plan to begin with learning the different chords, strumming, etc. Then hopefully moving onto basic melodies. Setting goals is always a necessity in learning a new hobby in order to track your progress and see how far you have come. Since I will be tracking the progress of my learning project over the course of the six weeks I will be taking this class, I hope that by the end of the six weeks I will be able to play some sort of something that sounds like a piece of a song by the end of the class. I cannot really set clear goals of exactly where I want to be in six weeks because I have quite literally never held a guitar for actual playing purposes, but I plan to set more clear goals along the way as I learn from online sources for beginners. Learning to play the guitar, or any instrument, takes extreme time, effort, dedication, and commitment and for the purposes of this class and hopefully a future hobby, I am really looking forward to seeing what I can do in six weeks. That is, if my guitar comes into the mail anytime soon… 

Jumping in Feet First

According to a simple google search, jumping in feet first means to begin or undertake something quickly, enthusiastically, and without trepidation. And that is exactly what I am doing for my learning project for my EDTC 300 class. Upon first hearing that a great portion of this class was based on us completing a learning project of our choice and documenting the process, I was both eager and anxious. As a young adult growing up in my generation, I have learned many, many things from internet sources, from baking a cake to jump starting my car. Every single day of my life I google search how to do at least one thing, probably multiple. When considering this assignment, it dawned on me that I so often intake so much information and knowledge from internet sources without even being consciously aware of the learning that is occurring. We have access to endless free knowledge at the tips of our fingers, it is truly an fascinating era to be growing up in. I can quite literally gain the information and instruction to learn anything that I can even imagine in a matter of seconds. That is truly inspiring and overwhelming, all at the same time. However, this class has really opened my eyes to the opportunity that I have because of the internet, and encouraged me take advantage of it!

In attempting to decide what I should do for my learning project many different ideas came to mind. In the newly acquired plethora of free time that I have had due to the shut-down of our province, I have been putting a lot more energy into my hobbies such as health and fitness, language, reading, music and poetry. These hobbies inspired my mental list of options as I was sure that in order to truly enjoy this assignment and take away as much as I could from it, I was going to have to choose something that I am both interested in and desire to actually learn how to do. Many options came to mind such as learning another language, playing guitar or piano, health food cooking and baking, etc. The fact that we could choose quite literally anything that we wanted to, made it very difficult to choose. This type of ambiguity is often a struggle for me throughout my educational journey, as I am an extremely indecisive person. Since I ordered myself a new guitar about a week before the commencement of this class, without having any knowledge of this assignment, I thought that learning to play the guitar would be a perfect choice for me, as I planned on learning this new hobby anyways. I was also planning to primarily base my learning on online sources, so this seemed to be the perfect fit for me. 

I just had one, small, issue. My guitar has not come in the mail yet. So please don’t be alarmed if I completely change my project to something else, as it is hard to learn to play the guitar, without a guitar. However, I am feeling really determined to use this as my learning project, so let’s just hope the shipping Gods are on my side. 

So, my starting point. I have never touched a guitar in my life. I have always watched people do acoustic covers of songs and wished that I could do that. Learning to play the guitar is something that I have always wanted to do for as long as I can remember, ever since I felt the fascination of first seeing a guitar sitting on a Walmart shelf and wished for one of my own. I have always loved music and been surrounded by it my entire life. Learning a new instrument takes time and commitment that I wish I would have dedicated more of throughout my young life. I played the piano for many years and I knew that I was capable if I would just commit to it. Just recently, I made the decision, “I am going to really, actually do this thing”. So, welcome to my journey of learning to play the guitar.