Review: Ukulele School by Paul Mansell


The ukulele literature for children is entirely different from that for adults. A picture paints a thousand words. Children’s books have color and pictures. Big fonts. Pictures. Fewer words, Shorter words. Shorter sentences. Landscape orientation. Easier on the eye.

Such is the new book by Northampton-based Paul Mansell, whose youtube clips show his versatility on the ukulele and guitar. His latest book demonstrates his insight as a ukulele teacher.

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To prepare for my upcoming “Ukulele for Kids” course in Boston, Massachusetts, I hunted for material suitable for today’s kids aged 5 and up. I had a feeling that my own handouts for my previous workshops for children were too black & white, too dense and too intense.

Last October, I taught kids aged 8 to 12. The songs I chose were different from the teenagers (aged 13 – 16) I taught last spring. Younger kids don’t necessarily want to play what they hear on the radio. They don’t catch on as quickly but at the same time, they are fearless. They don’t set limits on themselves the way adults do.

For the Ukulele for Kids course, I allow an accompanying  parent or grandparent to attend. Earlier, at a mixed-age beginning workshop at the ballet school in Brookline, MA, it was a good thing that the mother of a six year old attended. He got bored after 30 minutes and fell asleep. She benefited from the one and half-hour workshop, which was too long for young children.

What I noticed about Mansell’s book is that he spaces out the material and makes the layout easy to follow. We adults are so used to reading text that we forget that “a picture paints a thousand words.” A child’s attention span is shorter than an adult’s.

Whereas we adults take fingering new chords for granted by use of finger numbers, it helps to see an illustration of the fingers placed on the fretboard. Mansell’s book uses color illustrations rather than photos. These pictures speak to the young reader.

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Extract from Paul Mansell’s “Ukulele School” page 24

Unlike adults, children are eager to learn new songs. When I teach adults, I choose songs they already know so they can accompany themselves. To learn a new song, you need to know time signature (i.e. how to count), rhythm, when to strum, etc. Using Mansell’s 40-page book, you can teach the National Curriculum requirements for key stages one and two (United Kingdom). There are twelve catchy songs I’ve never heard of before but happy to learn if my new students are willing.

Where to get it? Order from the publisher online.

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Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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