Ukulele for the non-beginner

Who is a non-beginner? Someone who is comfortable with his instrument. Ukulele players , often self-taught or have taken a few beginner workshops, are non-beginners if they already know how to tune, play the basic chords from memory (C, F, G7, Am, C7) and strum instinctively. They know how to read a chord diagram. They know how to look at a song sheet and finger the chords indicated with the lyrics.

What would a “ukulele for the non-beginner / busy adult” course include?

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Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

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Two Chord Songs

If you’re a complete beginner to playing the ukulele, you’re probably wondering how many chords you need to know before you can accompany yourself to a song. Did you know, there are songs with one chord in it? You can play the one-fingered C major chord for “Frère Jacques” (same tune as “Are You Sleeping, Brother John”) and “Row, row, row your boat.”

Of course, knowing a second chord will expand your horizons.

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Yankee Doodle for easy piano

Beginners want to learn a complete piece quickly and have fun with it. Yankee Doodle is such a piece for easy piano. There are many things you can do with it.

One of the earliest songs a beginner can learn to play on the piano is the sticky tune of “Yankee Doodle.”

The easiest way is to use both hands to split up the melody, starting with the right hand.

Next is to let the right hand play the melody and the left hand do very simple bass or interval accompaniment.

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Teaching multiple genres in group piano class

Adult beginners not only have different levels of proficiency but also different rates of learning. In a group piano situation, the challenge of teaching multiple genres of music is analysed in this blog post.

In this blog post, I think out loud, just like the colorful clay objects of food that I created in my week-long writing workshop on Maui.

In their student evaluations last semester, my piano students indicated they’d like to learn more than just classical music. My students consider everything from renaissance to modern contemporary as classical music. What they want is the non-classical variety, i.e. rock, pop, new age, jazz, blues, etc. Little do they realize that within classical music itself are different genres, and by far the broadest group to offer the biggest variety of genres!

Other than what is already given in the textbooks, how do I best introduce different genres to beginning piano students?

First start by perusing the extensive music genres list. How about presenting this as a lecture, or better, a homework assignment where they have to choose 3 genres to listen to and discuss in class? The result is a menu that students can select and study for the semester.

Adult beginners prefer playing music that is easy but sounds difficult and not childish or silly. Here is where I can explore rock, pop, country, jazz, blues, world music, new age music, etc and find simplifications for piano. If I can’t find these, I’d have to arrange them myself. Here is a good starting point though.

I should add that adult beginners learn fast but get frustrated when they have to spend too long at a piece. It’s much easier to have short pieces that challenge them in one specific way than longer pieces that challenge them in 10 different ways, forcing them to study for a long time.

Students learn at different pace. Some start slowly but speed up later. Others improve very quickly. In a group piano class, I have limited time for individual instruction, which is the preferred way to address different rates of learning. Instead, I need to weave what I want students to learn in group situations, such as partnering with another student of a different level. The more advanced student can help the less advanced.

Is there a book for adult beginners that covers different genres? Why reinvent the wheel if it already exists?

I would need to do some research to find which genres are most appropriate. And then find piano solo works of the right levels of difficulty, or shall we say, challenge?!

Creating something out of clay in writing workshop
Creating something out of clay in writing workshop